Fishing Conservation photo

Have something to say about your public lands? It could cost you…

My friends over at Trout Unlimited alerted me to a couple of bills that have been introduced to the House that don’t sit well with me. I thought I would share.

They went on to say that Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development (SFRED), a coalition of businesses, organizations and individuals led by Trout Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, has been following this set of bills. And so far, the message isn’t exactly “sportsmen friendly.”

Among the provisions:
– A requirement of a $5,000 documentation fee to protest any lease, stifling a process that is currently free and open to anyone who wants to participate.
– Prioritizing energy development over fish and wildlife on public lands.
– A mandate that leases be issued within 60 days of payment regardless of protests or litigation.
– Requires that a minimum of 25 percent of the leases receive minimal environmental review and no protests.

It might cost you $5,000 if a suite of bills introduced in the House passes – and that’s just to voice an opinion.

Bottom line? These bills are bad for your fishing and hunting.

As a rule, SFRED supports energy development on public lands, but only so far as there is a balance between that development and the fish and wildlife resources sportsmen rely on.

This legislation has been sold as a means to speed up the permitting process and bring more certainty for oil and gas operators – a way to increase jobs and resources. But the reality is it wouldn’t necessarily do either. In fact, it stands to degrade more fish and wildlife resources, which is a proven economic engine.

In 2010, public lands drew more than 58 million visitors – campers, hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers – who contributed $7.4 billion to the economy. Nationally, those visitors help sustain a work force of 1.2 million people – sustainable jobs built on the sustained health of public lands.

“We recognize that leasing and permitting procedures and processes sometimes take longer than they should,” Brad Powell, Western Energy Director for Trout Unlimited, said during testimony to Congress in April. “But the fact remains that the energy industry has access to a large amount of public land, and has developed oil and gas with great success.”

Just to put it in perspective:
– 38 million acres of leases are held by industry.
– Less than half of the available acreage is in production.
– Industry holds more than 7,000 approved unused permits to drill for oil and gas on public lands.

The oil and gas industry has massive amounts of opportunity for development that it is not using right now. Why would Congress want to give them more, especially to the detriment of sportsmen? Which is all the more reason to tell your member of Congress that sportsmen – and the lands they value – matter.

If you’d like to make your voice heard, take action:
Take a moment to contact your members of Congress. Ask them to support sustainable fish and wildlife populations, American sportsmen and our nation’s outdoor recreation-based economy by voting NO on H.R. 4480, the Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on America’s public lands. The coalition is led by the National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Click here for more information.