March 4, 2021

Dear Senator:

On behalf of our millions of members and supporters across the country, we the undersigned organizations urge you to support the End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act of 2021 introduced by Senator Cortez Masto on March 4, 2021. If passed, this bill would end the practice of leasing low and no potential lands for oil and gas drilling by requiring the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to assess all lands’ mineral development potential before offering those lands for lease, and prohibiting leasing on any lands found to have low or no development potential. As a result, the legislation would largely end speculative leasing, mitigate environmental risk, and reduce opportunity costs associated with reckless leasing where lands could be better managed for recreation, conservation and responsible clean energy development. As the administration begins its long overdue review of the leasing program, this is the perfect time to consider much-needed reforms.

The current system allows land to be offered for leasing regardless of development potential or the presence of higher and better uses, like wildlife conservation, outdoor recreation, and watershed protection. This has resulted in millions of acres of public lands with low or no potential being leased for development.1https://www.wilderness.org/sites/default/files/media/file/Report-No%20Exit- Fixing%20BLM%20Leasing.pdf

This practice, which is an unfortunate consequence of an outdated federal onshore
oil and gas program shaped by industry, generates very little income to taxpayers and imposes significant fiscal, administrative and opportunity costs when public lands can no longer be managed to enhance other important uses like conservation and recreation. This bill would not only help support Nevada’s economy, it would also save taxpayers money by ensuring that BLM isn’t wasting time and resources on trying to lease lands with no or low potential for oil and gas drilling.

Even some in the oil and gas industry acknowledge the wasteful behavior that this bill targets. According to Kathleen Sgamma, head of the Western Energy Alliance, those companies and individuals who pursue speculative leasing are “bad actors” who are “nominating acreage that nobody’s interested in.”2https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060093085 We agree, as this rampant and reckless leasing of low and no potential lands is threatening our environment, wildlife and potential to deploy clean energy across the West.

The oil and gas industry has already leased millions of acres of land that they are essentially sitting on – making it harder for these lands to be managed for multiple uses, as required by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. When a parcel is under lease, the American public loses control over the land that it owns, and the BLM cannot actively manage it for other valuable uses, including outdoor recreation, conservation, or clean energy development. Currently, 12.9 million acres of public lands leased by the oil and gas industry are sitting idle – out of 26.3 million acres currently under lease.3https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2019/02/14/466218/trump-administrationselling- western-wildlife-corridors-oil-gas-industry/

Communities across the West are reliant upon certainty that their lands will not be arbitrarily auctioned off to the lowest bidder, risking their livelihoods and way of life. We strongly urge you to support the End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act of 2021, to improve the management of our public lands by ending the practice of leasing low potential lands.

Sincerely,

Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Colorado Wildlife Federation, Inc.
Conservation Colorado
Earthjustice
Earthworks
Friends of Gold Butte
Friends of Nevada Wilderness
Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument
Get Outdoors
Nevada Grand Canyon Trust
GreenLatinos
Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO)
Hispanic Access Foundation
League of Conservation Voters
Montana Wilderness Association
Montana Wildlife Federation
National Parks Conservation Association
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Resources Defense Council
Nevada Outdoor Business Coalition
Nevada Wildlife Federation
Public Land Solutions
Rocky Mountain Wild Sierra Club
The Wilderness Society
Western Organization of Resource Councils
Wilderness Workshop
leasinVet Voice Foundation