Public Land Leasing in the American West

The fact of the matter is that we as American’s are a divided people right now. Left vs Right, Snowflake vs Fascist, Clintonista vs Trumpette. Labels too loosely thrown around from one side to another, but which underscore the fissure in our society. And now Western states, Colorado included, face another divisive issue; the leasing of public land for the development of oil and gas drilling.

Do current economic gains outweigh future loss of lands and environmental degradation?

The Department of the Interior will begin a 2.4 million acre auction of public lands in the American West over the next couple of months to oil and gas companies.

At the heart of the matter, we have to ask ourselves this very important question: do the economic gains of drilling, fracking, and refinement outweigh the loss of public land usage and the environmental consequences that come with it?

Proponents of leasing public land will point to American energy independence, job creation, and economic surpluses that will go to each individual state that leases their land. In Colorado alone, oil and gas revenue from publicly leased land produced $2.3 billion in 2017.

Opponents will argue that the loss of land that Theodore Roosevelt promised future generations is irreplaceable. They will also argue that many of the parcels of land up for auction are directly adjacent to precious national parks like *the Great Sand Dunes here in Colorado or the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. There were 619 reported oil and gas spills in 2017, up 17% from the previous year, in Colorado alone. That combined to spill 93,000 gallons of oil into our state’s environment.

This is where it becomes sticky. Where do your priorities lay? The economic gains Colorado could see will help develop our infrastructure, add a much needed boost to our schools, and of course, create many more jobs. But an important question us Coloradans need to ask ourselves, government agencies, and elected officials is this; is there evidence of our enormously important outdoor tourism/recreational economy taking a hit from land lost that used to be used for hiking, hunting, fishing, mountain biking and so on?

If there is one statement I can make with certainty it is this; we as humans are flawed. There will be errors and mistakes in the drilling/fracking process. It is not an if but rather a when. Can we live with ourselves knowing we were the generation that didn’t give this beautiful land of ours to our grandchildren?

This is an issue that needs dialogue and input. Engage your fellow Coloradan about this very important issue. But in doing so, try and be open-minded and open to other’s opinions. For make no mistake about it this issue of leasing public lands, one way or another, will affect our state and country for years to come. And remind yourself, we live in the greatest country on earth. We, The People, shape the direction of our future. Get involved. Please.

Colorado State Land Board

Colorado Bureau of Land Management 

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet

U.S. Senator Cory Gardner

*Colorado’s Bureau of Land Management originally planned to auction the right’s on September 6th, 2018. The BLM decided to consult with the Navajo Nation, which owns land in the area, before deciding whether to sell drilling rights on 29 square miles of public land just east of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. 



2 thoughts on “Public Land Leasing in the American West”

  1. The ” to drill or not to drill” argument is always a heated and challenging one to have. It’s an important debate that has gone on and will go on until we can start to implement other types of energy consumption in our society. Regardless of what side of that argument you fall on, what should concern you in this article has an American citizen is that the government has decided it’s okay to sell OUR land without our consent. It’s a complete misuse and abuse of power. It is not okay for government to decide what they think is “best” for us and just make their own decisions without our input. If you’re an American tax paying citizen, you should be outraged that 2.4 million acres of YOUR land is being sold without YOUR say for whatever reason.

    1. Anthony–

      I completely agree with your sentiments on this one. Environmental issues can be divisive and tough to find a middle ground on, but the fact that it is public land being auctioned off is an issue that should get everybody’s attention, regardless of political affiliation. The BLM only has a 15-day review period for the public to add our input on any given parcel of land that will be auctioned off. That, in my opinion, is way too short of a time period for us citizens to get involved. This idea is by no means the most efficient– and that’s precisely why we should do it– but what if all public land being auctioned off swould have to be voted on by those citizens in that specific county annually or bi-annually?

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