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LAS VEGAS SUN: Don't Waste Public Land on Unproductive Leases
06 December 2019

LAS VEGAS SUN: Don't Waste Public Land on Unproductive Leases

Category: News Coverage

Nevadans, as well as our state’s sportsmen and women, are getting a raw deal when it comes to speculative oil and gas leasing on public lands.

In Nevada and in other Western states, we are blessed with an abundance of public lands — millions of acres of forests, mountains, deserts and rivers where we can hike, camp, hunt, fish and enjoy time with our friends and loved ones. Public lands are part of what makes living in Nevada so desirable.

So it’s natural that we would try to capitalize on this unique asset for a variety of reasons — recreation, economic development, physical and mental health, sustenance and sustainability, and to pass on our culture and traditions to future generations.

That’s why it’s crucial that we protect this unique asset.

Public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which amounts to 48 million beautiful acres in our state, is governed by archaic laws that favor extractive industries, not people. The BLM — using our tax dollars — is tasked with identifying lands for oil and gas extraction and then deciding whether those areas should be open for leasing by private entities.

Rather than take a common sense approach that honors the importance of public lands to Nevada, the BLM has decided to open for leasing millions of acres of low-to-no-potential lands for oil and gas leasing. This unfortunate practice has only gotten worse during the Trump administration, as the bureau has tried to lease more than 2 million acres of Nevada land, most of which have little to no actual drilling potential, to oil and gas companies.

Why? Because the leasing process is driven by industry, and this administration prioritizes their interests over everything else.

That’s not the true spirit of the multiple-use mandate under which the BLM should operate. Multiple-use means the best possible use for all user groups, including hikers, campers, hunters and anglers. This is evident because the BLM leases millions of acres of public land, less than half of which is actually in production.

I’ve spent endless hours fishing on public land in Nevada with my family, learning important traditions about wildlife conservation, stewardship and culture from my father. These are the same values I will pass on to my kids and that I hope are passed on to my grandkids too. Our traditions are worth more than the minimum bid of $2 per acre it takes for an oil and gas company to buy up land that will never be put into production.

I don’t want to get involved in this fight, but I have to, because it threatens my family’s way of life.

The good news is that there’s a solution. Congress should require the BLM to limit leasing in low-potential areas. By limiting the amount of low-potential public land acreage that companies can lease, all Nevadans can have more open space to hunt and fish, the agency can give a better return to taxpayers and BLM employees can focus more on managing the existing multiple-use lands in Nevada.

We all need to stick together to preserve our traditions and way of life, and that means pushing back on bad policies that harm the average Nevadan. This is one of them.

I urge Congress to ensure that BLM land-use plans require protecting our public lands from leasing and development when they have low potential for oil and gas production. I urge Congress to help us preserve our hunting and fishing traditions in Nevada. It’s the right thing to do.

Andres Almanza, a resident of Las Vegas and UNLV graduate, serves as the director of outreach operations/events for Centro de Adoración Familiar church.