Lyons, NE – Today, a delegation of western elected officials brought their call for balancing energy development with other important uses of federal public lands to the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, DC. They presented Department officials with a letter, addressed to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and signed by 75 state legislators and county commissioners from seven states.
The letter implores Secretary Jewell to restore balance to the use and management of public lands and equalise the priority given to recreation, conservation, wildlife habitat and responsible livestock grazing as compared to that given to exploration of fossil fuels. The delegation pressing the case for balance with Interior Department officials – Commissioner John Olivas, Mora County, NM; Rep. Donna Pence, Gooding, ID; Rep. Bridget Smith, Wolf Point, MT; and Rep. Nate Cote, Organ, NM – have participated in meetings with Representatives, Senators and Administration Officials over the last three days focusing on the public lands issues delineated in the letter to Secretary Jewell.
To view or download a copy of the letter go to: http://www.cfra.org/www.cfra.org/balanced-use-of-public-lands-letter
“My constituents and I share a great concern for a balanced use of public land because our economic survival and the quality of our lives hang in this balance,” said Representative Bridget Smith of Wolf Point, Montana. “Montana offers much to humanity in way of sheer beauty, recreation and peace of mind. Valuing our natural public lands in this manner is not only sustainable but also more profitable in the long run. Hunting, fishing, hiking and managed grazing as well as the employment opportunities that accompany all of these activities are all part of wise stewardship of public lands.”
Throughout several days of meetings on Capitol Hill as well as with Administration officials, the delegation pressed for three actions relating to public lands;
progress on a Secretarial Order on mitigating impacts from oil and gas development and ensures that conservation and recreation are considered in oil and gas development planning, that remote and backcountry areas of public land that are particularly important for wildlife habitat conservation and to hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationists be identified with input from local communities and protected where appropriate, affirming Secretary Jewell’s public statements that some places are too special to be developed; and that the Interior Department consider a more fair and equitable royalty rate that ensures greater return to communities impacted by oil and gas exploration.
“It is important to Idaho to consider grazing, recreation, clean energy development, energy transmission, land conservation and wildlife when developing policy on public lands,” said Rep. Donna Pence of Gooding, ID. “The future of family farms, ranches, and small towns in my district and throughout Idaho are affected by public land policies and I will continue to seek policies supporting all these important rural institutions.”
We need to protect as much of our public land as possible for future generations,” added Rep. Nate Cote of Organ, NM. “Once we turn over our lands for development and other uses it is gone forever. We need to more forward intelligently, protecting an often fragile environment for our children’s future and the future of our rural communities.”
“The need to develop industry while protecting Montana’s resources and people is imperative. The Bakken Oil boom may be good for the U.S. but Eastern Montana is suffering from an overly stressed infrastructure,” Rep. Smith explained. “Our farmers and ranchers are experiencing difficulty with traffic, road damage, and other concerns. We need the oil but we must continue as good stewards of the land and the people.”
“I am honored to represent 75 of my colleagues in state legislatures and county courthouses in seven states. And I am pleased to be working with The Center for Rural Affairs. They have helped us bring good ideas to officials in Congress and the Administration and together I am confident we can resolve many of the issues before us,” concluded Rep. Smith.
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