News outlets reported late last week that the Colorado Bureau of Land Management will be auctioning off nearly 12,000 acres of public lands for oil and gas drilling in November. But here’s the catch: the majority of those acres are located less than ten miles from Mesa Verde, one of our iconic national parks.
Drilling so close to the park could have major impacts on its natural resources and the experiences that visitors have when they come to enjoy it. As the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees stated, drilling:
…could further impair the already degraded air quality at Mesa Verde, harm important scenic values within the surrounding landscape and negatively affect the local economy, which depends greatly on the national park’s protected status.
These areas were originally put up for lease in February 2013, but were pulled from the leasing block after significant public outcry, including criticism from the National Park Service itself. Now they are quietly being offered again.
Mesa Verde isn’t the only national park that could be harmed by drilling on its borders. A report from the National Parks Conservation Association earlier this year warned of the impacts that drilling on public and private lands close to national parks can cause.
And a recent video from the Center for American Progress explained how oil and gas drilling is already having major impacts (with more to come) on the national park named after our most important conservation president, Theodore Roosevelt:
It is also important to note that drilling is already occurring in 12 national park units around the country, while 30 more (including Mesa Verde) could have drilling within their borders in the future because they contain valid mineral rights.
The fact that oil and gas companies want to drill so close to national parks is an illustration of how out of balance our energy policy is on public lands. And in yet another example, The Wilderness Society released an analysis yesterday showing that between March 31 and June 30, 2013 (the second quarter of the year), the Obama administration has leased 201,479 acres of public lands to oil and gas companies, while protecting no acres as parks, monuments, or wilderness areas.
Recent polling from the Center for American Progress shows that the public overwhelmingly favors conservation of their public lands over drilling them. In fact, while 65 percent of voters say that permanent protection of public lands should be a “very important priority” for the federal government, only 30 percent say the same about oil and gas drilling.