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Sportsmen to Congress: Support sound planning processes on public lands

Boost to Master Leasing Plan budget will help ensure balanced solutions

Washington D.C. -- Sportsmen are urging Congress to fund work that creates roadmaps for responsible energy development on public lands.

The House Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing Thursday on the Interior Department’s fiscal 2016 budget. Part of that budget proposal is an increase in funding for master leasing plans of $5.8 million.

Master leasing plans, or MLPs, were among the oil and gas leasing reforms the Interior Department unveiled in 2010. They are intended as a landscape-level review of an area’s resources and a critical step between the more general resource management plan and analyses of individual oil and gas sites.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development has been a longtime advocate for master leasing plans as a way to find better, more detailed solutions in areas ripe for both conservation and natural resource exploration. The Bureau of Land Management plans to write MLPs in Colorado’s South Park, and the Little Mountain area in Wyoming. Both are areas known for their hunting and fishing opportunities, public lands, and the contributions those resources make to local rural economies.

“Park County has made investments to protect our recreation-based economy in South Park and the county commissioners are committed to working with the Department of Interior and other agencies to enhance, protect and preserve our hunting and fishing resources,” said Tom Eisenman, the county administrator.

Planning for a sustainable future

 “The Bureau of Land Management has made a bold move to look at our local community as a partner and we have responded in kind to create grassroots, local relationships to find a consensus on issues associated with oil and gas development. We ask that Congress becomes a partner with BLM and Park County and fund BLM’s leasing planning process,” Eisenman added.

David Leinweber, a fishing guide and owner of Anglers Covey in Colorado Springs, said he views MLPs as a way to bring certainty both to the energy industry and to his business.

“A healthy watershed is critical for the South Park fishery and my business, but that doesn’t mean that energy development and conservation are mutually exclusive,” he said. “A master leasing plan is a way for the BLM to address issues before they turn into conflicts and develop a collaborative plan forward.”

In Little Mountain, near Rock Springs, Wyoming, which is embroiled in discussion of the proposed state takeover of public lands, sportsmen groups view master leasing plans as an opportunity to address public land management in a more productive, collaborative manner.

“MLPs are a great way to manage public lands, plain and simple,” said Steve Kilpatrick, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. “There is a lot of rhetoric about the need to take back federal lands, but the real issue is how to balance the myriad competing uses imposed on public lands. The key is communication at the community level, MLPs provide a venue for that to happen and Little Mountain is a good template for others to follow.”

Sportsmen want to see Congress provide funding to Interior for thoughtful, responsible energy development on public lands. Image: Judith KohlerSportsmen want to see Congress provide funding to Interior for thoughtful, responsible energy development on public lands. Image: Judith Kohler

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