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Josh Coursey

America elected for change when President Donald Trump was sworn as in as our next Commander-in-Chief. I emphasis our, as respect for the position must be held in the highest regard. In 18 months, we have seen many changes as the result of the current administration. Some people think many of these changes have been good, some people think they’ve been bad and some people are indifferent. This is truly American. Change can be positive; it must be held to a standard of accountability to ensure that consequences of shortsighted decisions on policy are not irreconcilable.

President Trump and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke have made it clear that they are pursuing an “energy dominance” agenda in the name of national security, energy independence and economic gain. While these are certainly viable priorities that must be on the table, we can’t set aside considerations for historic, cultural, ecological and recreational value of our public landscapes. Failure to take these into account will risk our public lands and the fundamental freedom and way of life they represent.

As an avid sportsman and all-around outdoor enthusiast, allowing one use to trump all other public land uses and values threatens opportunities to hunt, fish and recreate on our most cherished resource. Policy that erodes or hinders public access and opens the door only to intensive energy development impairs the quality of land and water that belong to all of us. This troubles me and should trouble you.

Since January 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has put 12.7 million acres of public lands up for oil and gas leasing. In doing this, the BLM has fundamentally ignored the other important values our public landscapes hold. These lands are supposed to be managed for multiple uses that honor our collective heritage — hunting and fishing, ranching, camping and responsible resource development — and generate a steady and diverse stream of revenue for Western communities.

I was glad to learn of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship’s recent petition to Secretary Zinke requesting that he withdraw 117,000 acres of public land, previously offered for lease and passed over by the oil and gas industry, from future oil and gas lease sales. Doing so would free these lands to once again be managed for other important uses. Such a petition is needed and speaks volumes about how this administration’s approach to public lands management needs a closer look. What is needed is a more balanced approach, where conserving our fish and wildlife habitat, providing opportunities for outdoor recreation and protecting our drinking water sources are on equal footing with development. These are our lands. They must serve many vital purposes for those of us who live, work and play across the West. They are also a key part of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage that benefits all Americans.

Taking CRS’s very reasonable request seriously and withdrawing these 117,000 acres from future oil and gas lease sales would be a nice start. Doing so would allow these lands to be appropriately considered for the purposes they are best suited, including outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing, ranching and camping.

Continuing down a shortsighted, one-size-fits-all approach that prioritizes one interest above the needs of common sense stewardship will show its ugly face in due time. It’s not too late; we can and need to do more. The Muley Fanatic Foundation is committed to being part of the solution and prides itself on being part of this solution. MFF is not against oil and gas development, as we understand its valuable role and its important need. We also know that many of our supporters, family and friends earn their livelihood in this valuable industry.

I would like to think that an administration that was elected and put in place to provoke change is willing to engage in continued discussions that are solution-oriented, and can truly set up a legacy that can be measured beyond any of our living years that when, on our watch, we did right.

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Joshua W.D. Coursey is the president and CEO of the Muley Fanatic Foundation.


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