The public lands lease system is broken.
There are 30 million acres of federal public lands in Wyoming, about half the total surface area of the state. About 18 million of those acres are managed by the Bureau of Land Management for “multiple use.” Multiple use requires the BLM to balance a wide variety of resources and values — from hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation, and wildlife habitat, to livestock grazing, and industrial uses like mining and oil and gas development. But this federal system of oil and gas leasing on our public lands is broken.
100-YEAR-OLD POLICIES ARE CAUSING PROBLEMS TODAY.
Outdated laws and policies have led to a wave of speculative leasing on public lands — threatening wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, and Indigenous ancestral lands and tribal cultural properties.
Leases have been selling for rock bottom prices. The minimum bid price — just $2 per acre — has not been updated in decades. Many leases are sold “noncompetitively” for even less than the minimum bid. The government is still applying royalty rates that are over a century old. These antiquated prices mean that taxpayers are not getting a fair return.
Despite these concerns, oil and gas leasing has often been prioritized over all other uses of our public lands. Of the 18 million acres of land managed by the BLM here in Wyoming, almost 11 million acres are already leased to private companies for oil and gas development.
It’s time to fix the public lands lease system.
Wyoming stands to benefit from fixing the broken federal oil and gas leasing system. Higher royalty rates and minimum bids would increase revenue from lease sales and development in the state. Ending noncompetitive leasing would discourage speculation, and ensure that parcels leased to oil and gas companies are more likely to actually produce energy and generate revenue. Leasing lands according to their potential would reduce conflicts with other resources, maximizing returns while maintaining balance. Plugging abandoned wells creates energy industry jobs and reduces methane emissions.