Posted by: greeningwashington | February 7, 2009

Auctioning Off America

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar cancelled leases for oil and gas drilling on 77 parcels of land near Utah’s canyon country on Wednesday. Shortly before leaving office, President Bush’s Administration rushed to auction off these 130,225 acres of land situated near national parks, monuments, and other landscapes.

Mr. Salazar had this to say about the “midnight” auctions:

“In the last weeks in office, the Bush administration rushed ahead to sell oil and gas leases near some of our nation’s most precious landscapes in Utah.”

“We need to responsibly develop our oil and gas supplies to help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but we must do so in a thoughtful and balanced way that allows us to protect our signature landscapes and cultural resources — in places like Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument and Nine Mile Canyon — for future generations.”

In their last-minute efforts to reward large energy companies with priceless land at a low-cost (total estimate was worth six million), the Bush Administration failed to comply with environmental reviews that usually accompany landscapes like the ones for sale.

According to an environmental politics and policies professor at Texas A&M, only 650 million acres of public land west of the Mississippi River remains. In addition, during the 19th century, the U.S. government sold nearly half — 1.1 billion — of the public land available.

Activists must continue to oppose the opening of certain national parks and wildlife refuges, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to drilling. If not, all of the hard work and funds conservationists poured into saving raw, pristine American wilderness will be for not. I hope I never see the day when visits to national parks become visits to oil pump fields.

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