Interior Department Releases Report on Failing, Broken Federal Public Lands Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Next Step: Permanently Protecting for the Big Hole and Beaverhead From Industrial Oil and Gas Development   

The Department of the Interior released a report last Friday as part of the Biden Administration’s comprehensive review of the broken federal oil and gas leasing program. In response, Upper Missouri Waterkeeper’s Executive Director Guy Alsentzer issued the following statement

“Rivers and streams in Montana and across the West are the lifeblood of our communities. But for too long, speculative and reckless industrial oil and gas development has threatened our fragile waterways and the wildlife, recreation opportunities, and businesses that rely on them. The federal oil and gas leasing program has failed to put peoples’ needs ahead of oil and gas corporations and special interests, and it will cost us for generations. 

The Biden administration took an important first step in keeping the President’s promise to ban all new oil and gas leasing. The headwaters of the nation – the Upper Missouri River Basin – is a good place to start.”

Southwest Montana’s Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers have been threatened by wildly-speculative industrial oil and gas development proposals since 2018, unnecessarily risking pollution impacts on blue ribbon trout fisheries, intensifying water scarcity challenges, and threatening our state’s $7.1 billion outdoor economy — while affecting a mere 0.25% of total state expenditures. A new report found that outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, in just Beaverhead County generated $167 million in economic activity each year and supported over 1,600 jobs. 

Montanans’ overwhelming support protecting places like the Big Hole and Beaverhead valleys that are too valuable to let out-of-state oil and gas corporations recklessly exploit. The Biden administration and DOI efforts to fix the broken federal public lands oil and gas leasing program next step should include revisions and updates to the area’s outdated resource management plan and work toward permanently withdrawing this special place from the federal minerals leasing program.