Balance Use of Public Lands

January 17, 2014

Dear Secretary Jewell,

Congratulations on your appointment as Secretary of the Interior earlier this year, and thank you for the attention you have brought to the economic impact of outdoor recreation and conservation in rural economies across the country.

Energy development is extremely important to our economy and national security. Balancing
development with other important uses of our public land is vital to our rural economies and to future generations of Americans. You have spoken encouragingly about this balance yourself, and we could not agree with you more.

That is why we, the undersigned group of county commissioners and state legislators from rural areas in seven western states, write to implore you to bring balance back to the use and management of our public lands, and to equalize the priority given to exploration of fossil fuels and other uses of public land, such as recreation, conservation, wildlife habitat, and responsible grazing.

In his first term, President Obama leased 2.5 times more land for oil and gas development than he conserved for the public to access and enjoy. This is a worrisome trend.

Balancing energy development with other uses of public land is essential to maintaining rural economies and the quality of life in our communities. The $646 billion outdoor recreation economy, upon which many western rural communities rely, depends on conservation of public land and wildlife habitat located there. The access to beautiful public places is a top reason why many people move to the West, and it is our responsibility as local elected officials to communicate to you the importance of keeping these places beautiful and easily accessible.

To ensure balanced management of our public lands, we respectfully request the following actions. First, we ask that you issue a Secretarial Order that makes sure conservation and recreation are considered in oil and gas planning, and that local communities are meaningfully consulted in all stages of the leasing process. Second, there are many remote and backcountry areas of public land that are particularly important for wildlife habitat conservation and to hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreationists that support our rural economies. These special remote and backcountry areas should be identified with input from local communities, and protected where appropriate. Such an action would affirm your recent public statement that some places are too special to be opened up for energy development. Lastly, we ask that your agency consider a more fair and equitable royalty rate that ensures greater return to the communities impacted by oil and gas exploration.

The seven states we collectively represent contain nearly one-third of all federally-owned public land. We are not asking for outdoor recreation or conservation to be prioritized above other uses - we recognize there are places that are appropriate for oil and gas development, and these places should be explored appropriately and responsibly. Instead, we believe that conservation, recreation, responsible grazing, wildlife habitat, and other uses of our public land should be seen as equally important as energy exploration, similar to many past presidential administrations.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our requests on behalf of our rural economies and public lands legacy.

Sincerely,

Montana 

Commissioner Billy Salina, Cascade County
Commissioner Jane Weber, Cascade County
Sen. Dick Barrett, Missoula
Sen. Anders Blewett, Great Falls
Sen. Mary Caferro, Helena
Sen. Robyn Driscoll, Billings
Sen. Tom Facey, Missoula
Sen. Christine Kaufmann, Helena
Sen. Cliff Larsen, Missoula
Sen. Sue Malek, Missoula
Sen. Mike Phillips, Bozeman
Sen. Jon Sesso, Butte
Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, Billings
Sen. Dave Wanzenried, Missoula
Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, Box Elder
Sen. Tom Steenberg, Missoula
Rep. Bridget Smith, Wolf Point
Rep. Lea Whitford, Cut Bank
Rep. Virginia Court, Billings
Rep. Tom Jacobson, Great Falls
Rep. Margaret MacDonald, Billings
Rep. Jean Price, Great Falls
Rep. Ed Lieser, Whitefish
Rep. Ellie Hill, Missoula
Rep. Mary McNally, Billings
Rep. Kimberly Dudik, Missoula
Rep. Jenny Eck, Helena
Rep. Amanda Curtis, Butte

Idaho
Commissioner Angenie McCleary, Blaine
County
Commissioner Larry Schoen, Blaine County
Commissioner Wayne Butts, Custer County
Commissioner Tom Stroschein, Latah County
Rep. Michelle Stennett, Ketchum
Rep. Donna Pence, Gooding
Rep. Shirley Ringo, Moscow
Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb, Boise
Rep. John Gannon, Boise
Rep. Phylis King, Boise
Rep. Mat Erpelding, Boise

New Mexico
Commissioner Billy Garrett, Dona Ana County
Commissioner John Olivas, Mora County
Commissioner Alfonso Griego, Mora County
Commissioner Kathy Holian, Santa Fe County
Commissioner Larry Sanchez, Taos County
Commissioner Gabriel Romero, Taos County
Rep. Nate Cote, Organ
Rep. Jeff Steinborn, Las Cruces
Rep. Bill McCamley, Mesilla Park

Washington
Commissioner John Austin, Jefferson County
Commissioner Sharon Dillon, Skagit County
Commissioner Jamie Stephens, San Juan
County
Commissioner Mike Doherty, Clallam County
Sen. Kevin Ranker, San Juan, Skagit & Watcom
Counties
Sen. Andy Billig, Spokane
Sen. Karen Fraser, Olympia
Sen. Christine Rolfes, Bainbridge Island
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, Burien
Rep. Jeff Morris, Anacortes

Wyoming
Commissioner Stephanie Kessler, Fremont
County
Commissioner Phil Vogelhiem, Teton County
Commissioner Barbara Allen, Teton County
Commissioner Hank Phibbs, Teton County
Commissioner Melissa Turley, Teton County
Commissioner Ben Ellis, Teton County
Commissioner Tim Chesnut, Albany County
Rep. Ken Esquibel, Cheyenne

Colorado
Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry, Eagle
County
Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, La Plata County
Commissioner Tim Mauk, Clear Creek County
Commissioner Jill Ryan, Eagle County
Commissioner Rachel Richards, Pitkin County
Sen. John Kefalas, Fort Collins
Rep. Randy Fischer, Fort Collins

Oregon
Commissioner Bill Hall, Lincoln County
Rep. Deb Boone, Cannon Beach

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