NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bureau of Land Management Fact Sheet: Energy Exploration

September 11, 2001

Some environmental interest groups have asserted that 95 percent of the federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management are currently open to energy exploration. That statement is factually misleading and incorrect, says the BLM.

  • Only lands that the BLM has already leased are "open" for requests to explore and develop energy -- of the 264 million acres of land managed by the BLM, fewer than 25 million acres are leased.
  • On those 25 million acres, an operator requesting permission to explore for energy must comply with numerous environmental requirements, which may include stipulations that limit the operation's location or timing.
  • On the other hand, approximately 25 million of the 264 million acres are effectively closed to leasing because of special designations such as National Monuments, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas.

The remaining 214 million acres, while not necessarily closed to leasing, are subject to the provisions of current land-use plans. In practice, this means that some lands are essentially unavailable because of the need to accommodate other uses and values. These lands include some that have specific designations, such as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and National Trails, and lands designated under the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

In other cases, lands may not have a specific designation, but they have been identified as important to address concerns, such as providing seasonal range for wildlife. Depending upon the circumstances, this may affect the feasibility of leasing.

Source: "Fact Sheet on Energy Exploration," Bureau of Land Management, September 6, 2001.


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