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American Public Lands Are Being Liquidated to Oil and Gas Industry at Alarming Rate

Millions of Acres on the Fracking Auction Block

August 18, 2018

UPDATE: After receiving feedback and crunching our numbers again, it turns out the acres of western public lands the Trump Administration has proposed to sell for fracking so far in 2018 is actually more than 3.8 million. The blog post has been updated to reflect this more accurate, yet equally alarming, figure.

Today, the Trump Administration’s Bureau of Land Management announced plans to auction off more than 426,000 acres of public lands in Nevada for fracking, marking an alarming ramp up in the number of acres being sold to the oil and gas industry in the American West.

In fact, with this latest proposal, the total acres of public lands in the American West that have been or will be put on the auction block in 2018 amounts to more than 3.8 million acres.

That’s an area of nearly 6,000 square miles and it’s three times the size of Grand Canyon National Park. Check out the table below for the latest statistics:

oil and gas leasing in 2018
Ironically, the Trump Administration is even proposing to auction away public lands in the Grand Canyon State of Arizona.

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to sell three parcels totaling 4,101 acres this September, even though there is virtually no oil and gas production occurring in Arizona.

Although we’ve successfully thwarted some plans to sell public lands to the oil and gas industry in the last year, that 3.8 million acres are up for grabs by the oil and gas industry in the American West is virtually unprecedented.

In fact, even under the very pro-oil and gas George W. Bush Administration, not once did the Bureau of Land Management propose to sell anywhere near 3.8 million acres of public lands in a single year.

The Trump Administration’s push to auction public lands to the fracking industry is as senseless as it is distressing.

Already, more than 25 million acres of U.S. public lands have been sold to the oil and gas industry, most in the western states of Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Yet of these 25 million acres, less than half are actually producing oil and gas.

This means the oil and gas industry is literally sitting on millions of acres doing absolutely nothing with them. That the Trump Administration would be pushing to put even more of our public lands into the hands of companies like Exxon, BP, and Anadarko is nothing short of corruption.

By auctioning off public lands to the oil and gas industry, the Bureau of Land Management is effectively privatizing our American West.  Selling these lands conveys rights for companies to develop, effectively precluding all other uses of public lands, including for outdoor recreation, wildlife conservation, wilderness protection, and more.

It is absolutely not an exaggeration to say that the Trump Administration’s push to sell away public lands stands is nothing short of a de facto privatization scheme.


Gas well on public lands in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forest in western Colorado.

To be certain, WildEarth Guardians and others are doing their damnedest to push back against these fracking plans. In May, we filed suit to overturn  the sale of 150,000 acres of public lands in Montana for fracking. And earlier this month, we appealed to overturn the sale of more than 15,000 acres of public lands in New Mexico.

We are also actively commenting on and appealing every single proposal to sell public lands for fracking in the American West.

Our allies, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, Western Environmental Law Center, have also taken aim at numerous decisions to auction away public lands for fracking, including filing suit to protect the imperiled sage grouse and its habitat from rampant oil and gas development.

But the challenges are extreme. President Trump and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, aren’t trying to advance any legitimate energy interest, they’re trying to demolish the concept of public lands and public good.

It’s telling that while the Administration is proposing to put millions of acres into the hands of the oil and gas industry they’re also stripping away protections for public lands, including diminishing National Monuments, attacking protective land designations, and letting companies get away with despoiling public lands without paying a penny to compensate for damages.

That’s why we need your help. If you haven’t already, take action today and speak out against the Trump Administration’s plans to auction away our public lands for fracking. Click here or click on the image below.

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 8.01.29 PM
The Trump Administration’s attacks on our public lands are distressing, but with your help, we can and will overcome.

Jeremy Nichols

About the Author

Jeremy Nichols | Climate and Energy Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

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