By Mark Moran - Producer-Editor, Contact - News



Big Sky Connection - New federal rules on oil and gas leasing in Montana and other Plains states will create more environmentally friendly conditions for the state's 8-million acres of agency managed land. Critics of the new rules say they will impose more costs. Comments from Matthew Kirby, senior director of energy and landscape conservation and Beau Kiklis (KICK liss), senior program manager of energy and landscape conservation, both at the National Parks Conservation Association.

Click on the image above for the audio. New federal rules will govern 245 million acres of public lands in the United States, including in Montana. (Adobe Stock)

Mark Moran

May 6, 2024 - The Bureau of Land Management has released a pair of rules that will change how the agency manages 245 million acres of public land.

The rules governing oil and gas stand to dramatically increase protections for public lands adjacent to national parks.

The BLM's rules update decades-old oil and gas leasing practices on public land with an eye toward more conservation protection.

The National Parks Conservation Association's Senior Director of Energy and Landscape Conservation - Matthew Kirby - said these rules will allow officials to steer mineral extraction away from environmentally sensitive lands.

"These rules," said Kirby, "are really targeted at reining in that extraction which has dominated the landscape for so long, particularly oil and gas."

More than 80 national parks border public lands managed by the BLM, which is why Kirby said the new rules are so critical.

Oil and gas rules have generated controversy for decades, not the least of which is because extraction companies that have to move their operations will incur cleanup and operational costs.

The new oil and gas rule updates also allow the BLM to prevent poorly sited drilling in and near critical wildlife areas, watersheds or cultural, and natural resources.

As it stands, 90% of the 245 million acres of public land managed by the bureau are open to oil and gas extraction.

The Conservation Association's Senior Program Manager of Energy and Landscape Conservation - Beau Kiklis - said officials will ask critical questions about the sensitive areas when creating future land-use plans.

"Are there historic properties, sacred sites, cultural resources that are within the vicinity of the proposed lease area?" said Kiklis. "Is there a presence of recreation or other resource uses that could provide a conflict, and is there important fish and wildlife habitat connected to the areas?"

Kiklis said answering those questions will help the agency more effectively manage Montana's 8 million acres of BLM land.

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