Rio Grande Del Norte Offers Glimmer of Hope to Westerners

Mar 25, 2013

Administration Takes a Step towards Placing Conservation and Energy Development on Equal Ground

DENVER—In the first conservation act of his second term, President Barack Obama established the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, permanently protecting nearly 240,000 pristine acres in New Mexico and taking a step toward balancing conservation with oil and gas development.

“The establishment of Rio Grande del Norte is a glimmer of hope for Westerners who want to see their quality of life put on equal ground with energy development,” said the Center for Western Priorities’ Trevor Kincaid.

Oil and gas leases outpaced conservation efforts nearly three-to-one during Obama’s first term. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush struck a one-to-one balance during their terms, protecting as much land for new parks, monuments and wilderness as they leased to oil and gas companies.

Fmr. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was the first to call on President Obama to adopt an “Equal Ground” policy of protecting an acre of public land for every acre leased for drilling—and his call has been picked up by many in the West.

Analysts have calculated that in order to make up for the discrepancy between conservation and leasing during his first term, President Obama and Congress will need to protect 3.5 million acres. The designation of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, announced by the White House today, moves in the right direction.

(Feature photo: Obiwannm, Flickr)