Climate + Energy

Public Lands in Greater Carlsbad Caverns Region Under Assault

UPDATE: Take action today to defend the Greater Carlsbad Caverns region and thwart the Trump Administration’s assault on our public lands and climate!

Click here to send a letter or attend public hearings the week of September 17, 2018 in southeast New Mexico.

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The Trump Administration’s assault on our public lands is kicking into high gear in southeast New Mexico’s Greater Carlsbad Caverns region.

Under a proposed Resource Management Plan revision, the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is actually planning to make more areas available for fracking, roll back environmental safeguards, and to top it off, is considering “disposing” (i.e., selling) more than 50,000 acres of public lands.

Located in southeast New Mexico, the Greater Carlsbad Caverns region contains nearly 2.8 million acres of public lands and minerals. Managed as the Carlsbad Field Office, the area contains Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which supports a a renowned cave system that extends even beyond the Park’s boundaries.

The area also contains the iconic Guadalupe Mountains and the Pecos River corridor.

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Carlsbad Field Office boundary in southeast New Mexico. Bureau of Land Management lands are yellow, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is purple.

While the region is a stunning landscape, much of it has been written off by the Bureau of Land Management for oil and gas development. Already, more than 94% of all public lands in the region are available for fracking. More than 51,000 oil and gas wells have been developed in this region, the majority of which have been on public lands.

Now, the region faces an even greater threat from the oil and gas industry. As companies like Exxon and Chevron have perfected fracking, they’ve taken aim at this region of New Mexico like never before.

Recently, the Bureau of Land Management has proposed to auction away thousands of acres of public lands for fracking. And although we’ve thwarted some of these plans, industry’s pressure persists.

Under their proposed plan for the Carlsbad Field Office, the Administration  would increase the amount of lands available for fracking from 94% to 97%.

In other words, nearly 100% of the entire Carlsbad Field Office would be dedicated to oil and gas development. This is about as far away from multiple use as the Bureau of Land Management can get.

And with oil and gas development taking a tremendous toll on the region’s air and water because of spills and other incidents, it’s a recipe for disaster.

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Existing oil and gas wells in the Carlsbad Field Office of southeast New Mexico.

Even worse, up to 218,000 acres of public lands could be “disposed of,” or sold outright and completely privatized. In spite of the Interior Department’s commitment to defend public lands, they seem more than willing to liquidate these lands in the Carlsbad Field Office.

From a climate standpoint, the proposed plan is a complete nightmare.

Already, the Bureau of Land Management acknowledges oil and gas development in the Carlsbad Field Office releases more than 38 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator, that’s the equivalent of nearly 10 coal-fired power plants, yet not a single coal-fired power plant exists in this region.

The Bureau of Land Management also discloses that burning oil and gas produced in this region will release nearly 50 million metric tons of carbon annually.

This means that under the agency’s proposed plan, nearly 90 million metric tons of carbon stands to be released every year for the next 20 years.

That’s exactly like building 22 coal-fired power plants.

That amount of carbon pollution is beyond shocking. And although the Trump Administration, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, denies climate change, it doesn’t mean it’s not real and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be outraged.

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This proposed management plan is about as far away from balanced management as the Bureau of Land Management could get. Worse, it completely defies the American public interest and stands to saddle us with enormous costs.

WildEarth Guardians is gearing up to fight back against this disastrous sacrifice of our public lands. Right now, the Bureau of Land Management is accepting comments on its plan and we’re working with a coalition to push back.

In the meantime, the Bureau of Land Management is holding public hearings around its proposed plan, with meetings scheduled next week in Carlsbad, Roswell, Artesia, Hobbs, Jal, and even Midland, Texas.

WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy team will be at the hearings in Carlsbad and Roswell. Look for us if you’ll also be attending!

And stay tuned for more opportunities to engage. This is a critical proposal to weigh in on given its implication for public lands, for the climate, and for the future of clean energy.

Let’s keep it in the ground!

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