Saying that President Obama is lagging behind even some of his Republican predecessors in protecting public lands, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is urging the administration to put more federal land off limits to energy and other resource development.
In a speech Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington, Babbitt, head of the Interior Department under President Clinton, pointed out that during Obama’s first term, the administration leased more than twice as much federal acreage for gas and oil development than was protected as wilderness.
“As we hear more and more strident demands for accelerated leasing and increased production, we should pause to ask: ‘What about conservation? Where is the balance?’ ” Babbitt said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.
He added that oil and gas production exacts a toll on public lands. “Roads carve up and fragment the landscape. Streams are polluted and fisheries endangered. Sportsmen lose the backcountry places best for hunting. Archaeological sites are compromised, wildlife habitat degraded. Entire landscapes and ecosystems are despoiled ... ”