Voices: Oil and gas companies hold unfettered access to our public lands

As a Montanan who cherishes our public lands, I was disappointed to learn that the Department of Interior finalized a draft resource management plan for the Lewistown planning area, which leaves 95% of the public land vulnerable to oil and gas leasing.

It’s difficult for me to comprehend how little regard this administration must have for the people of Montana and our natural resources. Despite Montanans speaking up, Secretary Bernhardt and Acting Director William Pendley have continued to ignore the voices of Montanans and instead are intent on solely listening to industry, threatening the integrity of our deeply held outdoor traditions, such as hunting and fishing.

Oil and gas companies already hold unfettered access to our public lands and the ability to stockpile leases at bargain-basement prices through non-competitive leasing – a wasteful practice which must end. Montanans and our public lands deserve better.

Montanans expect this administration to uphold the BLM’s multiple-use mandate in a final plan. Anything less will allow energy development to upend our $7.1 billion-dollar outdoor recreation economy and jeopardize the sanctity of our wild lands. With the proposed plan for Lewistown, the administration is setting us on what could be an extremely dangerous path.