President Barack Obama has overseen a resurgence in U.S. oil and gas production on both private and public lands. Under his watch, oil production on federal lands was higher every year from 2009 through 2011 than it was from 2006 through 2008. In 2011 the Bureau of Land Management held three of its five largest-ever lease sales for the rights to drill on public land for oil and gas. And as the president said himself, “we are drilling all over the place”—in fact, the United States is expected to become the world’s largest crude oil producer by 2020, according to the International Energy Agency.
But the Obama administration has significantly more work to do when it comes to balancing energy development and land conservation on our public lands. The president has begun to establish his conservation legacy, in ways such as removing the threat of uranium mining around the Grand Canyon for 20 years, establishing four new national monuments, and fighting for conservation funding. Nevertheless, his efforts fall far short when it comes to permanently protecting public lands for their economic, scenic, and environmental values. Protecting public lands means restricting drilling, mining, and other industrial activities that can take place on them, and can be accomplished either by bills passed in Congress or actions taken by a president and his administration under their authorities.
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