The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has the unenviable task of balancing competing interests on millions of acres of public land nationwide. In New Mexico the BLM has done pretty well, allowing for a substantial amount of oil-and-gas development while still preserving hunting and fishing opportunity in places like the San Juan area near Farmington.
Now the agency has a similar task on the largest tract of public land in the nation, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in the western Arctic. Like the San Juan, there’s oil up there, although estimates put it at only about a month’s worth for the United States. And like the San Juan, there’s also lots of wildlife, including ducks, geese, bear and caribou. Some of those birds end up in New Mexico every year after their fall migration.
Congress has directed the BLM (through the Department of the Interior) to tap the reserve for its oil and gas and at the same time to protect the area’s critical wildlife habitat. That’s quite a balancing act, but New Mexicans can help out. We need to comment on the various alternatives (go to www.nwf.org/arctic for more information) and to encourage the BLM to do the right thing for all of us — open up portions of the reserve to oil-and-gas development without harming the most sensitive wildlife habitat.
As a New Mexico sportsman who cares about all our public lands, not just those in New Mexico, I urge other hunters and anglers to weigh in on how the reserve should be managed. That’s our land under discussion. The deadline to comment is June 1.
New Mexico Wildlife Federation