The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act would direct royalties to conservation funding and local governments. Image: Matt Vincent
WASHINGTON – A national sportsmen’s coalition says a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives on a public lands renewable energy bill is as a step toward responsibly developing renewable energy on America’s public lands.
Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development supports the “Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act,” which would establish a new management system for wind and solar projects on public lands, with provisions directing at least 35 percent of royalties to a conservation fund and another 50 percent to state and local governments. The conservation fund could be used to restore fish and wildlife habitat affected by development and maintain access to hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands.
The coalition says this would constitute a wise investment in activities to drive spending in communities near public lands. “The SFRED coalition has long advocated being smart from the start about renewable energy development on public lands so that we strike the right balance between the need for clean energy and the public lands vital for fish and wildlife,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director.
The bipartisan measure – H.R. 2663 – is aimed at building the framework for more efficient, responsible development of renewable energy on public lands. A companion measure, S. 1407, was included as an amendment to a comprehensive energy package that passed the Senate in April. However, the version included in the Senate energy bill does not have the same revenue sharing provisions that are critical to balancing development with conservation.
“Renewable energy development poses similar challenges to fish and wildlife habitat as conventional energy development, and hunters and anglers want to see smart planning and balanced use of our public lands,” said Joel Webster, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Center for Western lands. “Planning for and addressing the impacts of development will be critical as we continue to get more of our energy from renewable sources, and so will reinvesting in the other ways that all Americans benefit from public lands. The conservation funding provisions of this bill would make that possible.”
SFRED members praised provisions in H.R. 2663 that dedicate a portion of the royalty revenue to fish and wildlife conservation, and hope that this section of the bill will be included in any measure approved by both chambers of Congress.
“In this day and age, it’s not often that folks from both sides of the political spectrum can get together and support a proposal affecting public lands. Yet, that’s exactly what has happened with the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act,” said Corey Fisher, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “However, we can’t have the locomotive leaving the rail yard without the rest of the train – it is critical that revenue sharing and the conservation fund are part of any bill that is signed into law.”