Audubon: New Rule for Fossil Fuel Development on Federal Lands Long Overdue

BLM public lands update puts critical wildlife habitat, cultural resources, and recreation on a level footing with oil and gas development

(Washington, DC-April 12, 2024) – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced a rule updating the cost of doing business on public lands and helping to balance the extraction of natural resources with the conservation of wildlife habitat and the preservation of landscapes sacred to Indigenous peoples.  

In addition to siting oil and gas development away from wildlife habitat and cultural  resources, the new regulations increase fees – including royalty and rental rates, and minimum bids associated with oil and gas development – bringing them in line with what many states require; and reduce so-called “speculative leasing”, where companies hold leases on land with little potential for development. 

The BLM manages 245 million acres, nearly 40 percent of U.S. public lands. The agency is charged with balancing the protection of America’s natural legacy with managing the 30 percent of the nation’s mineral wealth that lies beneath the surface. But over the past 50 years, the agency has mainly focused on extractive uses (coal, and oil and gas), applying rules governing that extraction that have been unchanged for decades. An estimated 300 bird species spend at least part of their lives there, including Burrowing Owls and the Greater Sage-Grouse, which is already under stress across much of its range.   

"When BLM oil and gas leasing policy was last updated, Gerald Ford was in the White House, the Bee Gees were on the radio and a gallon of gas cost an average of 59 cents," said Christopher Simmons, senior manager of public lands policy for the National Audubon Society. "The BLM’s approach to oil and gas leasing has been the equivalent of a polyester leisure suit – painfully outdated. This is a big step forward towards the BLM fulfilling its mission, delivering common-sense policies that balance responsible development with land and wildlife conservation." 

For decades, oil and gas policies prioritized development on public lands over activities like hunting, fishing, birding, hiking, grazing and restoration. When oil and gas companies left behind a mess on public lands, American taxpayers were previously forced to foot the bill. Before today’s update, taxpayers could have been responsible for as much as $15 billion in clean-up costs. 

Jason Howe,; 415-595-9245 

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About Audubon  
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.