What Is a Master Leasing Plan (MLP) & Why Should You Care?

Did you know you are part owner of about 250 million acres of federal lands in the U.S.?

It’s true. Dotted all over this beautiful country are public lands – places that are for and owned by the public. An awful lot of it is in the West – 76% of Nevada, 70% of Utah, 60% of Idaho, 34% of Colorado, 32% of Arizona, and 29% of New Mexico is public land. Whether you live in those states or not, these public lands (and all of them across the country) are yours to enjoy. And that also means you have a voice in how they are managed and used.

While some of these public lands are used for recreation and tourism, many of them are also repositories of rich, natural resources – like oil and gas. The federal government’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allows companies to lease pieces of public lands to extract natural resources, but do you know if your interests are being protected? It’s your land, after all.

Oil and gas development on public lands affects us all.

Yet decision-making about where to drill typically excludes diverse stakeholders, including Latino communities. As a result, our access to these lands for recreation, subsistence, education, and traditional cultural uses are impeded. And, worse yet, sometimes the landscape, wildlife, or water is irreparably damaged.

HECHO advocates for the BLM to implement “smart from the start” planning, also known as Master Leasing Plans (MLPs), to allow input from multiple stakeholders (like you) about how public lands should be used. MLPs allow for a variety of issues to be considered, including: hunting and angling, farming and ranching, cultural resource protection, conservation, recreation, property ownership, local government, and oil and gas development.

What else does an MLP do?

  • Directs the BLM to take a critical look at development and impacts of oil and gas development within the boundaries of an MLP.
  • Requires a holistic assessment of the area. It’s not just land. It’s wildlife habitat, places of cultural importance, recreational areas, tourism hot spots, and so much more.
  • Can permanently remove land from leasing.
  • Creates phased development approaches, so if any problems occur, they can be addressed before problems compound.
  • Guides developers on using “best management practices” and “resource protection measures,” including limits on the amount of surface disturbance allowed.
BLM lands near Moab, UT

BLM lands near Moab, UT

Currently, Latino voices are missing from these planning conversations. We should be engaged, given the value of these lands and waters to our communities and our way of life. “Smart from the start” land management planning directs development to areas of least conflict, and protects important resources, such as air, water, wildlife habitat, tourism and recreation-related economic opportunities.

While we all use oil and gas, some places are too sacred and fragile to be destroyed by development. These are lands we have enjoyed for centuries and want to protect for future generations. In short, the MLP process is one of our strongest tools for helping protect our public lands.