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Most earth scientists are fully aware of the vital role development of our public lands and waters plays in building and sustaining our nation's economy and security. Since homesteading and gold-rush days our country has relied heavily on development of natural resources from the public domain to provide the energy, minerals, and timber essential to the industrial base, and to the comfort and well-being of our citizens.
Unfortunately, the public and their elected representatives do not seem to have this awareness. This is evident from the fact that more than 20 federal laws enacted in the last 10 years limit, impede, delay, or prohibit development of natural resources from federal lands. The principal victim of this legislative and regulatory onslaught is the oil and gas industry, although mining and timber industries have not escaped.
The currently accelerating implementation of the RARE II program, the Wilderness Act, the Coastal
Zone Management Act, the OCS Lands Act Amendments, the Marine Sanctuaries Act, and the Alaskan (D-2) land withdrawals, brings the magnitude of these attacks on our resource base into sharp focus.
Potential federal land and sea withdrawals, currently under consideration, total over 600 million acres (240 million ha.), an area larger than the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming combined. This is equal to about one quarter of the entire land mass of the lower 48 states.
As earth scientists we have an obligation to alert the public to this threat and the very serious consequences it poses for our nation. In addition, we should make a concerted effort to increase our elected representatives' and agency administrators' awareness of this acute problem.
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