Sequester Predicted to Stifle Public Land Programs, Energy Production
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - According to the Bureau of Land Management, the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester will have serious impacts on the BLM’s stewardship responsibilities of the nation’s public lands, including management of nationally significant landscapes and oversight of important energy resources.
Officials don't have an exact estimate of where the cuts will come from yet, but say they will result in a slow-down of many of the bureau's functions.
"We're going to take a 5 percent cut across all programs," explained David Boyd with the Bureau of Land Management's Northwest Colorado district.
This cut has resulted in a hiring freeze, which means no temporary or seasonal employees for the busy tourist months.
"If you don't have people doing surveys, that's the kind of work we need to do in order to move our plans and decisions forward," said Boyd.
This means many items being evaluated, such as a potential trail for a bike race, would be delayed and might be cause for cancellation entirely.
The agency will, however, retain temporary firefighters to help during the upcoming wildfire season.
One of the more contested impacts has been how the cuts stand to effect energy production.
Nationwide, the bureau anticipates the oil and gas industry will slow down due to cuts in programs that issue permits for new development, plan for new projects, conduct environmental reviews and inspect operations. With fewer resources available for the agency to prepare for and conduct lease sales, leasing of new federal lands for future development will also be delayed.
"[That means] 300 fewer oil and gas leases could be issued. Annually, that has impacts for both the treasury, state and local governments," said Boyd.
But officials with the Colorado Oil & Gas Association disagree that the sequester is the problem.
"The sequester should be the least of their worries. Instead, they should take a harder look in the mirror at some of the broader policies they've had that have hurt jobs and reduced drilling on public lands in Western Colorado," said David Ludlam with COGA.
In addition, the BLM says a downturn in coal leasing will result in a loss of 50 to 60 million dollars nationwide.
Ludlam says that cutting energy production is going to worsen the problem.
"Any given rig can produce hundreds of job. So when you look at the elimination of drilling from certain areas, it definitely has an impact on the local economy," added Ludlam.
The revenue loss trickles down to a number not yet known for Western Slope municipalities. Officials say local budgets will feel the pinch in core operations ranging from police and fire protection to school and road maintenance.