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1: Executive Summary

2: About Oil/Gas Leases

3: Oil & Gas Impacts

4: Bush Admin Rollbacks

5: The Spin on Drilling

6: Hotspot: Roan Plateau, CO

7: Hotspot: Otero Mesa, NM

8: Hotspot: Rocky Mtn Front, MT

9: Hotspot: Powder River Basin, WY

10: Hotspot: Book Cliffs, UT

11: Oil, Gas, Political Cash

12: EWG Recommendations

13: Methodology

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Atlas of Active Leases

Regional Summaries




Search for a Lease Holder






Leasing Data

Federal records of oil and gas industry activity on public land, and on private lands on which the government holds subsurface mineral rights, are maintained in a 12-Gigabyte database called Land and Mineral Records 2000 (LR2000), housed in a Bureau of Land Management data center in Denver, Colorado. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) acquired these records on May 15, 2004. In raw form the data are a string of codes in numerous text files, documenting leasing and drilling activity on each tract of land offered at auction or actively leased from 1982 to the present. EWG researchers used commercial mapping and data tools to synthesize these 125 million data records into a detailed analysis from which we have generated the findings in this study, and which form the backbone of the interactive atlas of oil and gas industry activity on western lands released as part of this investigation.

Land Protected or Opened to Oil and Gas Drilling Under Recent Administrations

To compare the amount of land protected from oil and gas drilling under the Clinton and Bush administrations with the amount of land stripped of protections during the same administrations, EWG compiled a database of land actions including:

  1. Department of Interior Public Land Orders protecting land or lifting protections (Interior Land Orders 1993-2004). Under federal law, the Secretary of the Interior and designated deputies have the authority to withdraw lands from oil and gas leasing (as well as from other uses), thus protecting the land from oil and gas operations. The Secretary and designated deputies also have the power to revoke previous withdrawals, thus opening land to oil and gas leasing that had been closed (USCS Withdrawals 2004).
  2. National Wilderness Areas set aside for environmental protection (Wilderness.net 2004). Under federal law, Congress may pass legislation protecting land as Wilderness, thus closing the land to oil and gas drilling as well as other development (USCS Wilderness 2004).
  3. National Parks created (NPCA). National Parks are created by act of Congress and managed "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life" within their borders (USCS National Parks 2004). They are closed to oil and gas drilling.
  4. National Monuments created (NLCS). Under the Antiquities Act, the President and Congress may create National Monuments that are "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" located on public lands (USCS National Monuments 2004). National Monuments are generally closed to oil and gas drilling.
  5. National Wildlife Refuges created (TWS Wildlife Refuges).
  6. Clinton Administration rule prohibiting road construction in forest service roadless areas. On January 12 2001, the Clinton administration adopted a rule that would prohibit road construction, reconstruction and timber harvest on nearly 60 million acres of inventoried roadless forest service land. On July 12, 2004, the Bush Administration proposed a new rule that would allow state governors to decide whether to continue to protect roadless acres within their states (Forest Service Roadless 2004).
  7. State of Utah v. Norton (Utah Settlement 2003) ruling that removed interim wilderness protection from 3.2 million acres in Utah and Colorado (BLM Inventory 1999, Colorado Wilderness Network 2004). Many more millions of acres may potentially be denied protection by the decision.

Campaign Contributions

Data about campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry were provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.


  • The Wilderness Act (USCS Wilderness). 16 U.S.C.S. 1131, 1133 (2003).
  • Department of Interior, Public Land Orders (Interior Land Orders 1993-2004). 1993-2004. Accessed July 27, 2004 at http://www.blm.gov/nhp/what/plo.
  • Forest Service, Roadless Acres (Roadless). Accessed online July 27, 2004 at http://roadless.fs.fed.us. The original rule can be found at 66 FR 3244 (January 12, 2001).
  • National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). List of national monuments accessed on July 27, 2004 at http://www.discovernlcs.org/Resources/Reports/index.cfm
  • National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). List of national parks accessed on July 27, 2004 at http://www.npca.org.
  • State of Utah v. Norton, U.S District Court, District of Utah Central Division (Utah Settlement 2003).
  • United States Code Service (USCS Withdrawals). 2004. 43 USCS 1714 (2004).
  • United States Code Service (USCS National Monuments). 2004. 16 USCS 431 (2004).
  • United States Code Service (USCS National Parks). 2004. 16 USCS 1 et seq. (2004).
  • United States Code Service (USCS Wilderness). 2004.
  • Utah Wilderness. Bureau of Land Management. Accessed online July 30, 2004 at http://www.ut.blm.gov/utahwilderness/imp/imp.htm. A BLM team inventoried public land in Utah between 1996 and 1999 and found that 2.6 million acres were wilderness quality.
  • Wilderness.net, The National Wilderness Preservation System (Wilderness.net). 2004. Accessed online July 27, 2004 at http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=advSearch.
  • The Wilderness Society (TWS Wildlife Refuges). 2004. Compiled by Leslie Catherwood, The Wilderness Society.