Press Release

Institutional Investors Call on the Private Sector to Protect Public Lands

Bears Ears National Monument

Bears Ears National Monument in Utah

Mason Cummings, TWS

Protecting public lands becomes a priority for private sector investors

Today, a group of institutional investors totaling $112,816,826,878 in assets under management sent a message to oil, gas, timber, and mining companies interested in conducting or financing new or expanded commercial activity urging them to stay out of America’s previously protected lands.

“Expanding into these previously protected lands is simply not worth the risk for companies,” said Lauren Compere, managing director at Boston Common Asset Management, one of the letter signers. “Developing these previously protected lands would expose companies to significant financial liabilities and reputational risks. Local communities will object to new development, and legislation like the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act and the Chaco Canyon Culture Heritage Protection Act, should they become law, would lead to stranded assets for oil, gas, and mining companies. This letter is a clear statement that major investors believe developing America’s treasured public lands is bad for business.”

The letter, linked below, was delivered to approximately 60 companies across the extractive industries and their sources of financing.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has taken the unprecedented action of removing protections from more than 150 million acres of public lands and is trying to remove protections for more than 119 million acres of public waters. The administration has also offered up nearly 500 million acres of public land and water for oil and gas development.

“In light of the Trump administration’s hostile actions to undermine stewardship of the public lands and waters it oversees, we are heartened by the leadership of the private sector players who are committed to conserving irreplaceable places like Bears Ears and the Arctic Refuge,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. “Sound stewardship and sound science can and must be consistent with good business practices. We urge other investors and businesses to join these leaders in ensuring healthy lands and waters are part of our nation’s future.”

This letter comes in the wake of recent efforts from the Trump administration to eliminate two million protected acres from the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah, open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and previously protected areas of the Arctic Ocean to oil and gas exploration, and slashing bipartisan protections for sage-grouse habitat spanning seven western states.

“We strongly urge all companies that engage in or finance extractive activities not to initiate any new or expanded industrial or commercial activity-- including participating in lease sales-- that is either on protected or formerly protected lands, or that would significantly impact protected or formerly protected lands, and to issue public statements clarifying their policy on this issue,” the letter reads. 

An influential House committee chair also weighed in saying siding with President Trump on environmental rollbacks could be costly.  

“Dirty industries have treated public lands like their private property for decades and passed the cleanup bill to the American public,” said Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “That’s no longer sustainable, and companies should know that trying to take advantage of President Trump’s environmental rollbacks is bound to be an unpopular, expensive mistake. The jobs of the future will be more about clean energy and sustainability than about short-term profits at the expense of company credibility.”