Fighting climate change

Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society

Communities are making public lands part of the climate change solution

Our public land policies contribute substantially to the climate change problem. Oil, gas and coal extracted from lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies contribute a large piece of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions—and it’s hurting our communities. 

Combined, public lands and waters accounted for 39 percent of all coal, 26 percent of all crude oil and 21 percent of all natural gas produced in the US between 2009 and 2019. 

This fossil fuel development creates pollution and contributes to the climate crisis, generating a wide range of public health issues. Tribes, low-income communities and communities of color are especially impacted and are fighting locally and nationally to reclaim their political and economic power to defend themselves against big polluters.

We need to transition to a new model for public lands that protects our health and future in the face of an increasingly warming planet. That's why our voices are needed, now more than ever, to ensure public lands are a part of the climate solution.

Why this issue matters

By decreasing fossil energy development on public lands, and reducing and accounting for the cost of emissions, we can ensure public lands contribute less to pollution and climate change.

24% of total U.S. climate emissions
That's how much the development of oil, gas and coal on public lands contributes to U.S. emissions.
5th in the world
If U.S. public lands were their own country, they would rank 5th in the world for greenhouse gas emissions, just behind Russia.
74% of communities of color
Communities of color in the U.S. live in nature-deprived areas, compared with just 23 percent of white communities. More public natural spaces will help mitigate increasing climate change heat.

What we're doing

  1. Protecting, connecting and restoring critical landscapes

    We are working to protect large networks of wildlands to serve as carbon sinks that reduce climate change emissions, support species under threat and build resilience for hard-hit communities.

  2. Reducing fossil fuel emissions from public lands

    We are pushing for new policies and practices with the goal of reaching net-zero emissions from public lands by 2030.

  3. Promoting clean energy

    We are working to identify the places for renewables that will have the lowest impact on wildlife, habitat and cultural resources, recognizing that some places are simply too wild to develop.

  4. Strengthening climate resiliency for all

    We are supporting local communities by providing resources, technical knowledge, and advocating for policies that will protect their health and well-being.