Last month, President Joe Biden took bold action via executive order to fix our broken oil and gas leasing system, as well as to protect wildlife habitat, clean water, and conserve 30% of our land and waters by 2030. On behalf of a community that is impacted by oil and gas development, and that experiences health challenges as a result of climate change impacts, I support the measures the president took to pause oil and gas leasing on federal public lands, and protecting our lands and waters.

Arizona has been a pawn for the oil and gas industry, which has exerted influence over how our public lands have been managed for far too long. In fact, Arizona has more than 4,000 acres under lease and available for permits that have the potential to be drilled.

The truth is that, in order to address the climate crisis, generate a fair return for taxpayers and support communities in the transition to clean energy solutions, the federal oil and gas leasing program must be completely overhauled. Biden’s executive order last week is a step in the right direction in making that possible.

Prior to the announcement, leasing decisions were often made without community input, and without consideration of community values such as outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat, drinking water sources, and environmental justice considerations. This pause will allow time to review the antiquated leasing system which sells low-potential lands to energy speculators for as little as $1.50 an acre. The current bonding system also lets companies off the hook for cleaning up abandoned oil wells when they declare bankruptcy.

The American taxpayers deserve to have this broken system repaired.

Protect the best, fix the rest

In order to execute Biden’s bold vision to conserve 30% of our lands and waters by 2030, we’ll need to ensure that federal, state, local and tribal leaders work together to identify and protect our most important lands. In Arizona, protecting the Grand Canyon through the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act would also help meet the administrations goals, as it is more than 1 million acres. (Doing so is also widely supported by the Latino community.)

We will also have to restore our forests, grasslands, wetlands, and coastal areas that can help mitigate climate change by their natural ability to absorb and store carbon. Such restoration efforts will create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at a time when our economy needs a boost. It will also help further charge our outdoor recreation economy.

Biden’s executive order is a reason for optimism, moving towards a future where public lands and waters fuel our economy with clean energy alternatives, outdoor recreation and restoration jobs. It will also help make nature accessible to all — whether it’s at a local park, state wildlife refuge or national monument. The president’s plan shows us the way forward to mitigate the climate crisis, while ensuring our public lands survive and thrive for generations to come.