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Drilling to reduce deficit is a bad business call

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Lost in the attention focused upon Congress’s passage of the Budget Resolution, which allows the Senate to circumvent filibuster rules while passing tax reform legislation, is the fact that the very same procedural device can, and likely will, be used to attempt to dramatically expand oil and gas exploration on our nation’s public lands.

The provision within the bill instructs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to consider legislation this fiscal year that would reduce the deficit by at least $1 billion over the next 10 years. Two key Republicans in the Senate — current Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma — have stated on the record that they want the committee to consider opening public lands, both in Alaska and the continental United States, to drilling to achieve this objective. 

{mosads}This effort is tremendously shortsighted. America’s public lands are a national treasure, providing recreation and relaxation to millions of Americans each year. As a venture capitalist leading a coalition of business leaders in the United States called the Conservation for Economic Growth Coalition (CEGC), we view these areas as a key economic driver, attracting our nation’s most innovative companies, who want to offer their employees access to these historic areas. This line of thinking might seem surprising, but experience bares it out.


When a company plans to locate to a new facility, that decision is based, in part, on the likelihood that it will be easy to recruit and maintain a high-quality work force; one of the factors in calculating that likelihood is proximity to the world-class recreational opportunities our national monuments can provide.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Consider Amazon’s request for proposals for its second national headquarters. Among the criteria the company identifies as a required for consideration is the availability of “recreational opportunities.” And Amazon is far from alone.

In company after company which we and other members of CEGC have founded or invested in, we have seen that permanent protection for nearby public lands has meant that our companies’ employees have enhanced access to unique opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, hunting and other outdoor activities that help them maintain a work-life balance, recharge and boost their creativity.  

Moreover, our portfolio companies engage in team-building exercises in the outdoors. They host employee family events there and encourage employees to experience the spectacular landscapes that provide the inspiration that those employees bring back to work with them. In this sense, conservation isn’t just good for business growth — it actually fuels teamwork and innovation essential to compete in the global economy. 

The bottom line is that successful, driven employees — especially in the sectors of the economy with America’s fastest-growing companies — place a high value on outdoor recreation. Proximity to public lands and national monuments are now a major selling point for companies that want to recruit the best and brightest employees — a critical requirement for success. 

Should Congress vote to allow our nation’s national parks to become overridden with trucks, equipment and pollution, there is no doubt that companies like Amazon would seek to invest their resources in other areas, rather than the states that currently offer some of the most pristine wilderness areas in the country, like Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming.

I understand that the president and Republican Congress ran on a platform of improving our nation’s economy by reforming the tax code. As an investor myself, I look forward to participating in that debate. However, using that same legislative maneuver to undermine our national parks by allowing oil and gas exploration for short-term gain will be a mistake we will regret for generations to come.

Nancy E. Pfund is the founder and man­ag­ing part­ner of DBL Part­ners, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm whose goal is to com­bine top-tier finan­cial returns with mean­ing­ful social, envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic returns in the regions and sec­tors in which it invests. Pfund is also the co-chairwoman of the Conservation for Economic Growth Coalition, a collection of prominent venture capitalists and who know that America’s parks, monuments and public lands contribute to the vitality of our innovation economy.  

Tags budget deficit Lisa Murkowski oil drilling public lands

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