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Ex-Arizona Gov. Babbitt urges more protection of public lands

WASHINGTON -- Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is urging President Barack Obama to step up efforts to conserve public lands as he begins his second term.

Babbitt, the former Arizona governor, who led Interior for eight years under President Bill Clinton, said Obama should adopt what Babbitt called a common-sense principle: For every acre of public land leased to the oil and gas industry, one acre should be permanently protected for future generations.

Over the past four years, more than 6 million acres have been leased for oil and gas, compared with 2.6 million acres permanently protected.

Babbitt said in a speech that adoption of the one-to-one principle would ensure that conservation is on equal standing with energy development.

The last Congress was the first since the 1960s not to protect a single acre of wilderness.

Babbitt was governor 1978-87.

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