Drilling Rules Praised

New Mexico – New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and sportsmen from across the state say they are encouraged that the federal government will be making changes to how oil and natural gas leases are awarded on public lands.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday the changes should ensure stricter environmental standards while bringing more clarity to the process for energy companies hoping to drill.

Richardson says that will bring a sense of balance to managing development and protecting landscapes.

Oscar Simpson of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation says he hopes the changes will control the density of oil and gas wells and their impact on wildlife and water quality.

Simpson calls Salazar's effort "a first step" toward preventing irresponsible development from threatening wildlife habitats on New Mexico's public lands.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.