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Western energy development and wildlife—why upland hunters should care

Energy development in the Pinedale area of southwestern Wyoming is unnecessarily destroying populations of mule deer and sage grouse – a fact TRCP, in partnership with PF, is trying to stop. (photo by Cameron Davidson)

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, of which Pheasants Forever is a partner, held a press conference today (Dec. 1) on its appeal of its lawsuit to make the Department of the Interior live up to its promise to better manage energy development and resulting wildlife impacts in the Pinedale area of southwestern Wyoming.

Specifically, TRCP says a federal report (<http://www.wy.blm.gov/jio-papo/papo/reports/2010annualreport_muledeer.pdf>) documents declines of 60 percent in the area’s mule deer population; sage grouse, already a species of concern, are also being seriously impacted.

In fact, Dr. Rollin Sparrowe, TRCP board member, former federal biologist and past leader of the Pinedale Anticline Working Group Wildlife Task Group, said “every sage grouse (mating) lek has been negatively affected where this oil and gas development is occurring…If this continues, sage grouse will go to extinction.”

I, like many of you, have hunted mulies, sage grouse and antelope in Wyoming, some in the Pinedale area. Many other pheasant and quail hunters have also hunted big game in other western states where similar irresponsible energy development is underway or soon will be.

If TRCP’s legal appeal fails, the group says it will go to Congress to save western game from reckless energy development. If that happens, TRCP will need the help of upland hunters to get a good law passed.

Is TRCP against energy development? No. “We can have development, wildlife and hunting if energy development is done right. But now, mule deer are being decimated and more development is being planned, “ said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP president and CEO. “If the Pinedale energy development model is allowed to stand, what will happen to wildlife on the other 40 million acres in the west that is open for energy development?”

Fosburgh added that Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages most of the energy leases, was under tremendous pressure to get the Pinedale development going when it was first authorized in 2000. “The BLM had to move quickly and with very limited biological staff to advocate for wildlife.”


Upland hunters, there is a crisis in the west’s public lands that is destroying our wildlife and hunting heritage. Stay tuned on TRCP’s appeal. If that fails, TRCP will need your calls and letters to your Congressional representatives to right this serious wrong.

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6 Responses to “Western energy development and wildlife—why upland hunters should care”

  1. david says:

    I’m sorry that you all feel this way about drilling. I beleive that we all need to look at whats happening to our economy and realize that if we don,t put more production on line along with all the other energy options we are in trouble. We can do this and we should. Our economy will thrive on cheap energy. We have to have common sense from both sides!!!

  2. Mark says:

    Thanks for your reply David. Just to reiterate, the story did read, “Is TRCP against energy development? No. ‘We can have development, wildlife and hunting if energy development is done right.’ ” We all need energy, but extraction should be done without destroying 60 percent of the mule deer herd, similarly impacting sage grouse and other wildlife. It can be done…..in conjunction with energy conservation, use reduction and renewable energy that benefits wildlife. Energy development doesn’t have to be “either or” where it concerns wildlife and hunting. Stay tuned to what PF is doing with the new 2012 Farm Bill for more on this.

  3. Connie says:

    Have you been to Pinedale to a well sight? Today most wells are drilled from multi-pad sights by directional drilling. Have you ever walked up to a separater building to have the antelop just lay there and watch you because they are taking advantage of the shade in the hot dessert that wasn’t there prior to gas development? All wildlife cycles up and down and no one seems willing to even think this MIGHT be a factor in wildlife numbers. The fact is, if you’ve lived in Pinedale, WY you know that hunters, wildlife, and development ARE co-existing. Numbers on sage chickens probably are on the down turn, and MAYBE it is time to lessen bag limits, or god forbid list them, but listing the grouse has been on the radar for several years and maybe just maybe local biologist should be talked to for input. And here’s an idea……Make a decision about the grouse. There is plenty of data out there to make the decision, one way or the other, gov’t chooses not to. Typical gov’t, a decision will be made because of their lack of decision making. I guess in a way saying you want more data is making a decision, but it’s decision making without making a decision.

  4. Mark,

    Thanks for posting, I couldn’t agree more. We do not have to choose between energy extraction and wildlife. We can have both. We do have to choose between lax regulation and enough to ensure that our grandkids can hunt.

    David, everything in life costs something. If the path to “cheap energy” is by failing to regulate the industry so that my kids’ hunting opportunity is lost, then I am unwilling to pay that cost.

    Connie, I have been to Pinedale and I can tell that drilling there is impacting wildlife numbers and hunting opportunity. You ever think those antelope are forced to use the areas around energy development because there is so little undisturbed habitat left?
    Plus, the numbers don’t lie when it comes to wildlife on the Pinedale Anticline. http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/hunting/2010/11/mule-deer-population-halved-pinedale-anticline-over-9-years-due-gas-well-drill
    To say the current state of drilling is not having significant impact on wildlife is to ignore the facts and worse yet, to believe that protecting the future of hunting and fishing is easy and that industry will do it for us.

    Industry can do a better job while they are on OUR public lands, if we don’t make them do a better job, then we are throwing away our hunting heritage and walking away from our responsibility as sportsmen.

  5. Jeremy says:

    It’s good to see TRCP taking a stand. The first bird I ever got as a young kid was a sage grouse retrieved by the first dog I ever trained and it was also that dog’s first retrieve. I cannot imagine losing the ability to hunt sage grouse in the west, but it could happen if sportsmen do not get more active and involved.

    An antelope seen near an oil well means nothing for sage grouse. I’ve seen plenty of Mule Deer in subdivisions, but that does not mean we can hunt sage grouse in a subdivision. We need to pay attention to the science and be willing to take a stand. Kudos to TRCP for doing both. It’s time for sportsmen to step up with some of the same salt that Teddy Roosevelt had. Drilling can be done right or done wrong. Good job TRCP to make sure it is done right.

  6. KVD says:

    Good for TRCP. Its nice to see hunting/angling organizations like TRCP who address real issues affecting the places we like to hunt and fish. I for one, hunt almost exclusively on public land so I appreciate the work that TRCP and others are doing to protect hunting an fishing opportunities for me and my family. Greg is right, we can (and should) have both.


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