Study Confirms Negative Impacts Of Drilling On Mule Deer

Study Confirms Negative Impacts Of Drilling On Mule Deer
Wyoming energy project resulted in staggering losses to important mule deer herd, sportsmen call for changed approach to public-lands leasing, management.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

WASHINGTON – -( A new study documenting the effects of natural gas drilling on mule deer in Wyoming’s Pinedale Anticline reaffirms the dire consequences of poorly planned development for wildlife and sporting opportunities, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced today. Population declines of 30 percent and changes in distribution patterns were documented in phase two of the Sublette Mule Deer Study, which focused on a seven-year period of intense development of the anticline region.

“The fact that we have lost a third of this important mule deer herd is sobering enough,” said Dr. Rollin Sparrowe, TRCP interim board chairman, “yet even sadder is the knowledge that reliance on proper planning and sound science could have averted these losses altogether.

“The energy industry would have us believe that such losses are an unavoidable byproduct of development,” continued Sparrowe, a biologist with more than 40 years’ experience using science in wildlife management. “Sportsmen know better: Population declines of this magnitude are neither inevitable nor acceptable.”

The results of the multi-agency study confirmed a downward trend in the Mesa portion of the Sublette mule deer herd, as well as the animals’ depopulation of traditional winter range. Long-term displacement of wildlife such as mule deer from preferred habitat, including winter range, can severely affect herd numbers and overall species health.

[amazon-product alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″]1844074145[/amazon-product]“The troubling reality is that the population declines reported in this study are just the tip of the iceberg,” said TRCP Energy Initiative Manager Steve Belinda. “Thirty percent of this mule deer herd was lost with only 3 percent of the area disturbed by energy development. The Pinedale record of decision, released last year, authorizes drilling on an additional 12,000 acres of the anticline region, much of it prime mule deer winter range. We can expect significant downward trends in population numbers to continue if development proceeds on its present course.”

The study concludes that changes in the development of the Pinedale Anticline’s natural gas reserves could address the mule deer declines: “Efforts to minimize direct and indirect habitat loss should focus on technology and planning that reduce the number of well pads and the human activity associated with them.”

The results of the multi-agency study, prepared by Western Ecosystems Technology Inc. for the Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Questar and other energy companies, were trapped in a bureaucratic and political quagmire for more than two years and released only recently, long after the information could have been used by the public to evaluate plans for project expansion and incorporated into the Pinedale resource management plan. The delay also resulted in the study’s unavailability to the public for use in assessing the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s revision of its oil and gas mitigation guidelines.

[amazon-product alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″]4431094288[/amazon-product]“Grave concerns exist regarding the future of this valuable mule deer herd,” concluded Belinda. “A 30-percent population loss is not a win for citizens, our fish and wildlife resources or our public lands. The fact remains that information contained in this study could have led to a better understanding of what has happened to this winter range through energy development. The data was available to everyone except the public during recent decisions about the fate of the area and its mule deer herds. Sportsmen will lose again – yet it doesn’t have to happen this way.”

The TRCP believes that to better balance the concerns of fish and wildlife in the face of accelerating energy development, federal land management agencies must follow the conservation tenets outlined in the FACTS for Fish and Wildlife. Sportsmen stand ready to work with the new administration and industry to return to the multiple-use principles that can ensure responsible management of America’s shared natural resources.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.