Mule Deer On Winter Range and Gas Rig, Pinedale Anticline in Sublette County, Wyoming. The Pinedale mule deer herd has declined by 60% in a little over a decade of gas drilling. Drilling continues on critical winter (year round) range today.
There’s a shift in rhetoric from Big Energy and the drill, baby, drill crowd. Although domestic gas and oil production have increased dramatically under the Obama administration, we’re told that the gains are on private lands, due to technology advances, and all of the growth is in spite of Obama. Frankly, you’d be hard pressed to find a conservationist who thinks Obama has been a good environmental president, but this industry whining is pure bullshit. In a recent FOX News piece, industry rep. Tim Wigley cites an average 230 days to get a permit on public lands vs: 15 or 45 days in in Texas, North Dakota, or Oklahoma. Then there’s the reference to so much federal land in the West, 30-70% of Western states in fact. So what? Colorado, Wyoming and Montana have a combined 75.6 million acres of public land. Remember when Mitt Romney famously asked “what is all that public land for?” It’s for people, and wildlife, recreation, and future generations sir. What’s my point? Fox, Tim Wigley, and other industry mouthpieces use the in spite of Obama talking point with gaudy statistics of public land acreage to make us all feel bad about the paultry amount of drilling that’s happening on the commons. They would have us believe the West is flat and we should just go get the energy that’s waiting for us to take it so we can get energy independent. If you’ve traveled anywhere in the West, you know that it’s far from flat and a lot of those public lands are mountainous, some are canyons, heck there’s even rivers. So subtract those places and gateway lands next to national parks – what’s left? Sagebrush. Fossil fuels often lie beneath sagebrush. Every Western creature, except marmots, mountain goats, ptarmigan, and pika (and maybe a few more) uses the sage sometime during the year. It’s where we live, work, hunt, fish, and recreate – recreation alone pumps $1 Trillion annually into the U.S. economy. Wildlife migrate, people roam, and endangered species live right in the sage. And what about those hard to get permits? The Thompson Divide permits expired and the BLM allowed an extension that will probably be purchased by you and me at an exhorbitant fee. Leases expire all the time in places like the Thompson Divide and northern Red Desert, where conservationists are fighting for the most ecologically important areas – the Jack Morrow Hills and Adobe Town. In the Fox piece, Pete Maysmith of Conservation Colorado spoke for Western conservation and developing sustainably: “And the interesting thing is that Westerners actually get that. A bipartisan poll that came out in the region just a couple of months ago shows deep and strong support for preserving our landscapes. They are economic drivers for tourism, outdoor recreation, industry, agricultural uses, clean water, you name it.” We already have seven mega-field developments in Colorado and Wyoming (with more coming), the Greater Sage-grouse ESA listing decision is pending, and conservationists are determined to protect our Western heritage. We’re not going anywhere, some places are too wild to drill, and the world isn’t flat.