Oil & Gas Development on West's Native Species is the focus of Wildlife Federations

August 28, 2008

                        August 26, 2008
Impact of Oil, Gas Development on the West’s
Native Species Is Focus of Wildlife Federations
The dramatic impact of energy development on the West’s wildlife will be the focus of the National Wildlife Federation and Colorado Wildlife Federation as candidates, delegates and the world’s media gather in Denver this week for the Democratic National Convention.
“Energy has become the dominant issue in the presidential campaign and key Congressional races and we want to ensure that candidates, delegates and the media recognize the threat to the West’s wildlife, heritage and sustainable economies,” said Steve Torbit, NWF’s regional executive director.
“Natural gas development is changing the West’s landscape and stressing wildlife at an unprecedented pace,” said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “Our goal is to make sure that the needs of wildlife are fully factored in before energy development begins, not as an afterthought.”
“Industry should use the very best technology available, minimize the number of well pads, roads and pipelines and work directly with wildlife agencies to maintain the crucial habitat wildlife needs to survive,” said Torbit, a veteran wildlife biologist who worked extensively in Colorado and Wyoming.
Three new videos produced by The Story Group that NWF supported, bring home the impacts of the drilling boom through the voices of Westerns who live and work on the land. The videos, available at http:/www.thestorygroup.org/NWF.html, allow viewers to see the looming impact of energy development in Colorado’s wildlife-rich Piceance Basin in northwest Colorado and the damage done to once-pristine lands near Pinedale, Wyoming where mule deer numbers have plummeted.
“Wildlife has to be given more consideration when plans for extracting energy are made, and that isn’t happening right now,” said John Ellenberger, a veteran biologist and former big game manager for the state of Colorado.
Longtime Pinedale resident Linda Baker said energy developers were able to explore and drill large areas of the Upper Green River Valley with few restrictions, resulting in ozone violations, diminished wildlife herds and a loss of a heritage that residents hold dear.
“Despite what the industry ads on TV say, gas is a dirty fuel, extracting it is dirty and what (companies) are doing to our community is a shame,” Baker said.
Wyoming rancher Freddie Botur returned to his family land near Daniel, Wy., and found himself spending much of his time negotiating with the energy industry rather than working on the land.
“We have to take a stand somewhere,” Botur said. “We understand we’re making a sacrifice here and providing for the country, we hope in a significant way. But we want to have a little bit of Wyoming left here as well, because it’s a special place.”
Bob Elderkin regulated the oil and gas industry as a U.S. Bureau of Land Management employee and knows the land as a hunter, outfitter and rancher.
“Unless you like living in an industrial zone, we have got to start preventing the amount of environmental degradation that’s happening now,” Elderkin said. “Energy development doesn’t have to stop, but we need to start doing it in a way that doesn’t destroy the land.”
CONTACT: Steve Torbit, NWF, (303) 619-4122
                     Suzanne O’Neill CWF (303) 919-3949
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