Wildlife groups form regional coalition | SummitDaily.com

Wildlife groups form regional coalition

Wildlife federations in Colorado, New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming have formed a regional coalition to address concerns about the impacts of energy development on wildlife habitat. Representing more than 10,000 members, the groups plan to urge federal and state agencies to take specific steps to ensure responsible energy development.”This elephant is coming down the road and we need to steer it in the right direction,” said Dennis Buechler, of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “Energy development is here to stay, probably for decades to come, and there are huge potential impacts to private and public lands.”The biggest goal for the new coalition is to generate a unified message, Buechler explained. “The issues are similar across the Rocky Mountain region,” he added. “We want to make sure we’re consistent in our message. And we want to make sure we’re sharing the relevant information with our neighbors.”Buechler said the coalition of hunters, anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts will lobby for adoption of a standard set of leasing guidelines for the region.He also said the upcoming roadless review process is another important part of this issue.”You can bet the energy industry is going to be challenging some of those roadless designations,” he said, explaining the importance of roadless areas for deer, elk and other wild animals.”The tens of thousands of wells and accompanying roads and pipelines over the next decade will have more impact on our public lands, water and wildlife habitat than anything we’ve seen before,” Buechler said. “It will require a strong, coordinated effort by all conservationists, including hunters and anglers, if we hope to prevent major, permanent damage to fish, game and other populations of our native species.”The federal energy bill passed last month will spur even more exploration and extraction in the Rockies, Buechler said.None of our members want that production to come at the expense of losing our wildlife and hunting and fishing traditions that define our western landscapes,” said Dave Gowdey, Executive Director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation.Hunting and fishing together contribute more than $4 billion to the region’s economy, while wildlife watching brings in billions more, according the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”All of us recognize the need for energy production, but there are some publicly owned stretches of critical habitat, like Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, that hunters and anglers aren’t willing to sacrifice for short-term energy gains and corporate profits,” said Craig Sharpe, of the Montana Wildlife Federation.The coalition calls for:Requiring all energy operators to use “best available technology” and implement “best management practices” to protect water and air quality;- Increased staffing of federal and state regulatory agencies and more stringent monitoring requirements, as well as enforcement of permit violation sanctions;- Phased development plans that allow federal and state agencies, local government, energy companies and landowners to work together to reduce impacts on natural resources;- Controlling the expansion and location of new energy development, prohibiting drilling in critical wildlife habitat and riparian areas, limiting vehicular traffic to the absolute minimum necessary, reclaiming roads and restoring land damaged by energy development as soon as work ends.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.

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