41. - Establish specific game and wildlife population and habitat goals and objectives for oil and gas development projects

Text from the Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan, 2008, Page 43

Federal agencies will collaborate with state and tribal governments through the Healthy Lands Initiative to:

  • Issue a joint Secretarial Order to form a team whose goal is to assess landscape-level assessment units on all federal, state, and local units.
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  • Direct existing planning policy to reinforce the desirability of having all interested state and tribal governments involved in plan development as cooperating agencies with appropriate participants for each landscape.
  • Conduct pre-development assessments prioritized by energy potential.
  • Require consideration of state/tribal established fish and wildlife habitat/population goals and objectives in formal planning processes.
  • Require annual coordination and map sharing between state and federal agencies.
  • Require annual federal agency consultation with state agencies to review new data, NEPA documents, etc., prior to new leasing offerings and decisions to avoid or mitigate impacts to wildlife, wildlife corridors, and crucial habitats.

Assessment of Status: Incomplete

This challenge of achieving energy independence while enhancing wildlife habitat has grown as innovations have enabled energy development in nearly any state, encountering nearly any type of wildlife or habitat.

The challenge differs somewhat by region. The West holds the largest onshore natural gas reserves in the nation, much of which is under federal public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, which also hosts some of the best game and nongame wildlife habitats. These values must be balanced under the long-established federal doctrine of multiple use. This means confronting the long-established fact that the complex, cumbersome, and contentious decision making process makes striking a balance very difficult and makes prospects uncertain both for wildlife and energy development.

In the East, recently-combined techniques of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have substantially increased natural gas extraction on both public and private lands. Some of the same public-land process obstacles apply here and, on private lands, the overall footprint of development is hard to coordinate across the many generally smaller landholdings on which companies and landowners are making individual decisions. As a result, there is no single means of managing the risks at extraction sites and sand mines with their associated infrastructures which can degrade wildlife habitats across broad landscapes.

Great Plains grassland and other regions with high potential for wind energy also provide valuable habitats – some for federally listed species, such as the Attwater’s prairie chicken that thrive in large blocks of unfragmented habitat. Wind turbines or large solar arrays placed here can seriously impair the value of these habitats.

Based upon a letter written by the WHHCC in February, 2013, it is apparent that the Council believes that not enough collaboration is occurring between federal, state and tribal governments.

Supporting documentation and findings

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