New Report Shows Unchecked Energy Development Threatens Wildlife, Sporting Traditions and Rural Communities

DENVER, COL — Today the National Wildlife Federation released a report about unchecked energy development and its impact on wildlife, sporting traditions and the rural communities that depend on outdoor recreation economies. Nationally, hunting generates $27 billion in consumer spending every year and hunting and fishing-related businesses employ 438,000 people across the country.

The report found that the Bureau of Land Management’s prioritization of energy development above all other uses threatens the survival of wildlife. In too many cases, the agency has allowed leasing in areas that would disrupt migration corridors and degrade crucial habitat. In 2017 alone, almost double the amount of land was offered for lease (more than 11 million acres) than the next-highest year in the previous decade. The leases have been offered in some of the finest hunting areas in the country.

The new report examines three specific Resource Management Plans (RMPs). The Lewistown (MT) and Uncompahgre (CO) RMPs have already been released. The Rock Springs RMP (WY) is expected to be released later this year. 

“These plans will determine for two decades how the Bureau of Land Management will manage lands that contain some of the finest hunting grounds in the world. In the two plans that have been finalized, the administration chose to ignore the voices of community members, hunters, and anglers who know these lands best,” said Aaron Kindle, director of sporting advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation. “We hope the administration won’t make the same mistake with the Rock Springs plan. There’s a responsible way to pursue energy development on our public lands, but so far this administration has not demonstrated a willingness to do so.”

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

Uncompahgre RMP:

  • The RMP guides management on 675,800 acres of BLM administered surface lands in western Colorado and includes some of the finest hunting and fishing opportunities in Colorado including, elk, turkey and wild trout.
  • The final plan opens 95% of the lands to oil and gas leasing and does not do enough to sufficiently protect wildlife. The final plan has far fewer environmental protections and fewer restrictions on oil and gas leasing than the 2016 preferred alternative.
  • Local communities and stakeholders worked closely with the BLM to develop a community plan that accounted for needs and interests of a wide variety of stakeholders. The final plan released earlier this month ignored community input.

Lewiston RMP

  • The RMP guides management on 628,500 acres of BLM land along the Missouri River in central Montana and includes some of the best wildlife habitat in the country, including 200,000 acres of undeveloped wild habitat along the Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge and the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.
  • The area provides for some of the best big-game hunting in the world. Big-game hunting alone generates $4 million annually for the local economy.
  • The plan opens 91% of the lands for oil and gas leasing. It provides for very few protections, and even reduces those already in place.

Rock Springs (RMP not yet released)

  • The Rock Springs planning area includes 3.6 million areas of BLM land filled with elk, deer and pronghorn.
  • This area includes the famed “Red Desert to Hoback” mule deer migration corridor, one of the largest ungulate migration routes in the United States.
  • Hunting and fishing in this area generates $14.2 million per year for the local economy.

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