Sportsmen meet to discuss preserving lands in West from drilling |

Sportsmen meet to discuss preserving lands in West from drilling

Bob Moen
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. ” Energy development is increasingly coming into conflict with traditional hunting and fish­ing grounds in the West, prompting con­cern from outdoor enthusiasts who want to see their longtime stomping grounds preserved for future generations.

With that goal in mind, some 175 scien­tists, policy makers and outdoor enthusi­asts are meeting in Jackson Hole this week to come up with recommendations on the nation’s energy policy that they hope will find their way to a new Congress and new presidential administration. The event is sponsored by National Wildlife Federa­tion, the Theodore Roosevelt Conserva­tion Partnership and Trout Unlimited.

Trout Unlimited spokesman Chris Hunt said Thursday that hunters and anglers don’t oppose energy development but they also don’t want to see their hunting and fishing grounds destroyed.

“If you’re a sportsman in Wyoming or in Colorado or in Utah or Montana or New Mexico, you’re watching as the places you hunt and fish are disappearing,” Hunt said. “And it’s a pretty simply equation, lost habitat equals lost opportunity.”

Places such as the Wyoming Range, Colorado’s Roan Plateau, New Mexico’s Otero Mesa, Utah’s Diamond Fork Creek and Montana’s Beaverhead National For­est are examples of areas that need special protection, he said.

The oil and gas industry maintains that it’s responsible in how it extracts minerals and that it is continually developing better and less obtrusive ways to operate.

“Technology has changed a lot on how things can be done to protect and enhance the wildlife,” Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said in a telephone interview from his office in Casper.

Hinchey said oil and gas companies aren’t seeking to drill on mountain tops and can drill on the outer edges without much disturbance.

Suggestions being made at the sympo­sium include slowing the pace of energy development, improving the science of determining impacts of energy develop­ment, putting more emphasis on protect­ing recreation areas and improving com­munication between all those involved and impacted by energy development.

Joanna Prukop, secretary for New Mexico’s Energy, Min­eral and Natural Resources Department, said states may have to sur­render some of their lucrative mineral roy­alties in order to protect certain areas from energy development.

“Like when we withdrew the Valle Vidal from future leasing, that cost the state some money because of our share of the federal royalties,” Prukop said.

She said its time that wildlife and other environmental concerns gain as much emphasis as the need to meet growing national energy demands.

T.O. Smith, wildlife and energy coordi­nator for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department, said it is possible to satisfy all interests if the pace of energy development is controlled properly.

“What we would like to see is a longer, more sustained development that benefits the citizens of Montana, benefits fish and wildlife, benefits sportsmen and still pro­vides a profit for companies and provides for the extraction of resources,” Smith said. Hinchey said the industry was con­cerned about preserving hunting and fish­ing areas. He noted that many industry workers are hunters and anglers them­selves.

Industry is conducting studies and oth­er projects to improve its operations so as to leave less of a footprint on the environ­ment, he said.

“That’s evolving and we’ll continue to work on that,” he said.

But Hinchey said oil and gas companies must keep up the pace of drilling in order to meet the nation’s growing energy demands. New wells typically produce their highest volumes at the outset and decline from then on, he said.

“If you are going to keep up with the gas needs, you need to drill more wells,” he said.