From the pages of
Volume 4, Number 18 - July 29, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Farm Bureau on grouse
The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation has submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the federal agency considers a proposal to list the greater sage grouse as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The letter urges FWS to let the existing sage grouse working groups address the needs of this species on the local level, which the group called critical to increasing numbers of grouse.
"Listing the species will result in the immediate cessation of landowner cooperation in most instances and increase the concern of other landowners that once again the ESA is being used to dictate land management," the letter from Farm Bureau's executive vice president Ken Hamilton stated. "As a practical matter, cooperation with the landowner will provide far better results than could occur should the species be listed."
Hamilton also suggested that the lack of knowledge on what is necessary for grouse survival "will also lead to great mischief by special interest groups who want to use sage grouse as surrogate species for other objectives."
Hamilton called the listing of grouse as a threatened species "premature."
Last week's ABC News Nightline program included a story called "Range Wars," about oil and gas development in pristine areas, using Sublette County as its case study. The segment featured clips from a range of people, including Governor Dave Freudenthal, John and Shaun Andrikopoulos, Linda Baker, Tim Thompson, Prill Mecham and Courtney Skinner.
Nightline said this valley "is one of the last strongholds for the rare sage grouse," and compared the area to both the Serengeti and Saudi Arabia.
One company that stood as a role model in the program was Questar Corporation, with Questar's Charles Stanley featured on the segment and the company's directional drilling program lauded.
The split estate issue was referred to, as was the Trapper's Point migration bottleneck. Correspondent Judy Muller concluded, "It's about more than saving wildlife, after all. It's about saving a way of life."
Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton pointed out at the conclusion of the segment that the Bush administration, during its first three years, has leased fewer acres than the last three years of the Clinton administration.
Questar's winter/directional drilling program got accolades from members of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission after they toured the area earlier this month.
Hall Sawyer of Western EcoSystem Technology, Inc., which is conducting a research program monitoring the effects of oil and gas development on wintering mule deer in the Mesa area, told the commission, "Anything that we can do that will reduce surface disturbance we assume is a good thing for mule deer, that's the bottom line."
WG&F Commission Chairman Hale Kreycik said while directional drilling isn't a cure-all, "It's encouraging."
WG&F Director Terry Cleveland added that Questar's program not only reduces surface disturbance, but also decreases the amount of time it will take to develop the mineral resource.
WG&F Commissioner Bruce Benedict agreed, noting Questar's proposed development plan will reduce the time period from 18 years to nine years, and with that, "the impact is going to be a lot less."
The commission commended Questar for its efforts, especially in the area of providing funding for the mule deer study, with costs ringing in at about $100,000 per year. Sawyer pointed out that the Mesa holds about 70 deer per square mile in the winter. Unfortunately, the over winter loss last winter was high, with about 25-30 percent of adults and 70 percent of fawns failing to survive the winter. Sawyer pointed out that this was a regional loss, as deer in a control area without development sustained comparable losses.
The Office of State Lands and Investments is currently accepting public comments on its proposed draft rule handbook dealing with surface and mineral estate issues on state lands.
The handbook is a policy discussion of coalbed methane and high-density oil and gas development. It addresses the mineral lessees' use of surface lands for on-lease production activities, including the required surface impact payment, water management plans, use of surface lands for off-lease production activities, and the policy on establishing market value for a requested use of the surface, including the use of the state surface lands for off-lease production activities.
The draft handbook is available online at www.lands.state.wy.us. Comment is due by Sept. 15 and should be submitted to John Glode, Deputy Director, Office of State Lands and Investments, 122 West 25th, Cheyenne, WY 82002.
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