From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 49 - March 1, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Freudenthal pushes corridors

by Cat Urbigkit

Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal was successful in his effort to obtain the support of the Western Governors Association seeking greater protection of wildlife migration corridors and crucial wildlife habitat in the West as oil and natural gas development accelerates.

“Wyoming welcomes the opportunity to help meet the nation’s energy needs, but we must continue to balance development with environmental and wildlife protections,” Freudenthal said. “This resolution is a first step in pursuing changes at the congressional level and insisting on active and effective collaboration between the states and federal land managers.”

Freudenthal, vice chairman of the WGA and chairman of the WGA Resolutions Committee, offered the resolution during a business meeting of the association in Washington, D.C. The resolution offers short- and long-term approaches to addressing the impacts of energy development on wildlife.

Typically, resource management plans prepared by the Bureau of Land Management and forest plans prepared by the U.S. Forest Service are completed to provide broad-scale land use. Impacts are not evaluated to provide specific information related to impacts on local wildlife populations nor are there needed protections for habitat.

Freudenthal’s policy statement noted: “The Western Governors believe that the Western States, working in partnership with the federal land-management agencies, Department of Defense, Western and National Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the energy industry and conservation groups should identify key wildlife migration corridors and crucial wildlife habitats in the West and make recommendations on needed policy options and tools for preserving those landscapes.”

The resolution, in part, asks Congress to amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to remove the “categorical exclusion” for National Environmental Policy Act reviews for exploration or development of oil and natural gas in wildlife corridors and crucial wildlife habitat on federal lands. Removal of the exclusion would allow for appropriate site-specific analysis and conditions of approval necessary for protecting corridors and habitat.

To ensure that the states’ concerns in preserving wildlife migration routes and habitats are met, the Western governors also ask, until Congress amends the Energy Act, that the secretaries of Interior and Agriculture consider placing a moratorium on categorical exclusions occurring in crucial habitat or migration corridors until the BLM can work collaboratively with the states.

“Essentially what we’re asking for is that the federal government help us protect our wildlife herds,” Freudenthal said in a press release. “But we’re also asking industry, environmental groups and others with an interest in Wyoming’s wildlife to join us in the effort. With our mixture of private, state and federal lands – along with our competing interests for use of these lands – it is critical that we work together to preserve these landscapes while still allowing development to occur, where appropriate.”

According to the BLM, 1,361 permits to drill were approved as categorical exclusions in an eight-month period ending in September 2006. Wyoming had the most, 596; followed by New Mexico, 538; Utah, 111; Colorado, 59; California, 37; Arizona, 18; and Eastern states, 2.

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