TRCP Protests Energy Leases in Montana

Conservation group contends that development would impact mule deer and elk habitat, harm blue-ribbon trout streams

WASHINGTON - Citing the conservation of critical habitat and public hunting and fishing opportunities, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) has formally protested the inclusion of more than 123,000 acres in the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Nov. 27 energy lease sale in Montana. The 118 parcels encompassed in the TRCP's protest cover land in 14 counties; the national conservation group recommends supplemental protective stipulations for an additional five parcels totaling 5,354 acres.

In researching its protest, the TRCP relied on new information obtained from numerous meetings with rod and gun clubs and conservation organizations throughout Montana, in which hunters and anglers identified important hunting and fishing areas whose value would be compromised by energy leasing. Some of the areas singled out by this effort intersect with parcels offered in the Nov. 27 lease sale.

"The TRCP's ground-level work with sportsmen has helped us identify invaluable hunting and fishing sites in the lease sale area," said Tom Franklin, TRCP senior vice president. "We're deeply gratified to be able to put these data to use in Montana."

"Road construction and industry vehicle traffic in elk and mule deer habitat will lead to population declines, according to 30 years of research conducted by Western state fish and wildlife agencies, the USDA Forest Service and major universities," said William Geer, a TRCP initiative manager and former director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

"The BLM contends that seasonal drilling restrictions will be sufficient to protect elk and mule deer from the adverse effects of gas development," continued Geer. "However, current scientific research undercuts the agency's claims. Reliance on seasonal restrictions is unjustified in light of the best available data, which federal law requires the BLM to employ."

"The rapid pace of energy development in the West has precluded the BLM from managing wildlife and fish resources for the future and for the recreational opportunities they provide sportsmen," said TRCP President and CEO George Cooper. "Without comprehensive habitat management that is coordinated with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, leasing these areas will dramatically affect Montana's sporting opportunities and jeopardize the more than $1 billion annually that fishing- and hunting-based recreation brings to the state."

The TRCP believes that to better balance the concerns of fish and wildlife in the face of accelerating energy development, federal land management agencies must follow the conservation tenets outlined in the FACTS for Fish and Wildlife.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners

working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.