TRCP, Labor Union Pan Oil and Gas Development Plan for Pinedale, Wyo.

Groups contend that updated federal plan does not provide balance for fish and wildlife needs

WASHINGTON - The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Wyoming AFL-CIO today issued pointed commentary on a Bureau of Land Management proposal for increased energy development within the Pinedale Anticline in Sublette County, Wyo., an area with world-class fish and wildlife resources.

Specifically, the groups assert that a BLM "Revised Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement" fails to offer an appropriate balance for fish and wildlife during development. Several companies want to conduct year-round drilling within existing natural gas fields in Sublette County, troubling because the area contains important habitats, like winter range, that animals need to survive.

"Development as currently proposed would significantly compromise important hunting and fishing opportunities in southwest Wyoming," said Kim Floyd, executive secretary of the Wyoming State AFL-CIO. "We fully recognize that the needs of industry must be accommodated, but this plan does not benefit fish and wildlife enough to justify intensive, year-round development."

The current draft of the BLM plan follows an outpouring of public response to the project's first draft plan, which was released in December 2006. It considers two additional alternatives for energy development.

The sportsmen's assessment of the revised draft concludes that both alternatives fail to adequately address the needs of fish and wildlife - and hunters and anglers. The assessment also conveys disappointment that the BLM did not address many of the concerns raised by sportsmen during the first comment period.

The project area, more than 198,000 acres of federal, private and state land located south of Pinedale, encompasses valuable fish and wildlife habitat and contains an estimated 21 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.

"The TRCP is not confident that the BLM and industry have presented a proposal that balances resource conservation with energy development, although we appreciate the collaboration by these entities," said TRCP Energy Initiative Manager Steven Belinda, who lives near Pinedale. "Their supposed goal, balancing development with conservation, is inhibited by the presumption that the project's pace will proceed at the whim of industry - and that the rest of us have no alternative but to defer to that whim.

"Given the recent spike in natural gas prices and the fact that market prices likely will continue to increase, we are not confident that the proposed timeframes will be valid in a few years and that more development won't be proposed," continued Belinda.

"The RDSEIS indicates that substantial additionalwildlife losses are expected, even planned for," said Dr. Rollin Sparrowe, TRCP board member and past leader of the Pinedale Anticline Working Group's Wildlife Task Group. "It uses well-documented, severely reduced population levels of mule deer and sage grouse as a starting point for mitigation measures. The BLM also fails to acknowledge the population losses already experienced by these species within the project area and ignores the Sublette Mule Deer Study, which identifies some of the causes.

"The science, along with lessons learned from past actions, is available to plan more effectively," Sparrowe concluded. "We do not have to accept additional losses in these prized game species as simply a cost of doing business."

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.