CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik says that President Joe Biden administration’s ban of federal oil and gas leases could potentially lead to negative impacts on Wyoming wildlfie.
“A blanket ban on new sales of federal oil and gas leases decreases proponents’ ability to mitigate wildlife impacts because it restricts potential development locations,” Nesvik said in a Game and Fish release on Thursday. “This may force development to focus on undisturbed lands including those under state or private ownership.”
“For example, the ban may remove the flexibility to utilize existing infrastructure on already disturbed, federally-owned land and that may lead to habitat loss and further impacts to wildlife.”
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Game and Fish say they study distrurbance to wildlife in areas where oil and gas development occurs in Wyoming.
“The department uses that information to cooperate with industry to focus development away from crucial wildlife areas,” the department said. “Often, one of the tactics to avoid or minimize wildlife impacts is to consolidate infrastructure in areas where development already exists. A ban decreases Game and Fish’s ability to recommend locations for development in areas with little or no impacts.”
Game and Fish said they have analyzed potential effects on the federal oil and gas leasing ban in response to Governor Mark Gordon’s executive order directing state agencies to determine possible impacts.
“Wyoming has invested significant resources to identify and understand critical habitats across the state to inform the planning processes,” Nesvik said. “This sweeping ban ignores what we’ve proven over and over again; in Wyoming we can use science and technology to responsibly develop resources and mitigate impacts to wildlife.”
Game and Fish say they will continue to work with industry during development and planning of oil and gas leases and drilling. Coordination between industry and the department can “benefit all wildlife species but primarily sage grouse, big game and a number of species of greatest conservation need,” Game and Fish said.
“We know 35% of Wyoming’s sage grouse core area occurs on private lands,” Nesvik said. “This habitat is some of the best in the state. Limiting potential development sites decreases flexibility and may be detrimental to sage grouse and other species.”
The department said they are also concerned that oil and gas companies could decide to end operations in the state which they say could put “habitat reclamation work potentially on the backburner.”
The department said they are unable to determine the full impacts of the oil and gas ban.
“We remain committed to continuing to work closely with all proponents on all lands in mitigating potential impacts to wildlife from future development,” Nesvik said.