In response to growing concerns of energy self-sufficiency and issues of national security, there has been a dramatic increase in oil and gas exploration and development on public lands throughout the Rocky Mountain west. Leasing and development are taking place at an alarming rate throughout the region and may potentially have a significant negative impact on the coldwater fisheries in the region.
Public lands in the Rocky Mountain west provide anglers with limitless fishing opportunities and are essential to the cultural, social and economic framework of the region. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, nearly 2.5 million anglers each year benefit from the natural resources found in this region. Through license fees, equipment purchases, and other related expenditures, anglers contribute approximately $3 billion to the region’s economy each year.
This area is also abundantly rich in natural resources, which are available for a variety of energy development practices. Extracting these natural resources requires an extensive and pervasive infrastructure of roads, pipelines, well pads and transmission corridors that significantly alter the landscape of the region. In addition, the de-watering of coal seams and the disposal of wastewater, as well as runoff and pollution from industry infrastructure and spills, places increased pressure and stress on sensitive aquatic ecosystems. Without proper planning, the cumulative effects of ongoing development may drastically alter the ability of the landscape to adapt to these processes.
Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in oil and gas leasing and development on public lands throughout the Rocky Mountain west. Most troubling is the rate and manner in which development is occurring. Since 1996, more than 24.4 million acres have been leased for energy development and this number continues to grow. Colorado has experienced a 50 percent increase in the acreage of land leased from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for oil and gas development in the past five years. Also, in 2006, the BLM received more than 10,400 applications for permits to drill—a 20 percent increase from 2005. Improperly managed resource use may result in losses of the public values associated with public land and the fish and wildlife populations which live there.
The energy development on public lands in the Rocky Mountains should be conducted in a manner that coincides with the multiple-use mandate recognized by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). ASA will be working closely with federal and state agencies as well as industry and other conservation organizations to see that energy development takes place in a manner that ensures the sustainability of the priceless fisheries throughout the west.
ASA has developed an annotated bibliography on the potential impacts of energy development on fisheries in the Rocky Mountain west.