Wildlife: Gaining Ground
The oil and natural gas industry has undergone significant technological transformation, and wildlife is benefitting. Innovations such as horizontal and directional drilling, paired with hydraulic fracturing, dramatically reduce the industry’s operational footprint. Companies are now able to do more with less to minimize impacts on species and the landscapes they depend upon. Wildlife is truly gaining ground.
Healthy wildlife populations are a major part of the culture and economy of the West. As responsible stewards of the land, oil and natural gas companies actively work to protect the Greater Sage Grouse and big game species. Increased use of horizontal and directional drilling have significantly lowered surface disturbance. A 2014 peer-reviewed study in the journal Human-Wildlife Interactions (Applegate/Owens) shows how modern oil and natural gas operations result in a 70% reduction in surface disturbance.
Such reductions are possible because a single horizontal well now takes the place of 8 to 16 vertical wells, and up to 32 directionally drilled wells can be clustered on one pad. As a result, the impact on habitat is dramatically reduced. Read more about how technological innovation is reducing footprint and protecting species in Gaining Ground: Industry Innovation Reduces Impacts on Sage-Grouse and Big Game.
Figure 1. Typical surface footprint comparison between types of drilling operations. The well pads shown in yellow represent surface impact, while the well bores in black indicate the reach underground.
Other studies have found that more intensive vertical well development at density levels of five to seven well pads per square mile, cause changes in mule deer migratory behavior. Horizontal development can be accomplished with as few as one well pad per square mile, well below the density that affects big game migration. With a lighter footprint on the land, oil and natural gas development continues to coexist with wildlife and habitat conservation.
Below are comments submitted by Western Energy Alliance on various wildlife issues.
- Wyoming Mule Deer Corridor Risk Assessment Comments
- Lesser Prairie Chicken Comments Proposed Listing Comments with API, IPAA, and PBPA
- Montana Sage Grouse Mitigation Proposed Rule Comments
- Programmatic EA for Greater Sage-Grouse in NW CO Scoping Comments
- Wolverine Proposed Listing Comments with API
- FWS ESA Mitigation Policy Comments with API, IPAA, AXPC, and IAGC
- Texas Hornshell Listing Decision Comments with API, IPAA, and AXPC
- Habitat Conservation Plan Handbook Comments with API, IPAA, AXPC, and PAW
- Hookless Cactus Five-Year Status Review
- Winkler and San Rafael Cactus Draft Recovery Plan
- Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances Policy and Regulation
- Endangered Species Act Petition Process Version Two
- Leoncita False-Foxglove ESA Petition Comments
- Western Bumble Bee ESA Petition Comments
- Southwestern Willow Flycatcher ESA Petition Comments
- FWS Mitigation Policy
- Great Basin Silverspot Butterfly ESA Petition Comments
- Narrow-Foot Diving Beetle ESA Petition Comments
- FWS Methodology for Prioritizing ESA Status Reviews
- FWS National Wildlife Refuge System
- Regal Fritillary ESA Petition Comments
- Endangered Species Act Petition Process
- FWS Notice of Intent on Incidental Take Permitting under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
- Sprague’s Pipit Comments to FWS
- FWS/NMFS Policy on ESA Section 4(b)(2)
- FWS/NMFS Proposed Rule on Adverse Modification of Critical Habitat
- FWS/NMFS Proposed Rule on Critical Habitat Designation