Study: Oil and Natural Gas Conservation Measures Protect Greater Sage-Grouse

July 23, 2014

(DENVER) - Oil and natural gas companies implement an average of more than six conservation measures per project to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse when operating on public lands, according to a study released today by Western Energy Alliance. The study, conducted by SWCA Environmental Consultants, describes measures the industry is implementing through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulatory structure to protect the species.

The Alliance, based on the study’s results, highlights how energy development coexists with species protection; on-the-ground conservation measures implemented by oil and natural gas companies working with local land managers are more effective at protecting the sage grouse than a one-size-fits-all federal approach.  

“Companies invest vast amounts of time, capital, and human resources implementing sage grouse protections and are continuously developing new measures to more effectively conserve the species,” said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at Western Energy Alliance. “The binding commitments companies make are effective for protecting the species while enabling energy development that creates jobs, economic growth, and vital government revenue for local communities.”

SWCA analyzed 103 project NEPA documents and found that companies implemented a total of 773 conservation measures, an average of 6.5 per project, across 68,404 square miles of habitat in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

Examples of conservation and mitigation measures include:

  • Limiting surface disturbance –Applying no surface occupancy restrictions around breeding areas
  • Seasonal restrictions – Limiting activities during the nesting and brood-rearing season
  • Controlling noise and visual disturbance Strategically placing sources of noise and light to reduce disturbance
  • Clustering activity – Locating multiple wells on a single pad and consolidating water management, fracking, and other activities
  • Reclaiming habitat – Re-contouring to natural topography and re-vegetating with native seed mixtures
  • Reducing predator perches –Eliminating perches for raptors or ravens that prey on sage grouse
  • Controlling noxious weeds – Reducing noxious weeds that diminish the abundance of native plants used for food and cover
  • Suppressing dust – Reducing fugitive dust on vegetation, which can impact the health and quality of habitat and forage.

“As the Fish and Wildlife Service determines whether to list the species, it should recognize the strong commitments companies have made under the existing regulatory framework and rethink its assumption that oil and natural gas development is a major threat,” Sgamma added. “This study shows in concrete terms how oil and natural gas companies are conserving the sage grouse while delivering economic growth in western communities.”

Full details of the report are available on Western Energy Alliance’s website.

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