energy development

Photo By Yathin S Krishnappa, Wikipedia Commons

As mule deer populations decline, new research shows just how important migration routes are to the species’ survival. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission met last week to discuss whether to make stricter recommendations to federal land managers about how to protect those migration routes.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Renny McKay says, one of the commission’s goals is to better identify where animals stop to graze and rest—and perhaps offer stronger protection to those areas.

Bureau of Land Management, Wikimedia Commons

With mule deer numbers plummeting all over the West, a new research project in Rock Springs is looking at why elk populations continue to thrive. 

In cooperation with the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Game and Fish, the Muley Fanatic Foundation plans to put tracking collars on 35 elk and 50 mule deer to compare the diet, predators, disease and other factors of the two species. Muley Fanatic Co-Founder Joshua Coursey, says one reason the two species may be faring so differently is their diets.

As energy development increases across the country many states are starting to look into whether or not it would be a good idea to set up data bases to track possible health impacts directly attributed to energy development.  Colorado has developed an extensive system within its Department of Health to track and investigate health care impacts.  The State of Wyoming has not developed such a data base. Doctor Tracy Murphy is the state epidemiologist. He says the Department of Health rare fields calls of that nature.

Researchers at the University of Wyoming have found that energy development is scaring off river otters in the Upper Green River Basin.

Scientists counted the number of otters in several waterways throughout the Upper Green River Basin in western Wyoming. The rivers farther away from energy development had dozens of otters, but the New Fork River had only two.

Report co-author Merav Ben-David says research shows that otters don’t like the noise and commotion associated with development, and she says another concern could be water contamination.

Wyoming’s pronghorn populations have been declining rapidly in the last ten years and a coalition of groups including the University of Wyoming and Game and Fish are trying to figure out why.  In 2010, there were over 500,000 pronghorn in the state.  Today, that number has dropped to a little more than 400,000.

Jeff Beck is an associate professor of Ecosystems Science and Management at UW.  Last November, he and a team of scientists took to the field to figure out why. They helicopter-netted 130 pronghorns in three test areas of the Red Desert. 

A study commissioned by the Center for American Progress found that voters in western states think that there should be more balance between conservation and energy development.

Tens of thousands of acres of land in the Bridger-Teton National Forest have been retired, protecting the land from energy development. But the conservation group leading the effort, Trust for Public Lands, still has some work to do to protect a tract of land in the Upper Hoback Basin.

The group raised $8.75 dollars last year to buy oil and gas leases on 58,000 acres of land from Plains Exploration and Production Company.