A ban on federal oil and gas leasing in Wyoming could indeed push oil and gas companies to lease and develop more state and private land eventually. Concluding that a ban on federal oil and gas leasing will limit Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s ability to mitigate impacts to wildlife though is a cop-out.
Ideally, oil and gas development should be done in areas where they can avoid and prevent negative impacts to wildlife in the first place. Ideally, mitigation is the last resort, because mitigation has never been sufficient to restore populations that were lost. If WGFD is worried about state or private land leasing’s impacts on wildlife, WGFD should be working extra closely and proactively right now with the Office of State Lands and Investments, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and the Governor’s office to make sure future oil and gas development doesn’t jeopardize fish and wildlife on non-federal land.
State agency leaders should require that oil and gas companies put drilling pads in reasonable locations, adhere to updated rules, drill horizontally underneath sensitive habitat, drill multiple wells from a single pad, remediate their sites, and the state should implement an incentive program that rewards the good actors and penalizes the bad. If updated statewide plans would help facilitate these things, then update the plans to reflect the latest research and our own hard lessons learned.
If our state agencies work in separate silos, undoing the good work of other agencies as they go (for example, leasing on top of prime or restored habitat), then they less efficiently use state resources and they set themselves up to miss their objectives. WGFD doesn’t get the final say as to where oil and gas development goes, but they can and should advocate proactively, assertively, and effectively for habitat protections on state, private, and federal land leasing ban or not; no excuses.
DAN STROUD, Jackson