Healthy wildlife populations are a major part of the culture and economy of the West, and oil and natural gas employees take their responsibility to protect these populations seriously. Companies ensure impacts to wildlife and habitat are avoided or minimized by reducing surface disturbance and employing advanced reclamation measures, surveys, best management practices (BMP), and monitoring programs.

The oil and natural gas industry has undergone significant technological transformation in the last decade, and these advancements have directly benefited wildlife. For example, the increased use of horizontal and directional drilling has lowered surface disturbance by as much as 70%. One horizontal well reduces habitat fragmentation by taking the place of 8-16 vertical wells. The graphic below demonstrates how this impacts a project’s footprint on the land.

Gaining Ground Horizontal Drilling

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.

The industry also takes seriously its obligations to conserve species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and state wildlife laws. Development on public lands is conducted under rigorous restrictions for ESA-listed and at-risk species.

The oil and natural gas industry frequently takes the lead on voluntary conservation efforts to protect wildlife and habitats. Representatives of the industry work with partners from federal, state and local agencies, non-profit organizations, and other land users to protect at-risk species and ensure responsible energy development coexists with flourishing wildlife populations. Examples of these partnerships include the Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative, the Intermountain West Joint Venture, and the Sage Grouse Initiative.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has recently proposed to update its regulations for Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances, a program that allows FWS to identify threats to species that aren’t listed under the ESA, work with oil and natural gas companies and willing landowners to implement voluntary conservation measures, and prevent the need for a listing. Western Energy Alliance supports a regulatory framework that promotes species conservation and collaboration between all affected stakeholders in the West.

Wildlife Comments

Below are comments submitted by Western Energy Alliance on various wildlife issues.