Will the quest for American energy independence completely trump protection for our nation’s fish and wildlife habitats?
- Between 2000 and 2008, the number of permits to develop oil and gas tripled on public lands. And an estimated 126,000 new wells are planned for the next 20 years.
- Since 1999, drilling has increased 260 percent on federal public lands.
- Many sportsmen recognize and fully support the responsible development of oil and gas reserves on public lands. But with 44.4 million acres of public lands currently leased to the energy industry, how industry proceeds with drilling will determine the future of our western water resources, ﬁsh, wildlife and way of life.
Energy development is probably our greatest continuing struggle with the fact pointed out by Theodore Roosevelt that conservation means development as much as it means protection. As TR went on to say, we should “”recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but … not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”"
The quest for American energy independence has come at a cost to our wildlife and wild places. As the need for energy increases, many sportsmen’s organizations are working to increase the required amount of research and assessments of fish and wildlife before exploration and drilling is allowed. Sportsmen are also volunteering to advise energy companies on how to design their developments to avoid harming fish and wildlife.
Energy development is a complex issue that affects sportsmen in many ways, including drilling and fracking on public land, exploring off-shore oil, and building windmills. If done irresponsibly, tapping these resources can affect animal migrations, fish spawning patterns and bird populations.
As energy development planning continues, it is important for hunters and anglers to urge and guide private companies and government in making full assessment of how this development will impact our fish and wildlife populations. With proper research, we can hopefully balance our energy needs and natural resources.