Mule deer anti-decline?

 

A few years ago, an industry-funded study indicated that prolific natural gas development on Wyoming's sagebrush-dotted Pinedale Anticline was hammering the massive mule deer herd that forages there in the winter. The herd, some 6,000 strong, had declined 46 percent between 2000 and 2004. A government-commissioned citizen oversight group pushed the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees energy development on federal lands, to act on those findings and rein in drilling. But the agency responded with only a weak proposal for maintaining the herd's "viability."

Now, however, it seems that the deer decline reversed between 2004 and 2007, at least a little bit. The Casper Star Tribune reports:

The study by Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc. concluded that mule deer numbers declined in the Mesa by 30 percent overall during the seven-year research project, which ran from 2000-2007. However, mule deer numbers stabilized and then increased during the final three years of the study. . .

Oil and gas industry officials said the study documents the increasing winter use of the Pinedale Anticline by mule deer over the past three years and reflects the success of the industry's ongoing mitigation efforts in the field.

"Questar is encouraged by this positive trend and believes that recent mitigation such as the installation of a liquids gathering system (LGS) and increased directional drilling have played a positive role," Diana Hoff, general manager of the Pinedale Division for Questar Exploration and Production, Inc., said in a release.

If that's not an argument for more responsible development of natural gas (which has proved possible and viable again and again), I don't know what is. Limiting truck traffic (e.g. collecting waste fluids via a piping system, limiting disturbance and wildlife-truck collisions, as Questar has apparently done) and building fewer wellpads and roads, has obviously not hindered the companies all that much, and it seems to be producing some benefit.>

Of course, responsible gas development also means just saying "enough" at some point, and not allowing more drilling.  (Last year, the BLM went ahead with a plan for the Anticline that will allow some 4,400 new gas wells in the area over the next several years. Should be good for the deer, right?).

As conservationist Linda Baker, of the Upper Green River Valley Coalition points out in the Star-Tribune:
"(The study still) documented a 30 percent decline in mule deer over seven years. ... By any scientific standards, this is hugely significant ... "The health of our wildlife will depend on reducing the number of well pads and wintertime human disturbance in the field, especially because (the study showed) winter drill pads were avoided the most" by mule deer.
High Country News Classifieds
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • FREE RANGE BISON AVAILABLE
    Hard grass raised bison available in east Montana. You harvest or possible deliver quartered carcass to your butcher or cut/wrapped pickup. Contact Crazy Woman Bison...
  • CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST (NORTH CENTRAL WA)
    Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, and the chance to work with many different kinds of people and accomplish big conservation outcomes? Do you...
  • CARDIGAN WELSH CORGIS
    10 adorable, healthy puppies for sale. 4 males and 6 females. DM and PRA clear. Excellent pedigree from champion lineage. One Red Brindle male. The...
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • DIGITAL ADVOCACY & MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    The Digital Advocacy & Membership Manager will be responsible for creating and delivering compelling, engaging digital content to Guardians members, email activists, and social media...
  • DIGITAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR, ARIZONA
    Job Title: Digital Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Position Location: Phoenix or Tucson, AZ Status: Salaried Job ID Number: 52198 We are looking for you! We are...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator who is passionate about conservation and...
  • INDIAN COUNTRY FELLOWSHIP
    Western Leaders Network is accepting applications for its paid, part-time, 6-month fellowship. Mentorship, training, and engaging tribal leaders in advancing conservation initiatives and climate policy....
  • MULESHOE RANCH PRESERVE MANAGER
    The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve Manager develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans and methods for large-scale geographic areas. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (MRCMA)...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • ASSISTANT OR ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES
    Assistant or Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities Whitman College The Environmental Humanities Program at Whitman College seeks candidates for a tenure-track position beginning August 2023...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) in Crested Butte, CO is seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director who is passionate about the public lands, natural waters and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with volunteer management experience to join...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The conservation non-profit Invasive Species Action Network seeks an executive director. We are focused on preventing the human-caused spread of invasive species by promoting voluntary...
  • HIGH COUNTRY NEWS EDITORIAL INTERNS
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is looking for its next cohort of editorial interns....