Western Governors look to protect wildlife
Freudenthal offers a resolution to address energy developments on wildlife
by Governor Freudenthal’s office
February 27, 2007
(Washington DC) - The Western Governors Association today approved a resolution offered by Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal seeking greater protection of wildlife migration corridors and crucial wildlife habitat in the West as oil and natural gas development accelerates.
”Wyoming welcomes the opportunity to help meet the nation’s energy needs, but we must continue to balance development with environmental and wildlife protections,” Freudenthal said. “This resolution is a first step in pursuing changes at the congressional level and insisting on active and effective collaboration between the states and federal land managers.”
Freudenthal, the vice chairman of the WGA and chairman of the WGA Resolutions Committee, offered the resolution during a business meeting of the association in Washington, D.C. The resolution offers short- and long-term approaches to addressing the impacts of energy development on wildlife.
Typically, Resource Management Plans prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Forest Management Plans prepared by the U.S. Forest Service are completed to provide broad-scale land use. Impacts are not evaluated to provide specific information related to impacts on local wildlife populations nor are there needed protections for habitat.
The resolution, in part, asks Congress to amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to remove the “categorical exclusion” for National Environmental Policy Act reviews for exploration or development of oil and natural gas in wildlife corridors and crucial wildlife habitat on federal lands. Removal of the exclusion would allow for appropriate site-specific analysis and conditions of approval necessary for protecting corridors and habitat.
To ensure that the states’ concerns in preserving wildlife migration routes and habitats are met, the Western governors also ask, until Congress amends the Energy Act, that the secretaries of Interior and Agriculture consider placing a moratorium on categorical exclusions occurring in crucial habitat or migration corridors until the BLM can work collaboratively with the states.
”Essentially what we’re asking for is that the federal government help us protect our wildlife herds,” Freudenthal said. “But we’re also asking industry, environmental groups and others with an interest in Wyoming’s wildlife to join us in the effort. With our mixture of private, state and federal lands, along with our competing interests for use of these lands, it is critical that we work together to preserve these landscapes while still allowing development to occur, where appropriate.”
According to the Bureau of Land Management, 1,361 permits to drill were approved under the categorical exclusion (Section 390 of the Energy Security Act) in an eight-month period ending in September 2006. Wyoming had the most, 596, followed by New Mexico, 538; Utah, 111; Colorado, 59; California, 37; Arizona, 18; and Eastern states, 2.
Western states are carrying 99 percent of the burden for these exemptions. It would be in the best interest of Congress and BLM to work with these states to protect their wildlife culture, the Western governors believe.
The Western governors have also directed the WGA to seek funding for the new Wildlife Corridors program from federal agencies and foundations.
Following is a text of WGA Policy Resolution 07-A:
WGA Policy Resolution 07-A
February 27, 2007
Protecting Wildlife Migration Corridors and Crucial Wildlife Habitat in
SPONSOR: Governor Freudenthal
1. Large intact and functioning ecosystems, healthy fish and wildlife populations, and abundant public access to natural landscapes are a significant contributing factor to the West's economic and in-migration boom as well as quality of life. Critical wildlife migration corridors and crucial wildlife habitats are necessary to maintain flourishing wildlife populations.
2. The Western States are particularly and uniquely affected by activity occurring in wildlife migration corridors and crucial wildlife habitats. Western States must also contend with an interconnected mixture of private, state and federal lands. Migration corridors cross all political boundaries and States need to protect migration corridors on federal land through various state planning documents.
3. Natural resource development, urban development and maintenance of the existing infrastructures of the West impact wildlife species, their habitats and migration corridors. Western States are increasingly expending limited state funds to participate in federal public land resource management planning as a result of the growing national focus on energy production and independence. States continue to expend scarce funds to protect wildlife resources and mitigate impacts from energy development.
4. States possess broad trustee, police powers and primacy over fish and wildlife within their borders. With the exception of marine mammals, states retain concurrent jurisdiction even where Congress has directed specific federal authority over fish and wildlife species.
5. Typically, Resource Management Plans (RMPs) prepared by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Management Plans (FMPs) prepared by the Forest Service are completed to provide broad scale land use allocations or land suitability. Impacts are not evaluated to provide specific information related to impacts on local wildlife populations, wildlife migration corridors and crucial wildlife habitats. Wildlife corridors and crucial wildlife habitat are identified in the RMP/FMP development process in consultation with state agencies. “Crucial” includes species with the greatest conservation need as described in the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, Wildlife Action Plans or other similar documents of respective States.
6. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides 5 categorical exclusions located in Section 390. Subpart B (3) reads: “Drilling an oil or gas well within a developed field for which an approved land use plan or any environmental document prepared pursuant to NEPA analyzed such drilling as a reasonably foreseeable activity, so long as such plan or document was approved within 5 years prior to the date of spudding the well.”
7. Because a land use plan does not typically evaluate site-specific impacts, site- or project- specific NEPA analyses arenecessary for protecting unique wildlife habitat such as migration corridors which will be carried through to permitting conditions.
B. GOVERNORS’ POLICY STATEMENT
1. The Western Governors urge Congress to amend Section 390 Subpart B (3) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to remove the categorical exclusion for NEPA reviews for exploration or development of oil and gas in wildlife corridors and crucial wildlife habitat on federal lands. By removing the categorical exclusion, appropriate environmental site analysis will be completed as necessary to protect crucial wildlife habitat and significant migration corridors located in the field of development.
2. Until Congress amends Section 390 Subpart B (3) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 the Western Governors ask the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to consider placing a moratorium on such categorical exclusions in crucial habitat or migration corridors, and to work collaboratively with the states to ensure that states’ concerns in preserving wildlife migration corridors and crucial wildlife habitats are met.
3. One possible way to achieve such protection of wildlife corridors and habitat would be for the federal land management agencies and the states to agree when and where additional environmental analyses and possible protections or conditions of approval need to be put in place, such as when the land manager receives a full field development plan. The BLM should also incorporate into their land use planning the approved or adopted resource-related plans of State or other Federal agencies, local governments, and Indian tribes, including but not necessarily limited to big game population objectives.
4. Additionally, the Western Governors request that the federal land managers, working with the states, develop a performance-based, objective protocol for permits to drill that includes industry monitoring of how well the protocol is being met, and enforcement by the federal agencies, should the monitoring determine that the protocol is not being met.
5. The Western Governors believe that the Western States, working in partnership with the federal land management agencies, Department of Defense, Western and National Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the energy industry and conservation groups should identify key wildlife migration corridors and crucial wildlife habitats in the West and make recommendations on needed policy options and tools for preserving those landscapes.
C. GOVERNORS' MANAGEMENT DIRECTIVE
1. The Western Governors direct WGA to work with Congress, the Administration and other appropriate entities to implement the policies contained in this resolution.
2. The Western Governors direct WGA to establish a working group on wildlife migration corridors and crucial habitats to oversee WGA’s implementation of this resolution, particularly the collaborative effort pursuant to policy statement B.5.
3. The Western Governors direct WGA to seek funding to help pay the costs of the collaborative effort to implement policy statement B.5.