Wyoming lawmakers favor gas lease over antelope migration
It’s not a win for Wyoming antelope following the finalization of a controversial gas lease along a key antelope migration route. Earlier this month, state lawmakers went ahead with the approval of the gas lease on Parcel 194 without any additional protections, WyoFile reports.
Parcel 194 is a 640-acre piece of state school trust land that was auctioned off to Kirkwood Oil and Gas for $19 an acre in July. The parcel is located within the “Path of the Pronghorn” where a key migration bottleneck is used by thousands of animals to cross the New Fork River during spring and fall migration. During the decision-making process, the State Board of Land Commissioners considered the implications of the lease, including whether to “prohibit drilling activity during flexible migration periods in the spring and fall,” according to WyoFile.
As GOHUNT previously reported, antelope and other local wildlife were hit hard last winter with increased rates of mortality. Creating more interruption to migration pathways likely will decrease survival rates even more.
“They’re crossing through this particular area in the spring and the fall,” said Angi Bruce, deputy director for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “This became even more apparent this last severe winter. My local biologists talked to me about the antelope in the area, and those that were able to migrate through this area had a much higher chance of survival than those that didn’t.”
Oil and gas development is incredibly impactful to wildlife. Renee Seidler, the executive director of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, pointed out that past research has shown that antelope in particular “avoid gas field infrastructure just like they do natural predators,” but when that infrastructure is “ever-present,” the impacts become “chronic.”
While countless conservationists and organizations spoke out against the lease or requested an additional stipulation to address the wildlife migration issue, it did not make it to the final approved lease.