Stop Energy Leases in Critical Big Game Habitat

Bull elk migrating in Shoshone National Forest
Bull elk migrating in Shoshone National Forest, courtesy of Travis Zaffarano, Wyoming Migration Initiative/University of Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (CC BY 2.0)

In February 2018, the US Department of the Interior announced a secretarial order aimed at enhancing big game populations by improving winter range and migration corridors. Former oil industry lobbyist and now Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt was put in charge of the order’s implementation. As part of the order, states were required to map out priority big game landscapes through State Action Plans.

In October 2018, states published their State Action Plans with priority big game landscapes.

But since the release of the State Action Plans, the DOI has continued pushing oil and gas development on nearly 1.2 million acres of priority big game landscapes – including crucial wildlife migration corridors and winter habitat – identified by the states!

Recent scientific studies show that energy development is a significant cause of declines in big game populations. Examples include long-term studies of energy development and mule deer and pronghorn winter behavior and of mule deer migration.

Please take a moment to sign our petition and tell Secretary Bernhardt to stop selling out wildlife corridors for oil and gas development.

Petition Language:

Dear Secretary David Bernhardt,

We urge you and the Department of the Interior to keep the commitments you made to wildlife and big game in Secretarial Order 3362.

Secretarial Order 3362 is clear. It directs Interior to work with western states “to enhance and improve the quality of big-game winter range and migration corridor habitat on Federal lands.” Further, the order directed the agency to “Review and use the best available science to inform development of specific guidelines for the Department’s lands and waters related to planning and developing energy, transmission, or other relevant projects to avoid or minimize potential negative impacts on wildlife.”

Recent scientific studies show that oil and gas development in winter range and migration corridors is a significant cause of declining numbers of big game species. The following peer reviewed scientific papers are some examples available here, here, and here.

But our research shows that the Interior Department under your leadership has done little to improve and protect big game migration habitat and corridors. On the contrary, your department seems dedicated to doing everything possible to damage big game corridors. In little over a year, Interior has tried to lease nearly 1.2 million acres to the energy industry in big game priority landscapes, over half (672,000 acres) of that is in the most crucial habitat identified by the states. See for yourself.

Stopping energy development in these areas is a necessary step to ensuring the “robust and sustainable elk, deer, and pronghorn populations” that are the goal of Secretarial Order 3362.

We urge the Department of the Interior to minimize energy leasing and development of federal minerals in the priority areas or priority landscapes defined by the states in the Action Plans created in response to Secretarial Order 3362.

We urge the Department of the Interior to halt all energy leasing and development of federal minerals in crucial winter range and migration corridors identified through consultation between the states and Department of Interior employees.

The Department should take these actions immediately and make a real commitment to sustaining the west’s big game and wildlife.

Stop Energy Leases in Critical Big Game Habitat

Dear Secretary David Bernhardt,

**your signature**

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Interested in Learning More?

Check out the interactive story map of How the Interior Department Turned its Back on Big Game Migration Corridors.

See more results and learn about the methods Rocky Mountain Wild used in this study in this paper.