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Drilling on Federal Game Habitat Has Doubled This Decade

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, May 2, 2007

WASHINGTON — Oil and gas drilling in big game habitat on Western public lands has more than doubled in the past decade, pushing sportsmen out of their favorite hunting spots, according to an Environmental Working Group analysis of federal data.

Drilling in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, has skyrocketed under the Administration's energy policy with an average of 2,053 wells drilled per year between 2001 and 2006 compared to only 1,036 wells drilled per year between 1993 and 2000.

"Runaway drilling has transformed many of our public lands from an important part of our Western heritage to industrial zones where wildlife and hunters are pushed out," said EWG public lands analyst Dusty Horwitt. "We need to ensure that private preserves aren't the only places where weprotect critical habitat, economic diversity and the Western way of life."

"This report exposes the energy industry's rush to drill our last wild places and destroy habitat that sustains native wildlife and our way of life," said Dr. Steve Torbit, Director of the National Wildlife Federation's Rocky Mountain Natural Resources Center. "Hunters, anglers and all Westerners must tell elected leaders and the heads of federal agencies that they will not allow their heritage, lifestyles and long-term economic security to be carelessly sacrificed to an industry already flush with record profits."

EWG's report, released with the National Wildlife Federation features several hunters throughout the West along with Google satellite maps that show the increase in drilling in areas where they have hunted. The report also allows users to choose game areas throughout the West to view changes over time on federal game habitat. The report focuses on habitat for antelope, elk, mule deer and sage grouse.

While this dramatic increase in drilling in game habitat was justified to achieve energy independence, drilling on these lands has produced a modest amount of energy, about seven percent of U.S. natural gas consumption over a 15-year period (1991-2005). At the same time, the huge spike in drilling has harmed the economic diversity of a region that heavily depends on a variety of forms of outdoor recreation that all suffer when the landscape is degraded by thousands of oil and gas wells and the attendant roads, heavy truck traffic and noisy machinery, much of which operates 24 hours a day.

Alternatives such as energy efficiency and renewable energy can reduce the needless sacrifice of public lands. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimated that by 2020 the U.S. could be saving about the same amount of energy per year produced by the game habitats analyzed by EWG by implementing efficiency standards for several appliances not yet covered by federal rules.

In addition, the West's growing emphasis on alternative energy from wind, solar and biomass can provide far more energy than can ever be extracted from beneath the migration corridors, fawning grounds and winter habitat wildlife needs to survive. In Colorado for example, the General Assembly has just approved a doubling of the amount of electricity that will come from alternatives by 2020 to 20 percent, underscoring the promise of clean, homegrown renewable energy.

Currently, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has leased drilling rights on an estimated 23 million acres of mule deer habitat, 18 million acres of pronghorn antelope habitat, almost 17 million acres of sage grouse habitat and more than 13 million acres of elk habitat.


EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. The group's research on oil and gas drilling on federal big game habitat is available online at

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