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Western Sportsmen Call for Energy Development Restrictions

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development, a coalition of Western hunting and wildlife groups, last week urged the federal government to restrict energy development in the Rocky Mountains to protect the region's natural resources.

The recommendations were culled from a recent symposium in Wyoming, which featured land managers, scientists and planners who met to develop a framework to implement what the coalition said would be "responsible" energy development across the West.

"While there is little to no relationship between the price of gasoline and development of natural gas on public lands, our rush to produce short-term energy supplies can have a profound effect on the fish and wildlife habitats and water supplies that define the West," said coalition member Chris Wood, the COO of Trout Unlimited.

The impact of energy development on the region's fish and wildlife cannot be underestimated, according to the coalition. Energy development, it said, already has resulted in the decline of the mule deer population near the gas-rich Pinedale Anticline, and it is risking the fish population in Montana's Tongue River watershed.

The coalition was formed in January by the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited.

"The time has come to call a little bit of a time-out and get things more in order," said the coalition's John Baughman, former director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "If we don't do it right, if we don't do it better, we're going to see some sort of backlash that's going to be a bigger impediment to oil and gas development."

The coalition wants to reduce the amount of time an energy lease is kept to five years from 10 years to allow more public participation in drilling decisions. In addition, the group wants to remove exemptions from the federal Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water acts for energy development; to implement new measures to monitor the effects of oil and gas development; to reemphasize multiple-use management of federal lands; and to ensure that development decisions are based on the latest scientific information.

To view the coalition's recommendations, visit www.sportsmen4responsibleenergy.org.

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