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Balancing energy and fish and wildlife means planning ahead

The issues that fall under the purview of the U.S. Department of the Interior are as varied geographically as they are in subject matter. From oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico to wilderness management in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and from Atlantic salmon recovery in Maine, to solar energy development in California, the buck stops with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Nearly all decisions made by the Dept. of the Interior affect hunters and anglers in one way or another, so when the Secretary speaks, wise sportsman pay attention.   

Today, Sec. Jewell delivered a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies titled “Shaping a Bright, Balanced Energy Future on Public Lands and Water”. True to the charge of the Department of the Interior, the speech covered a breadth of issues including both supporting energy development and providing environmental stewardship. These two objectives are often in conflict, but they need not be. This point was emphasized by Sec. Jewell, saying that a comprehensive, landscape approach is critical if we are to meet today’s challenges balancing energy development and conservation.

One of the ways achieve this balance is the BLM’s Master Leasing Plans (MLP) policy. In Jewell’s speech, she said that MLP’s are a tool designed to steer development to the right places and avoid the wrong places, and that engaging local communities is critical for success. Currently, the BLM is developing MLPs in several locations throughout the West, including South Park in central Colorado, an area famous for its world class trout fishing.

Secretary Jewell’s comments about engaging local communities are particularly pertinent in South Park, where Park County has long called on the BLM to develop an MLP. As stated by county administrator Tom Eisenman in a Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development press release:  

“Park County has made investments to protect our recreation-based economy in South Park and the county commissioners are committed to working with the Department of Interior and other agencies to enhance, protect and preserve our hunting and fishing resource. The Bureau of Land Management has made a bold move to look at our local community as a partner and we have responded in kind to create grassroots, local relationships to find a consensus on issues associated with oil and gas development.” (link)

An approach to oil and gas development that allows drilling where and when it makes sense while also protecting the most important fish and wildlife habitat is critical in places like Fairplay, the self-described “Fly Fishing Capital of Colorado” and county seat of Park County. With the commitment of Secretary Jewell to use tools like Master Leasing Plans, Fairplay and South Park will hopefully remain the troutiest place in Colorado for generations to come. 

About the Author
Corey Fisher

Corey Fisher lives in Missoula, Mont., with his wife, Cheryl, and a dog named Blue. He is the energy team lead for Trout Unlimited. When not in the mountains hunting elk or casting flies to trout, he works to ensure that energy development is balanced with needs of fish, wildlife and hunters and anglers in the West.

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