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Old 08-09-2011, 01:27 PM
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Default Deer/pronghorn decline

Interesting to look at the long term trend graphs in the Executive Summary at the link. Doesn't bode well for hunter opportunity in the future.

Link to full story

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RELEASE: NEW REPORT DETAILS DECLINE OF DEER, PRONGHORN IN COLORADO, WYOMING

Populations trends are declining for mule deer and pronghorn antelope herds on both sides of the Colorado-Wyoming border and herds may not be able to fully recover unless federal and state agencies act to protect core habitats, according to a report released today by the National Wildlife Federation.

“We are seeing a slow, inexorable decline in populations of both species and a corresponding decline in hunting opportunities in both states,” said Steve Torbit, NWF’s regional executive director. “If we are to maintain our native deer and pronghorn populations and our hunting traditions, land managers and wildlife agencies need to address the landscape-wide impacts that undermine the habitat vitality wildlife relies on.”

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which has jurisdiction over almost all of the West’s vast federal lands, has management responsibility that stretch across state lines and over the interior Rocky Mountain West.

“The BLM must recognize the cumulative, landscape-wide impacts of its decisions and that a lease or permit granted in one area or state can directly result in added stress to migrating game herds in an adjacent state,” Torbit said. “The needs of wildlife over the entire landscape need to be fully factored in before permits for oil, gas, wind farms, agricultural practices or any other human activity are permitted.”

The report, “Population Status and Trends of Big Game along the Colorado/Wyoming State Line,” was prepared by veteran wildlife biologists John Ellenberger and Gene Byrne. Rather than look at only the most recent data, Byrne and Ellenberger analyzed wildlife agency statistics collected over the past 30 years, including population, hunter harvest and hunting license trends.

Statistics for game management units in both states were reviewed in an area roughly bounded by Interstate 80 on the north, the Green River to the west, U.S. Highway 40 on the south and Laramie, WY and Walden, Co on the east.

“The information we analyzed clearly shows steady population declines in both states for many of the deer and pronghorn herds that we examined,” Ellenberger said.

“We are concerned that at some point, the resiliency of these herds to recover will be lost, creating a situation where we can only expect further declines,” Ellenberger explained. “It is our professional opinion that federal land managers need to consider the full impact their decisions about development will have on our native wildlife or we risk further declines in our wildlife resources.

“Evaluations of impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitat need to be performed at the landscape level, not just localized impacts,” Ellenberger said.

Both Torbit and Ellenberger emphasized that a growing body of peer-reviewed research has shown that the cumulative impacts of energy development, human population growth and agricultural practices have limited the natural resiliency of the habits wildlife need to survive. When natural factors such as periodic drought or disease affect a herd, the human impacts pile on top of each other, becoming “additive.” The result can be cumulative, potentially long-term declines.

“When there is a drop in the density of animals in an area that usually results in an increase in the productivity of a herd and the recruitment of young animals” Ellenberger explained. “”If that doesn’t occur, then there are serious issues with habitat limitations.”

For wildlife managers, “low recruitment” means that too few young animals are surviving to adulthood. Typically, populations of deer, pronghorn and other native species recover quickly to herd declines caused by drought or changes in habitat as soon as that specific factor is removed. For example, in the area in and around Yellowstone National Park in the late 1980s, the big-game populations suffered dramatic declines due to severe drought and the largest fire in the park’s recorded history. But within two years, the game populations were increasing thanks to adequate moisture and flourishing habitat.

Some area residents have suggested that predators such as coyotes are the reason for declines. But, who has worked extensively in both Wyoming and Colorado, emphasized that pronghorn and mule deer herds have always lived with predators.

“These game herds evolved with five different predators: wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions and coyotes, and they still thrived,” Torbit noted. “We now have only three of these predators along the border with grizzlies and wolves no longer present.

“What’s changed are the intense demands we are placing on Western landscapes,
Torbit explained. “It appears that the new predator is the increased development and other human activity that has picked up pace over the past several decades.

“Mule deer and pronghorn are now experiencing 40-acre spacing of gas drilling pads and thousands of miles of roads and pipelines. Too often, decisions have been made on individual projects while the impacts are occurring on a much broader scale.”

Torbit said he fears mule deer and pronghorn populations may follow the steady decline of greater sage grouse that has been widely documented by wildlife researchers.

“Forty years ago a hunter could see hundreds of sage grouse in a single day,” Torbit recalled. “But due to landscape-wide factors, the sage grouse population has suffered a slow, inexorable decline and so has sage grouse hunting.

“As a Westerner, biologist and hunter, I don’t want to see that same decline occur in our mule deer and pronghorn,” Torbit said.

NWF biologists have met with BLM officials and the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish to present and discuss the new analysis of deer and pronghorn herds. A series of public meetings is scheduled in communities within the study area in Wyoming and Colorado.

“Ultimately, it will be up to all of who value our wildlife herds to urge federal and state agencies to make decisions that will protect our wildlife resource,” Torbit said. “The future of our hunting heritage and the billions of dollars wildlife brings to the region’s economy are at stake.”
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Old 08-09-2011, 02:08 PM
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But yet they extended the season for antelope and increased the number of tags that were given out for the areas around Laramie. As for the deer herd around Laramie i would say it has taken a hit but not a large one.
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Old 08-09-2011, 02:37 PM
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What areas have extended antelope seasons?

I also dont see any increases in antelope tags in the areas around Laramie either.

Look at the demand index's from 2005 compared to 2011...I dont see any increases in tag numbers, but I do see declines.
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Old 08-09-2011, 03:40 PM
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Quote:
Some area residents have suggested that predators such as coyotes are the reason for declines. But, who has worked extensively in both Wyoming and Colorado, emphasized that pronghorn and mule deer herds have always lived with predators.
Who's this But guy and why do we care what he says?

Some of those linear graphs seem pretty sketchy to me. Unit D-1 had 3 flat years followed by slight growth for 5 years and it is showing as decreasing significantly according to the linear graph.

I'll agree that with the big harvest drop and the big drop from the early 1990's in that unit it is far below expectations, but it looks to be increasing to me instead of sharply decreasing like they are showing with the linear graph.
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Old 08-09-2011, 03:59 PM
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Area 44 and Area 45 have extended season Oct 1-14. in area 45 you may hunt into Oct. south of hwy 130. and area 44 i believe it is just extended for doe fawn thru the 14th of Oct. i was wrong on the tag increase there was a drop in the number of both buck and doe fawn tags in area 45. the season was extended.

Last edited by mhungerford; 08-09-2011 at 04:03 PM.
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Old 08-09-2011, 04:09 PM
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I've got the regs right in front of me...unit 45 is only open south of hwy 130 from the 1st-14th of Oct. for both bucks and does.

I dont see anything listed for unit 44 being open longer.

The doe/fawn quota in 45 is 500...same as last year.

Unit 44 is 250 each for buck and doe tags, same as last year.

Both units had more tags issued in past years (since 2005).
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Old 08-09-2011, 04:24 PM
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okay like i said i was wrong on the increase in number of tags! I just went and got the regs and only area 45 has an extended season. you can hunt from oct. 1-14. south of hwy 130. sorry for the mistake. not like anyone else has ever posted mis information on here!!!!
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Old 08-09-2011, 05:12 PM
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Its not important about this years regs.

I'd guess the deal in 45 has more to do with about 95% of unit 45 being private than anything else.

The take-away message is that Oaks article is right on the money, even around Laramie. Less tags and less animals means less hunting opportunities.
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Old 08-09-2011, 05:20 PM
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i would agree with you after reading a lilttle more information and looking at some figures.
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Old 08-09-2011, 06:49 PM
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All your Wyoming antelope are in Moffat County Colorado. ON MY 40 ACRES!!!!!!

If anything the antelope numbers have risen here around Craig and deer numbers have declined although the number of tags for antelope NEVER go up. I have 6 antelope points in a 4 point area and I draw a deer tag every year GO FIGURE!!!

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Old 08-10-2011, 07:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by npaden View Post
Some of those linear graphs seem pretty sketchy to me. Unit D-1 had 3 flat years followed by slight growth for 5 years and it is showing as decreasing significantly according to the linear graph.

I'll agree that with the big harvest drop and the big drop from the early 1990's in that unit it is far below expectations, but it looks to be increasing to me instead of sharply decreasing like they are showing with the linear graph.
Yes, the population is increasing very slightly with the huge decrease in hunter harvest. Notice that they are currently harvesting less than 75 deer a year in that DAU compared to over 700 deer/year in the late 80's. What that suggests is that there are other factors that are suppressing growth of that population. When you reduce hunter harvest by 90% and see minimal growth in the population, there must be something else that is limiting to that herd. The paper is suggesting that it may be manipulation/degradation of the habitat.
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Old 08-10-2011, 08:03 AM
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I agree Oak, and the numbers for sure support what you are saying.

I just don't think they needed to try to use smoke and mirrors to make it look even worse with the linear graph showing to be going dramatically down even though the population has stabilized and is even increasing slightly.

Just not sure where they are coming up with that linear graph. It sure isn't a moving average. Looks to me like someone just kind of eyeballed it and then drew it wherever they felt like.
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Old 08-10-2011, 08:28 AM
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Funny especially in the baggs units that deer and antelope #'s took a dive about the start of the atlantic rim drilling project for 2000 wells in crucial winter habitat. Throw in a few crappy winters and increased human activity...strange that #'s went down. Good thing is they want more wells and to add more wind energy projects to disturb the little remaining winter areas.... Who cares if we have animals to hunt so long as these companies line their pockets with $$$$ off our public lands...

The areas that are decreasing in population usually experience very cold, long winters with marginal habitat at best. Long distance winter migrations usually 30+ miles from summer habitat. Animals have a hard enough time surviving in the best of conditions with out the destruction of crucial winter habitat....
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Old 08-10-2011, 08:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by npaden View Post
I just don't think they needed to try to use smoke and mirrors to make it look even worse with the linear graph showing to be going dramatically down even though the population has stabilized and is even increasing slightly.

Just not sure where they are coming up with that linear graph. It sure isn't a moving average. Looks to me like someone just kind of eyeballed it and then drew it wherever they felt like.
No eyeballing...it's a simple linear regression. This might help.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_regression
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Old 08-10-2011, 09:48 AM
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Regression is a step back. I would prefer a more accurate depiction of real data. I was just wondering the other day why we have so few antelope in Idaho. I remember seeing MANY more as a youth. I decided loss of habitat, increased hunter success/access, domestics, disease, bad weather have all come together to reduce the population. Could the same be said elsewhere?
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Old 08-10-2011, 10:01 AM
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How would you like the data to be depicted?

Quote:
Originally Posted by the nikster View Post
I was just wondering the other day why we have so few antelope in Idaho. I remember seeing MANY more as a youth. I decided loss of habitat, increased hunter success/access, domestics, disease, bad weather have all come together to reduce the population. Could the same be said elsewhere?
Are you suggesting that there may be other factors at work? Looks like the authors of the paper agree with you.

Quote:
Wildlife managers have know for years that a variety of factors are responsible for the condition of big game populations throughout the west as well as the area addressed in this report. Severe winters, extended drought, loss of habitat to development and noxious weed invasion are just a few of the factors that can have detrimental impacts on big game populations.
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Old 08-10-2011, 10:42 AM
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If I'm wrong, correct me, but linear regression pretty much shows the trend overall but leaves out the highs and lows and can dismiss recent trends. For me it is similar to BMI-a tool to help analize data but not necessarily applicable in EVERY case. My simple mind is easier to wrap around a simple graph with ups and downs.
I am suggesting there are many, many factors coming together and simply addressing one or two may not be enough. So I guess I agree with the authors at least partially. Am I wrong to assume we agree?
Aside... I was driving through Wyoming and then through long valley in Idaho. I thought Long Valley was ideal antelope country but I've not seen an antelope there ever-although I see them all around there.
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Old 08-10-2011, 10:58 AM
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It shows the trend, yes. But it is typically displayed on top of the actual data, so that you can still make inferences like npaden did. You can see that there has been a slight increase in the population recently by looking at the graph.

Here is the population graph that npaden referred to:



And here is the corresponding hunter harvest for the same period:



Yes, we do agree that there may be other factors at work. Do you agree that the trend is disturbing, despite the very minimal increase in population in recent years? I think the important take-home message is that herds are not rebounding when hunter harvest is reduced to nearly zero. That implies that other factors are at work that are reducing recruitment and survival. The problem I see is that some people are not willing to look at all potential causes.
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Old 08-10-2011, 11:29 AM
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Absolutely disturbing!! I would expect numbers to increase much more given the lack of hunter harvest.
So harvest has not reversed the decline, Do you know what the plan is going forward? Except minimally we cannot create habitat. What other factors can we effect? Personally, I would love for hunting to be able to resume at former levels but the focus needs to be on survivability first so that we can harvest later. But I must confess, I am over my head in deep water here. I am not a biologist, nor did I stay in a holiday inn express last night.
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Old 08-10-2011, 12:11 PM
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Except minimally we cannot create habitat. What other factors can we effect?
I guess we could protect the habitat that is still there, and we can improve habitat in some cases.
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Old 08-10-2011, 12:49 PM
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When you really look closely at most of the graphs there is a timeframe in the early 2000's where the harvest wasn't curbed quickly enough to react to the population decline. The graphs for D-1 are a good example.

The population had declined to 1,400ish in 2001 and 1,100ish in 2002, but the harvest was still a little over 250 animals both years. Over 20% of the population harvested on a declining population is pretty aggressive.

Fawn recruitment is the critical number that needs to be addressed and focused on and would allow biologists to set the harvest numbers much more accurately. A population of 1,500 with excellent fawn recruitment could sustain a harvest of 400 - 500 animals. A population of 1,500 with poor fawn recruitment could struggle to sustain a harvest of 50 like the population in the D-1 example.

If the fawns aren't making it then something needs to be done quickly to help out or the population is going to struggle. If you can get fawn recruitment up to 50% of better the population will take off in no time.

Of course there are a ton of scenarios to fawn recruitment including poor health of the doe coming out of the winter, habitat, traffic mortality, predators, etc.

Mule deer are so much more difficult to study than whitetails!
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Old 08-12-2011, 12:13 PM
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I find it ironically amusing that the auther put quotes around "mitigation plans".

Quote:
Deer and antelope in Colorado's northern mountains declining, study warns

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post


Deer and antelope populations in Colorado's northern mountain valleys have declined sharply over the past 30 years — pronghorn by as much as 64 percent in some areas, mule deer by up to 36 percent — according to a new National Wildlife Federation study.

Colorado Division of Wildlife officials on Monday confirmed declines in the area from the Medicine Bow range west to Vermillion Bluffs — a target for energy development.

The NWF study concludes that herds across Colorado and southern Wyoming "may not be able to fully recover" unless federal and state agencies initiate larger-scale planning to protect their habitat.

The veteran biologists who did the work relied on data supplied by state game managers and attributed the drop-offs to a combination of factors: drought, invasion of weeds, residential construction and the acceleration of oil and gas drilling that has brought well pads, pipelines and roads.

"What we've learned is that the business-as-usual approach cannot work any longer. We're starting to see some consequences of our actions," said Steve Torbit, NWF's regional director, who beginning this week will run federal research for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Federal land managers' current approach to leasing lands for energy exploration, using project-by-project environmental review, is leading to "losing the herds," Torbit said.

Colorado Oil and Gas Association officials warned against associating correlation with causation. Energy companies have spent millions on "mitigation plans" required by regulators to protect more than 350,000 acres of mule-deer habitat, said David Ludlam, COGA's Western Slope representative...........
Read more: Deer and antelope in Colorado's northern mountains declining, study warns - The Denver Post
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Old 08-14-2011, 10:03 AM
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WyomingNews.com

Quote:
Future is grim for deer



Mule deer populations are dropping. It's so bad, in fact, some question whether the animal will even be a part of the Wyoming landscape further on down the road.

By Shauna Stephenson
sstephenson@wyomingnews.com

In a carpeted room in the back of the River Rock Café in Walden, Colo., Steve Torbit posts a graph of the downward slide of mule deer populations in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado.

"What's the future look like?" he asks the crowd, which sits quietly, arms folded, legs crossed. "We're demanding a lot more of the landscapes in the West. We're demanding so much you can't really look at those (impacts) in isolation anymore."

The graph, a product of the report "Population Status and Trends of Big Game along the Colorado/Wyoming State Line," by the National Wildlife Federation, shows a 30-year decline in both mule deer and pronghorn in the region. As a side note, elk, which tend to use different habitats, are seeing rises in population.

"The tricky thing about this is we can't absolutely tie this to one or two specific occurrences," says Torbit, who retired recently as regional executive director of National Wildlife Federation.

He likens the pressures of drought, development and loss of prime habitat to the over-stretching of a rubber band. If natural variations such as weather are already stretching the band, then added pressures like energy development might be the breaking.

"We've gotta relax the rubber band," he says. "We can't continue to assume that it can take this kind of development.

"It's going to snap because we overextend it. Or we let loose a little bit and give critters a little bit of a break."

Just south of Rock Springs, mule deer herds have declined about 38 percent since 1986. Following that trend, hunter harvest has fallen from a high of 1,200 in 1987 to less than 400 in 2008.

To the south of that, herd deer populations in the northwest corner of Colorado also have plummeted by 66 percent. Hunter harvest also has dipped. In the late 1980s, more than 800 deer were harvested in there. Some 20 years later, only 48 were harvested.

"That deer population information really hit us between the eyes," Torbit says. "We knew it was tough over there. But we didn't really realize how severe that decline was."

Perhaps just as problematic are rates of recruitment, or how many young animals survive to adulthood each year. This tends to be tricky since there are so many factors that can influence it: weather, drought, quality of habitat, predators or disease.

For pronghorn and mule deer, those rates need to be about 70 young per 100 to maintain robust populations.

But five-year averages of pronghorn in southern Wyoming flirt at the mid-50s, dropping as low as 39 per hundred in the herd near Baggs. For mule deer, those numbers are in the 50s, for the most part.

"If we want deer and antelope to be huntable in the future, we've got to do something different," Torbit says. "Hunters need to wake up. If they don't speak up, they're going to experience declining opportunity."

A tipping point?

While pronghorn certainly have challenges, it's mule deer that seem poised to bring about a revolution in game management.

Currently, Wyoming Game and Fish is investing time and money into not only understanding what is going on with herds but it also to figure out how to reverse the trend.

They are working on initiatives in both the Wyoming Range and Platte Valley, asking residents for problems and solutions. A meeting for the Platte Valley Mule Deer Initiative will be in Cheyenne at 6 p.m. on Aug. 25 at Game and Fish headquarters.

But to understand why mule deer are seeing such declines, it's important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

As equal opportunity residents of a multitude of environments, deer seem as though they would be hearty and easy to manage.

Unfortunately, it is quite the opposite. Deer are finicky. They require specific nutrition, stemming from the way their digestive system is made up.

Deer have specialized microbes in their guts that break down the food they ingest. Take a deer from Casper and place it in Cheyenne, even in a habitat with identical food sources, and it's likely that deer won't survive.

Historically, deer have seen cyclical highs and lows. Early accounts from trappers show deer were not overly numerous.

But that started to change as the 1940s rolled around. Game laws had been enacted and large swaths of lands were being settled for ranching and farming, furthering the call for predator control. Wet weather moved through, creating good habitat.

In short, mule deer flourished. In fact, according to some experts there were too many deer.

Then, as droughts came and went, land got more settled, migration corridors became impinged on, fire suppression became the norm and energy development began cropping up, those numbers began a cycle, plummeting then recovering, plummeting, then recovering again.

The problem was they never recovered fully, meaning the highs of later years were stair-stepping down in a gradual decline.

Today the numbers are far below those of the 1950s. Habitats have seen great change, and not for the better, says Daryl Lutz, wildlife management coordinator for Game and Fish.

"Those same shrub communities that flourished (in the '50s) are the same ones we have today, by and large," Lutz says. "Literally, the same plants."

But the question of how to fix it - if it can be fixed - remains unanswered. Without a solution, many biologists question whether mule deer will continue to be a part of the landscape in the long term.

"What I tell people is we need to start focusing on what we've got," he says. "If we can sustain the number we've got today, we're going to be doing good."

A habitat in crisis

Dressed in a navy blue Hawaiian shirt, Bill Rudd with the wildlife division at Game and Fish looks over numbers detailing conditions of habitat in the Platte Valley.

The charts, which show glimpses of how much wildlife uses certain plants across large areas, is filled with red numbers, signaling areas of concern.

The link between quality of habitat and quality of wildlife herds has long been established: Good habitat generally equates to healthy herds. The opposite is also true.

"We've been in a long-term downward trend for deer," Rudd says. "Whatever changes occur, or whatever combination of changes has been occurring, they are not positive for mule deer."

Today, suitable habitat for wildlife seems to be disappearing at an alarming rate, and not just because of the rise in drilling.

According to the State Engineers Office, nearly 100,000 acres of land were subdivided into lots of 35 acres or less between 1998 and 2006. At that rate, 80 percent of new development in Wyoming will be on lots of 10 to 40 acres by 2020, and 2.6 million acres of ranchland will be turned to residential development.

Populations are increasing and the West is housing much of that rise. Fourteen of the fastest-growing counties were in the Rocky Mountains in 2006, and four of the eight states in that region saw double-digit population increases between 2000 and 2005.

Energy development also plays a role in habitat disturbance. In Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana and Utah, about 27 million of acres of wildlife habitat have been leased for energy development, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Between 2001 and 2007, more than 15,000 wells were drilled in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. Compare that to just over 4,000 between 1996 and 2000.

And while permitting has slowed, the future of development in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado looks busy. More than 15,000 wells are set for the coming decades.

And it's not just oil and gas. Renewable energy will be taking up a footprint in southern Wyoming as well.

Near Saratoga, two wind farm projects - the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project - are set to go in adjacent to mule deer and pronghorn habitat. Combined, they are expected to have 1,000 wind turbines spread out over almost 100,000 acres plus the addition of about 500 miles of roads.

Managing herds around such projects is going to be tricky. While BLM can put stipulations on construction, once the turbines are up it's hard to limit activity. At the moment, studies on how wildlife reacts to wind farms are slim.

With that in mind, Torbit says agencies like BLM need to take cumulative impacts into account when issuing reports on potential impacts from energy development.

But doing that can be difficult, says Dennis Saville, wildlife biologist for BLM's Wyoming State Office.

"We certainly try to always consider cumulative impacts when looking at any given activity," he says. "It's a really tough hill when you're talking about this big of an area and when you're talking about things like climate."

Regardless, there are still many who think development has little effect on habitat. Industry maintains its requirement of reclamation keeps herds from being negatively impacted.

"In Wyoming, the first oil well was drilled in 1884," Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming told the Associated Press in July. "We've been here 127 years, and we've got lots and lots of wildlife. They continue to thrive."

But Torbit disagrees.

"We can't keep fooling ourselves that all this development is having no effect on our wildlife and expect to have the same kind of wildlife we've had over the last 25 years," he says.

"I don't tell the oil and gas industry what kind of oil or gas the geological formations hold. I don't tell them where the best location is for a well. They don't tell me what's best for wildlife.

"But for some reason, they seem to think they know it all."

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  #24  
Old 08-14-2011, 11:34 AM
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the nikster the nikster is offline
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Oak,
Thanks for posting the updates- I like to know what's happening. Good/bad decisions made now could effect us for decades.
Idaho has gone to roadless areas in an attempt to reduce harvest and spread out demand-this could work-time will tell. I sometimes think a drastic change such as no hunting for 1 or 2 years could have a positive impact but if there is no winter range then deer could starve and we could end up with FEWER deer. I sure do not know the solution but I am willing to investigate all options and help provide a solution.
Thanks again for the updates.
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Old 08-14-2011, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by the nikster View Post
I sometimes think a drastic change such as no hunting for 1 or 2 years could have a positive impact but if there is no winter range then deer could starve and we could end up with FEWER deer.
Drastic changes come in many forms. How about a moritorium on new drilling permits? How about redirecting the focus of the BLM to wildlife and habitat instead of mineral extraction? How about mandating landscape scale habitat work by the energy companies when they apply for permits?

Not directing this at you, nikster, just throwing out some ideas. As a hunter, I'm getting tired of being the one that is expected to give more and more and more. Look at the graph of deer hunter harvest I posted. Harvest is 6% of what it was 25 years ago. Why should hunters continue to be the ones to give?
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