Despite Hank Young's assurances that gas and oil development is not impacting wildlife populations (Letters, Herald, Feb. 23), it is fairly obvious that he is the one "falsely informed." Rather than relying on anecdotal evidence, a brief review of the existing scientific literature might be more helpful. A number of recent scientific studies have shown definable negative impacts to wildlife populations by gas and oil development.
An ongoing study in Wyo-ming's Pinedale Anticline has shown mule deer herds are choosing relatively poor quality habitat further away from gas field infrastructure (roads, well pads, pipelines) over higher quality habitat near developed areas. Similarly, the Mule Deer Working Group (Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies) found energy development that exceeded four wells per square mile resulted in high impacts to mule deer.
A number of similar studies have shown measurable negative impacts to breeding songbirds and raptors directly related to gas and oil development. These can include nest destruction or abandonment, as well as indirect impacts, such as reduced reproductive success, because of noise and continued human presence on site. The construction of well pads, roads and pipelines also creates habitat edges, which can allow predators easier access to nests.
Unfortunately, Young's "green gas well head" doesn't exist in a vacuum. Each new well requires an average of 3 acres to be cleared and leveled before it can be drilled.
Many new wells also require the construction of lengthy access roads and pipelines. Operational well equipment often includes noisy pump jacks and loud compressors. Completed wells still require frequent human visits for produced water removal, meter reading and other maintenance activities. It is the construction of roads and the continued periodic human presence, not necessarily the well itself, that is most disruptive to wildlife populations.
We continually are reminded of the property tax contributions made to La Plata County by the gas and oil industry. We all realize the local fiscal benefit of responsible energy development.
However, to deny that this development has some consequence to our wildlife populations is simply wrong.
John Wickersham, Durango