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:withstupid: Three bucks a gallon. I drive a V8. Killin' me. Tap that baby!!

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I am hopefully going to be up there soon, working for the Big Oil....

after reading the article, to me it sounds as if it would not bother them, especially since drilling would occur in winter.

I also see that the population has been declining anyways, without any drilling activities taking place, would this drilling really affect these birds negatively? or is this just a "feel good" reccomendation?

Oil leases endanger brant, coalition says
By Weslie Loy, Anchorage Daily News
An 11-state organization that helps manage migratory birds is urging federal land managers to back off a plan to expand oil and gas leasing on the tundra north of Teshekpuk Lake in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The land is vital to black brant, a goose whose population is in steep decline and now stands at a record low, according to a letter from the Pacific Flyway Council to Interior Secretary Gale Norton.
The worry is that drilling, roads and other industry activity could disturb the geese at a critical time when they're trying to feed and grow new feathers, worsening their decline, the letter says. Already, regulators are imposing drastic cutbacks on sport and subsistence hunting in Alaska, down the West Coast and into Mexico to protect the brant, the letter adds.
"This is a very critical piece of habitat and we're very concerned," said Terry Crawforth, director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and chairman of the Pacific Flyway Council.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials in Alaska have sent a proposal to Norton calling for expanded oil and gas leasing in the northeast corner of the Indiana-sized petroleum reserve. They say land with high potential for millions of barrels of crude oil was placed needlessly off limits to drillers during the Clinton administration in 1998.
The final decision on whether to move forward with the leasing now rests with Norton, who has given no indication when she might decide.
Environmental and birding groups, as well as some Alaska Natives, have raised objections to the plan to lease 389,000 acres, including seven tracts totaling 372,000 acres squarely in the middle of goose molting country north of Teshekpuk Lake, one of the state's largest lakes.
The Pacific Flyway Council is one of four such bodies across the country that bring state wildlife professionals together to monitor migrating birds and make recommendations to managers, particularly the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Alaska has a representative on the council, with 10 other Western states.
According to Crawforth's letter to Norton, since 1998 the population of Pacific black brant has sharply declined and in January of this year stood at a record low 101,391 birds.
Wildlife managers have kicked in stiff conservation measures for the 2005-2006 hunting seasons, the letter says. Fall and winter hunting seasons have been shortened by half in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, and subsistence hunting will be closed around five major brant colonies on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, where many brant nest before flying north to the Teshekpuk area to molt, bird biologists say.
Crawforth said it's not clear why the black brant population is dropping, but he said the council believes oil and gas exploration and ensuing development, should drillers make big enough finds, could exacerbate the goose decline.
Although some oil companies, including Conoco Phillips Alaska Inc., have been drilling in the northeast petroleum reserve in recent years, no oil find has been developed and the land remains void of roads and pipelines. The reserve lies west of Alaska's major oil fields, including Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk and Alpine.
BLM officials contend they've crafted a leasing plan that will protect the geese and also give oil drillers access to highly prospective acreage.
"We've been concerned about the brant all along," said Jody Weil, BLM spokeswoman in Anchorage.
The most important restriction on drillers is that exploration would be allowed only in winter, when the lake-pocked tundra is frozen and the geese have migrated south for the winter.
The BLM, which acts as landlord for the petroleum reserve, also plans to forbid drillers from building permanent structures in buffer zones of up to a mile around lakes used by molting geese. However, roads or pipelines could be built under some circumstances.
In each of the seven lease tracts within the goose molting area, oil companies would be limited to 300 acres of gravel work pads.
The BLM also recently added a new protective step to the plan now pending on Norton's desk. It's a three-year study of the goose molting area to determine where best to site oil activity and minimize goose disturbance, Weil said.
But the Pacific Flyway Council letter says the goose molting area is too sensitive for leasing, pipelines or roads and should be permanently protected.

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Here is a commen sense approach
We must decide whether all critters are worth saving


Handel's "Messiah" and the federal Endangered Species Act both tell us, "We shall be saved."

ESA preaches the message with "The Messiah's" biblical fervor, but results do not meet the hype. Fewer than 1 percent of ESA listed species have been "recovered" and removed from the list.

Evolution assures not all species will survive. Mankind assures even more species will go extinct. Our homes, energy needs, our food, clothing and shelter requirements change forever this nation's landscape. The U.S. population is 300 million souls and growing; Washington's population is more than 6 million and growing. Every one of us demands products and services, an inescapable, inexorable and undeniable reality.

ESA probably will be changed in the upcoming Congress. Before that happens, some hard questions need to be asked and answered:

How far will society go to save a rare plant or animal? How much land must be set aside? How much will it cost? How much pain do we inflict on society? Is there a better way to do it?

The northern spotted owl, for example, is doomed in much of its range. No one publicly will admit it, but the spotted owl's cousin, the barred owl, is better suited to survive, and nothing will stop the transition -- not old-growth timber preservation, not murdering barred owls, not spending barrels of money on studies.

The barred owl is more aggressive, has a greater prey base and can live in a variety of habitats. It's going to win the Darwinian sweepstakes. And yet, we keep telling ourselves it isn't so.

ESA doesn't work on other fronts. The mantra for many citizens affected by an endangered species is, "Shoot, shovel and shut up."

That's not universal by any means, but ask an unemployed logger or a landowner who lost the use of his or her land; you will hear words not found in the Endangered Species Act.

We "protect" habitat, only to watch it burn in enormous wildfires. This is no way to manage rare species.

Here's a dirty little secret no one wants to face: At some point, we must decide which critters can survive; even harder, we must determine which critters are worth saving.

Only then can we make necessary sacrifices and investments to ensure their future survival.

There will be plenty of both.

Sounds hard, crass, subjective, and arrogant, doesn't it? It is. But it would force research, investment and sociopolitical decision-making into plants and animals that have a realistic chance of surviving in an evolutionarily new environment.

You might think this is playing God, but we've already done that; people and critters both lose for us having done so.

The system is broken and needs outside-the-box thinking, not just a tuneup. ESA will not be effective until drastic changes are made in the way we manage threatened or endangered plants and animals.

If my suggestion is too draconian, let the alternatives flow. The status quo isn't getting it done.

Bob Dick, a second-generation professional forester with lifelong experience working in Northwest and Alaska forests, is a member of The Olympian's Board of Contributors.
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