DENVER -- A nonprofit conservation organization says better coordination is needed between state wildlife officials and federal land managers handling energy development and mule deer populations in the West.
The Washington, D.C.-based Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a coalition of hunters, anglers and conservation organizations, released a report Wednesday on the impacts of oil and gas drilling on mule deer in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.
Steven Belinda, the director at the TRCP Center for Responsible Energy Development, said the organization works to guarantee that Americans have a place to hunt and fish.
"(Mule deer) are an extremely vital species for hunting," Belinda said.
The crux of the report focuses on the lack of organization between federal land managers and state wildlife officials, saying there hasn't been enough integration of science and habitat management on federal lands.
"We need more and better coordination for meeting management objectives and better integration of known science in the management of these cornerstone mule deer populations," Belinda said.
Officials say mule deer depend on seasonal habitats that have been protected from traffic and human activity, including energy leases located within their winter ranges.
The report concentrates its study on the Green River Basin, a block of land that encompasses mule deer habitat and is an area of great interest to oil and gas drillers -- it is home to one of the nation's largest energy reserves.
"More than 15,000 wells have already been drilled in mule deer crucial winter range," Belinda said.
The report says 2.4 million acres of deer habitat have been leased for development. While there are some restrictions in place, it says drilling companies often apply for, and receive, a break from the limitations.
According to the report, 83 percent of relief requests from wildlife protection were granted between 2007 and 2008. Belinda said he used to be a biologist for the Bureau of Land Management and saw a lot of those relief requests filed.
He said since energy production began in the mule deer habitat, there has been a 60 percent decline in the population of the Pinedale Anticline in southwestern Wyoming over the past 10 years.