Mountain States

Colorado Parks & Wildlife: Fracking Has “Little to No Impact” on Mule Deer Population

Oil and natural gas development in Western Colorado is having “little to no impact on mule deer survival.”

That was the message Garfield County Energy Advisory Board members heard earlier this month from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) researcher, Chuck Anderson, who is leading an eight-year study looking at potential impacts of energy development on mule deer populations. As the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent reports:

“Ongoing research in the Piceance Basin indicates there is little to no negative impact on mule deer survival from energy development, according to a leading researcher with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.”

While CPW’s research team did find that energy development has the potential to affect mule deer behavior, Anderson said this does not impact their survival or reproduction rates.  Also from the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent:

“It does alter their behavior,” he said. “You know…if they’ve got a big rig at night with lights and compressors…they’re going to stay a little farther away from that. So they modify their behavior around the different activity…But, Anderson went on to say, those modifications in behavior do not affect the deers’ survival or reproduction rates. (emphasis added)

The ongoing study is tracking mule deer populations and behavior in Western Colorado’s Piceance Basin, a significant location because, as the story notes, Piceance “has one of the largest natural gas reserves in the country” and is home to “one of Colorado’s most important mule deer populations.”

CPW researchers also found that industry innovations, which are lessening the footprint of energy development, are minimizing any potential impact on mule deer:

“However, the deer are able to offset those influences under the current conditions, Anderson said at last week’s meeting. In qualifying the impact in the Piceance, he noted both the use of directional drilling and lower density of well pads as contributing to the finding that energy development is not negatively impacting survival rates.” (emphasis added)

The findings completely debunk anti-fracking activist groups who have been saying for years that oil and natural gas development is negatively impacting Western Colorado’s wildlife. The anti-fracking Center for Western Priorities even maintains an entire web page devoted to claiming that fracking is to blame for declining mule deer populations in Colorado and elsewhere. Well, there’s another phony talking point knocked right off the list.

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