That Grouse May Carouse

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Now, my son is a very entertaining storyteller who occasionally stretches, adding bits and pieces, to make stories more interesting and/or more humorous. I am fully aware of that trait since he learned it from my father, so when David tells me anything that seems just too, too… to be true, I call him on it.

Well yesterday, during a lengthy and chatty phone conversation, David said something which really caught my attention. I mean, really! David was not even telling a story; rather, he was explaining that his roommate had been laid off two weeks ago so did not have the money to pay his share of the rent.

I was surprised to hear of the layoff because both fellows work for a large and solid company.

David continued, "Hundreds of guys are laid off! The oil rigs are shut down! The methane wells are down. The roustabouts are laid off. No trucks or equipment can be out and about. I tell you, Gillette is DEAD for the next couple months or so!"

"Couple months?" Gillette, WyomingEnergy-Producer Extraordinaire — with unproductive wells, rigs, and more? I simply could not believe that to be true and told David so. I mean….come on! It would make no sense to shut down a major energy-producing area while the nation badly needs energy; while the TV ads; the airways; and the president’s big mouth are all filled with calls for cheaper energy; cleaner energy; more accessible energy; American energy — energy, Energy, ENERGY! David must be confused; mistaken; because what he was claiming could only be described as crazy. I told David that he should check his facts before making such claims, but he was insistent that he was right and went on to explain (although I will clean his language up a bit).

"Mom! It is true, and it is all because of those blankety-blank grouse! The damn things are supposedly breeding so no one can drive into or across the prairie for fear of interrupting the birds! I mean everything is shut down; Gillette is almost non-functioning; and this will go on for weeks and weeks. Tell your readers that so they will understand why their energy bills are so high."

I had to admit that he sounded like he knew what he was talking about. He was also very angry, and offended at such foolishness. I decided to do some research and found that…David is right!

How stupid; how counterproductive; and how very dishonest this all is, especially as the State claims to be working towards energy independence for America. Independence? The reality is that the State is forcing much needed energy production to cease for months each year because of…the sage grouse!!

It makes me sick to contemplate the ways that the State will further degrade and cheapen human life in America. Today the sage grouse; tomorrow the rewilding of America. (At this link about rewilding, be sure to check out the map. Note where the manipulators will allow humans to perch.)

As for the grouse — read (click links for full articles) what follows and weep, but only if you have the temperament, and the stamina, to handle Idiocy-Writ-Large.

Grouse concerns halt 82 CBM wells CASPER …#8221; A federal appeals board bounced 82 permits for coal-bed methane wells in the Powder River Basin back to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, saying the BLM failed to consider adequately the wells’ likely effect on sage grouse.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council, a Sheridan-based environmental group, and Campbell County rancher William P. Maycock last summer challenged the BLM’s approval of the wells. The Interior Board of Land Appeals sided with the council and Maycock in a decision issued Monday.

Williams Production Company RMT, which holds many of the permits in question, joined the BLM in arguing that the current protections for the grouse are adequate.

Williams did not return phone calls before deadline. His attorney, Tom Toner of Sheridan, could not be reached for comment.

The wells are located roughly in the middle of the Powder River Basin, east of the Powder River and north of Interstate 90, near a coal-bed methane development area called Carr Draw and near the Fortification Creek Wilderness Study Area. The basin has been a hotspot for coal-bed methane development, and is a focus for the debate about the effect of coal-bed methane development on sage grouse.

Coal-bed methane industry representatives on Thursday asked federal regulators to loosen wildlife restrictions that shut down much of the industry’s operations in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin this spring. During breeding periods for sage grouse, eagles and other wildlife, the federal Bureau of Land Management imposes months-long shutdowns of coal-bed methane work to prevent disturbance of the birds’ nests and mating grounds.

Researchers from the University of Montana say sage grouse populations in the Powder River Basin have suffered a sharp decline inside active coal-bed methane fields over the past decade.

As coal-bed methane, or natural gas, production shifted onto federal land during the past year, the restrictions meant to protect the birds came into play more often. That curtailed the drilling of new wells and prompted layoffs of some industry contractors.

In response, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming this week hosted a two-day “sage grouse workshop” in Casper involving coal-bed methane companies, state and federal regulatory agencies and independent researchers.

BLM officials would not comment on the request to modify its restrictions but agreed to work with the industry in the future.

Montana brings sage grouse concerns into energy decisions BILLINGS — Montana officials are imposing a new restriction on the oil and gas industry that gives more say to state wildlife biologists who have sought to slow energy development to protect an imperiled bird, the greater sage grouse.

The restriction — criticized as a potential new hurdle for companies seeking to do business in Montana — underscores the state’s shift away from neighboring states and provinces that embraced aggressive energy policies to maximize economic returns.

Across the Rocky Mountain West, from New Mexico to Alberta, Canada, a boom in exploration this decade has sparked a backlash from environmental and conservation groups. They claim game animal populations have suffered from a proliferation of oil and gas wells in once-undeveloped areas.

In Montana, those groups are finding allies in state agencies under Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer. During Schweitzer’s tenure, the state has charted a more circumspect course for development, giving greater weight to potential negative effects on wildlife and the environment.

The latest restriction requires companies hoping to drill on newly issued state leases to first undergo review by the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks if sage grouse breeding grounds are present. Biologists from the agency will forward recommendations on where and when to allow drilling to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, which issues drilling permits through the state land board.

Although DNRC director Mary Sexton retains authority over the process, oil and gas representatives said the wildlife agency’s increasing sway over state energy policies could portend a drop in future exploration.

"They’ve got the potential to seriously dampen oil and gas exploration in Montana," said Dave Galt, executive director of the Montana Petroleum Association. u2018u2018There has to be a lot more analysis and thought that goes into this before pulling the trigger like they’ve done.”

The new restriction will apply first to a lease sale scheduled for Sept. 5, including more than 300 square miles of state land scattered through the central, western and northeastern parts of the state.

In pushing for restraints on drilling, Fish Wildlife and Parks officials cited recent research that found declines in sage grouse and other game species in Wyoming and Alberta. Sage grouse are of most concern because they are considered candidates for an endangered species listing, which could prompt curbs not just on oil and gas but also agriculture and residential development.

Company executives and industry representatives argue any problems are overstated. Industry-sponsored scientists are scrambling to publish research they say will disprove claims of a grouse decline.

Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is a reading specialist (continually seeking ways to improve her methods for Rapid Reading Remediation); a former public school teacher (The nail that sticks out is the one that gets hammered…); and a former homeschooling parent (whose son, now 20, insisted upon growing up, putting an end to all the fun). Linda now teaches English composition at a state university and is writing her first book.

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