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September 6, 2007

Contact: Lesley A. Collins,
307-261-7603

Fortification Creek Elk Analysis
Available from BLM BFO

The Fortification Creek Area (FCA) Elk Analysis is now available from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Buffalo Field Office (BFO).

The analysis is available online at: http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/bfodocs/fortification_creek.html . The FCA Elk Analysis was completed to assess the cumulative effects coalbed natural gas (CBNG) development proposals will have on the elk herd.

The FCA of the Powder River Basin (PRB) hosts both an elk herd and a large CBNG reservoir. BLM has deferred federal CBNG development within the FCA for the past year while it evaluated the effects development would have on the elk herd.

BLM Buffalo Field Office Manger, Chris Hanson, explained that it is important to understand the relationships between CBNG development and elk in order to responsibly manage both resources. He said the objective is to find a way to have economically viable CBNG production while maintaining a viable elk herd.

The analysis demonstrates that the elk currently are avoiding suitable habitat within 1.7 miles of wells and 0.5 miles of roads. If CBNG development continues in the same manner as the remainder of the PRB (8 wells per square mile), the unleased Wilderness Study Area (WSA) would provide the only secure elk habitat at full development. A herd of 46-64 elk could likely be sustained within the WSA for the 20 year duration of CBNG development, but herd health and productivity would likely decrease.

Hanson explained that conducting this effects analysis assisted BLM in their understanding of how CBNG effects could be reduced or mitigated enabling responsible management of both resources.

There are some measures CBNG companies can take to ensure economic CBNG development compatible with elk. The two key principles are to minimize the physical disturbance and to minimize human activities which displace elk.

Some specific recommendations include the following:

  • maximizing the use of existing roads and other infrastructure along those roads,
  • cooperating with other CBNG operators to consolidate infrastructure and roads,
  • siting water management facilities and high pressure compressors outside the FCA,
  • using telemetry and/or other remote metering technologies,
  • and scheduling of routine maintenance activities within the crucial ranges outside the crucial time periods.

BLM intends to use this effects analysis in reviewing proposals to develop CBNG resources within the FCA. The BLM will incorporate the applicable portions of this analysis along with mitigation proposed by the CBNG operators in making future decisions about development in the FCA. At this time, there are 10 proposals pending in the Buffalo Field Office for varying degrees of CBNG development in the FCA.

For additional information contact Thomas Bills, Environmental Coordinator, at 307 684-1133 or Fort_Crk_WYMail@blm.gov.

--BLM--