August 22nd, 2018
Attn: Tom Barrett
Natural Resource Specialist
North Central Montana District
Division of Oil and Gas
1220 38th Street North
Great Falls, MT 59405
Dear Tom Barrett,
Thank you for reviewing the following comment on the Environmental Assessment December 11 2018 Lease Sale (DOI-BLM-MT-0000-2018-0002-EA ) from the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Our members include 2,500 Montana hunters, anglers and others who adamantly champion North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands, waters and wildlife.
We are concerned with the selling of oil and gas leases - in the Beaverhead and Madison counties in particular - due to their proximity to delicate and invaluable fish and wildlife habitats. The impact of infrastructure and the likelihood of pollution that will come with the development of oil and gas extraction is common and well documented. This development would unquestionably put the local environment and economy, fish and wildlife, ranching and farming, hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities at great risk. For a very low probability of useful mineral extraction, these risks cannot be taken.
It is also our concern that even though these lease sites have a relatively low probability for recovery of mineral resources presently, future technology could improve prospects for development and extraction. Fracking, for example, has opened many new areas for extraction, resulting in some of the most destructive pollution to groundwater and surface water both. Unforeseen impacts seen in many other western states are very concerning as well. From landscape disturbances and alterations to the fragmentation of migratory corridors for wildlife, Montana and other states in the West have suffered significant and permanent impacts that burden local communities both financially and by compromising our outdoor traditions and western heritage.
We understand the need for more streamlined regulatory processes and making public comment periods more efficient but we would like to raise objections around the very short window in which these comments are being accepted and believe that local communities should have adequate time to share concerns. Members of the public are not well-versed in the intricacies of NEPA or EAs, therefore, we need time to review and understand what these documents propose for our public lands and waters.
Please listen to the public opposition against these leases. We have limited opportunities to influence how development occurs and we want the long-term sustainable economic values of our public lands and natural resources to be considered as a priority instead of an afterthought. Depleting finite resources that come at the expense of Montana’s heritage should be weighed against short-term gains that are coupled with significant threats to our healthy lands and waters.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments.
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers