LTE: "It shouldn't be business as usual"

Published in the Casper Start Tribune, April 4, 2021

By Debra Park


Brian Nesvik, Director of Wyoming Game and Fish Department, recently pronounced that
mineral development is good for Wyoming wildlife. This astonishing assumption casts doubt on
his allegiance to the well being of Wyoming’s wildlife and essential habitats.

Instead, it appears that Director Nesvik is more interested in ensuring that the priorities of the
minerals industries are placed before the needs of Wyoming wildlife and residents who
appreciate and depend on wildlife for jobs, quality of life, and to put food on their tables.
Director Nesvik stated that he is proud of WGFD’s ability to “successfully manage wildlife on the
same shared landscape” with mineral development. But how, exactly, has this “management”
been successful in recent years? Sage grouse are in serious decline statewide and important
wildlife migration corridors have been degraded. In developed fossil fuel fields, air and water
quality have been diminished to the detriment of humans and wildlife alike.

Nesvik asserted that habitat is conserved when drilling occurs on federal lands that are already
disturbed because such drilling allows more pristine lands to remain undisturbed. But wouldn't it
be better for wildlife (and Wyoming residents who care about wildlife) if federal lands that have
already been disturbed were reclaimed rather than further harmed by even more development?
Director Nesvik does admit that habitat is disturbed by mineral development, and he relies on
reclamation to resolve these damages. But as we all know, corporations do not always reclaim
the land as they should, and even when they do, reclamation often does not return the land to
its original condition.

Nesvik concluded that we should maintain strong relationships with mineral producers because
it’s in “everyone’s best interest.” In reality, our interests will be best served when land and
wildlife managers, private landowners, and residents work together toward solutions that allow
undeveloped public lands to sustain wildlife and people. I hope others will speak out to Mr.
Nesvik, Governor Mark Gordon, and our legislators and tell them that we value wildlife and
undeveloped public lands, and we do not want damaging fossil fuel development to continue
under the heading of “business as usual.”