North American Special Session: Conservation in a Changing Energy Development Landscape

North American Special Session: Conservation in a Changing Energy Development Landscape

Energy development in the United States continues to grow and evolve as economic, political, and societal pressures shape national energy policy. The past decade has seen tremendous growth in renewable energy development and use of unconventional methods for oil and gas extraction. New technologies make it possible for energy to be generated from new sources and new locations, often with limited understanding of impacts on the environment and wildlife. As a result, conservation alongside energy development is becoming a top priority for a growing number of natural resource and wildlife management agencies. A special session at the 82nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, Conservation in a Changing Energy Development Landscape, will address how state agencies are using a variety of strategies to influence land-use decisions regarding energy development. Speakers will share insights about strategies they have implemented to balance conservation and wildlife management priorities with expanding energy-generation capacity. Special sessions are scheduled between 10 am to 12 noon on Wednesday March 8 at the Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane Washington.

Wind farm in White Pine County, Nevada

American ingenuity for the development of new energy-generation technologies is enabling energy production across new landscapes. Lands and waters previously not on energy developers’ maps now present new opportunities for energy development because of progress in oil and gas drilling technologies, economies of scale for large installations of solar arrays, and new, efficient designs of wind turbines. Drastic reductions in costs of these and other technologies are driving substantial investment, with new records being set for additions of energy capacity from wind, solar, and natural gas.

State wildlife agencies vary in their authorities to influence how and where energy infrastructure is developed. This special session will provide examples of how state natural resources agencies have approached the complexity of land-use planning and decision-making for energy development in their states. Speakers from Texas, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, California, and Utah will provide insights about how their agencies have cooperated with other state regulators, federal agencies, utilities, and energy developers to help inform energy development. Speakers will describe how their states are leveraging scientific knowledge and decision-support tools as a springboard for landscape planning designed to promote energy development and effective conservation. Speakers also will describe how getting a seat at the table with state and federal regulators and industry stakeholders is necessary to influence the location of energy facilities and transmission corridors, thereby balancing economic and societal benefits while minimizing conflict with wildlife and other natural resources. For existing energy projects, speakers will explain how they are implementing adaptive management and engaging with industries to minimize negative effects once projects are constructed and operational.

The best-practices employed by state agencies and described in Conservation in a Changing Energy Development Landscape set the stage for lessening conflicts associated with future energy development based on lessons learned. These lessons are relevant to all states because new energy generation is becoming more distributed on the landscape and technologies are being deployed across more and more states. The deployment of novel technologies motivates conservation practitioners to employ new and improved scientific, technical, planning, and implementation capabilities to effectively address new energy development and to measure and improve the effectiveness of conservation efforts over time.

Photo Credit
Alan Cressler, USGS
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January 12, 2017