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Bowen, Z.H., C.L. Aldridge, P.J. Anderson, T.J. Assal, L.R.H. Biewick, S.W. Blecker, G.K. Boughton, S. Bristol, N.B. Carr, A.D. Chalfoun, G.W. Chong, M.L. Clark, J.E. Diffendorfer, B.C. Fedy, K. Foster, S.L. Garman, S. Germaine, et al. 2011. U.S. Geological Survey Science for the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative-2010 Annual Report: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011-1219. 147 p.

Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI)

Simulated surface disturbance (yr 2029) resulting from different rates of future oil/gas development in a 130 x 130 km area in SW Wyoming. Light to dark colors is increasing surface disturbance. A - based on recent rate of development; B - one half recent rate of development; C - twice current rate of development; and D - twice current rate of development and relaxed density restrictions.
Simulated surface disturbance (yr 2029) resulting from
different rates of future oil/gas development in a
130 x 130 km area in SW Wyoming. Light to dark colors
is increasing surface disturbance. A - based on recent rate
of development; B - one half recent rate of development;
C - twice current rate of development; and D - twice current
rate of development and relaxed density restrictions.
The Green River basin in SW Wyoming is one of the top 5 basins in the US in terms of oil/gas reserves, and also contains some of the largest intact sagebrush steppe habitat. Oil/gas development in SW Wyoming has increased over the past decade in response to national energy needs. Loss of habitat due to infrastructure footprint, and avoidance of habitat in proximity to human activities is a concern for species such as the greater sage-grouse and other sagebrush obligates. Continued loss of suitable habitat threatens to result in federal listing of key species under the Endangered Species Act. Assessing future plausible land-use patterns and effects to wildlife can help identify land use attributes (spatial and temporal patterns) that may lead to substantive declines in habitat or with the potential to accommodate energy development with minimal effects on wildlife.

A spatially explicit simulation model is being developed that simulates oil/gas pad development and related infrastructure (roads) in response to user-provided rates of development. The model relies on extensive geospatial data layers that identify landscape areas available for oil/gas development, state and federal restrictions on development (e.g., sage-grouse core areas), and the existing energy development footprint, among other data themes. The simulation model is designed to locate oil/gas pad development on the basis of spacing rules and annual developmental rates, supplied by the user. These can be varied to explore different efficiency options (e.g., no. wells per pad) and spacing rules. Re-vegetation of older pad scars also is possible. Assessments of wildlife habitat are based on published information on the effects of road and oil/gas pad density on species, and habitat configuration (e.g., fragmentation, patch size).

Objectives of this effort are: 1) Develop and use a spatially-explicit simulation model to forecast future oil/gas development to identify potential effects on native habitat conditions, and 2) using the simulation model, identify land uses (temporal and spatial patterns) that lead to tipping points (rapid decline) in native habitat properties (e.g., greater sage-grouse habitat). Results of this objective will provide land managers with examples of land-uses to avoid, and land-uses that may balance energy development and conservation management. In support of simulation scenarios, a third objective is the development of a contemporary oil/gas pad geospatial layer for SW Wyoming. Using 1-m NAIP imagery from 2009, ca. 16,000 pad scars have been extracted and are used to represent baseline conditions in the simulation scenarios.

Principal Investigator: Steven Garman, slgarman@usgs.gov, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, Denver, CO

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