The greater sage-grouse and whooping crane made a "top 10" list of wildlife most at risk in the nation because of oil and gas development. However, that's not the end of the story for the critters - or the industry.



Duane Short, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance wild-species program director, says the listing should help provide focus.


The greater sage-grouse and whooping crane made a "top 10" list of wildlife most at risk in the nation because of oil and gas development. However, that's not the end of the story for the critters - or the industry.

Duane Short, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance wild-species program director, says the listing should help provide focus.

"Part of the solution is when we know what the science is, allow that science to guide the actions on the ground."

Sage-grouse behavior and range has long been studied, Short says. He makes the case that the oil and gas industry can use technology to minimize its footprint in those areas with such methods as directional drilling. Several companies already do it, while others cite costs or possible loss of production volume.

The state leads the region in well starts, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, with 608 wells started in the first quarter of 2011 alone - more than Wyoming, Utah and Montana combined.

Wildlife biologist Dr. Jan Randall, a professor emeritus of biology at San Francisco State University who is on the scientific advisory board that selected the 10 species, says their demise is being driven by a "Drill, baby, drill" attitude.

"So, the oil companies are just making a ton of money and the environment is suffering the cost. It's huge."

While oil and gas production is important to the mountain West, Short says, making sure that no more species end up on the endangered list is in everyone's best interest.

"The crux of the matter is not stopping everything, but doing what we're doing in a more responsible way - taking into account the environmental impacts."

The report, "Fueling Extinction: How Dirty Energy Drives Wildlife to the Brink," is online at fuelingextinction.org.