Oil industry, wildlife groups develop best practices

BISMARCK – North Dakota oil and gas producers have new guidelines to help them minimize impacts to wildlife and habitat.

Industry representatives and wildlife and conservation groups announced Tuesday best practices such as consolidating facilities away from sensitive areas and establishing common routes for multiple pipelines.

Even though the best practices are voluntary, the director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said the feedback he’s received is that most companies will implement them.

“I think it’s going to be tremendous,” said Terry Steinwand. “They’re already doing a lot of these things.”

The Sporting and Oil Industry Forum, a group of industry officials and conservation and wildlife groups, has met three times to develop the guidelines.

A fourth meeting is scheduled for next week, and the group plans to continue meeting quarterly, said Terry Fleck, chairman for the North Dakota Energy Forum who’s been facilitating the meetings.

“What’s unique about this group is that they may be industry people, but they love the outdoors as much as we do,” Fleck said.

The group also is using geographic information systems (GIS) maps to educate industry officials about sensitive habitat areas for certain species, such as mule deer

Blaine Hoffman of Whiting Petroleum said the company uses the maps to determine where to put drilling locations and roads so they’ll have less impact.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said reducing impacts to wildlife is essential. Encouraging the development of pipelines is one example of what the council is doing to reduce impacts, he said.

“Companies want to do this and we will continue these efforts,” Ness said.

John Devney, vice president of U.S. policy with the Delta Waterfowl Foundation who has attended all three of the group’s meetings, said the forum provides open and honest dialog between industry officials and conservation groups.

“I see this unique opportunity to really sit down and get this right from the beginning,” Devney said.

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