Smart Renewable Development Safeguards the future of Hunting and Fishing

Renewable energy must be developed smart from the start...

  • Craig Thompson, Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Environmental Science
  • Sep 06, 2023

My father was instrumental in introducing me to the values of wildlife. I come from a family of hunters and anglers and as a young child, my dad often drove me around in the country. With our binoculars, we focused on diverse wildlife populations including pronghorn, mule deer and elk. That is why hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation is an integral part of my life. I have instilled this in my kids; and it’s now an integral part of their lives.

When I was a child, we moved to Rock Springs, Wyoming, to follow my father’s career in the oil and gas industry. After going out of state for college, I ultimately returned to Wyoming to increase my knowledge of the land, water and wildlife through hunting, fishing and teaching environmental science and engineering at Western Wyoming Community College.

As oil and gas development continues to expand, I’ve noticed a definite decrease in wildlife populations. For decades, I’ve been taking my students out to monitor sage grouse leks and we’ve seen the disappearance of sage grouse from two different leks that we’ve monitored. In my twenties, it was common to go for a drive in the evening near our cabin and count more than 70 deer. 

Today, you would be lucky if you see seven. Furthermore, wildlife migration problems have also developed as the oil and gas roads lace back and forth disrupting wildlife habitat. I understand development isn’t the only reason populations are dwindling, but I want to ensure that now, as Western states are rapidly developing renewable energy on public lands, that we make sure we learn from our past mistakes. We need  to build renewables in a responsible manner and limit negative impacts to our lands, waters and wildlife. The bottom line is renewable energy must be developed smart from the start.

Solar development

Earlier this year, I was invited to participate in a film for the National Wildlife Federation Outdoors that urged hunters and anglers to advocate for responsible renewable energy development. I was excited about this opportunity because I think it's important that sportsmen and women realize they have a powerful voice to ensure that the mistakes that were made in energy development in the past should never happen again.

Development of renewable energy on public lands and waters is inevitable, but if we approach it responsibly, we can avoid negative impacts to wildlife as well as communities. We need to ensure that we have first optimized development in other areas besides public lands. For example, we have ample space for solar development on roofs. We need to remove obstacles to rooftop solar until nearly every building and parking lot is utilized and so that energy is being produced near the urban centers where it is consumed. We should also utilize already developed sites near existing transmission corridors, brownfield sites, and industrial sites. Finally, when we do build renewable energy on our public lands, we should ensure that it doesn’t interfere with wildlife migration corridors, it doesn’t involve fencing that can push wildlife onto roads and highways, and that the best science is used so that impacts to wildlife are limited.

Craig Thompson

I hope fellow hunters and anglers speak up about why it’s critical for smart renewable development moving forward. Please watch the film we created together, get informed and speak up on behalf of wildlife and our hunting.

Be sure to watch the film linked below! 

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The Great American Outdoors Act will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund while investing in a backlog of public land maintenance, providing current and future generations the outdoor recreation opportunities like boat launches to access fishable waters, shooting ranges, and public lands to hunt as well as the economic stimulus we need right now. 

Tell Congress to Pass the Great American Outdoors Act and Fully Fund LWCF!