Oil and gas drilling threatens fish and aquatic habitat onshore

A recent article reported that the Pennsylvania Secretary of Environmental Protection has stated that "water discharges from Marcellus shale drilling operations have already harmed aquatic life in the state...." Because of this, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is seeking the help of anglers to identify and survey 45,000 unmanaged Pennsylvania streams in search of native trout. These streams have to be identified in order to be protected from industrial development.

Pennsylvania is not the only place where fish are being harmed or are at risk from oil and gas production. Throughout the Rocky Mountain region, aquatic habitat is threatened. NRDC is working to protect wildlands and wild streams in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah that could be devastated by drilling. Sportsmen for Responsible Energy has found that hunting and fishing contribute $7 billion each year to the economy of the West, but the group also found that many of the worst impacts of energy development on irreplacable fish and wildlife habitat can be avoided with careful planning.

According to Trout Unlimited, the ecological effects of gas and oil development are extensive: "If not done responsibly, this development can contaminate ground and surface water supplies, reduce water quantity and degrade fish habitat."

Back in Pennsylvania, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has found that natural gas production activities can impair important trout fisheries. The Corps has stated that these activities pose a "genuine and extreme threat to regional water quality."

Many win-win solutions exist that can protect our wildest lands and streams--our most vital wildlife habitat. Our federal and state agencies should preserve the most vulnerable areas while requiring the highest possible protection where drilling does occur.

About the Authors

Amy Mall

Senior Policy Analyst, Land & Wildlife program

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