Oil and Gas Leasing Threatening Already-Stressed Water Resources in Montana

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Montana is lucky to have quality fish and wildlife habitat throughout the state. That’s why it’s known as one of the best hunting and angling destinations in the West. Without sufficient water resources, much of this habitat wouldn’t produce quality fish and wildlife populations that we enjoy today.

A new analysis of the Department of Interior’s oil and gas leasing has shown that the current “Energy Dominance” agenda is putting already stressed water resources at risk, both in terms of water quality and quantity. 

The analysis looked at areas throughout the Western oil producing states that currently suffer from a lack of water availability. Along with suffering during prolonged drought years, Montana is projected to have more frequent droughts and increased water demand in the future. The analysis found that nearly 57% of oil and gas leases since 2017 have been offered in areas identified as “extremely high” water-stress. 

Despite some oil and gas wells requiring millions of gallons of water, the widespread leases offered throughout the west have gone mostly unscrutinized, and outdated policies like non-competitive leasing are offering lands for as cheap as $1.50/acre. For species like the greater sage-grouse, that depend on riparian areas or wet meadows in late summer, continued leasing offered in extremely high water-stressed areas is a threat to their survival. Montana’s already-stressed water resources are too precious to risk for oil and gas development. 

More information on the analysis.

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Alec Underwood

Senior Policy & evelopment Director

Alec is responsible for developing and implementing MWF’s federal conservation advocacy and policy campaigns to protect Montana’s fish and wildlife. He spends most of his free time hunting big game and fly fishing Montana’s cherished trout rivers. He also enjoys backpacking, skiing, photography, and woodworking.