Energy Development, Habitat Quality, and Native Fish Communities in Southwestern Wyoming

Tuesday, September 10, 2013: 1:20 PM
Hoffman (The Marriott Little Rock)
Annika Walters , USGS Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit, Laramie, WY
Carlin Girard , University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Wyoming has experienced a substantial increase in energy development over the last two decades. Oil and gas extraction is currently occurring throughout the southern extent of the Wyoming Range. Drilling practices and associated infrastructure will alter stream habitat conditions which can affect fish assemblages. We compared native fish assemblages, riparian condition, sedimentation rates, and water quality and quantity between active energy development sites and undeveloped sites within the Labarge oil and gas field in southwestern Wyoming. We found that in areas with high energy development, streams had reduced shrub cover and increased suspended sediment. Fish species varied in their sensitivity to energy development; cutthroat trout and mottled sculpin showed decreased abundances in affected streams, but mountain suckers maintained good population sizes. Improved understanding the effects of energy development on habitat conditions and native fish will allow more explicit management and mitigation recommendations for the protection of native fish communities.