Governor Bullock’s Energy Future Blueprint Is a Step Forward for Wildlife

At first glance, it might not seem like there’s much of a correlation between energy development and wildlife conservation. But dig in just a little bit and a whole bunch of connections become obvious.

First of all, mining and drilling for the natural resources used in energy production often have significant impacts on wildlife habitat. Second, the electricity production facilities themselves often create problems for fish and wildlife. Power plants often create harmful waste, impact local groundwater, and even pollute waters hundreds of miles away with mercury. Even renewable energy facilities have their impacts. Hydro dams often block important fish migrations.  Wind turbines can impact bird and bat populations.

Third—and probably most importantly— energy production from fossil fuels exacerbates global climate change, which is already impacting habitat and wildlife behavior in a myriad of ways.

Mountain goat

Mountain goats and other wildlife feel the impacts of energy production. Photo by Leah Grunzke.

With these impacts in mind, we should be grateful to Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock. He recently issued a blueprint to address the state’s energy issues. Entitled MONTANA ENERGY FUTURE-The Future of Montana Electricity: Valuing our Traditions and Seizing Opportunity to Create Jobs, this blueprint is a positive step forward for the state’s wildlife and outdoor economy. In short, it outlines forward-thinking, common sense ways to build out responsibly-sited renewable energy and increase energy efficiency to reduce the in-state demand for electricity.

Here are just a few examples of the comprehensive recommendations offered in the blueprint:

  • Cohesive energy development: Develop legislation to establish an energy infrastructure authority with responsibilities to develop a comprehensive energy policy, coordinate state resources, explore funding options, assess transmission needs, and more.
  • Enhanced power transmission: Montana officials are directed to open dialogues with nearby states and provinces and the Bonneville Power Administration with a goal of breaking down current barriers associated with existing and new power line corridors.
  • Increased renewable power potential: The blueprint supports the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, directs state officials to create a strategy to increase solar development in the state, advocates for open markets for Montana renewable energy in states that are seeking to increase the renewable share of their state energy portfolios, and directs state officials to pursue and market opportunities for businesses to take advantage of Montana’s great renewable resource.
  • Reduce electric energy use by 10% by 2025: Create a $5 million revolving fund accessible to schools and local governments for energy conservation projects, eliminating the backlog of low-income weatherization needs, and directing state officials to generate and implement policies that make utilities’ returns on energy efficiency investments predictable and fair.
  • Wildlife-friendly energy construction: The blueprint directs state natural resource agencies to form a working group “to determine what steps may be necessary to ensure adequate protections for the integrity and viability of Montana’s wildlife and other natural resources in siting decisions.”

Governor Bullock’s new blueprint is sound and full of important ideas. Wildlife and Montana’s outdoor economy will benefit greatly from it — if it is implemented in a comprehensive manner.

Thank the Governor

Please call Governor Bullock’s office to thank him for his good work on the blueprint and to ask him to dedicate his and his staff’s time and effort into its implementation. He can be reached via phone at 406-444-3111 or electronically via the his website.

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