Energy Development in Colorado’s Pawnee National Grasslands: Mapping and Measuring the Disturbance Footprint of Renewables and Non-Renewables
This paper examines the pattern and extent of energy development in steppe landscapes of northeast Colorado, United States. We compare the landscape disturbance created by oil and gas production to that of wind energy inside the Pawnee National Grasslands eastern side. This high-steppe landscape consists of a mosaic of federal, state, and private lands where dominant economic activities include ranching, agriculture, tourism, oil and gas extraction, and wind energy generation. Utilizing field surveys, remote sensing data and geographic information systems techniques, we quantify and map the footprint of energy development at the landscape level. Findings suggest that while oil and gas and wind energy development have resulted in a relatively small amount of habitat loss within the study area, the footprint stretches across the entire zone, fragmenting this mostly grassland habitat. Futhermore, a third feature of this landscape, the non-energy transportation network, was also found to have a significant impact. Combined, these three features fragment the entire Pawnee National Grasslands eastern side, leaving very few large intact core, or roadless areas. The primary objective of this ongoing work is to create a series of quantifiable and replicable surface disturbance indicators linked to energy production in semi-arid grassland environments. Based on these, and future results, we aim to work with industry and regulators to shape energy policy as it relates to environmental performance, with the aim of reducing the footprint and thus increasing the sustainability of these extractive activities.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Baynard, Mjachina, K., Richardson, R. D., Schupp, R. W., Lambert, J. D., & Chibilyev, A. A. (2017). Energy Development in Colorado’s Pawnee National Grasslands: Mapping and Measuring the Disturbance Footprint of Renewables and Non-Renewables. Environmental Management (New York), 59(6), 995–1016. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-017-0846-z