Extensive shale gas development is expected throughout the Appalachian Basin, and implementing effective avoidance and mitigation techniques to reduce ecosystem impacts is essential. Adoption of best management practices (BMPs) is an important approach for standardizing these techniques. For BMPs to be credible and effective, they need to be strongly supported by science. We focused on 28 BMPs related to surface impacts to habitat and wildlife and tested whether each practice was supported in the scientific literature. Our quantitative assessment produced four general conclusions: (1) the vast majority of BMPs are broad in nature, which provides flexibility in implementation, but the lack of site-specific details may hamper effectiveness and potential for successful conservation outcomes; (2) relatively low support scores were calculated for a number of BMPs, most notably those relating to noise and light pollution, due to existing research documenting effects on behavior rather than directly on species' survival and fitness—an indication that more research is needed; (3) the most commonly and strongly supported BMPs include landscape-level planning and shared infrastructure; avoidance of sensitive areas, aquatic habitats, and core forest areas; and road design, location, and maintenance; and (4) actions to enhance the development and implementation of BMPs should include public education, increased communication among scientists, improved data sharing, development of site-specific BMPs that focus on achieving ecological outcomes, and more industry collaboration.
Environmental Practice 14:308–319 (2012)