Special to the PRESS
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement (EIS) to update 50 year-old regulations governing the management of non-federal oil and gas development on National Wildlife Refuge System lands. The proposed revisions continue to allow for the responsible extraction of oil and gas, but require closer adherence to industry best management practices – especially with respect to abandoned infrastructure and debris.
Private individuals and other entities retain ownership of subsurface minerals on many Service lands, including national wildlife refuges, and have the legal right to develop those resources. The regulations will reduce refuge impacts, including habitat loss and degradation, wildlife mortality and displacement, and other risks to ecological integrity.
“These proposed rule revisions strike an appropriate balance between the rights of owners to develop energy resources with the Service’s critical role in protecting refuges and the fish and wildlife that depend upon them,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Refuges are national treasures offering unparalleled opportunities for Americans of all ages, means and backgrounds to hunt, fish, hike, boat and just enjoy being outdoors. We owe it to this and future generations to meet our mission responsibility.”
More than 100 refuges have oil and gas operations, including almost 1,700 actively producing oil and gas wells, and thousands more inactive or plugged wells. While in most instances, impacts on refuge resources are minimal, improperly conducted oil and gas development on refuges can result in significant damage to wildlife and their habitats.
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