Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

January 18, 2008

Contacts:            Mike Blenden, 719/589-4021

                                                                                                                                                                       

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE RELEASES

DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR ACTIVITES RELATED TO OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION ON BACA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

 

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today released for public review a Draft Environmental Assessment (draft EA) for activities related to oil and gas exploration on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System located in Saguache County, Colorado.

 

The draft EA is posted on the web site for the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge  Complex:  www.fws.gov/alamosa

 

Hard copies of the document will be made available for review at the following locations: San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex headquarters at 8249 Emperius Road, Alamosa, Colorado; Baca Grande Library, County Road T, Crestone, Colorado; and Southern Peaks Public Library, 423 4th Street, Alamosa, Colorado.

 

In order to ensure the public has adequate time to review and comment on the draft EA, the Service has established a 45 day comment period for the document.  Public comment periods for a draft EA produced by the Service typically run 30 days.  All comments on the draft EA must be received by 5:00 pm MDST on March 2, 2008.

 

Comments may be submitted electronically to baca_ea@fws.gov, or in writing to:

 

San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex

9383 El Rancho Lane

Alamosa, CO 81101

 

In addition, the Service will hold an open house on February 12, 2008 to answer questions regarding the draft EA.  Service staff, Lexam and its contractor will share information and answer questions about the draft EA.  The purpose of the open house is to provide an overview of the assessment and explain any components of the plan that are unclear to the reader.

 

The open house will be held on Tuesday, February 12, 2008, from

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm at the Baca Grande Property Association Hall

in Crestone, Colorado.

 

Earlier this year, the Service, in an effort to assist in agency planning and decision making and further involve the public in agency decisions, initiated an environmental assessment process for activities related to oil and gas exploration on the refuge.  Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, the EA process is intended to analyze the Service’s roles and responsibilities as surface owners of the refuge to ensure that exploration of the mineral estate is conducted in a reasonable manner. The Service’s ultimate objective in this process is to protect refuge resources while at the same time honoring Lexam’s valid rights to access and explore the subsurface estate.

 

The EA process began when the Service held a public meeting in August to discuss the process and start scoping associated issues and concerns. 

 

Following the conclusion of the public comment period, the Service will consider comments, finalize the EA for publication and make a determination of whether an environmental impact statement is warranted.  The Service anticipates completing this process in the near future.

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

 

- FWS -

 

                                                                               

For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov