U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
April 1, 2011
Contacts: Mike Blenden 719-589-4021
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Protection Measures for Exploratory Oil and Gas Wells
on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Colorado
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for a proposal by Lexam Explorations (U.S.A.), Inc. to drill two exploratory oil and gas wells on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, located in the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado. A Finding of No Significant Impact is issued when the environmental analysis and interagency review find a project proposal to have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment.
This finding is supported by the final environmental assessment which describes the project proposed by Lexam to conduct initial exploration of mineral interests under the Refuge and analyzes alternatives that seek to protect Refuge resources while honoring a mineral owner's legally vested right to access and explore.
The environmental assessment evaluated the stipulations of the preferred alternative designed to protect the surface estate and other resources of the Refuge from unreasonable damage during all phases of the oil and gas exploration. This finding is limited to the two exploratory wells as stated in the proposal. Any additional exploration wells or activities supporting the production of natural gas or oil on the Refuge will be analyzed through an additional and separate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. NEPA is a United States environmental law that requires all Federal governmental agencies to consider the environmental impacts of any proposed federal actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions.
The Service released a draft environmental assessment in January 2011 for public review and comments were solicited. The Service has considered all comments received in its final environmental assessment.
The preferred alternative outlines 43 terms and conditions to be imposed upon Lexam by the Service in addition to those required by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Saguache County which ensure the exploration program will not have a significant impact on the natural and human environment. Of particular interest are those measures intended to minimize disturbance to wildlife by restricting the seasons of exploration activity to reduce or eliminate interference with migratory bird breeding and big game calving; minimize the risk of ground and surface water contamination; minimize or eliminate impacts to wetland habitat, sensitive fish populations and plant types; reduce probability of noxious weed infestations; manage fugitive dust; and reduce air, noise and light pollution from exploration activities. Appendix D of the final environmental assessment contains a full description of the protective measures required by the Service.
Copies of the final Environmental Assessment are available for viewing or downloading on the Service’s website at: http://www.fws.gov/alamosa/bacaNWR.html. Those without internet access may request copies by calling the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex at 719-589-4021.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.