National Wildlife Refuge System

Effects on Resources

Oil and gas exploration and production activities can cause both direct and indirect effects on refuge resources.

  • Leaks and spills of oil, brine, or other contaminants are a key concern. Soils, vegetation, water quality, fish and wildlife, and air quality can all be harmed by the release of contaminants.
  • Fish and Wildlife Habitat can be altered, fragmented, or eliminated. Oil and gas activities can disturb and displace wildlife, cause physiological stress, and can even result in wildlife deaths.
  • Introduction of invasive species, especially along road and pipeline routes, can alter habitat. Disturbance caused by oil and gas activities can result in fundamental changes in ecological functions and processes, and lead to increased predation of declining species, reduced reproduction, and increased susceptibility to disease.
  • Public use of refuge areas may be restricted or prohibited. Although the areal extent of oil and gas exploration and production may be limited, the cumulative effects may extend to a much larger area.

The following resource issues are commonly associated with exploration, drilling, and production operations.


Exploration Operations

  
  Seismic exploration vehicle and ruts on marsh at McFaddin NWR, TX. Credit: Monique Slaughter/USFWS

  • Access along seismic lines may require varying levels of vegetation removal.
  • Vehicle travel along seismic lines may damage soils and vegetation.
  • Water quality may be degraded from sedimentation.
  • Small spills and improperly handled wastes can degrade soils and waters, harm vegetation, fish and wildlife, air quality, and aesthetics.
  • Air quality can be degraded from dust and engine emissions.
  • Natural sound is interrupted by vehicles and drilling noises.
  • Fish and wildlife may be injured by human presence, vehicles, exposure to contaminants, loss or degradation of habitat, or unauthorized takings.
  • Cultural resources may be threatened.
  • Large crews may disrupt visitors’ experiences.

Drilling and Production Operations


   Spilled or leaking oil from tank batteries on one of the refuges. Credit: USFWS
  Spilled or leaking oil from tank batteries on one of the refuges. Credit: USFWS
  • Pad construction removes or compacts soil and vegetation and poor construction may accelerate erosion and sedimentation.
  • Leaks, spills, and discharges of oil, drilling muds, wastes, or other contaminants can degrade and harm soils, surface and ground waters, vegetation, fish and wildlife, and air quality.
  • Poorly cased and cemented wells (or improperly plugged wells) may lead to groundwater contamination.
  • Wetlands may be damaged by road and pad construction or threatened by leaks and spills.
  • Dark night skies can be impacted by night-time lighting on drilling rigs and gas flaring.
  • Air quality may be degraded by gas flaring, contaminant spills, dust, and engine emissions.
  • Natural sounds can be overwhelmed by construction and drilling noises.
  • Scenic quality can be degraded by drilling rigs, roads, pads, and other equipment.
  • Fish and wildlife may be injured by human presence, vehicles, exposure to contaminants, loss or degradation of habitat, or unauthorized takings.
  • Cultural resources may be threatened by increased human accessibility and fire.

 

Last updated: February 21, 2014