About Us

Oil and gas exploration and development are allowed in specific situations on National Wildlife Refuge System lands and waters. These activities most often occur where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired surface rights to the land, but the mineral estate remained in private or state ownership.  The owners of these "non-federal" mineral rights may be individuals, corporations, state or local governments, tribes or native corporations. Owners have the legal right to explore for and extract their oil and gas resources.

Leasing and development of federally owned oil and gas resources that lie beneath refuges is generally prohibited. Some federal oil and gas leases predate establishment or expansion of a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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Management of oil and gas activities to meet the Refuge System's wildlife conservation mission and protect resources presents complex challenges. The Refuge System's Oil and Gas Program develops regulations and policies to ensure activities meet all environmental laws and regulations. It also provides refuge managers and field staff technical guidance and training.


There are approximately 5,000 wells associated with oil and gas exploration and production on lands owned in fee title by the Fish and Wildlife Service. These well are located on more than 100 national wildlife refuges, including several wetland management districts. One-third of the wells are active, including those producing oil or gas and wells that are injecting gas or fluids underground.

Approximately 1,339 miles of pipelines cross lands owned in fee title. The pipelines transport a variety of petroleum products, including crude oil, refined petroleum products and natural gas.