Rulemaking and NEPA

NEW Final Rulemaking and Record of Decision
As part of its ongoing commitment to preserving America's rich wildlife legacy and the ability of all Americans to enjoy their unique and spectacular public lands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is finalizing a rule to govern the management of non-federal oil and gas development on lands of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The final revisions to the 50-year-old regulations allow for the continued responsible extraction of oil and gas, but require closer adherence to industry best management practices, and will prevent the potentially hazardous abandonment of infrastructure and on-refuge disposal of 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 revised regulations will reduce refuge impacts, including habitat loss and degradation, wildlife mortality and displacement, and other risks to ecological integrity. The revisions will avoid or minimize the adverse effects on natural and cultural resources and wildlife-dependent recreation associated with oil and gas development activities.

More than 100 refuges have oil and gas operations, including almost 1,700 wells actively producing oil and gas, and thousands more inactive or plugged wells. While in most instances, impacts on refuge resources are minimal, improperly conducted oil and gas activities on refuges can result in significant damage to wildlife and their habitats.

The Service reviewed and considered all comments, in preparation of the final rule, which are available online at under docket: [FWS-HQ-NWRS-2012-0086]. The notice of availability of the final environmental impact statement (EIS) published in the Federal Register on August 22, 2016. The final rule will publish in the Federal Register on November 14, 2016, and become effective 30 days after on December 14, 2016. The final rule is being published concurrently with the record of decision (ROD) completing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

Download a copy of the final rule, ROD and final EIS.

Read the final rule Press Release.


On December 11, 2015, the Service 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, opening a 60-day comment period that closed on February 9, 2016.

Download a copy of the proposed rule and DEIS.
Read the proposed rule Press Release.

On February 24, 2014, the Service published the ANPR/NOI in the Federal Register opening a 60-day comment period that closed on April 25, 2014. The Service reopened the ANPR/NOI for another 30-day comment period until July 9, 2014. The ANPR/NOI asked a series of questions regarding management and oversight of nonfederal oil and gas operations on Refuge System lands and waters.

Read the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) (64 KB PDF)
For a summary report of the public comments: Summary Report
Read the ANPR Press Release