On December 11, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 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. The proposed revisions continue to allow for the responsible extraction of oil and gas, but require closer adherence to industry best management practices – especially with respect to abandoned infrastructure and 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 regulations will reduce refuge impacts, including habitat loss and degradation, wildlife mortality and displacement, and other risks to ecological integrity.
More than 100 refuges have oil and gas operations, including almost 1,700 actively producing oil and gas wells, and thousands more inactive or plugged wells. While in most instances, impacts on refuge resources are minimal, improperly conducted oil and gas development on refuges can result in significant damage to wildlife and their habitats.
The Service is reviewing and considering all comments, which are available at http://www.regulations.gov under docket: [FWS-HQ-NWRS-2012-0086]. The Service expects to publish a final rule and EIS in the Federal Register in summer 2016.
Read the Press Release.
Get answers to frequently asked questions.
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 asks a series of questions regarding management and oversight of nonfederal oil and gas operations on Refuge System lands and waters. As part of the process, the Service is reviewing all comments the agency received since first publishing the ANPR in the Federal Register.
Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) (64 KB PDF)
For a summary report of the public comments: Summary Report
Comments and materials, as well as supporting documentation, are available for public inspection at http://www.regulations.gov under docket number: FWS–HQ–NWRS–2012–0086.
Read the ANPR Press Release