Feds seek input on managing private oil and gas drilling in national wildlife refuges

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Fish and Wildlife Service to take comments on oil and gas development within the National Wildlife Refuge System

WASHINGTON (February 24, 2014) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) announced that it will seek public comments on the management of private oil and gas development activities within federal wildlife refuges in the country’s National Wildlife Refuge System. The Service plans to work with a variety of stakeholders to ensure that best conservation and management practices are utilized when reserved, private oil and gas interests are developed on refuge land. Below-surface mineral rights are privately owned on many refuge lands, and more than 200 refuges contain active oil and gas operations that currently lack uniform and consistent oversight. Moreover, the Fish and Wildlife Refuge System regulations for managing private oil and gas activities on national wildlife refuges are significantly outdated and inadequate for ensuring that private oil and gas activities on refuges avoid and minimize adverse impacts to refuge resources wherever possible.

The following is a statement from Noah Matson, Vice President of Landscape Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife:

“This review is long overdue. For years our nation’s treasured wildlife refuges have been subjected to private oil and gas development activities with little to no regulation. On many of our refuges, precious resources and threatened wildlife have been adversely affected or sacrificed because the Fish and Wildlife Service’s existing refuge regulations for managing private oil and gas activities were grossly inadequate. My own staff a discovered a spill on a refuge that refuge staff didn’t even know about.

“The Service must develop a consistent and comprehensive strategy for regulating private oil and gas development that will provide owners of valid mineral rights access to their oil and gas interests, but condition that access on compliance with reasonable restrictions as necessary to avoid or minimize damage to refuge wildlife and habitat.

"For decades, the National Park and National Forest Systems have had much more effective regulatory programs for managing the development of reserved, private oil and gas interests within national parks and national forests. The National Wildlife Refuge System is long overdue for updating their regulations and catching up with these other conservation systems.”

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Contact: Courtney Sexton, csexton@defenders.org, 202-772-0253

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. Follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.

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