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FWS initiates new environmental assessment on oil and gas drilling in Baca National Wildlife Refuge

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service is going back to the table to write a new EA or EIS to assess the impacts of exploratory oil and gas wells in the Baca National Wildlife Refuge in southern Colorado.  After initial approvals were derailed by a lawsuit and injunction that stressed the noise impacts of drilling at Great Sand Dunes National Park, the FWS settled the lawsuit in September by withdrawing its previous approvals and agreeing to more comprehensive environmental studies.  Wasting no time, the scoping meetings for the new EA or EIS took place in late October, and scoping comments are being accepted until November 10, after which FWS will begin writing a new EA; if significant impacts are found, an EIS will be produced. A pdf version of the FWS Powerpoint at the public meeting can be viewed online. Drilling operations at each of the two sites would last for 90 days; if the exploratory wells find significant potential for commercial development, further environmental analysis would precede any future activity on the Refuge.

Baca National Wildlife Refuge

Baca National Wildlife Refuge

The Baca NWR was established in 2003 and is not yet open to the public; a “conceptual management plan” was released in 2005; the lack of a completed management plan was part of the reason that the earlier drilling was challenged.

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