March 5, 2008
Contact: Lesley A. Collins
BLM Works with Oil and Gas Industry on Spring Wildlife Restrictions
In 2007, spring wildlife restrictions on federal leases in the Powder River Basin impacted coalbed natural gas (CBNG) operations, which resulted in significant public concern. In response, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Buffalo Field Office (BFO) has been working with the oil and gas industry on 2008 spring wildlife restrictions in the Powder River Basin.
The objectives of the agency-industry working group were to identify actions or processes that could reduce the socioeconomic impact of spring wildlife stipulations to oil and gas operators while maintaining wildlife objectives. These meetings resulted in the identification of 20 short and long-term issues categorized into the following areas:
- Raptor Conditions of Approval
- Sage Grouse Conditions of Approval
- Seeding/Reclamation Conditions of Approval
- Clarification of Allowable Pre and Post-Production Activities
- Scheduling of Pre-Construction Meetings
- Access to Fee/State Well Locations
- BFO Management Actions to Improve Condition of Approval and POD Processing
BLM issued revised guidance to operators regarding raptor restrictions on January 29, 2008. The guidance affected restrictions for six raptor species and provided increased flexibility to continue CBNG operations through February.
On March 5, 2008, BLM provided additional guidance and responses to seeding/reclamation, allowable activity, preconstruction meetings, access to state/fee wells, and management action issues. This guidance expanded the spring seeding program and provided clarification to the CBNG industry about the allowable activities and the extent of BLM’s authority on federal actions.
The working group also considered changes to spring sage grouse restrictions, but in light of recent court rulings regarding potential listing under the Endangered Species Act, the existing restrictions were retained pending further national guidance.
Overall, this effort has resulted in additional flexibility to conduct operations on federal leases during the spring period, which should reduce adverse socio-economic impacts. In addition, the clarification provided by BLM should allow the CBNG industry to better plan their spring operations both within their companies and with contractors.
BLM remains committed to a balanced approach to multiple resource management that provides for responsible development of the Powder River Basin’s energy resources while maintaining viable wildlife populations, minimizing erosion and respecting other surface resources.