Feds Launch Review for Baca Refuge (CO) Drilling PLan

November 10, 2010

 From Colorado Energy News http://coloradoenergynews.com

Taken from posting by Colorado Energy News staff with Bob Berwyn and Matt Hidner

SUMMIT COUNTY — After withdrawing an earlier approval for test drilling leases

in the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [1] is 
re-starting an environmental study with a scoping meeting held Tuesday at 
the Colorado College [2] Baca Conference Center. The public discussion focused 
on a proposal to drill two exploratory natural gas wells in the area, and was 
was a chance for the public to weigh in and help the federal agency identify the 
issues it should address in the environmental review.
 Federal officials heard many of the same objections they did the first time 
around regarding the proposal from Toronto-based Lexam Explorations. The 
proposal stems from last month’s settlement of a lawsuit in which the San Luis 
Valley Ecosystem Council challenged the agency’s handling of the proposal in its 
previous review.
The 17 residents on hand Tuesday questioned the scale of the proposed review. 
The wildlife service has proposed an environmental assessment, which is less 
comprehensive than an environmental impact statement.
The Baca National Wildlife Refuge was authorized with passage of the Great Sand 
Dunes National Park and Preserve [3] Act of 2000. It was established in 2003 and 
expanded in 2004 with acquisition of the Baca Ranch [4] to restore, enhance, and 
maintain wetland, upland, riparian, and other habitats for native wildlife, 
plant, and fish species in the San Luis Valley [5].
In 2006 Lexam Explorations [6], Inc proposed drilling two exploratory wells on 
the Baca National Wildlife Refuge to assess the potential for marketable 
quantities of natural gas or oil. Conservation groups in the San Luis Valley 
oppose drilling in the refuge, and at the very least, want the USFWS to review 
the proposal with an in-depth environmental impact statement — especially since 
the Baca National Wildlife Refuge still doesn’t have a comprehensive 
conservation management plan in place.
Conservation and community groups in the San Luis Valley also want the USFWS to 
pursue an appraisal for the purpose of a federal minerals buyout and retirement 
of the privately held mineral rights as part of the analysis.
If you cannot attend this meeting, comments can be sent electronically 
to BacaScopingComments@fws.gov [7]. Comments will be accepted until Wednesday

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