Baca National Wildlife Refuge

Core Values Statement

Lexam Drilling on the Refuge

Culture & Community

Wetlands & Wildlife

News

Resources

 

 

BACA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The Threat - Drilling on the Refuge

While millions of acres of Colorado’s public and private lands and ecosystems have been impacted by fossil fuel development, the relatively pristine San Luis Valley has been spared until now. In August 2006, the Canadian wildcat corporation, Lexam Explorations, Inc. (Lexam), announced its intention to begin exploration in its 100,000-acre mineral interest holdings in the San Luis Valley.

Lexam purchased the mineral interests for a mere $40,000 in the 1980’s. The Company owns 75% interest and Conoco/Phillips holds 25% interest in the subsurface minerals estate beneath the original Luis Maria Baca Land Grant.

Today that encompasses significant portions of the Baca National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), the 16,000-acre Baca Grande and Casita Park subdivisions (neighboring the town of Crestone), the Rio Grande National Forest Mountain Tract and northern sections of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

The people of the United States paid $33 million dollars to protect these lands in perpetuity. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and others involved in the land exchange made serious efforts to purchase the mineral rights at the time of the land purchase. Tragically, Lexam did not respond to inquires about acquiring the mineral rights. We hope that the USFWS will be able to do what it wanted to do in the first place by seeking a serious mineral rights buyout agreement in the near future.

Because of the dual ownership, which is often known as a “split- estate”, the USFWS originally maintained that it did not have the authority to regulate Lexam under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). In April 2007, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council (SLVEC) filed a lawsuit against USFWS asserting that the agency has ample legal authority to protect the Baca NWR even where the subsurface mineral interests are privately owned.

Not only does the USFWS have the legal duty to implement NEPA, but the surface owners – the American public – have the right to be fully informed of Lexam’s drilling plans for the Baca NWR. The potential impacts shall be thoroughly analyzed through an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that considers a full range of alternatives and mitigation measures and that the public owners of these federal lands have a right to have a say about what happens to the Baca NWR.

In Dec. 2007, the Federal District Court ruled in favor of SLVEC including issuing an order for the USFWS to “prohibit all ground disturbing activities related to the exploration and development of the mineral estate underlying the Baca National Wildlife Refuge during the National Environmental Policy Act process.”