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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on two oil and gas exploration drilling projects inside Utah's Ouray National Wildlife Refuge.
The service on Monday released separate draft Environmental Assessments for a nine-well proposal by Ultra Resource Inc. and a two-well proposal by Thurston Energy LLC. The two companies, both headquartered in Texas, control some of the mineral estate under the 12,000-acre refuge along a 12-mile stretch of the Green River south of Vernal.
The refuge was established in 1960 to provide prime breeding, resting and feeding areas for migratory waterfowl traveling along the Green River corridor. Its riparian and wetland areas are crucial to protecting disappearing native fish and migratory birds.
Fish and Wildlife is obligated to both protect the refuge's habitat values and accommodate access to energy developers.
Ultra plans to drill its wells from five pads and install a total of about 3 miles of access roads, pipelines and overhead power lines inside the refuge, as well as equipment associated with oil and gas production.
Thurston is looking to drill two vertical wells to tap oil and gas leased from the state School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.