TPWD Bulletin:

Voluntary Conservation Practices

Balancing Wildlife Conservation and Oil and Gas Development in the Eagle Ford Shale Region of South Texas

Background: The Value of Habitat

Oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford Shale region has been an economic boon for many south Texas communities, businesses, and private landowners. The continued exploration and development of these underground resources will play a key role in how the region grows and prospers in the years to come. Proper planning can ensure that this development doesn't compromise another valuable natural asset in south Texas — the rich and varied wildlife resources of an area that has been called The Last Great Habitat.

This term was coined a decade ago when scientists at Texas A&M University-Kingsville 's Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute realized that while many biologists, hunters and landowners knew and embraced the region's importance to wildlife, few outside this area fully understood its intrinsic value as one of the most biologically diverse places in the United States. In fact, in no small part due to the active stewardship by the region's landowners. South Texas harbors more species of plants and animals than any other region in Texas. This amazing diversity of natural resources has tremendous value to hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, mammals and plant life and is a source of great pride and value to the landowners who own and manage land within the region.

Purpose: The Reason for this Bulletin

The development of emerging shale has had a profound influence on domestic oil and gas supplies, as well as our local, state and national economies. New and improved technologies enabling oil and gas operators to extract resources from shale and shale-like formations like the Eagle Ford have created immense opportunities in mineral rich areas that previously were deemed to be inaccessible or un-economic to develop. In places such as the Eagle Ford, many would also agree that the extraction of these important below ground resources may be pursued in ways, when practicable, that are compatible with the area's vibrant wildlife and diverse wildlife habitats. Numerous examples exist of efforts made by oil and gas companies in concert with private landowners, state and federal agencies, and other entities to accomplish that aim. An essential element in achieving that goal is to ensure that appropriate information is made available to those parties interested in balancing oil and gas development with wildlife conservation on their lands.

The following voluntary conservation practices have been developed to offer guidance regarding wildlife compatibl oil and gas extraction in the Eagle Ford Shale. Recognizing that all lands and scenarios for development are not the same, this document does not include the entire spectrum of regulatory or management practices that can be used to eliminate or minimize adverse impacts to all species of wildlife. These practices do, however, provide a basic foundation for landowners and operators to consider when attempting to balance the necessary development of oil and gas related infrastructure with a property's unique or sensitive wildlife habitats. Undertaking these voluntary practices underscores a commitment to strategic and thorough planning as well as responsible follow-through that will reduce immediate and long-term impacts to your land and all of Texas, including The Last Great Habitat of South Texas.

Management Practices: Minimize Impacts to Natural Resources

Planning: Before the Drilling and Development Begins

Planning is the most important step landowners can take to minimize the impacts of oil and gas development on natural resources. It is critical that one prioritizes what is most important for one's property and then makes sure that all planning, development, operations and reclamation reflect those priorities. Landowners should envision what they want their land to look like during the operation and after final reclamation. Since most oil and gas development is not permanent, sound long-range planning really matters. The placing of infrastructure such as well pads and roads is essential in minimizing the negative impact to wildlife. Infrastructure placement is of critical importance when developing a plan in coordination with the operator.

Communication and planning are the key elements in a productive relationship with an operator. To the extent practical, every location, road, and water feature should be planned. Before any exploration or extraction occurs, make sure the plan is in place and agreed to by all parties. If a landowner doesn't feel that he has the expertise or time to be involved in the process, then an experienced professional should be retained to assist in all phases from start to finish.

Most operators and companies have a deep appreciation and respect for the wildlife and natural resources of Texas. A robust planning process, accompanied by a well-developed surface use agreement and a commitment to active communication are important ingredients to accomplishing that on one's property. The following voluntary practices represent ideas for landowners to consider when their property is being developed.




About this bulletin

This pamphlet was developed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Private Lands Advisory Committee to offer additional information to consider when balancing oil and gas development and wildlife conservation in the important Eagle Ford Shale region of south Texas. Both the Committee and the Department would like to specifically thank representatives of oil and gas industry, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Wildlife Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Taking Care of Texas, and numerous private landowners who provided valuable comments and critical reviews to make this document useful.