Land Conservation & Biodiversity
Preserving our shared landscapes
Devon is committed to leaving our work locations in the same or better condition than we found them by being good stewards of the land, wildlife and habitat. To protect biodiversity, we work to minimize our operational footprint and impacts to the landscape, wildlife and their habitats, and cultural and historical resources. We believe that our commitment to land conservation and biodiversity will foster strong relationships with government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, academia and other stakeholders.
We operate in prairies, grasslands, deserts and forested areas, and on federal, state, tribal and private lands. To preserve our shared landscapes for future generations, Devon’s priority is to disrupt the land as little as possible and mitigate any impacts throughout the oil and gas production lifecycle. We also engage in activities to reclaim the lands we’ve disturbed when our work is complete.
In addition to operational impacts, the direct drivers of the loss of biodiversity value associated with our operations include climate change, land use changes, pollution of the environment and the spread of invasive species. All of these drivers play a role in reducing the availability of suitable habitat for native species, and impact the richness and diversity of native species. Devon takes steps to mitigate these risks through our land conservation and biodiversity practices that address impacts to species richness and diversity, including habitat degradation and destruction associated with land use changes, and impacts of invasive species. Our Climate Change and Air Emissions sections address the broader climate change driver of habitat suitability and biodiversity loss. Additionally, preventing environmental pollution is addressed in our Waste Management and Spill Prevention sections.
Devon’s Biodiversity Council develops and implements enterprise-wide standards that avoid, minimize or mitigate our ecological impact, and looks for opportunities to enhance biodiversity value of Devon-owned surface lands. The council and our biodiversity team work with our business units to integrate biodiversity improvements into our ongoing and future operations.
Devon’s enterprise-wide Reclamation Standard that establishes minimum success criteria for all reclamation work went into effect in mid-2022. We track and assess our reclamation results with the goal of increasing native species diversity and richness in areas we once disturbed. In 2022, Devon reclaimed 87 well pad/access road locations occupying 299 acres across the enterprise. Of those locations, 18 sites occupying 96 acres met the requirements of the standard.
Additionally, Devon continues to pilot a project to determine the feasibility of conserving an acre of land for every acre of well pad and access road disturbance caused by Devon operations. As part of this effort, we’re assessing the potential of some Devon-owned surface lands for use in mitigating disturbance, and for opportunities to preserve, restore or enhance biodiversity value.
Assessing potential impacts up front
Devon’s Pre-Construction Environmental Protocol requires us to identify potential issues up front. Biodiversity management is integrated into our process for selecting the placement of our well pads, access roads and pipeline corridors. We start by completing a desktop environmental assessment in an area where we’ve staked out a well pad location. If we identify potential environmental impacts during the desktop review, we then conduct field surveys to facilitate our strategy to avoid, minimize and/or mitigate. These environmental assessments help identify sensitive environmental areas, such as threatened and endangered species habitats, wetlands and water bodies.
Newly listed Threatened and/or Endangered species can impact our operations, especially where a federal nexus exists related to the Endangered Species Act. Devon believes it’s important to identify petitioned species listing early in a project for several reasons. First, early impact assessments can enhance our operational flexibility. Second, if we can timely address species listings, we can facilitate research that creates best available scientific data for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to use in its listing decision. In 2022, the Devon IT team assigned to the Biodiversity Core Committee developed a system for early identification of potentially impactful petitions so they can be referred to our ecological staff for assessment. In 2023, we plan to explore funding of ecological research for select petitioned species to help provide robust best available scientific data for the USFWS to use in its listing decisions.
In Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, Devon has contracted wildlife biologists to conduct annual spring surveys for the multiple species of raptors that build their nests and raise their young in the areas that we operate. Devon environmental and planning professionals use the year-overyear information regarding nesting activity and history to inform well pad and access road placement. We regularly move well sites and access roads to avoid impacts to raptor nests and use the nesting history to help us plan our drill schedules to avoid activity in sensitive nesting areas during the spring months.
Collaborative conservation efforts
Protecting the land involves building relationships with landowners, neighbors, industry groups, and state and federal agencies such as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Working with the BLM wildlife department in the New Mexico Delaware Basin, we created more permanent, quality nesting areas to further protect several species of birds and raptors in our areas of planned activity. Additionally, we worked with Cooks Branch Conservancy in Montgomery County, Texas, to waive our surface rights for development of oil and gas resources. In releasing our rights, we effectively protected the lands so that they could be added to the Cook’s Branch Conservancy, a native pine forest and home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, among other species. We’re assessing other projects that would restore or enhance the biodiversity value of Devon-owned surface lands in Texas and Oklahoma.
Land stewardship projects
We’ve shared our love of the land with college students as a sponsor of the Wyoming Conservation Corps (WCC) and its hands-on land stewardship projects since 2007. The students spend ten days doing work that the BLM considers necessary but lacks the funds to complete, such as removing and rebuilding fencing, removing invasive vegetation and maintaining trails. Devon hosted our traditional volunteer day for students in 2022 with the Casper BLM office and will complete a WCC project with the Buffalo BLM Field Office in 2023.
Through a BLM partnership, Devon restored thousands of acres of land in the Wyoming Powder River Basin. We completed this program to plug and reclaim 370 idle coalbed methane natural gas wells and reclaim nearby roads in 2021. In 2022, we continued reclaiming structures related to coal bed methane wells, including two freshwater reservoirs. We intend to complete those reclamation projects in 2023 in accordance with Devon’s Reclamation Standard. Devon continues to reach out to the BLM to help them plant trees, clean up trash and take on other land stewardship projects on federal lands.
The Public Lands Foundation recognized our leadership and vision with its Landscape Stewardship Certificate of Appreciation in 2019, making Devon the only oil and gas company to receive the award.