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 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 2021, we harnessed over 70 years of staff experience and deep understanding of biodiversity by forming a team dedicated to preserving, restoring and enhancing biodiversity value as we continue to develop our oil and gas resources. This 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.

Through recommendation of the council, Devon adopted an enterprise-wide Reclamation Standard that helps ensure the quality of our disturbance reclamations by taking steps to reestablish biodiversity value consistently across the company. The standard, which went into effect mid-2022, established minimum success criteria for that reclamation work. We track and assess our reclamation results with the goal of increasing native species diversity and richness in areas we once disturbed. We believe that building a track record for consistently high-quality reclamation work will foster strong relationships with government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders.

Additionally, Devon will 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 avoid, minimize or mitigate strategy. These environmental assessments help identify sensitive environmental areas, such as threatened and endangered species habitats, wetlands and water bodies.

Dakota Skipper butterfly (Hesperia dacotae). Photo by Corie Ereth.

For example, in New Mexico, we relocated two well pads, removed others from consideration, and moved a proposed pad to avoid cultural resources and a sensitive geological feature identified in an environmental assessment. In North Dakota, our ecological experts are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation to avoid and minimize direct impact to suitable Dakota Skipper butterfly (Hesperia dacotae) habitat, and mitigate direct impact by recreating more suitable habitat than is disturbed. Additionally, to protect a large, occupied habitat for the Dakota Skipper butterfly, we abandoned a proposed pad location in North Dakota. The remaining choice for a suitable well pad site was located near an active bald eagle nest, and we worked extensively with the MHA Nation on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation to avoid disturbance to the nest.

Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis)

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-over-year 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 historical 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 10 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 2021 with the Casper, Wyoming, BLM office.

We completed our BLM partnership program to plug and reclaim 370 idle coalbed methane natural gas wells and reclaim nearby roads in 2021. These efforts represented thousands of acres of restored landscape in the Wyoming Powder River Basin. In 2022, we’re continuing to reclaim appurtenant structures to coal bed methane wells, including three freshwater reservoirs. We intend to complete those reclamation projects in 2022, with any work undertaken being completed in accordance with Devon’s new 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.