ConocoPhillips Burrowing Owl Habitat Enhancement and Restoration

Partner Background

ConocoPhillips is one of the world’s largest independent oil and gas production companies. The company integrates sustainability into its mission by actively working to reduce and prevent climate-related risks, habitat fragmentation, water loss, and oil spills while promoting biodiversity, human rights, and diversity and inclusion. A summary of ConocoPhillips 2021 performance highlights can be found on Texan by Nature’s member page.

Project Summary

Comprised of 78,200 acres, Quail Ranch LLC in the Permian Basin focuses its management practices on maintaining and enhancing wildlife habitats while balancing oil and gas development. The western burrowing owl is currently protected across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico and is designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Bird of Conservation Concern. ConocoPhillips partnered with Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies on a project to restore native grassland and burrowing owl habitat in the Permian Basin.

The first phase of burrowing owl restoration began in the summer of 2019 with the removal of 202 acres of mesquite. Twenty pairs of artificial burrows were installed in September 2019 with assistance from Midland’s chapter of Stewards of the Wild, sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Phase two of burrowing owl habitat restoration was initiated in June 2020 following the same protocols as the first phase. In October 2020, ConocoPhillips provided funds to reseed with a native seed blend and install an additional 21 pairs of burrows.

Camera surveillance conducted on May 11, 2021, showed five burrow pairs utilized by four birds. Another survey on May 27, 2021, showed three pairs of owls and two additional birds, showing signs of use in eight pairs of burrows. At least 25% of the artificial burrows have been utilized by owls during these early stages of the project. The last survey on June 21, 2021, showed one owl at a burrow. This project is ongoing as more oil and gas development occurs on Quail Ranch. ConocoPhillips biologists and personnel are working together along with third-party developers to minimize the impacts of future development.

The development of oil and gas requires focused management across native rangelands to maintain biodiversity and unique habitats. ConocoPhillips’ burrowing owl restoration project ensures the restoration of native short-grass prairie for wildlife species to enhance the biodiversity of the Permian Basin.

Natural Resources Impact

In 2021, 374 total acres were conserved within the burrowing owl project with an additional 583 acres of adjacent rangeland restored or planned for restoration.

Community Impact and Future Goals

The development of oil and gas requires increased management across native rangelands to maintain biodiversity and habitats. ConocoPhillips’ burrowing owl restoration project ensures the restoration of native habitats for wildlife species to protect the biodiversity of the Permian Basin. This project offers opportunities to bring volunteers from the community to aid in restoration. In the past, members of a local chapter of Stewards of the Wild held a service event to progress this project’s needs. In the future, ConocoPhillips plans to offer educational opportunities in the form of field days to highlight ConocoPhillips’ stewardship efforts in the Permian Basin.

ConocoPhillips’ future goals include expansion of grassland and playa lake restoration efforts to restore habitat connectivity for grassland obligate species including pronghorn, black-tailed prairie dogs, and burrowing owls. An additional 120 acres will be cleared and reseeded in the fall of 2021 to connect phase two with another playa lake feature. Upon completion, 957 acres of contiguous grassland habitat will have been restored within the project area.

2021

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