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The 95-million acres in the National Wildlife Refuge System are the only federal lands primarily devoted to the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, and plant resources. While the federal government owns the surface lands in the system, in many cases private parties own the subsurface mineral rights and have the legal authority to explore for and extract oil and gas. This testimony is based on an August 2003 report (GAO-03-517) in which GAO determined the extent of oil and gas activity on refuges, identified the environmental effects, and assessed the Fish and Wildlife Service's management and oversight of those activities.

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