The Bureau of Land Management proposed Tuesday closing Vermillion Basin to energy development as part of their resource management plan. The basin is 77,000 acres of land in western Moffat County, which currently contains no oil and gas development leases.

Sam Cox/Courtesy

The Bureau of Land Management proposed Tuesday closing Vermillion Basin to energy development as part of their resource management plan. The basin is 77,000 acres of land in western Moffat County, which currently contains no oil and gas development leases.

Vermillion Basin energy plan proposed in Moffat County



Sam Cox/Courtesy

Oil and gas leasing in the Vermillion Basin have been prohibited for the past 15 years, BLM officials said. If the BLM’s resource management plan is approved, the area could stay undeveloped for another 20 years.

The Bureau of Land Management has taken a step closer to deciding the fate of energy development in Vermillion Basin.

The BLM announced Tuesday its proposed resource management plan for the Little Snake Field Office would close the 77,000-acre basin, located in western Moffat County, to energy development.

If approved, the plan would continue to restrict oil and gas industry leasing in the basin for the next 20 years, said Dave Blackstun, acting BLM Little Snake Field Office manager. Leasing has not been allowed in the area for the past 15 years, he said.

The resource management plan will be made available in late July for a 30-day protest period, according to a BLM press release.

The plan is a wide-ranging outline of how the BLM’s Little Snake Field Office will manage its 1.3 million acres of public lands and an additional 1.1 million acres of subsurface mineral estate in Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties.

The plan as a whole addresses several management strategies on issues such as energy development, minerals, transportation, travel and wildlife habitats. Special management areas such as lands with special recreation, areas of critical environmental concern, and wild and scenic rivers are also addressed in the plan.

BLM spokesman David Boyd said the resource plan is re-examined about every 20 years or as needed. It can also be amended after approval,

he said.

In addition to the 30-day protest period, the plan will also undergo a 60-day governor’s consistency review before the BLM will issue a final decision.

The BLM released a draft of the resource management plan for public review in 2007, which included several alternatives for development of Vermillion Basin, according to the release.

At that time, the preferred alternative plan was to open the entire basin to oil and gas leasing with a “highly restrictive approach to development,” the release said.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said the preferred alternative plan reached in the previous draft was to allow 1 percent surface disturbance at a time within the basin for oil and gas development.

Gray said the 1-percent plan had consensus among several other cooperating agencies, and said he was “not happy” about the decision to close the basin to energy development.

“This is purely and wholly politically motivated from the top,” he said. “This comes back as, ‘We don’t care what local entities drew consensus on back in ’08 and worked for three years to get.

“This is purely, ‘We don’t want to do it and we’re holding to our environmental extremist (views).’”

Blackstun said the cooperating agencies that participated in development of the resource plan included Moffat County, the Colorado Division of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Juniper Water Conservancy District and the City of Steamboat Springs.

Vermillion Basin is “prized for its remoteness and wilderness characteristics,” according to the BLM release.

Soren Jespersen, Northwest Colorado wildlands coordinator for The Wilderness Society, said Vermillion Basin is “too wild to drill,” in a press release Tuesday.

“Vermillion Basin’s immense beauty provides outstanding opportunities for solitude, recreation and tranquility, and it is rightly protected from drilling,” he said in the release.

The basin contains less than 5 percent of the technically recoverable natural gas and about 1 percent of the oil within the Little Snake Field Office’s management area, according to The Wilderness Society’s studies.

According to the BLM’s release, more than 1 million acres of land are currently leased for oil and gas development in the Little Snake Field Office’s area of management, but less than 15 percent of those leases have been developed.

“The oil and gas industry has leased more lands throughout the West than they know what to do with,” Jespersen said in the release. “We thank BLM for recognizing that.”

Commissioner Audrey Danner said the decision made her “very disappointed for our community.”

“Obviously oil and gas are a key part of our economy,” Danner said. “I understand the importance of the Vermillion Basin. I have been to the Vermillion Basin. It is a beautiful spot.

“That’s why I thought this carefully crafted, 1-percent drilling in very specific areas would have been appropriate to meet our energy needs and continue our economy here in Moffat County.”

Sasha Nelson, northwest organizer of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, said lands such as Vermillion Basin are “an important part of our history and culture.”

“Protecting them is an important first step towards ensuring that this piece of our natural heritage will be preserved for our children and grandchildren,” Nelson said.

Both Danner and Gray said they were unsure if Moffat County would protest the BLM’s decision on the basin.

Blackstun said a final decision on the plan could be made six to nine months after the protest period closes.

Boyd said the BLM takes protests to its resource management plan “very seriously.”

“They are often very complex legal letters that we are getting,” he said. “So that’s why it takes a long time from when the protest period closes to when we go to the record of decision, because we are looking at those so carefully.”


kathleenpost 6 years, 9 months ago

As the mother of Sam Hedemark that was killed in the oil tank explosion in the Flattops Wilderness area,I think that Safety should be the top priority in planning this oil production in the future,just like in the Gulf where we are seeing what can go wrong with Safety,I saw on June 23 2007 what Safety inland can go wrong.Since that explosion two more teenagers in Mississippi died ,on Halloween night,2 blocks from their home in the same way as my son in 2007,oil tank explosion in an unsigned unfenced facility.Only the Flattops one, is on a bike,hike,motorized trail in a hunting area , has a new safety video please look at,"NO place to hang out"The reason that they made the video was to stop the deaths through public education.Seventy six teens have died like my son Sam.In the Gulf the Safety is being overhauled to protect everything now,make sure that we are safe inland as well.The mms has not done its job in Colorado any better than it has done at the Gulf.If our oil companys thinks its O.K. to Slide on safety for money or time or whatever dont let them do it.Swimming pools are required to have fences and signs,how about expolsive situations.There should be mandatory compliance with dismantleing oil wells that are out of date.There are many sitting inactive(dangerous in itself)and in public areas,At least fence them off. These tanks in wilderness area and anywhere for that matter.I use oil too,only please do it safely,everytime I fill up now I think of the many lives lost producing this necessary product,it doesnt need to be so.Make it safe please.In Mississippi Sen. Billy Hudson is sponsering a bill to fence and sign oil facilitys,could we get this in Colorado?He is doing this because teens were killed in his state by an oil tank explosion.This video came out on April 13,2010 on april 14 in Oklahoma another oil tank explosion involving 20 year olds.Please be aware of the Safety .Kids dont realize sometimes and would not bother to tresspass if the thing was fenced,If you combine that with out of service,its very confusing,they just shopuldnt be able to walk up to one,and there are no laws to make people regulate their own industry.


rhammel 6 years, 9 months ago

I don't know where Commisioner Danner is getting her economic information, but the majority of Hiawatha/Powder Wash workers are coming from Rock Springs, not Craig. It is about 100 miles shorter to live in Rock Springs.

As usual the Commissioners go shooting off their mouths without having the facts in hand.

Tom Grey did not accurately get the groups portrayed. I hope he was referring to Cooperating Agencies. If he was referring to NWCOS, we never reached concensus on the 1%.


calvinhobbs 6 years, 9 months ago

Lets see, Rocks Springs to Craig, via Powder Wash Camp and CR 7 is 141 miles. Rock springs to Powder Wash is 81 miles,via WY 430 south, Craig to Powder Wash on CR 7 is 60 miles. Not sure where you got the 100 miles shorter. I know of 7 guys that live here in Craig and work in Powder Wash. There are also 2 that I know of in Baggs, 44 miles. And some live at the camp. It always amazes me that everyone is, NIMBY, not in my backyard. But they drive the big truck, travel all over to fish, heat with gas, cook with gas, use electricity at home. The 1% rule sounded good to me, set a pad, out of sight. and directional drill off of it.


Harlan 6 years, 9 months ago

This is a bit of interesting information on hydraulic fracturing.

If you can find the gasland film it is also a good source of information.


jeff corriveau 6 years, 9 months ago

What kathleenpost FAILS to state in her letter is that her son, and others, were tresspassing at the time of the explosion! I am deeply sorry for her loss but this life could have been spared if the young man had not been committing a criminal act at the time of the explosion. No amount of signing or fencing would have kept this from occuring, in my opinion.


kathleenpost 6 years, 9 months ago

People are in process right now to find out the chemicals that are being used in the "Fracking".We dont even know what they are using.


taxslave 6 years, 9 months ago

Take the time to read the SunHerald, Mississippi on-line news. It's covered top to bottom with oil spill disaster news.

Also, standeyo or rense....up to date.......much to read. Papers are on blackout of this catastrophy. It's raining acid rain up the entire eastern seaboard and killing all crops in the process. The plankton is dead, food supply destroyed, gulf is dead zone. This involves your personal food supply. The fallout is radioactive..

Consider tomatoes, oranges, tobacco, onions, lettuce, etc. There is NO gulf shrimp to be bought anywhere, or's all dead.

I should have posted this in a religious section since the pulpits have failed the people miserably to warn them to evacuate....they await FOX news to be their daddy.

Don't perish for lack of knowledge. The dumbing down of america is truly astounding. Newspapers and media, shame on your for failure of duty to inform. You're as guilty as the pulpits.

God bless America? I don't think so. Witness the judgement of the God Most High. There's another side of the Jesus coin.....the loving Lamb, the wrath of the Lamb.



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