Jeff Whilden: A battle for control of public lands
October 13, 2007
All of this discussion about Vermillion Basin is really not about the basin at all.
Vermillion Basin runs north from Lookout Mountain into Wyoming and includes the Hiawatha oil and gas fields.
The Vermillion Bluffs that the area is noted for are below Lookout to the north. The controversy is about the Citizens Wilderness Proposal, put forth by the Wilderness Society, called “Vermillion Basin.”
This area actually runs from the north edge of the Vermillion Bluffs to the south and west, most of the CWP is not in the “Basin” at all. The CWP goes all the way to Colorado Highway 318 on the west and to Sheep head basin on the south encompassing 77,000 acres.
Most of this area is rolling Juniper and Pinion (PJ) just like half of the county is covered in. Do you consider Juniper Mountain, Gidiva Rim, Power Wash or other PJ areas in need of protection?
In the Vermillion CWP area, there are plenty of two-wheel drive roads, several dozen four-wheel drive roads, and even more motorcycle and four-wheeler trails. The county has several maps of the roads in this area. In fact, the older BLM maps show a large number of these roads. BLM has even been maintaining roads that go all the way through the area. Of course, because of the change in definition of what a road is, now most of these “roads” are not on maps any more. There are at least two private land holdings inside this area as well. People have been recreating, hunting and grazing livestock in this area for decades.
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The other letter writers about Vermillion are right. This is not about an amount of gas that can be drilled, it’s about a way of life. It’s about our back yard. Do we, as citizens of Moffat County, want to have people with narrow interest, wilderness proponents, tell us how to use our back yard. Or should I say not use our back yard?
This is only the start of the battle for control of the public land. There are several other fronts going on as well, like the WSA’s of Diamond Breaks and Cross Mountain. Six other CWPs still are on the table vying for more wilderness. Right now about 440,000 acres, or 24 percent of the federally owned land, in Moffat County already is off limits. The Vermillion CWP will make about 30 percent off limits.
If the other CWP’s are approved, the percentage will be even higher. If the gas was drilled in this area it will never look like the I-70 corridor by Parachute. The gas people will only be able to disturb 1 percent of the 77,000 acres at any one time, and only when they are not disturbing the wild life.
The gas people don’t want to “bulldoze swaths of land.” They don’t want to disturb the Vermillion Bluffs. They can angle drill from a long ways away to reach under the bluffs. Also they are required to reclaim every inch of land disturbed, and have to place large bonds until their work is finished.
Remember the fear of Trapper mine making our southern views a nightmare? I think that hill looks all right now and has provided jobs and energy in the meantime.
I could not agree more, let your voice be heard now or Katie, bar the door, we are in for a change you may not like. And by the way, ask the people writing to the editor to be honest about where and what they are talking about, who they work for, and how that ties into their future plans for our back yard.
I work for Moffat County Road and Bridge and have lived here for a short 31 years. I am voicing my concerns as a citizen, and have received no payments for the hundreds of hours I have donated to the planning of the new BLM Resource Management Plan.