Category Archives: Land Deals

Red Desert’s Adobe Town wins a pardon from natural gas leasing

Adobe Town

Adobe Town's maze of hoodoos remain relatively unexplored. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

Adobe Town wins a reprieve from natural gas leasing in its Citizen’s Proposed Wilderness. The Bureau of Land Management removed 15 parcels comprising more than 14,800 acres of Adobe Town from the December lease sale.

“It’s breath of fresh air the Bureau of Land Management has decided to draw a line in the sand and not lease away one of our most cherished places,” said Nada Culver, Senior Counsel at The Wilderness Society in a press release.  “This is proof when people from all walks of life stick up for a special spot, we can move mountains and ensure new generations Americans will always have a place to hunt, camp and hike.”

Much of the rock in Adobe Town is really just sandstone, easily eroded or crumbled away. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

Abobe Town’s labyrinth of hoodoos and canyons make it reminiscent of Bryce Canyon, except  in Adobe Town, there are no trails to guide your way. Wyoming declared the area “very rare or uncommon” in 2007, a designation that afforded the land some protection, but not from future oil and gas development. Adobe Town has been one of the most hotly contested regions of the Red Desert, receiving 89,000 comments mostly in favor of its protection during the revision of the Great Divide land-use plan. But leasing continued.

The removal in November of the 15 nominated parcels from the BLM lease marks parts of Adobe Town as too environmentally important to warrant leasing at this time.

Pronghorn munch on sage brush just outside Adobe Town in Wyoming's Red Desert.(Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

“This lease deferral is the first sign that the BLM has started to listen, and could mark the dawn of a new day when oil and gas development proceeds cautiously, and crown jewel landscapes like Adobe Town get the protection they deserve,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in a press release. “The BLM deserves credit for making a sound decision.”


Into the Big Empty: Wyoming’s Red Desert goes live on YouTube

Journey into Wyoming’s Red Desert, a little known wilderness the size of Denali National Park that brings the steppes of Mongolia to America’s backyard. Here, energy companies vie for the desert’s riches in a world of 50,000 pronghorn, herds of wild horses and some of the most unforgiving landscapes of the West. Come learn of this place and the struggles to protect it as you travel Into the Big Empty.


A conservation victory

A natural gas pipeline surfaces just outside the Cheyenne Holiday Inn where the BLM is holding their last auction of the year, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

A natural gas pipeline surfaces just outside the Cheyenne Holiday Inn where the BLM is holding their last auction of the year, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

The Wyoming BLM earned a little bit of kudos from conservationists last December after they decided to withdraw more than 16,000 acres from the last auction of 2008. The withdrawn parcels included 10,000 acres in Little Mountain, one of the most southwestern regions of the Red Desert, also a previously listed Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the BLM. The decision prevents, for the time-being at least, drilling in this part of the desert considered important habitat for greater sage grouse.

Lorraine Keith, public affairs officer for the Rock Springs BLM, discusses the lease requests for the Little Mountain area south of Rock Springs, Wyo., Monday, November 17, 2008. The Little Mountain parcels were ultimately removed from the auction. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

Lorraine Keith, public affairs officer for the Rock Springs BLM, discusses the lease requests for the Little Mountain area south of Rock Springs, Wyo., Monday, November 17, 2008. The Little Mountain parcels were ultimately removed from the auction. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

There were more than 125 protests filed by conservationists at the last auction. The withdrawn parcels are being reviewed, and will not be offered again unless the protests are voided and then renominated. The auction did sell leases to parcels in the Jack Morrow Hills however, one of the other hotly contested areas nominated for development.

The BLM ultimately leased more than 172,000 acres in Wyoming, earning more than $9.1 million. For more information on the lease sale, read this article from the International Business Times.


A checkerboard past and present

Nearly a third of the Red Desert, about 2 million acres, is virtually off-limits for management by the Bureau of Land Management, due to a federal land deal from the 1800s, says Lorraine Keith, public affairs officer for the Rock Springs BLM field office. This corridor of land, stretching from Greater Red and Current Creeks to Adobe Town and Rawlins, was gifted to Union Pacific in the late 1800s as a means to help pay for the transcontinental railroad. The federal government gave Union Pacific every other square mile of land along the corridor, creating a widely stretching checkerboard of federal and private land in the Red Desert and across the rest of Wyoming.

This is a screenshot of the checkerboard of private and public land stretching across one portion of the Red Desert. The red outline on the lower left dilineate an Area of Critical Environmental Concern that includes Little Mountain.

This is a screenshot of the checkerboard of private and public land stretching across one portion of the Red Desert. The red outline on the lower left dilineate an Area of Critical Environmental Concern that includes Little Mountain.

Union Pacific sold the majority of that land, including its mineral rights, to Anadarko Petroleum Corporation in 2000, says Keith, making Anadarko the single largest private landowner in Wyoming. (Click here for the announcement of the sale.) The BLM can’t manage the private land she says, and the checkerboard pattern makes it difficult to manage parcels of public land scattered along this corridor. This 2 million acre stretch of desert includes small sections that the BLM considers Areas of  Critical Environmental Concern, meaning the land meets criteria of relevance and importance, examples of which include areas of cultural or historical value, wildlife resources, and areas considered to be fragile, rare or irreplacable.

The article,  Hostile Beauty, from a 2002 issue of National Wildlife Magazine is a good one for more information about the checkerboard of private land stretching across the Red Desert, as well as good source of general information about the area.

For more information about some of the deals between Union Pacific and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, click here.

For more information about ACECs visit the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s site on on the Red Desert here and the BLM site on the Killpecker Dunes here.


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