Administration would allow drilling near Dinosaur

WYOMING – The Biden administration is said to favor a proposal that would allow oil and gas development within a half-mile of Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, about 180 miles straight south of Pinedale.

Earlier this week the Biden administration released its Federal Pipeline Unit Wells project, which involves the construction and installation of new well pads, roads, pipelines and the drilling of two wells near Dinosaur. Critics have said the plan would industrialize the western edge of the monument near Split Mountain.

These plans are reminiscent of former President George W. Bush’s extensions of oil and gas lease exploration to Arches National Park and Dinosaur in the final weeks of his presidency. Former President Barack Obama canceled those plans.

Part of the area in question involves Wyoming sagebrush and critics of the proposed move claim the proposed development would destroy priority habitat for greater sage-grouse.

According to the numbers released by the Bureau of Land Management’s final draft comments, the Mineral Potential Report projected 30 wells would be developed with a one well per 70,853-acre ratio. The Split Mountain Benches in question covers 2,164 so it may not even contain one well from the Vernal RMP RFD.

“Therefore, the two wells contained in this proposed action are all that is reasonably foreseeable in that cumulative impact area,” the BLM’s May Federal Pipeline Unit Wells report stated.

Critics and conservationists have said development on that land would damage the mystique and reputation of Dinosaur National Monument as one of the darkest places in America, with minimal light pollution. They’ve also said a move like this runs counter to what the Biden administration has said regarding oil and gas leases, as well as conservation.

A National Parks Conservation Association spokesman said it’s a “zombie lease from almost two decades ago that should never have been allowed in the first place and an urgent reminder of why our national oil and gas program needs immediate reforms.”

The BLM itself said in 2018, in assessing the area’s wilderness characteristics: “Because of the topography, vegetation, relative remoteness, low frequency of visitation and proximity to Dinosaur National Monument, it is relatively easy for recreationists to experience outstanding opportunities for solitude in the Split Mountain Benches unit.”