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Two Too Many? Adobe Town Drilling Protested

August 9, 2011

LARAMIE, Wyo. - Two can be too many. Four conservation groups have filed a legal challenge against a plan for a couple of exploratory wells in the Desolation Road area of Adobe Town, in the Red Desert region near the Colorado line, on the grounds that the area is in the heart of a citizens' proposed wilderness area.

Vernon Lovejoy was the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) outdoor recreation planner who conducted the original wilderness inventories for Adobe Town in the early 1980s. He says the area met the criteria for wilderness from the get-go. And there are other reasons the area is special, with fossil records scattered throughout, along with cultural sites.

"Ten to twelve thousand years ago, people inhabited that area, considered one of the highest-density sites in Wyoming."

There's a back story, too. Anadarko Petroleum commissioned a 3-D seismic survey of the area back in 2002, but found so little in oil and gas that the company decided not to drill a single well.

Lovejoy remembers that in the 1970s he was told that Adobe Town had enough natural gas to fuel the City of Denver for 30 years and here, more than 30 years later, he says, all the wells drilled have been non-producers.

"The larger point is, is there anything sacred in the desert? Something that's out there that's worth preserving, in fact, for future generations? Adobe Town is it."

The legal challenge notes that the BLM discovered new sage grouse breeding areas just before approving the project, which would mean more environmental scrutiny is needed.

Samson Resources Company from Oklahoma plans the exploratory wells just south of The Haystacks, and the BLM issued a "Finding of No Significant Impact" decision to give the project a green light.

The groups filing the challenge: Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, and Defenders of Wildlife.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY