Are Yellowstone's Geysers At Risk From BLM's Leasing Proposals?

Yellowstone Thermal Feature; Kurt Repanshek Photo.

Might Yellowstone's Thermal Features Be Threatened by BLM Leasing Plans? Kurt Repanshek Photo.

The geothermal features in Yellowstone National Park were largely responsible for its designation as the world's first national park in 1872. These features are a global treasure. Nowhere else in the world can you find the array or number of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles found in Yellowstone. More than 75 percent of the world's geysers, including the world's largest are in Yellowstone’s seven major basins.

In almost every other geyser area in the world, including those in New Zealand, Iceland, China and elsewhere in the United States, development has seriously affected or permanently destroyed the thermal features of those areas. Yellowstone’s thermal features lie in the only essentially undisturbed geyser basins left worldwide. In Iceland and New Zealand, geothermal drill holes and wells 2.5 - 6.2 miles away have reduced geyser activity and hot spring discharge. Ten miles north of Yellowstone, research has demonstrated that the LaDuke Hot Springs are connected to geothermal features within Yellowstone.

The Bureau of Land Management is currently developing a plan for the leasing of geothermal resources on BLM- and U.S. Forest Service-administered lands in the western United States and Alaska. In technical terms, BLM is developing a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. Come again? Well, boiled down to the basics, the plan will examine the impacts of geothermal leasing on BLM and Forest Service lands. And, it will guide the process for determining what lands should be made available for geothermal leasing.

While this plan will not propose leasing of geothermal resources within Yellowstone National Park (or any NPS-managed lands for that matter), the BLM and Forest Service lands surrounding the Park will come into play.

Any activity that might interfere with the natural function of any geothermal feature or hydraulically linked aquifer in Yellowstone National Park should be avoided. When current science and technology cannot provide absolute assurance regarding the effect of a proposed action on geothermal resources in Yellowstone Park, then that activity should be prohibited on federal land and private lands with federal mineral rights.

The Bureau of Land Management is accepting comments on its proposal through this coming Monday, August 13th. If you care about protecting Yellowstone’s unique geothermal features, you can learn more at this site. You can weigh in by sending an email to . Below are some talking points you might want to consider:

1) Any activity that might interfere with the natural function of any geothermal feature or hydraulically linked aquifer in Yellowstone Park should be avoided. When current science and technology cannot provide absolute assurance regarding the effect of a proposed action on geothermal resources in Yellowstone Park, then that activity should be prohibited on federal land and private lands with federal mineral rights.

2) Use of geothermal resources as an energy source should not be pursued in areas where a hydrologic link with Yellowstone National Park geothermal features is possible. A permanent ban should be placed on all geothermal development on federal lands within a 15-mile radius of Yellowstone Park. The protected area should be expanded to fully incorporate the Island Park Geothermal Area (a minimum of 32 miles outside Yellowstone Park) and, in Montana, to follow the boundaries defined in the Yellowstone Compact.

3) All drilling proposed to occur in Geothermal Resource Areas must be monitored and regulated to prevent irreversible secondary effects on geothermal systems.

4) Prohibit geothermal leasing within Wild and Scenic River corridors, BLM Wilderness Study Areas, riparian areas, wetlands or other special habitat types on federal lands.

5) Prohibit geothermal leasing on all Forest Service lands designated as Roadless, Wilderness Study Areas, or Recommended Wilderness.

6) All individual geothermal leasing applications should be evaluated on a case by case basis in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.


Amy McNamara is the national parks program director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

Comments

I'm a little confused with this article. I thought the BLM was a protective type of agency.( obviously I was wrong ) Aren't there several other means of obtaining energy besides banging on the earth ?? Wind , Solar, & Water power come to mind and seem to be alot safer way of going about it. Haven't they screwed with the earth long enough !! I think if they go ahead with geothermal exploration it won't be long before this planet decides it's had enough !! If something should get out of control under the ground there's no way to stop it. Not only shouldn't anybody, regardless of their title, be doing any type of excavation on or around the National Parks ,the Eco-system on this planet is not going to handle much more.
I enjoy our national parks and I would love to see my grandchildren have as much opportunity to explore and enjoy them as much as I have. Given the limited knowledge that I have of natural resources and the exploration of them, one thing I firmly believe is there has to be a better way to get them besides tearing up our national parks and for that matter the planet.

BLM "protective"? Are you nuts? This is the same agency, under direct orders from the Bush Administration, that has essentially turned the entire western landscape into one big drilling operation.

I do agree with your assessment that eventually the land will say "enough is enough". The Yellowstone volcano is already about 50,000 years overdue for it's 600,000 year cyclical eruption. Messing with the pipes under the engine can't be good.

If the BLM thinks it is wise to even attempt to disrupt the plumbing of Yellowstone National Park, then the people in charge of BLM should be REPLACED IMMEDIATELY.

Yellowstone is an incredible place. The plumbing system has been proved in the past to be VERY fragile, and should NEVER be toyed with. There is a reason why Yellowstone was the first National Park in te WORLD. It is beautiful, unique, and ONE OF A KIND. We have very little understanding of how all the basins are linked together. It would be a travesty if something were to go wrong, and the BLM was responsible for OLD FAITHFUL suddenly stopping!

THINK about it, BLM! You could possibly destroy the best National Park in the world. Research the history of all other geothermal areas, and the impacts of drilling. This area is too fragile to play with for mere monitary reasons.

Stop before it is too late!

Does anyone really think that the BLM would be held accountable for messing up the geysers in Yellowstone? If you do you're living in a fantasy land. I've seen these idiots foul up all kinds of fragile areas throughout the West and not in a single instance was anyone ever held to account for the foul up, much less lose a job or be reprimanded. The federal government is above the law, because they OWN the land that they are despoiling and know that the rules for everybody else do not apply in their vast and sprawling kingdom. Federal ownership of the land is a sham and the people who are purportedly the stewards know that they can act with impunity and get away with it. Where else would it be possible to detonate a nuclear bomb, store nerve gas or lock up Japanese-Americans? At least private property owners are compelled to follow the law.

Mark my words, if Yellowstone's geysers are screwed up, no one at the BLM will lose any sleep over the consequences. There simply won't be any.

Here we go again, big-oil subsidiaries making another unwanted and unjust impact on "public" lands. Public lands, that's a joke in itself. Regardless, as long as energy companies continue to fund political agenda at the uppermost levels of government, we can expect to feel the environmental decline of this once proud, natural resource rich country. It's funny, with all the geothermal activity to be harnessed, basically for free, by the time these energy barons factor in the expense of transportation to the final destiny, since there is little local market for their services, if you think the consumer is going to be saving any money in monthly utility expenditures, you must have come from as far underground as the "new" energy source.

This is what I'm talking about! This is why I love this site! This is the kind of information we can DO something about! All those who want to groan and moan about the state of the parks, here's something you can actually DO about it.

Email these bastards at the BLM & the Forest Service and (let's face it) the Bush Administration and let them know how misguided they truly are. Will it make a difference? I don't know. But when constituents start writing in, politicians begin listening. At the least, there will be someone accountable when the screw-ups begin rolling in.

Hell, Amy's just about written the email for you here... Just cut and paste and send. OR better yet, write your own version of it and stick it to the man.

It's one thing to write grumpy blogs about how terrible things are and how the government's crap. Well, the government is supposed to be us. Be an advocate for those who can't advocate for themselves... In this case, advocate for Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring. They need your voice. Use it.

Hey Glenn
If you can get me a legitimate e-mail address for the BLM & the forest service I'll start a writing campaign and also get as many friends involved as I can. Thanks

The email address Amy gives above is specifically for feedback on this issue:

This is the best place to address this (otherwise it winds up lost in the shuffle). There is actual accountability on a feedback to an EIS, so send in your comments!

Thanks, George! I hope all of us go on this!