Buffalo Pilot Office

The Buffalo Pilot Office is responsible for 800,000 acres of BLM-administered surface estate and approximately 5 million acres of BLM-administered mineral estate in Campbell, Johnson, and Sheridan Counties of north-central Wyoming.  Approximately 62 percent of the Federal mineral estate underlies private surface ownership (split-estate).

These lands contain extensive deposits of oil, gas, and coal while providing a variety of other resources such as wildlife habitat and rangelands for livestock grazing.  In addition, the public lands and adjacent Bighorn National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grasslands are popular for recreational activities. 

Coal-bed natural gas (CBNG) is in the mid-stage of development in the Powder River Basin of north-central Wyoming, with exploration of deeper production occurring on the western margins of the basin.  Production of CBNG began in 1995 and 1996 from private, state, and Federal wells. Permitting of Federal wells was constrained in 1999 and from 2002 to 2003 while necessary National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) actions were completed.  A total of approximately 28,000 wells have been drilled on Federal, state, and private leases, with production from a number of overlying coal seams.

The CBNG development in the central part of the Buffalo Pilot Office area is the largest oil and gas project ever undertaken in the Federal onshore program.  Eighty-five different companies have been involved in this development so far.  The Buffalo Pilot Office processed approximately 47 percent of all applications for permits to drill (APDs) processed by the BLM in 2006.

In 1999, the Buffalo Pilot Office developed a significantly more efficient way of processing APDs and applications for rights-of-way (ROWs) related to CBNG production and produced-water handling facilities. The process allows for submission of a multi-well and related-facility Plan of Development (POD).  The office has worked to improve this process so that very complex multi-well projects can be approved within 46 calendar days for administratively and technically complete APD/POD submissions.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist has been co-located in the Buffalo Office since 2004, one year before establishment of the Pilot Project.


In FY 2007 the Buffalo Pilot Office completed more than twice the number of environmental inspections completed in FY 2005, the year before the Pilot Project was established.  These inspections revealed fewer environmental violations in the second year of the project than in the first year.

The office is also leading efforts to improve interagency collaboration, a key goal of the project. Co-locating a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in the Buffalo office has helped increased the efficiency of consultations under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act while providing more effective protection for wildlife.