BLM Wyoming cracks down on wire burning on public lands

Story by Azure Hall, Public Affairs Specialist. Photos by Special Agent Tom Hill.

After years of investigation, land restoration, and legal processes, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wyoming concluded what has come to be known as the Gebo wire-burn investigation. In March of 2018, the Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Office discovered two individuals who were planning to burn REDA cable, a system of power cables used to run electric submersible pumps (ESP) in the oil and gas industry, on public lands within the Gebo Mining District near Thermopolis, Wyoming.

Both individuals told the BLM that they intended to melt down the cables to extract copper and lead that would then be sold. Following further investigation, the BLM and North Wind Construction Services determined the pair had previously burned wire on the site and it would require extensive cleanup. The site required excavation to remove hazardous materials, soil testing, and soil refill from surrounding areas.

Two rusted barrels with hills in the background
Barrels for the collection of molten lead, ash and other debris led investigators to the conclusion that the suspects previously burned wire at the site.
A yellow crane on the right and a truck on the left. Hills in the background.
Cleanup at the Gebo wire burn site required excavation, soil removal and refill.

The Gebo wire-burn investigation resulted in two separate charges and restitution costs totaling roughly $82,000. Both suspects were found guilty of depredation of federal lands and face three years of probation, in addition to the aforementioned restitution which was divided equally between them. The case serves as a strong reminder to other members of the public that the law still applies on public lands.

A yellow crane with gravel in front of it.
Following extensive cleanup efforts, the burn site was once again safe for the public.

“The BLM takes crimes of this nature seriously,” said BLM Special Agent Tom Hill who led the investigation. “Actions endangering the public and natural resources will be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” 

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