BLM, State reclaim abandoned mine near Cody
CODY, Wyoming — The Bureau of Land Management partnered with the State of Wyoming in 2021 to reclaim a hazardous mine near Cody, improving public safety and the health of public lands.
The Cottonwood Creek Bentonite Mine, located 3 miles north of Cody on Bureau of Reclamation–administered land, was abandoned in the 1960s. In the decades since, the area has become popular for off-road vehicle recreationists accessing BLM-managed public lands nearby. With hazardous mine features easily accessible, the BLM and its partners developed a plan to reclaim the mine.
“When the mine was abandoned, four trenches in unstable sedimentary rock, propped open with old timbers, were left behind, creating a hazardous environment for the public,” said BLM Geologist Gretchen Hurley, who also serves as the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) coordinator for the Cody Field Office. “We’re grateful the State of Wyoming shared our commitment to make this area safer for public land users.”
The BLM worked with multiple state and federal agencies to review and approve the reclamation project including the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality–AML Division, the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Funds to complete this project were made available through Wyoming’s AML program.
“We greatly appreciate the help and collaboration from the BLM Cody Field Office in completing this much-needed reclamation project,” said Wyoming AML Division’s Kurt Imhoff, who managed the site closure for the state. “Through cooperation and partnership with landowners, the BLM, and other land managers, we can fulfill our mission to make these sites safe for our citizens while returning them to a productive natural state. Our work is not done.”
Wyoming’s AML Division retained engineering and excavation services, and final mine reclamation work took place in fall 2021. The hazardous mine trenches were opened to determine their extent, then backfilled with the existing mine spoil that was stockpiled on site. Each opening was then compacted, and the entire ridge was recontoured. Straw wattles were installed on all slopes to reduce erosion caused by running water, and the old mine timbers were recovered, recycled and incorporated into the erosion control structures.
Finally, the reclaimed areas were reseeded with a mix of native seed including Gardner saltbush, rubber rabbitbrush, Wyoming big sagebrush, bottlebrush squirreltail, Indian ricegrass and fringed sage among other species.
The BLM and the State of Wyoming will monitor the reclamation project over the next several years to ensure the work has been successful. For more information, please contact Gretchen Hurley at the BLM Cody Field Office at 307-578-5900.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.