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Vernal Pilot Office

The Vernal Pilot Office is responsible for 1.8 million acres of BLM-administered surface acres, approximately 2.8 million acres of BLM-administered subsurface acres, in addition to overseeing mineral development on an additional 1.3 million acres of National Forest System lands. The office also has Native American trust responsibilities associated with Tribal and allotted Indian mineral leases. Major portions of Uintah and Duchesne Counties in north-eastern Utah are administered by the Vernal office. 

The area is rich in mineral resources, including deposits of tar sands, oil shale, gilsonite and phosphate.  Resource issues include Native American coordination, expanding oil and gas development, recreation, wildlife, cultural resources, lands, rangeland management, riparian, fire management, forestry, wild horses, law enforcement/resource protection, and wilderness. 

The Vernal office is affected by the substantial oil and gas exploration and development activities occurring in the Uinta Basin of northeastern Utah, resulting from large-scale infill drilling in mature fields, as well as seismic and exploration drilling for new and deeper oil and gas fields. Dramatic growth in local communities and increased needs of local governments have accompanied this expansion.

The office is currently working to complete four major oil- and gas-related EISs and EAs for 20-30 oil and gas projects, while also evaluating drilling of approximately 6,000 wells in the near term. In addition, there is ongoing exploration, piloting, and development of unconventional oil and gas resources including coalbed natural gas, oil shale, and tar sands. The office is also currently revising its Resource Management Plan to consolidate two earlier, separate land use plans.

The Vernal Pilot Office processed 79 percent more APDs in FY 2007 than in FY 2005 – the year before the Pilot Project was established – and reduced the number of APDs pending at year-end by 6 percent, compared to FY 2006. Inspection and enforcement activity in the office was 37 percent higher in 2007 than in 2005, including 55 percent more environmental inspections.

Advances in interagency cooperation on NEPA reviews of permit applications have been realized by improved coordination of interdisciplinary team (IDT) meetings. Project proponents, contractors preparing NEPA documentation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) personnel assigned to the pilot project now participate in IDT meetings. Involving the proponent at the beginning of the IDT’s review of the application substantially streamlines the process. As a result, the average time for formal consultation with USFWS has been reduced from 21 days to 12 days.

Last updated: 10-20-2009