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Group Says Oregon Trail Threatened

November 30, 2000

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ A group dedicated to preserving historic trails says natural gas exploration will mar the view from the Oregon Trail, a vista essentially unchanged from when pioneers traversed it 150 years ago.

Wolverine Gas and Oil Corp. wants to sink five wells to look for gas near South Pass in southwestern Wyoming, a move that would create new roads and, if gas is found, pipelines.

South Pass, the midway point on the Oregon Trail, is a designated national historic monument that was a natural route for wagon trains to trace through the Rocky Mountains between 1843 and 1868.

``It is a treasure for everyone in the United States, not just people in the immediate area. It’s something that should be preserved for everyone,″ said Dick Ackerman, national preservation officer for the Oregon-California Trails Association.

Officials with the Bureau of Land Management and the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company say the group need not worry.

Researchers photographed future well sites and superimposed pictures of existing drilling sites, providing an idea of what wells, roads and pipelines could look like from the trail, BLM spokesman Mike Brown said.

``We recognize their concerns, and we’re doing everything we can to meet those concerns,″ he said.

Richard Moritz, a Wolverine vice president, said the wells will be kept a mile or two away from the trail. He also said wells and related equipment could be painted in colors like the sagebrush landscape, hidden behind earthen berms or obscured with camouflage netting.

At more than 7,000 feet, South Pass was the highest point on the Oregon Trail. Pioneer diaries refer to the landmark more consistently than any other on the 2,000-mile trail, Ackerman said. Beyond South Pass, routes branched off to Utah and California.

The BLM manages South Pass and all but a few slivers of southwest Wyoming’s remote country, an area rich in wildlife habitat and natural gas. Upward of 2,000 gas wells are planned in the Green River Basin west of South Pass, Brown said.

``If there’s a need for the energy, which we understand there is, we’re all for it,″ Ackerman said. ``But we’re also for saving some of this important heritage.″


On the Net:

Bureau of Land Management: http://www.blm.gov/nhp/index.htm

Oregon-California Trails Association: http://www.octa-trails.org

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