State of Wyoming & BLM Reclaim Bentonite Mine Near Cody

State of Wyoming & BLM Reclaim Bentonite Mine Near Cody

Written by on January 6, 2022

Thanks to a joint effort between the B.L.M. and the State of Wyoming, the Cottonwood Creek Mine near Cody is returning to its natural state.

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 Three miles north of Cody on Bureau of Reclamation–administered land, was abandoned in the 1960s. However, the area has become popular for off-road vehicle recreationists accessing BLM-managed public lands nearby decades.

BLM Cottonwood Creek Reclamation Excavator

Courtesy BLM

With hazardous mine features easily accessible, the B.L.M. and its partners developed a plan to reclaim the Cottonwood Creek 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 B.L.M. Geologist Gretchen Hurley. He also serves as the Abandoned Mine Lands (A.M.L.) 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 B.L.M. worked with multiple state and federal agencies to review and approve the reclamation project, including:

  • Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality–A.M.L. Division
  • Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Funds to complete this project were made available through Wyoming’s A.M.L. program.

“We greatly appreciate the help and collaboration from the B.L.M. Cody Field Office in completing this much-needed reclamation project,” said Wyoming A.M.L. Division’s Kurt Imhoff, who managed the site closure for the state. “Through cooperation and partnership with landowners, the B.L.M., 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 A.M.L. 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 and then backfilled with the existing onsite mine spoil.

Each mine opening was then compacted, and the entire ridge was recontoured. Next, straw wattles were installed on all slopes to reduce erosion caused by running water. Timbers from the old mine were recovered, recycled, and incorporated into the erosion control structures.

Finally, the reclaimed areas were reseeded with a mix of native seeds, including Gardner saltbush, rubber rabbitbrush, Wyoming big sagebrush, bottlebrush squirreltail, Indian ricegrass, and fringed sage among other species.

The B.L.M. 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 B.L.M. Cody Field Office at 307-578-5900.

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