Wire Burning on BLM land near Thermopolis Leads to Felonies & Fines
Written by Andrew-Rossi on October 11, 2022
The perpetrators of several fires on public lands in Hot Springs County have been found guilty, which means years of probation and thousands of dollars in restitution after an extensive cleanup.
Two individuals have been charged with felony depredation of federal lands thanks to the combined efforts of B.L.M. Wyoming, North Wind Construction Services, and the Hot Springs County Sherriff’s Office. The conviction comes from a fire the individuals started on public lands near Thermopolis.
In March 2018, Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Office discovered two individuals planning to burn R.E.D.A. cable on public lands within the Gebo Mining District. R.E.D.A. cable is a system of power cables used to run electric submersible pumps (E.S.P.) in the oil and gas industry,
Following further investigation, the B.L.M. and North Wind Construction Services determined that the pair had previously burned wire on the site and would require extensive cleanup. Wire burning poses numerous risks related to unlawful hazardous waste disposal on public lands.
Both individuals told the B.L.M. that they intended to melt down the cables to extract copper and lead to sell.
The site required excavation to remove hazardous materials, soil testing, and soil refill from surrounding areas. The volume of the waste and extent of contamination resulted in high costs
In addition, the historic nature of the mining site and the potential for underground mining shafts collapsing further complicated decontamination.
The Gebo wire-burn investigation resulted in two separate charges. Both suspects were found guilty of depredation of federal lands.
As part of their sentence, the individuals must cover restitution costs totaling roughly $82,000. The cost was divided equally between them. Furthermore, the suspects were both sentenced to three years of probation.
The case serves as a strong reminder to other members of the public that the law still applies on public lands.
“The B.L.M. takes crimes of this nature seriously,” said B.L.M. 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.”
To make public lands and waters available to all, every visitor must abide by outdoor ethics such as Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly. These ethics programs empower visitors to protect and enjoy the outdoors responsibly.
The B.L.M. urges the public to learn from the mistakes of these individuals. Illegal activities on public lands will not be tolerated, and responsible parties will be held accountable.