Vermillion Basin

When I first visited Vemillion Basin, I wasn’t sure if I’d be making images to document conservation success or another wild place succumbing to Western industrialization. Spring of 2009 had been particularly wet and “dirt” roads in Moffatt County had turned to grease. Not wanting to end up in a ditch with no cell service and a long walk out, I wasn’t sure if I’d see the basin at all. Locals told me that wind would dry the roads quickly – “just give it a few days.” So I photographed at nearby Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge, where the Green River winds below the Diamond Breaks. Northwest Colorado was in a cycle of thunderstorm – sun – wind – another storm… I could have been content at Brown’s Park, but needed to photograph Vermillion because of the threats to develop energy in this sensitive, wilderness quality landscape. I traveleled through Irish Canyon and along the Wyoming border to Lookout Mountain and watched powerful blue-black thunderstorms trace the Powder Rim in southern Wyoming. Fortunately, the storms moved off and I was able to photograph the candy-striped rock formations, shale outcroppings, and surrounding sea of sage.

In August, the BLM announced that Vermillion Basin would be protected from energy development. The 77,000 acre basin is a vital part of the massive Greater Dinosaur (National Monument) Region, where the Green and Yampa Rivers meet below Brown’s Park. The Wilderness Society (TWS) and Colorado Environmental Coalition are among the numerous conservation groups who have fought to protect the citizen’s proposed wilderness. In the 2010-2011 issue of Wilderness Magazine, you can find an article about Vermillion with one of my images on pages 48-49 here. Information about the TWS campaign can be found here. And, it’s not over. Energy developers are appealing the BLM decision. To make sure that the BLM decision is upheld, please send letters to and thank Director Bob Abbey for the decision while asking that it be upheld.

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