In 1982-83, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducted an investigation of the oil and gas potential of the designated and proposed Wilderness Lands in the Western United States. The scope of this study was limited to the assessment of conventional recoverable petroleum resources occurring in the designated and proposed Wilderness Lands of the Western United States that are administered under four Federal agencies: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), National Park Service (NPS), and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
The total area of the study included approximately 74 million acres of Wilderness Lands in these 11 Western States: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The 74 million acres represent 31 percent of the total Federal lands within these 11 Western States. Approximately 49 percent of all the lands in these States are federally owned.
The objective of this study was to assemble through various means all the available pertinent information that could be brought together within the USGS and integrate these data into a computer-based digital cartographic data system that was focused upon the single issue of reviewing the known geological and geophysical data to determine the geologic characteristics favorable or unfavorable for the occurrence of petroleum resources in these Wilderness Lands. In a joint effort in the USGS between the Geologic Division (GD) and the National Mapping Division (NMD) all of the mappable information used in this study was prepared and processed by using digital cartographic techniques. These include digitizing the location and boundaries of the Wilderness Lands; acreage calculations; the boundaries of the USGS petroleum provinces; and the geologic and tectonic boundaries within each petroleum province and State. In addition, searches were conducted on well data files which provided the locations and geologic information on over 5,000 wells drilled within or immediately adjacent to the Wilderness Lands.
An analysis of all the geologic characteristics favorable or unfavorable for petroleum occurrence in conjunction with the geologic settings for the Wilderness Lands scattered within the framework of the petroleum provinces was performed by a team of geologists on each of the wilderness tracts. The geologic characteristics reviewed for each tract included the presence or absence of the following: adequate source beds and reservoir rocks; adequate trapping mechanisms; favorable thermal and maturation histories; presence of petroleum seeps or adjacent wells with shows or production; and the presence of favorable sedimentary rock sections underlying volcanic terrane or faulted and overthrust areas.
A description of the geology and geologic framework is provided for each State along with an explanation of the interpretative geology and evaluation of the petroleum potential within the locale of each of the wilderness tracts.
The assessment of the petroleum resources on the Wilderness Lands was completed in two separate stages. In the first stage the geologists evaluated the geological characteristics for the favorability or lack of favorability for the occurrence of oil and natural gas within each wilderness tract and assigned a qualitative rating for each tract's potential for the occurrence of recoverable oil and gas resources. In the second stage in evaluating the petroleum potential for the wilderness tracts, an effort was made to arrive at a quantitative assessment within the framework of the USGS's latest published resource estimates which are made on a province basis. The geologic characteristics evaluated for the favorability of petroleum occurrence within each of the clusters of wilderness tracts were the determining factors for the subjective assessments of the petroleum potential for each wilderness tract occurring within the respective basin or province. The quantitative resource
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Petroleum potential of wilderness lands in the Western United States