From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 10 - June 1, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

B-T leases offered, protested

by Cat Urbigkit

An oral oil and gas lease auction sponsored by Wyoming’s Bureau of Land Management will be held Tuesday, June 6, at the Holiday Inn in Cheyenne. Doors open at 7 a.m. with the auction beginning at 8 a.m.

BLM will offer a total of 84,015.90 acres in 128 parcels in Wyoming. The sale includes 13 parcels totaling 12,495 acres in the Bridger Teton National Forest and two parcels totaling 1,526 acres in the Shoshone National Forest. The Forest Service determines which parcels it will offer at BLM lease auctions.

“Mineral resources on Wyoming public lands play a key role in meeting energy demands in the Rocky Mountain Region,” said Wyoming BLM State Director Bob Bennett.

“With one-third of the nation’s oil and gas production coming from the public lands, oil and gas leasing helps increase domestic production of clean-burning natural gas and other mineral resources.”

Oil and gas production in Wyoming contributes to meeting local and regional energy needs. Oil and gas operations on BLM-administered public lands and federal mineral estate in Wyoming produced 29,819,011 barrels of oil and 1,410,476,831 thousand cubic feet of gas in 2005. About 64 percent of the homes in Wyoming are heated with natural gas.

Auction rules call for a $2-per-acre minimum bid in bonuses on any parcel. This means a buyer will pay the bid price for the right to obtain the federal lease, in addition to a standard $1.50-per-acre rental on the lease. BLM will also charge winning bidders $130 per parcel to help cover administrative costs. If the lease produces, the federal government will collect a royalty on production. Last year, royalties of $799,217,792 were collected and shared equally with the State of Wyoming.

Leases are for a primary term of 10 years, and will be continued as long thereafter as oil or gas is produced in paying quantities.

The complete list of parcels is available on the Wyoming BLMwebsite at:

Protests filed

Federal officials have already received numerous protests about the Wyoming Range leasing program (see Examiner’s letters to the editor section), with residents voicing their opposition, and groups ranging from the Wyoming Outdoor Council to the Wyoming AFL-CIO filing official protests.

Last week, Trout Unlimited Public Lands Program advisor Cathy Purves filed TU’s letter of protest, noting, “The environmental assessments completed for the management areas these lease parcels are located within were primarily conducted over 12 years ago.” She noted that there are three major issues that have not been considered and need further examination: the presence of the Canada lynx and its listing in 2000 under the Endangered Species Act, air quality impacts and concerns and the lack of an assessment on current development and project development exceeding the reasonably foreseeable development assessment completed in 1987.

The TU protest stated: “Associated impacts to wildlife habitat occurring on adjacent BLM lands in the Upper Green River Valley need to be taken into account. Oil and gas development on these public lands is escalating at a pace and to a degree that has created a high level of concern among biologists about the ability of wildlife to survive these impacts. When migration corridors are blocked by gas wells and development infrastructure and animals are unable to migrate from forest to open spaces and back, the health of wildlife populations is at risk. The lack of any acknowledgement from federal agencies in their environmental analysis that there exists this cumulative problem is irresponsible. Recent wildlife studies in the Pinedale Anticline and the Jonah Field are showing major impacts to mule deer (46-percent decline in population abundance in oil and gas sites), antelope (avoidance of oil and gas sites), and sage grouse(entire populations disappearing from previously occupied range).”

Trout Unlimited continued: “Failure to consider the cumulative effects from leasing these parcels places wildlife populations at risk. The Forest Service had relied on outdated environmental analyzes that are tiered to an even more outdated 15- year-old forest plan and its related NEPA documentation. The Bridger-Teton National Forest is in the middle of updating its forest plan. It is entirely appropriate for the agencies to postpone any lease sales until the Forest Service updates its analysis and can better forecast the impacts from oil and gas development to wildlife populations and the relationship between the two.”

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