Colorado BLM pulls most of the oil, gas leases from December sale
When the Colorado Bureau of Land Management holds its quarterly oil and gas lease sale in December, only 8,347 of the 224,341 acres of public lands originally proposed for leasing will be offered.
Concerns about drilling in habitat for elk, deer and other big game as well greater sage grouse prompted the BLM to remove tens of thousands of acres from the Dec. 13 lease sale. The BLM said Friday that it was also postponing action on proposed oil and gas leases in the North Fork Valley near Paonia.
Friday’s announcement follows a decision in October to take 148,797 acres off the auction block. The BLM said it removed those proposed leases, most of which were in northwest Colorado, after Gov. John Hickenlooper raised concerns about the impacts of drilling in sage grouse territory.
The leases could be offered at future sales.
BLM spokesman Steven Hall said in an email that the agency decided Friday to defer action on leases in the North Fork Valley at the request of the governor. The governor and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet had both asked the BLM to hold off on offering oil and gas leases on public lands in the valley because of concerns from local elected officials and residents.
One of the issues was that the BLM has not finished rewriting its management plan for the area.
“We have a really good working relationship with the BLM, and we’re grateful that they not only listened to the concerns of the governor but also those of Sen. Bennet and the local communities,” said John Swartout, a senior policy adviser to Hickenlooper.
Bennet also said he appreciated the decision.
“The governor and I worked in lockstep to ensure the input of communities, sportsmen, and conservationists was at the center of this process,” Bennet said in a statement. “We will continue working with the BLM to balance responsible energy development with other natural resource priorities in Colorado.”
Hickenlooper and Bennet previously questioned changes by national BLM officials that shortened the time periods for public comment and revised requirements for environmental review in efforts to streamline and speed up the leasing process.