The Crestone Eagle, April 2008:

BLM announces sale of gas & oil leases on forest land in SLV;
several parcels near Crestone

by Lisa Cyriacks

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced the sale of leases on 133 parcels of federal lands to be included in a statewide sale on May 8. The majority of these parcels–84 parcels totaling 144,090 acres—are located on US Forest Service land in the San Luis Valley. Of the parcels for sale there are three in Saguache County northwest of Crestone. The larger share, more than 109,000 acres, is in the Rio Grande National Forest near Del Norte and South Fork and is located in both Rio Grande County and Saguache County.

The three parcels (nearly 1,000 acres) near the Town of Crestone are located along Rito Alto and San Isabel Creeks. The San Isabel parcels are adjacent to US Forest Service lands and are split estate parcels with a partial mineral interest owned by Lexam Explorations Inc. In a split estate the surface and subsurface rights are owned by different parties. In these situations, mineral rights are considered the dominant estate, meaning they take precedence over other rights associated with the property, including those associated with owning the surface. However, the mineral owner may occupy only those portions of the surface that are reasonably necessary to develop the mineral estate.

The BLM acts as the leasing agent for mineral leases on all federal lands. Parcels for lease can be identified by informal expressions of interest from the public or by the BLM. Public lands are made available only after they have been evaluated through the BLM’s multiple-purpose planning process. The lease grants the lessee the right to explore and drill for, extract, remove, and dispose of oil and gas deposits that may be found in the leased lands. The leases are granted on the condition that the lessee will have to obtain BLM approval prior to conducting surface-disturbing activities. Other uses, including removal of any other minerals, are not permitted. An Environmental Assessment (National Environmental Policy Act) is also required prior to exploration.

The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service are working with county and local officials, seeking concerns and input for things that might have been overlooked. The Saguache County Commissioners are meeting with Andrew Archuleta (USFS/BLM) April 8 at 2pm during their regularly scheduled public meeting to discuss the pendingleases in Saguache County.

The end date for public comments and/or protests for lands proposed for leasing is 4pm, April 23. Protests and comments may be mailed or hand-delivered to the Bureau of Land Management office at 2850 Youngfield Street, Lakewood, CO 80215, or faxed to 303-239-3799. All protests filed on nominated parcels must include the specific serial number of the parcel being protested (can be found at www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/oilandgas/leasing.html). Protested parcels may still be offered for sale but bidders will be notified that no lease will be issued until protests are resolved. After the oral auction on May 8 parcels that received no bids will still be available for sale over the counter for two years at a minimum of $2 per acre.

The notice for this sale has been posted for 60 days rather than the minimum requirement of 45 days, so that citizens will have more time to express their concerns to the BLM. This is mainly due to the fact that there has not been a lease sale in the San Luis Valley for more than 20 years. According to Diann Gese, geologist for the Public Lands Center in Monte Vista, there was a lot of leasing activity from 1985-1990. The last lease on Rio Grande National Forest expired in 1994. Although gas and oil leases and wells were numerous in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, there was only one successful well.

The leases will be offered at a competitive oral sale at 9am on May 8 at the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Office at 2850 Youngfield Street, Lakewood, CO 80215. The minimal acceptable bid is $2 per acre. Leases may be obtained and held by any adult citizen of the United States. Associations of citizens and corporations organized under the laws of the United States or of any State also qualify. In order to participate in the bidding process a bid number must be obtained. Bidders will be registered the day of the sale at 8am. Bid forms can be obtained at: https://www.blm.gov/FormsCentral/show-form.do?nodeId=672#.

A map of the parcels going up for sale and related information is available at www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/oilandgas/leasing.html. Parcels are included in the sale notice either due to informal expressions of interest from the public or by the BLM for management reasons.

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