As a result of protests filed in conjunction with its March 27 oil and gas lease sale, the Bureau of Land Management has identified stipulations that will be added to future leases on BLM lands in Beaverhead County to better protect visual resources. None of the parcels in the March 27 sale that received bids would be subject to the visual resource stipulations. Other portions of the protests have been dismissed. Those portions of the protests mainly focused on protection of wildlife habitat and fisheries. Upon review of the protests the BLM determined the stipulations attached to the leases address the wildlife habitat and fisheries issues elevated in the protests and are consistent with the land use plans.
Leases had been withheld on the 12 protested parcels that received bids pending the outcome of the protests. Those leases are being issued.
Of the 57 parcels offered at the March sale, 53 were protested. The protests were filed by Montana Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Many of the protested parcels are located in Beaverhead County, Montana, on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and BLM. The BLM lands are covered in the Dillon Resource Management Plan (RMP) completed in February 2006. The Dillon RMP was a multi-year planning effort developed with the help of cooperating agencies (such as counties, state agencies, and other federal agencies) and the general public. Many of the protested parcels were nominated several years ago and leasing of these lands was on hold until completion of the Dillon RMP. The reasonably foreseeable development (RFD) scenario for oil and gas development within the Dillon RMP boundary predicts six wildcat wells could be drilled within the next 10 to 15 years with two of those wells discovering commercial volumes of hydrocarbons. It is predicted that two additional step-out wells would be drilled for each of the two discoveries. Well spacing for the step-out wells would likely be one well per section (640 acres) as set by the rules of the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation.
The protests also asserted that the BLM should cease leasing in areas where land use plans are being revised. Land use plans are the guiding document for all types of land uses and management actions including grazing, mining, rights-of-ways, and recreation. It is the agency’s policy to continue to make decisions in accordance with the existing land use plan until the revision is completed. However, discretion is used to avoid making decisions during the plan revision process that would harm resource values so as to limit the choice of reasonable alternative actions relative to the land use plan decisions being reexamined. The BLM encourages the public, interested organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies to become involved in its planning process. I nformation on land use plans can be found at http://www.blm.gov/mt/st/en/prog/planning.html