GUEST COMMENTARY
Explaining BLM Colorado’s Oil and Gas Leasing Reform
 Programs
by Helen Hankins, BLM Colorado State Director
Mar 14, 2012 | 801 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Oil and natural gas development on the public’s land and the public’s mineral estate provides an economic driver for Colorado’s economy, with 22,912 Colorado jobs supported by energy and mineral development on Colorado’s public lands, generating $4.9 billion in economic activity last year.

Roughly 90 percent of oil and natural gas development in Colorado occurs on state and private land. The State of Colorado has led the nation in providing a regulatory framework to manage this development in an environmentally responsible manner on state and private lands.

The Bureau of Land Management also has a robust regulatory framework, mandated by laws like the Mineral Leasing Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and many other federal laws and regulations.  

We manage the public’s land and mineral estate for multiple uses, ranging from energy development to wildlife habitat to recreation and conservation. To help better balance these often-conflicting demands on our public lands, the BLM implemented oil and natural gas leasing reform in 2010. These reforms provide the public more involvement earlier in the process to better inform our decisions, and help reduce conflict, protests and litigation.

BLM’s leasing reform also included the option of analyzing proposed Master Leasing Plans as part of its evaluation process. MLPs could be used in areas that were largely unleased, development was anticipated and oil and natural gas resources had been proven through a producing well.

Conservation groups initially nominated four areas in northwestern Colorado for MLPs, and in 2012 nominated South Park for a fifth MLP. BLM Colorado identified North Park for a possible MLP.

In 2010, roughly 82 percent of public lands (7 out of 10 field offices) in Colorado were in the process, or preparing to begin, updating their Resource Management Plans (RMPs). BLM Colorado used this opportunity to include the same detailed analysis and planning of a proposed MLP as part of our planning process. We felt it was more efficient in terms of time, resources and money. We chose not to duplicate ongoing planning efforts for the same acres of public land.

The White River RMP amendment and Grand Junction RMP, with drafts scheduled to be released later this year, will address most of the proposed MLPs in Colorado. Through our planning process we will identify public land parcels that are appropriate for leasing with the greatest chance for timely development, providing certainty for industry while protecting our most environmentally sensitive areas. As we prepare, publish and finalize these and the many other RMPs underway in Colorado, we look forward to the continued interest and enthusiasm so many have for their BLM Colorado public lands. 

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