For sale to the highest bidder: Thousands of acres of federally owned mineral rights in two southern Colorado counties and in the Pawnee National Grassland near the Colorado-Wyoming border.
Grassland-area drilling would only be allowed from private parcels adjacent to federal property, however.
The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said Friday it will offer at its November lease auction 19 parcels totaling 10,050 acres in three counties: Weld, Huerfano and Las Animas. The Weld County parcel is near Fort Morgan.
Also on the BLM’s auction block in November are 102 parcels owned by the U.S. Forest Service covering 79,487 acres of underground mineral rights within the Pawnee National Grassland in Weld County — a rolling area of Colorado’s eastern plains that is known internationally among bird watchers for the variety of wildlife that live in the area.
In May, the BLM sold leases to 25,215 acres o f mineral rights in the Pawnee National Grassland for $30.8 million.
The grassland area is part of Colorado’s big oil boom stemming from the Niobrara rock formation and other rock layers thousands of feet underground. The state has set records for oil production in the last few years, with much of the oil coming from new Weld County wells.
The BLM said the Forest Service analyzed the grassland parcels and consented to the mineral rights lease sale. However, if an oil and gas company wants to drill on those parcels they must abide by a “no surface occupancy stipulation,” meaning while they have a right to access the underground minerals, they will not be able to disturb the surface above the mineral rights.
Typically, that means the mineral rights can be accessed using directional or horizontal drilling techniques from other surface land that doesn’t have the same restriction.
A similar restriction was imposed on grassland parcels that were leased in May.
The federally owned land that’s part of the Pawnee National Grassland is mixed in with a checkerboard of land owned by the state of Colorado and private individuals.
The quarterly competitive oil and gas lease sale is scheduled for 9 a.m., Nov. 12, at the Colorado State Office in Lakewood.
The public has 30 days to protest any of the parcels being offered in the sale. The deadline for submitting protests is Sept. 14.
More information about the parcels to be offered at the November least sale can be found here.
Colorado receives 49 percent of the proceeds of each lease sale. In fiscal year 2014, Colorado received about $169 million from royalties, rentals and bonus bid payments for all federal minerals in the state, including oil and gas.