The only parcel for lease this quarter in Grand County is visible in the bottom right corner of this BLM map. [Image courtesy of BLM]

The Bureau of Land Management’s $1.1 billion in revenue from the sales of oil and gas leases in 2018 breaks the previous record set in 2008.

A Feb. 6 press release from the Department of the Interior (DOI) said the 2018 revenue is a record high, “shattering” the previous record of $408 million.

Lease sales in New Mexico contributed largely to the boost, bringing in $972 million during a two-day lease sale in September. Utah’s 2018 oil and gas lease sales totaled a little over $8 million for 2018.

The spike in oil and gas lease sales is due partly to implementation of President Donald J. Trump’s “America First Energy Plan.” The Feb. 6 press release calls this an “all-of-the-above plan that includes oil and gas, coal, strategic minerals, and renewable sources such as wind, geothermal, and solar, all of which can be produced on public lands.”

The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 mandates that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must offer quarterly lease sales for oil and gas development, but there is no equivalent mandate for other kinds of energy development.

Comments on the latest figure from the BLM-Moab office were not available as of press time. The press release included a quote from acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

“Responsible production of domestic energy keeps energy prices low for American families and businesses, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, creates American jobs, and generates billions of dollars in revenue to the Federal Treasury,” he said.

With the goal of encouraging domestic energy production, the BLM has amended some of its leasing procedures.

Those changes are outlined in a DOI “Instruction Memorandum” from January of 2018, which states its purpose, in part, as “to simplify and streamline the leasing process to alleviate unnecessary impediments and burdens, to expedite the offering of lands for lease.”

These efforts to achieve lease sales more quickly and smoothly have contributed to the BLM’s record-breaking lease sales numbers last year. One change meant that all available parcels in a state are now offered in a quarterly statewide sale, whereas previously the parcels were offered one district at a time, with districts rotating each quarter.

Another change has shortened the 30-day public protest period to 10 days. This change has caused backlash from advocacy groups in several Western states. In a federal district court case in Idaho, a group of conservation advocates sued the BLM over this change, causing many parcels slated for the December 2018 lease sale to be moved to the March 2019 sale. In Utah, 116 parcels were moved from the December sale to the March 2019 sale. None of those were parcels administered by the BLM’s Moab office. The BLM opened the public protest period for the March oil and gas lease sale five days after the end of the partial federal shutdown on Jan. 25. The public comment period ends on March 1.

The March quarterly sale includes one Grand County location, a 680-acre parcel in the Book Cliffs area.

There are several parcels up for lease in San Juan County close to the Colorado state line and inclusive of the land lying between the protected areas of Hovenweep and Canyon of the Ancients national monuments.

The National Park Service, National Parks Conservation Association and the All Pueblo Council of Governors, a group of 20 federally recognized Native American tribes in New Mexico and Texas, submitted concerns with the BLM-Monticello office in December. The groups raise concerns over how the cultural resources, watersheds, viewsheds and soundscapes in protected areas will be potentially impacted by energy development in southeastern Utah.

All Pueblo Council of Governors said the land between the protected areas is a “rich Puebloan cultural landscape” often thought of by Pueblos as being connected and a part of their history “as their ancestors journeyed through these areas and far beyond.”

The BLM has already reviewed and responded to these and other public concerns, even though the BLM and federal government were partially shut down during much of the time between when the comments were submitted and the release of the BLM’s response.

The BLM has said through a press release that all of the protests need to “be as specific and substantive as possible.”

“Those protests that contain only opinions or preferences will not receive a formal response, but may be considered in the BLM decision-making process,” the BLM said in a press release.

Protests may be submitted by U.S. mail addressed to the BLM-Utah State Office at 440 West 200 South, Suite 500, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84101. For information on how to file a timely protest, the BLM said to visit

The 10 day public comment window on June’s quarterly oil and gas sale is tentatively scheduled to begin on April 25 and remain open until May 6.

Streamlined oil and gas leasing procedures give way to spike topping $1 billion

“Responsible production of domestic energy keeps energy prices low for American families and businesses, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, creates American jobs, and generates billions of dollars in revenue to the Federal Treasury.”