BLM Lease Sales


It was a long time coming; but on June 29, 2023, BLM’s Eastern States Office finally held its first lease sale since December of 2020.

The path to this lease sale took many twists and turns to reach that point.  In 2021, the Interior Department, acting in response to a preliminary injunction by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana relating to the “pause” on new leasing that had been imposed by President Biden’s executive order of January 27, 2021 (see the Recent Developments page of this website), identified limited numbers of parcels that were to be considered for leasing in the first quarter of 2022, and published environmental assessments for certain of those parcels.  By the time that the environmental assessments were completed, however, not only was it too late for any first-quarter lease sales, but BLM discovered reasons to eliminate about 80% of the prospective parcels nationwide from further consideration (including all of the Eastern States parcels that were then in contention).  The surviving parcels were scheduled for lease sales in June of 2022.  Thereafter, no additional lease sales were held by BLM for the third or fourth quarters of 2022, or for the first quarter of 2023.

In the Eastern States, tracts in three areas initially had been under consideration for a second-quarter 2022 sale: split-estate lands (i.e., federal minerals under private surface) in Covington County, Alabama; lands in the DeSoto National Forest in Wayne and Jones Counties, Mississippi; and lands in the Homochitto National Forest in Franklin County, Mississippi.  Following the conclusion of the scoping period for these parcels, BLM published an environmental assessment in October 2021 only for the split-estate lands in Alabama, while cancelling further consideration of any of the National Forest lands in Mississippi “due to ongoing discussion between the two agencies [BLM and the Forest Service] regarding air quality analysis as required under NEPA.” And in April 2022, BLM’s Eastern States Office issued a decision not to offer the remaining Alabama tract at that time, stating, as a principal justification, that the lands were not sufficiently near to existing development.

(The last competitive lease sale by BLM’s Eastern States Office, prior to the “pause,” was held online on December 17, 2020. Fifteen parcels were offered in that sale, covering split-estate lands in Arkansas and Mississippi, along with one tract in Mississippi’s Homochitto National Forest. Only five of the parcels received bids, though; and of those, only one, in Jones County, Mississippi, went for more than the minimum bid amount (which was then $2 per acre).)

Between November 2022 and January 2023, several BLM State Offices — Eastern States, as well as Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Montana-Dakotas — published notices of scoping periods for parcels that were under consideration to be offered in lease sales in the second and third quarters of 2023.  Evaluations of each of these parcels then followed, under the criteria established by new BLM Instruction Memorandum 2023-007 (see the Recent Developments page).

In the Eastern States area, all of the parcels that were evaluated were split-estate tracts, including one parcel in Kalamazoo County, Michigan; two parcels in Caddo Parish and one in Bossier Parish, Louisiana; and one parcel in Smith County and two in Greene County, Mississippi. Environmental assessments for the Michigan and Louisiana parcels were then published, in March.  The Mississippi parcels, though, were deferred from further consideration for the current sale, under the criteria in IM 2023-007, for the reason that there was no nearby oil and gas development.

A sale notice for the June 29 lease sale, including the Michigan and Louisiana parcels, was published on May 15.  In the lease sale, high bids were received of $3501/acre for the parcel in Bossier Parish, and $2001/acre and $251/acre for the Caddo Parish tracts, in Louisiana; while the Michigan parcel went for $14/acre (slightly above the newly-increased $10/acre minimum).

According to BLM Eastern States Office staff, that office expects to hold its next lease sale in the first quarter of 2024.