BLM Lease Sales


Acting in response to a preliminary injunction of June 15, 2021, by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in State of Louisiana v. Biden, the Interior Department — notwithstanding 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, with the surviving parcels being scheduled — contingent on the outcome of protests that were filed — for lease sales in June of 2022.  BLM, since that time, has held no additional lease sales for the third or fourth quarters of 2022; nor will there be any sales for the first quarter of 2023.

In the case of the Eastern States in particular, BLM wound up eliminating 100% of the parcels that were under consideration for a second-quarter 2022 sale.  Tracts in three areas previously had been identified for possible inclusion in a lease sale in early 2022: 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 on October 29 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” (even though such an analysis had been conducted previously).  And on April 19, 2022, BLM’s Eastern States Office issued a decision not to offer the remaining Alabama tract at that time, stating, as a principal justification (which somehow required a 100+ page environmental assessment), 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 $2 per acre minimum.

Between November 2022 and January 2023, however, several BLM State Offices — Eastern States, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Montana-Dakotas — have published notices of scoping periods for parcels that are under consideration to be offered in lease sales in the second and third quarters of 2023.  These scoping periods will lead to evaluations of each of these parcels 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 are to be evaluated are 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.