Why is it always the most beautiful places that sit atop lands rich in minerals, gas and oils? Such is the irony of the location of Pawnee National Grassland (PNG). The PNG is known as a haven for birds, especially during migration, and is home to the lark bunting, Colorado State’s bird. It’s an area rich in history having survived the Dust Bowl and other frontier realities.
The PNG also paid witness to a new type of development: oil and gas, which began in the 1950’s. There’s around 60 active oil and gas well operations currently on the Pawnee. Despite the number of wells, the area is still rich in resources waiting to be reclaimed. This past May, “The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sold leases to 25,215 acres of mineral rights in the Pawnee National Grassland for $30.8 million,” as reported by the Denver Post.
That’s not the end. According to the Denver Business Journal, this November, the BLM will auction off 19 parcels equaling 10,050 acres in the Niobrara shale play, part of which rests below the PNG. The U.S. Forest Service has 102 parcels of mineral rights totaling 79,487 acres in the PNG that will be auctioned off as well.
The May auction included, and the November auction will include, a No Surface Occupancy stipulation meaning the surface can’t be disturbed trying to access the mineral deposits below. This means companies will need to drill on land without the stipulation using directional and horizontal techniques.
Environmental groups have expressed concerns about negative impacts on the PNG. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, a lease is only the beginning of the oil and gas development process. Before any drilling can begin, more planning, public discussions and an environmental assessment will be required. During this phase, all trepidations will be examined prior to permitting. All drilling permits will be reviewed by the BLM in collaboration with the Forest service.
The oil and gas lease sale will take place at the Colorado State Office in Lakewood on Nov. 12 at 9 a.m.