Public Lands to Benefit from Final BLM Oil and Gas Leasing Rule

A new rule finalized today by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will help to avoid conflict between oil and gas leasing and wildlife habitat on public lands enjoyed by hunters and anglers.

The Fluid Mineral Leases and Leasing Process Rule will reform and update regulations for oil and gas leasing on public lands stewarded by the BLM. The rule builds upon reforms to oil and gas leasing supported by BHA that were passed into law through the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022. 

Ninety percent of the 245 million acres stewarded by the BLM are available for oil and gas leasing, with more than 25 million acres currently leased. By directing the BLM to prioritize oil and gas leasing near existing infrastructure or in areas with high potential for oil and gas production, the rule will provide guidance that conserves undeveloped landscapes with significant value for wildlife. This approach will manage the extraction of natural resources and disturbance of habitat more responsibly. 

The rule implements multiple fiscal reforms, including raising oil and gas royalties from 12.5% to 16.67%, which brings that rate in line with the rates typically levied on state lands. This will ensure a fair return to all public land owners for the extraction of natural resources while reducing market incentives for the oil and gas industry to operate on federal public lands. 

Bonding rates for oil and gas leases will be updated for the first time in more than sixty years through the rule as well. By raising the minimum bond rates from $10,000 to $150,000 and adjusting those rates for inflation every decade, this will collect the necessary funding for the remediation of retired drilling sites and proper reclamation of orphaned wells. 

Through the increase of minimum bids from $2 an acre to $10 an acre in tandem with increasing rental rates and establishing a new $5 an acre expression of interest fee, the rule will curb speculative oil and gas leasing on our public lands. It also implements regulations to eliminate noncompetitive leasing which is often speculative in nature. Nearly half of all existing oil and gas leases on public land were acquired through a noncompetitive process and a majority of these are nonproducing. Speculative leasing prevents the BLM from properly managing for wildlife and conservation values in areas with insignificant potential for oil and gas development.  

It is critical that we approach oil and gas development on our public lands in a balanced way. Guidance to prioritize leasing areas with the highest potential and near existing disturbances will help to avoid the fragmentation of intact wildlife habitat. Fiscal reforms will require the oil and gas industry to pay for the cleanup of retired and abandoned projects while disincentivizing speculative leasing. Together these changes will result in a more responsible oil and gas leasing process as the BLM follows its multiple-use mandate. Resulting in substantial benefits for the management of our wild public lands, the wildlife habitat they provide, and the access and opportunity they offer sportsmen and women.


About Kaden McArthur

A western hunter and angler, my passion for wild places and wildlife brought me to Washington, DC to work on conservation policy.

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