The Bureau of Land Management’s first quarterly lease sale for oil and gas development on the agency’s multiple-use lands in 2018 opened quietly after a robust showing in 2017 that saw Western states draw nearly $350 million in receipts.

March’s competitive online auctions for six Western states drew $21,459,114.50, according to sales records.

The BLM Wyoming office’s March 22 auction featured bids on 152 parcels over nearly 152,000 acres. With bids from $2 to more than $12,000 per acre, Wyoming’s sale saw total receipts of $19,627,129.

Lease revenue in Wyoming jumped substantially between 2016 and 2017, as oil prices rose from the recent downturn, according to the Casper Star-Tribune. Last March’s BLM quarterly lease sale drew nearly $130 million. Income from the state’s leases on state and federal lands is earmarked for education, a farm loan fund, and public buildings.

Wyoming’s sale capped a first quarter of lease sales that followed a strong 2017, where total receipts in six Western states—New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Montana, and Nevada—combined for nearly $350 million. Approximately half of the revenue heads to the respective state, with the other half going to the federal government

Utah’s competitive online lease sale on March 20 drew 24 bidders on 43 parcels covering more than 51,400 acres. The sale saw $1,476,520 in receipts, according to the Utah state office.

Oil and gas leases are critical for economic development in places like southeast Utah, said local officials.

San Juan County, Utah County Planner Nick Sanberg told BLM, “Oil and gas operations are an important contributor to a diversified county economy and the county supports leasing as a necessary step toward realizing economic benefits.”

The Utah BLM noted that while protests did not occur during the online sale, “after the sale there was a protest outside of the building that lasted an hour.”

Last year BLM moved to online lease auctions to curb what it saw as security concerns arising from activists attempting to halt or disrupt sales and also to increase participation by tapping new technologies, agency spokeswoman, Megan Crandall, told Western Wire last July.

Years of well-documented protests and criminal sabotage intended to dissuade participants and even subvert the sales with phony bids pushed BLM to reconsider its online sales and abandon the in-person auctions that had been postponed and even cancelled in recent years.

Held a week earlier, Nevada’s March 13 lease sale drew bids on 11 of the 39 parcels offered, covering 19,432 acres, with $152,061 in receipts. The BLM did not indicate if the sale was disrupted on their sale report.

Montana saw 26,665 acres over 13 parcels receive bids, and took in $193,341 over its two-day sale. Colorado offered just 4 parcels covering 1,400 acres of land, with $10,063.50 in revenue.

Online sales have been conducted by EnergyNet on behalf of BLM since early 2017 as part of the transition to online-only sales.