The Bureau of Land Management’s first quarterly lease sales of the year drew millions in competitive bids while parcels deferred in 2018 remain under tribal consultation.

With another nine parcels near Chaco Canyon deferred, New Mexico led 1st quarter results taking more than $15 million in bids in the March lease sale. The results come just one year after other parcels near the site were put temporarily off-limits by federal officials.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pulled the previous parcels near Chaco Culture National Historic Park early in March 2018, submitting them to a cultural review process.

“We are still working on the 106 consultation for the 25 parcels that were deferred in March 2018,” Cathy Garber, Chief of the Office of Communications in the BLM New Mexico State Office told Western Wire.

The Section 106 process under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) for BLM undertakings in New Mexico implements the agency’s ePlanning website for public involvement and includes maintenance of online information about upcoming BLM projects.

“There were 22 parcels (approximately 7,011 acres) from the Farmington Field Office offered in the March 28, 2019 sale. None of these parcels were nominated or are part of the consultation effort for the March 2018 sale effort,” she added. “We have completed our March 2019 sale 106 and Government to Government consultations. We received concurrence from the State Historic Preservation Office last week for the March 2019 sale.”

New Mexico’s 45 parcels covering just under 14,000 acres drew bids of $15,361,992. The state will split the revenues with the federal government; in 2018, New Mexico drew $486 million from its 3rd quarter sale alone.

When Zinke deferred the contentious parcels from the 1st quarter sale in 2018, he noted, “I’ve always said there are places where it is appropriate to develop and where it’s not. This area certainly deserves more study.”

“My job is to make sure that the local voices are heard, and the state and national interests are reflected,” Zinke added. “In this case, there is some concern about the proximity to Chaco of some of the leases and the uncertainty about cultural impacts.”

“We understand the cultural importance of this area, and the need to gather additional information about this landscape before holding a lease sale,” said BLM New Mexico Acting State Director Aden Seidlitz, describing the consultation process. “We will continue to work with consulting parties, including tribal and state governments, state and federal agencies and others, as we consider and analyze impacts of oil and gas leasing in the area.”

Garber confirmed the process was still underway and said that “consultation for the March 2018, December 2018, and June 2019 sales is ongoing.”

Parcels of land scheduled for lease sales in Huerfano County, Colorado in 2018 were also deferred, in order to consult with Navajo Nation representatives whose adjacent holding they consider “ancestral land” outside the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski, a public affairs specialist at BLM’s Colorado State Office, told Western Wire, “BLM is not currently offering the lands in a lease sale. BLM is still considering nominated parcels. The area is still open to leasing.”

March’s lease sales drew just over $36 million in bids, with New Mexico’s regularly scheduled quarterly results once again leading the way, topping Wyoming’s $11.67 million in bids over nearly 96,000 acres, Utah’s $6.975 million covering 135,000 acres, Montana’s $2.08 million over more than 62,000 acres, and Colorado’s sale, covering just 5 parcels and 1,055 acres for $13,872.

A special Wyoming federal lease sale that began in February, however, auctioned nearly 527,000 acres on 437 parcels, receiving more than $87 million in competitive bids.