The Bureau of Land Management recently released its final plan to manage public land in central Montana, from the Rocky Mountain Front to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.
This area contains some of the last intact grasslands and some of the best habitat for big game in North America. The majority of this area has little to no potential for oil and gas development. Nevertheless, the BLM’s plan opens 95% of these areas to future oil and gas leasing. Even though the area lacks reserves that could generate royalties or jobs for local communities, private companies will still buy these leases through a process called noncompetitive leasing.
Noncompetitive leasing is a 100-year-old vestige of federal law allowing private companies to acquire leases on public lands for an administrative fee of $1.50 per acre. Less than 3% of all noncompetitive leases are ever developed, but in 2018 alone nearly 75% of all leases in Montana were sold this way.
Companies use these cheap leases to pad their portfolios and attract investors in a legal speculation scheme. Administering these leases is time and resource intensive for BLM field agents. That’s time and taxpayer dollars spent shuffling papers for private company speculation that gets taken away from the foundation of our outdoor way of life: clean water, recreation access and facilities, intact wildlife habitat, and the many other things you and I value about living in Montana.
Sen. Tester has introduced the Leasing Market Efficiency Act, a commonsense, good governance bill to end the noncompetitive leasing loophole, ensuring transparency and cutting down on
agency waste. Please join me in asking Sen. Daines (202-224-2651) to support the Leasing Market Efficiency Act.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle Letter to the Editor 9/1/20