Home News Local News BLM sale could include many Chaves County parcels

BLM sale could include many Chaves County parcels

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It is not unusual for Chaves County to have parcels in oil and gas lease auctions, but a BLM spokeswoman says that it has been “some time” since so many were offered at one time. (Submitted Photo)

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A large number of parcels in Chaves County are being considered for oil and gas leases on public lands owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Of the 112 parcels proposed for a May lease sale, 84 are in Chaves County, all located southwest of Roswell, according to documents and maps on the BLM website.

“This is the most we have had in Chaves County for some time,” said Allison Sandoval, BLM public affairs specialist.

But she added that it is not unusual for Chaves County leases to be part of BLM’s quarterly sales.

Sandoval explained that the BLM makes a number of parcels available for its auctions, and then oil and gas industry members can nominate the ones they are interested in bidding on.

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The public has until the end of business Monday to submit written comments about the auction, which also is proposed to include 27 parcels in other New Mexico counties (seven in Eddy, 10 in Lea, seven in Rio Arriba and three in Roosevelt) and one in Wise County, Texas. Chaves County parcels total about 44,008 acres, while all parcels total 53,436 acres.

Comments are sought during the scoping period to gather information as the agency prepares the environmental assessment required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Another public comment period is scheduled after the release of the environmental assessment report, from Jan. 27 to Feb. 7.

According to BLM documents, each of the Chaves County parcels will be leased for 100% of the mineral rights and their sizes range from 40 acres to about 1,292 acres. Money raised by the lease sales are returned to the U.S. Treasury and to the states where the leases are managed.

Sandoval said the large number of Chaves County parcels proposed for the auction does not necessarily signify greater oil and gas activity in the area at this time.

According to information from the BLM Roswell Field Office, the county experienced a gas production boom in the 1980s and 1990s, but has seen relatively few new drilling permits for fossil fuels in recent years. During 2019, the office has approved 12 applications for drilling permits. From 2016 to 2018, it approved 19 drilling permits. During the past three years, it also has issued in Chaves County only two geoseismic permits, often used by industry to determine where to invest resources.

The online auction is tentatively scheduled for May 21. Comments can be submitted only on the ePlanning section of the BLM website, blm.gov.

Rocky Mountain Wild, a group that seeks to protect the natural resources of the southern Rocky Mountain region, has posted on its website that many of the proposed parcels for the May sale, including most in Chaves County, are important for wildlife migration. The website also states that two parcels are near habitats considered crucial for the survival of threatened species. According to the group, a parcel in Eddy County has a 14% overlap with a critical habitat for the gypsum wild-buckwheat, a threatened plant species, and a parcel in Roosevelt County has a 1% overlap with the Gallinas Wells protected state habitat area, established to aid in the restoration of prairie chicken populations.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.