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BLM Withdraws Montana Parcels From Upcoming Oil, Gas Lease Sale

For the second time in three days, the Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management has removed parcels scheduled for an upcoming oil and gas lease sale, this time involving acreage in DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke's home state of Montana.

The BLM said Monday it was withdrawing 26 parcels, plus portions of two other parcels, from an online auction scheduled for next week. The parcels near Livingston, MT, and in the foothills of the surrounding Absaroka and Beartooth mountains total about 17,300 acres. The BLM had originally proposed offering 109 parcels, totaling nearly 63,500 acres, at the March 12-13 online auction.

"Multiple use is about balance," Zinke said. "I've always said there are places where it is appropriate to develop and where it's not. This area certainly deserves more study,” thus the parcels were withdrawn.

In a posting on Twitter on Monday, Zinke said "after talking with residents and local, state and federal officials, we have decided to defer the oil and gas sale around Livingston."

Following the withdrawal, the BLM said it would review the resource management plans (RMP) issued through the field offices in Billings and Butte, MT. BLM staff "will further evaluate how these plans provide the appropriate level of protection for parcels made available for oil and gas leases.

"This evaluation will inform whether the protection measures need to be updated, modified, or changed for the unique local conditions."

The remaining 83 parcels, covering nearly 46,200 acres, still are scheduled for auction.

Last week, Zinke postponed an upcoming lease sale for lands in northwest New Mexico. The BLM had planned to lease 25 parcels covering 4,434 acres near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, in the Four Corners part of the state, on Thursday.

The Trump administration moved last month to eliminate a series of Obama-era reforms to the BLM's onshore oil and natural gas leasing program, including the use of master leasing plans (MLP), on the grounds that the reforms were duplicative and burdensome to the oil and gas industry. The BLM said moving forward, it would rely on RMPs in place of MLPs.

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