The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Thursday auctioned another 1,147 acres in Ohio's Wayne National Forest for oil and natural gas development, earning more than $5.1 million that will be distributed between the state and federal government.
The lease sale followed another in December that brought in about $1.7 million. Combined with Thursday's event, BLM has thus far leased more than 1,800 acres in the forest. Eleven bidders participated in the latest auction, including Eclipse Resources Corp., Gulfport Energy Corp. and Flat Rock Development. Those companies were issued leases in the last auction. A complete list of the latest winners was not available on Friday.
BLM did say, however, that Philip L. White of New Mexico placed the highest per acre bid of more than $10,000. According to news media reports, White is a lease trader who works to monetize acreage. While that couldn't be independently verified, public records show that White holds other leases in the West, and BLM records show he has participated in other auctions and been issued federal leases before.
Twenty-one parcels across 1,186 acres in the forest were originally scheduled to be offered, but one parcel was removed from the auction. BLM did the same in December to sort out land records. That event was controversial and attracted a petition signed by tens of thousands of people and administrative protests from environmental groups to stop it. Dozens of protest letters were received for Thursday's auction.
BLM said in 2015 it was considering leasing about 18,000 acres that the oil and gas industry had nominated for development in the forest. The bureau has issued a favorable final environmental assessment for the larger Marietta Unit, which consists of 40,000 acres in Monroe, Washington and Noble counties that could ultimately be leased. All of the acreage leased in December and on Thursday is in the Utica Shale hotbed of Monroe County.
About 41% of the mineral rights across the forest are owned by the federal government. There are already more than 1,000 active conventional wells in the forest, many of which are on federal land.