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Lands leased despite protests

Scott Condon

Two natural gas leases on 1,560 acres of pristine national forest land in western Pitkin County were sold last week for a total of $44,120, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.Contex Energy Corp. of Denver placed winning bids on two parcels of land southwest of Carbondale where gas leases were offered by the Bureau of Land Management at a public auction.A spokesman for Contex said his company doesn’t drill wells or produce natural gas. It’s a lease brokerage firm that acquires leases for other companies. Contex acquired roughly 33 of the 70 leases sold at Thursday’s auction, according to Bureau of Land Management records.The identity of the energy production company or companies that Contex worked for will likely be disclosed next week when the Bureau of Land Management issues the leases.Energy development companies typically use brokers at the Bureau of Land Management ‘s quarterly auctions so that their strategy of acquiring lands can be hidden from competitors, according to Duane Spencer, a branch chief of the minerals division in the bureau’s regional office in Denver.

When a company purchases a lease it doesn’t acquire the land on the surface. It acquires the right to drill for the natural gas underneath the surface. The Bureau of Land Management auctioned 70 gas leases on nearly 72,000 acres of public lands in western Colorado. All of the parcels were leased, raising a total of $6.6 million in revenues, according to bureau spokesman Vaughn Whatley. It was the second highest amount ever raised at an auction in Colorado and the first time that 100 percent of leases were purchased, he said.Four parcels were withdrawn from the auction. Three were withdrawn to give the Bureau of Land Management time to consider new information submitted by the Colorado Environmental Coalition in a protest. The coalition claimed those lands have wilderness characteristics that should be preserved.The Colorado Environmental Coalition teamed with other environmental groups, to file 33 protests seeking parcels be withdrawn from the auction. Thirty parcels with pending protests were offered and sold at the auction.Two of the protests were over the Pitkin County parcels. One of the parcels brushes up against the popular Spring Gulch Nordic skiing area in Jerome Park. The gas lease on that 760 acres of land sold for $17 per acre or a total of $12,920.Another parcel of 800 acres in Pitkin County sold for $39 per acre of a total of $31,200.


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