Purchase photos

BLM working on resource management plan for federally owned land

1/6/2014

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Kansas isn't known as a state flush with federal land.

Despite that, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has an interest in more than 850,000 acres of land in Kansas.

The BLM doesn't own a single acre of that land, according to Paul McGuire, a public affairs specialist in Moore, Okla.

But under federal law, it's the agency responsible for managing oil and gas leases, as well as any other minerals.

"BLM is responsible for the minerals management," McGuire said.

Currently, BLM is wading through a series of scoping meeting in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to update resource management plans for the three states.

Meetings are planned for this week in Salina and Liberal.

Kansas last had its plan updated in 1991 and put into place in 1993.

The plan governs BLM's ability to issue oil and gas leases.

The federal government owns 778,000 acres of land outright in Kansas and has split estate rights on another 73,000 acres, most of that in the western third of the state.

Cheyenne County has more than 11,200 acres in that category, much of it producing natural gas. Ellis County has a mere 40 acres, but it's in a wetlands formed by the Saline River.

In some instances, however, the management plans are put in place within the rules set out by other agencies, such as the Corps of Engineers, which manages lakes in Kansas, such as Lake Wilson. Or there's the Department of Interior, whose Fish and Wildlife Service manages the likes of Kirwin and Quivira national wildlife refuges.

The Bureau of Reclamation, another Department of Interior office, owns land surrounding a number of lakes in Kansas, including Cedar Bluff, Webster, Keith Sebelius and Kirwin.

The federal government also owns mineral rights on land that didn't get doled out under either the Homestead Act or the distribution of property to railroads.

It's a fair chunk of change the federal government pulls in from lease agreements on land and mineral rights it owns in Kansas.

In fiscal year 2013, for example, nearly $5.7 million was brought in, mostly from oil and gas royalties. That's based on total sales of $45.5 million.

Through the resource management plan, rules are put in place to govern the likes of oil and gas drilling.

Most of the lakes in Kansas don't allow surface occupancy, for instance, but some do allow directional drilling.

Through the scoping meetings and development of the management plan, leasing and drilling rules will be developed.

The final plan likely won't be completed for several years, but once it's done, the plan will remain in place for 20 years or more.

The Kansas meetings are both at 6 p.m. Salina's will be Tuesday at the Courtyard Mariott, while the Liberal meeting will be Wednesday at the Liberal Memorial Library.