September 20, 2014

BLM Selling More Than 6,000 Acres of
Colorado Land it Doesn't Own – Federally
Authorized Pilfering of Private Property?

University of Colorado’s Climate Scientist Richard Keen Details Oppression by Administration, Fellow Faculty, and Politicians, After He Dared Raise Questions about Global Warming in a College Classroom

By Gene J. Koprowski

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is offering leases on 24 parcels of land totaling 6,797 acres during its quarterly oil and gas lease sale in the coming weeks -- 6,316 acres of which are on privately owned land. The federal government claims to own the underground mineral rights,, has learned, based on an obscure law passed by the U.S. Congress 100 years ago and signed by Woodrow Wilson, the nation’s first elected progressive president.

“No protests were received for this sale,” the BLM said in a statement.

The parcels of land cover parts of Colorado counties El Paso, Elbert, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Washington and Weld counties. Only 481 acres of that property that are included in the lease sale are located on BLM-managed land. A 30-day protest and comment period ended on Sept.14. earlier this week.

BLM conducted an environmental impact review and found that there would be no adverse affect to the privately held land when the oil and gas rights are leased, the agency says.

Split Estate Mineral Rights

For those readers shocked at the seeming lack of due process here, the BLM refers them to a concept called “split estate mineral rights.” This legalism is the legacy of the Stock Raising Homestead Act (SRHA) of 1916 signed by President Wilson.

Passed at a time when the government was still trying to encourage settlement of the West, the law allowed a settler to claim 640 acres of non-irrigable land that had been designated by the Secretary of the Interior – BLM is an agency of DOI -- as "stock raising" land.

“Mineral exploration was beginning to escalate and the federal government opted to maintain the mineral rights to the land claimed under this law,” explains the BLM.

Rather than a deed to property, giving the new owner land, underground, and air rights, the federal bill limited the landowners rights ab initio, i.e., from the beginning: The law authorized the government to keep a “patent” on the mineral reserves underground, while the rancher was free to do as he pleased on the surface. (Within limits.)
The nearly 100 year-old statute reads as follows, in relevant part, "Excepting and reserving, however, to the United States all the coal and other minerals in the lands so entered and patented, together with the right to prospect for, mine, and remove the same pursuant to the provisions and limitations of the Act of December 29, 1916 (39 Stat., 862)."

Share the Wealth

Long-before Barack Hussein Obama II pledged to “spread the wealth” in his 2008 campaign for President, his progressive predecessor former professor Wilson was already embedding a similar scheme in the law, one which would raise its head only generations later.

The law has some very explicit definitions built into it. The term "other minerals" includes, but is not limited to, leasable minerals, like oil, gas, geothermal, phosphate, sodium, and potassium; locatable minerals, including gold, silver, copper, gypsum, and bentonite; and mineral materials, including sand, gravel, scoria, pumice, and stone. Also helium.

Just over 30 years ago, back in 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the SRHA mineral reservation definition and further defined it – i.e. added to the law -- substances that:

Are mineral in character;

  • Are inorganic;
  • Can be taken from the soil;
  • Can be used for commercial purposes;
  • Were not intended to be included in the surface estate, or have a separate value.
  • Are not necessarily metalliferous;
  • And may not necessarily have a “definite chemical composition.”;

Most interestingly, if the landowner of the surface land in question wants to dig or drill or do anything that penetrates the surface of his land, he has to obtain a federal permit to do so.
Earlier Protests

A lease of similar land in Colorado, earlier this year, was vigorously protested by environmental activists.
Not envisioned by President Wilson and his congressional cohorts apparently were groups like Greenpeace which do not want the land touched in any way – on the surface or underground – no matter whether the feds own it or a private rancher does.

Back on July 1, the BLM published a notice in the Federal Register Bureau of Land that it planned to lease more than 8 millions tons of “publicly owned coal in Colorado,” according to the liberal environmental activist group, Greenpeace.
The coal lease sale took place as scheduled for July 30. But that was a rare loss for the eco-activists, as it followed a federal court ruling in June that halted plans for a separate Colorado coal lease because the “Bureau of Land Management’s environmental review failed to consider the impacts of “climate change and the social cost of carbon.”

Greenpeace At Odds With Obama

According to Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Kelly Mitchell,
“The federal coal leasing program is undermining President Obama’s climate action plan and subsidizing the coal industry’s efforts to export publicly owned coal, and now the Bureau of Land Management apparently plans to sell more publicly owned coal to a company that openly touts its export plans. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell should step in and establish a moratorium on coal leasing, since the Bureau of Land Management appears unable or unwilling to fix the serious flaws with the federal coal leasing program.”

A private company has planned to boost coal exports from Colorado mines, including from its Bowie #2 mine in Western Colorado that the company aims to expand with the new “Spruce Stomp” coal lease. Working with a private equity firm Galena to purchase three other Utah coal mines, this company has told BLM it has an agreement to export coal through the Port of Stockton, and has secured a letter of intent to export coal through another port in the Pacific Northwest. Activists had succeeded in shutting down plans to export through the port in Oakland, across the bay from uber-liberal San Francisco.

The activists have also been pushing state authorities to make it harder for landowners to drill for oil on their land in Colorado, even if they do own the mineral rights.
As a result of protests by liberal activist groups, the state has added 11 new oil well inspectors to its team of 17 seasoned inspectors to empower the government to “examine” activities at 47,000 active wells in Colorado. With 17 inspectors, the state was able to probe only half the active wells; now it thinks it has all of them covered.

Red List

The state is prioritizing its inspections with a so-called "red" list of wells that regulators deem high risk. These are wells that are near public water systems, have reported spills in the past, have flopped previous inspections, or received “a complaint from a resident.”

Liberal eco-activists note that a recent report from Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, determined that the federal government has failed to inspect “four in 10 high-risk wells,” including 244 in Colorado.
Colorado’s continued economic and population growth will likely make the inspections even more intense in the future. The state is upgrading its inspection criteria, adding such factors as proximity to population centers, “potential risk to wildlife,” and nearness to groundwater wells. New inspection priorities are expected to be announced in early 2015.
So, depending on the day, and the issue, ranchers have eco-liberals, as well as state and government regulators after them, telling them what they can, and cannot, do with their private property.

In perhaps the most absurd example of all the BLM claims that private landowners whose forbearers forsook their mineral rights to the government can be arrested for willfully trespassing upon those mineral rights. That’s correct, if the landowner trespasses by accident, all is forgiven by Uncle Sam. But, if he or she willfully digs for gold, oil, coal or anything of value under their property, arrests and prosecution may soon follow. The landowner may only do things to the land that improve the surface of the land. This includes developing water sources and infrastructures associated with grazing and foraging. How can you find out whether or not you are a law abiding citizen when it comes to irrigating or improving the land, contact the BLM, the agency’s web site sagely advises.

BLM Colorado offers oil and gas lease sales four times per year, as per another federal statute, the Mineral Leasing Act, when eligible lands are available for leasing. This September’s scheduled sale was combined with the upcoming November sale, according to the BLM. A number of offices are involved in the upcoming sale, including the Colorado River Valley Field Office, Grand Junction Field Office, Gunnison Field Office and the Uncompahgre Field Office, as well as the Royal Gorge Field Office and the San Luis Valley Field Office.

For more information about what you can, as an American citizen and private property owner, and cannot do, with your land in Colorado, e-mail the following address or check out the enclosed URL: