Bakersfield, CA – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently announced that it will conduct a competitive lease sale that could pave the way for oil drilling on sensitive lands near the Los Padres National Forest. Other areas on the auction block include the Wind Wolves Preserve, the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, and the Cuyama River.
The BLM will conduct the land auction on December 14 for 27 parcels of land totaling 19,053 acres in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Kern, and San Luis Obispo counties.
During the lease sale, oil companies will be able to bid on the rights to extract oil and gas from these parcels. The sale is conducted much like an auction, with the drilling rights going to the highest bidder. The minimum bid for an oil lease is only $2.00 per acre.
ON THE AUCTION BLOCK: Los Padres Forest Boundary
5 parcels, 5600 acres
Five of the parcels lie along the boundary of the Los Padres National Forest, in Santa Barbara and Kern counties. These parcels are located on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management, as well as surrounding private lands.
Many of these parcels are in Santa Barbara Canyon, approximately one mile west of the Cuyama River and Highway 33. The road leading up Santa Barbara Canyon serves as a gateway to the northern portion of the Dick Smith Wilderness Area in the forest.
Also along the forest boundary is a cluster of parcels near Ballinger Canyon, between Highway 33 and the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
ON THE AUCTION BLOCK: Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge
2 parcels, 2160 acres
Slated for auction are two parcels just outside the boundary of the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, in the southwestern San Joaquin Valley foothills.
The federal government purchased this 14,097-acre refuge in 1985 to protect dwindling California condor foraging and roosting habitat. It’s the site where the last female condor was trapped in 1986.
ON THE AUCTION BLOCK: Wind Wolves Preserve
4 parcels, 203 acres
The agency will auction four parcels located inside the Wind Wolves Preserve, the largest privately-owned nature preserve in the West. The 97,000-acre preserve is located in the southern San Joaquin Valley, adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest.
The preserve is in an ecologically unique region where the Transverse and Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada Mountains, western Mojave Desert, and San Joaquin Valley converge.
ON THE AUCTION BLOCK: Cuyama River
1 parcel, 840 acres
Also up for lease is one parcel along the banks of the Cuyama River, and area that the Forest Service has declared an “Area of High Ecological Significance” due to the high number of rare plants and animals here.
This lease auction comes on the heels of a plan, approved in July, to open up 52,075 acres of the Los Padres National Forest to oil drilling. The parcels up for lease in December are outside of the forest, and not a part of that plan. However, allowing drilling on lands right along the forest boundary could eventually make it easier for oil companies to expand these operations inside the forest. This is because once an oil well is established in an area, additional oil wells can be rubber-stamped in that area, with minimal environmental review.
The oil company placing the highest bid wins the right to drill for oil in the lease area. The oil company may then conduct surveys, often using explosives or “thumper trucks” to detect the location of oil. The company then submits an Application for Permit to Drill and a Surface Use Plan of Operations for approval. Once approved by federal agencies, drilling can begin immediately.