After National Forest lands are proposed for lease by BLM and approved by the Forest Service, the next step is oil and gas leasing. BLM offers the leases for sale in a quarterly public auction. Once an operator has obtained a valid lease, he has a contractual right to develop those public lands for oil and gas. This makes the leasing stage critical – once the lease is bought, this gives the developer a right to develop that will rarely be denied.
After obtaining a lease, an operator will most likely drill exploratory wells or “wildcat” wells, to test for commercial quantities of oil and gas. This will require a special use permit from the Forest Service with public comment solicited. If successful, the next stage is submitting a proposal to BLM/FS for the. Once the project is approved, the operator must submit an Application for Permit to Drill (APD) for each well. This is the last stage prior to drilling and the last opportunity for public participation. Approval of the APD requires consideration of site-specific factors, e.g., for proposed hydraulic fracturing, the agencies should require a water management plan, in addition to a reclamation bond and a complete plan of drilling operations.
More Information about the transition from Land Use Planning to Producing Wells: