On Thursday, April 17, 2014, beginning at 9:30 am MDT, the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners will offer oil and gas leases of state lands and sub-surface mineral rights for sale to the highest bidder, at the director’s office of the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), 300 North Sixth Street, Suite 103, in Boise, Idaho . IDL periodically conducts these public auctions and administers subsequent leases, with oversight and approval by the Land Board. The 12.5-percent royalty derived from extracted oil and gas raises funds from lands held for the public trust and state wildlife and transportation departments and for specified beneficiary institutions through the state endowment trust. Of the 150 tracts in Ada, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington Counties, 36 parcels are located under or adjacent to the Boise and Snake Rivers and many involve the split estates of private landowners and state mineral holders .
Minimum, competitive bids by drilling companies at the oral auction open at only $0.25 per acre for the 17,700-plus acres available for leasing. Successful bidders must pay their bid and the first year’s annual rental of $1.00 per acre for leases lasting up to ten years. If the lease is not drilled or productive, IDL assesses an additional drilling penalty of $1.00 per acre per year starting in the sixth year. The state requires a $1,000 bond for exploration on each lease, which increases to $6,000 prior to drilling, in addition to a drilling permit bond issued by the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Before entry on state lands for seismic exploration, the company must acquire an IDL permit costing $100 per mile across contiguous tracts or a minimum of $100 per section.
The last state lands and minerals auction on January 16, 2014, in Boise, Idaho, generated $694,000 in bids for the state of Idaho [3, 4]. The Idaho Department of Lands leased 8,714 acres for oil and gas drilling – including 4,130 acres in and alongside the Boise, Payette, and Snake river beds – for an average of $80 per acre to the lone bidder, Alta Mesa Idaho. The April 17 auction will double this previously largest amount of Idaho public lands and minerals leased in one period, bringing the total to nearly 98,000 state acres, leased for as low as $2.35 per acre on average, besides the thousands more private acres leased in six southwestern counties . Fourteen drilled but capped wells, awaiting pending pipelines and processing infrastructure, have prefaced the first producing well in Idaho in February 2014, on the Teunissen Dairy near New Plymouth. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality found toluene from drilling mud in a water well several hundred feet away in fall 2012 .
If the people of Idaho own all of these myriad acres of public trust and endowment trust state lands and minerals auctioned for oil and gas exploitation, which respectively “benefit” the general fund and public schools, how can Idahoans influence and determine how our state stewards these shared resources? Allowing the same agency – the Idaho Department of Lands – to both regulate and lease oil and gas development on state holdings seems like a conflict of interest, especially because the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission that oversees industry regulation is politically appointed and receives a 1.5-percent severance tax on oil and gas production for its “responsibility.” At least Idahoans can vote out of office the state’s highest elected officials on the Land Board, for leasing and selling off our precious, impacted lands, resources, and waterways for bargain basement prices.
Because the last five years of frenzied oil and gas rule-making, legislation, drilling, and exploration, centered primarily in Payette County and the Boise halls of government, represent industry’s first forays into Idaho’s still relatively pristine, and thus increasingly valuable, watersheds, the time has now arrived for communities across the state to organize and resist looming drilling, fracking, and acidizing of oil and gas wells. Historic and current fossil fuel development in the state infers that major portions of Idaho are ripe for development and could eventually suffer in the boom-and-bust crosshairs of dirty energy corporations . Please participate in one or hopefully all of these opportunities for citizen protection of our clean air, water, and lands:
1) Join the protest of this state lease auction, converging at 8:30 am MDT on Thursday, April 17, at the park on the corner of West Bannock and North Sixth Streets in Boise. Organized by Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE) and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), the demonstration affords various roles that will display our collective displeasure with our state government allowing oil and gas companies to utilize our public lands and waters as dumping grounds for the predictable, toxic aftermath of extraction profits. Bring your protest signs, friends, family, co-workers, and spirit of solidarity with communities devastated by fossil fuels. Contact IRAGE and WIRT to further discuss event logistics [8, 9].
2) Sign the petition addressed to Idaho Governor Butch Otter, entitled Protect Idaho’s Water . It requests independent baseline testing of all bodies of water near state lands and minerals prior to their leasing by the Idaho Department of Lands to the oil and gas industry. To expand Idaho citizens’ right to knowledge of lands planned for auction, engagement in leasing processes, and stringent water protections, the state should make available to the public this water quality data and comprehensive maps of pending leased parcels, before any auction of state lands and mineral rights for fossil fuel development.
3) Test your well water prior to any drilling activities, if you live or do business in leased areas. Because such water quality data must be legally defensible, withstanding potential industry attorney challenges, a certified water collector should do the sampling, thereby ensuring a strong and defensible chain of custody. Contact Alma Hasse and Tina Fisher of IRAGE, who can guide you through this process. If you pool four to eight of your neighbors for water well testing within a zero- to three-mile radius of looming drilling, IRAGE can cover the $35 hourly rate for a technician.
4) Arrange meetings among your neighbors, family, and friends for presentations and discussions with IRAGE and WIRT activists about oil and gas development in Idaho and other states more severely affected by industry inroads. Local organizers can also answer your questions and talk with you over coffee or iced tea.
5) Check out information on the IRAGE and WIRT facebook and website pages, join these grassroots groups, and share this update with concerned citizens around the region. WIRT will soon release more information about Idaho oil and gas incursions and resistance in an upcoming newsletter.
 April 17, 2014 Oil & Gas Lease Auction (Idaho Department of Lands)
 Tract List (Idaho Department of Lands)
 Idaho Leases Thousands More Acres for Oil and Gas Development (January 16, 2014 Idaho Department of Lands)
 County Land Leased for Oil, Natural Gas Development (January 18, 2014 Idaho Press-Tribune)
 Fracking Campaign (Wild Idaho Rising Tide)
 WIRT Newsletter: Direct Action Manuals, Idaho Gas & Fukushima Plans, Fracking, Shale Oil, Coal, & Tar Sands Resistance (November 3, 2013 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)
 Oil and Gas Exploration in Idaho (2006 Idaho Geological Survey)
 Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (facebook)
 Protect Idaho’s Water (CredoMobilize petition)