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ND leads 3-state region in oil, gas leases

BISMARCK (AP) -- Federal oil and gas lease sales in the Dakotas and Montana set a record in fiscal 2011, with parcels in western North Dakota's booming oil patch fetching the most revenue, the Bureau of Land Management said Thursday.

Teri Bakken, a BLM leasing chief in Billings, Mont., said oil and gas lease sales in the three states during fiscal 2011, which ended in September, totaled $109.9 million, with North Dakota accounting for $104.2 million. Montana tallied $5.2 million in lease sales, followed by South Dakota with $364,146.

Revenues from the oil and gas leases are shared by the federal government and the state or county where the parcels are located.

Bakken said leasing revenue in the three-state region shows no sign of letting up, even if the number of parcels would decline.

"We may not see as high of number of parcels, but we still will see higher dollars per acre," she said.

The federal lease sales have drawn more interest in North Dakota than in Montana and South Dakota for most of the past decade, agency records show.

In North Dakota, "every little nook and cranny" of available federal land is being leased, Bakken said.

BLM offered 207,969 acres for bid in fiscal 2011 in the region, with 140,000 acres leased. All of North Dakota's 80,416 acres offered received bids.

Most of the leases in North Dakota were within the rich Bakken and Three Forks shale formations in the western part of the state.

The Bakken formation encompasses some 25,000 square miles within the Williston Basin in North Dakota and Montana.

The U.S. Geological Survey has called it the largest continuous oil accumulation it ever has assessed.

Only two sales were held in fiscal 2010, while BLM conducted environmental reviews under a settlement agreement with groups that want to limit greenhouse gas emissions from oilfield activities. The 2010 sales fetched more than $30 million, with North Dakota accounting for about $27 million of the total.

Federal oil and gas lease sales in the three-state region totaled a then-record $75.4 million during fiscal 2009. North Dakota had $74.2 million of the total, according to the BLM.