Subscribe for 17¢ / day

CHEYENNE — A Bureau of Land Management lease sale attracted $4.4 million in bids from developers looking to drill for oil and gas in Wyoming.

The sale Tuesday include 13 parcels in the Bridger-Teton National Forest that Gov. Dave Freudenthal, outfitters, conservation groups and others had opposed including in the auction.

The U.S. Forest Service tracts, which are located in the Wyoming Range area of western Wyoming, generated $1.34 million in bids.

The 13 parcels could face formal challenges from several groups who argue that drilling in the Wyoming Range will detract from the area's intrinsic beauty and recreational appeal.

Outfitters and others opposed the sale of the Wyoming Range tracts because they are popular areas for fishing and hunting.

"While we understand the contributions oil and gas makes to our state, we are not willing to threaten the hunting and fishing experiences of future generations," Freudenthal wrote in a letter to the BLM before the sale.

Van Bullock, of Bullock Oil Properties in Morrison, Colo., bought five of the 13 parcels and expects about half of them to be challenged.

Bullock said the BLM in Wyoming does a good job of screening the protests for merit before they go on the auction block.

"I don't shy away from a lease just because it's protested," Bullock said.

The BLM conducts lease auctions every two months.

The federal government owns mineral rights to 67 percent of Wyoming land, including both surface rights and split estates, according to the BLM.

Copyright © Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.