Some of the parcels up for lease are on BLM land, others are on private land, including the Nature Conservancy, whose owners do not control mineral rights.
The county commissioners agreed on Wednesday to send a letter to the BLM alerting the agency to the possible conflict with its own efforts to protect the threatened sage grouse. Other parcels that could be leased traverse the San Miguel Canyon, and could affect its scenic quality.
The commissioners and the county health and environment official Dave Schneck agreed that the county should attempt to work directly with BLM officials to assure that sensitive lands are not put up for lease. To its credit, Schneck said, the BLM has already removed some parcels from the auction list.
In addition, San Miguel County needs to "get moving very quickly on some kind of regulation," County Commissioner Art Goodtimes said.
Another possibility, suggested by Open Space Commission member Josh Sale, is for the county itself to bid on sensitive leases, assuring they won't be developed for the term of the lease.
"Within four or five years," he predicted, "the Sage Grouse will be listed."
If it is listed as an endangered species, the Endangered Species Act could be invoked to protect the bird's habitat from incursions.
The BLM auctions oil and gas leases quarterly, Mallory Dimmitt of the Nature Conservancy told the commissioners. Last time, over 80 percent of the land offered was in fact leased.