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Gas Drillers Lease Thousands of Acres of Idaho Public Lands

To date, approximately 8,700 acres of Idaho's public lands—about half owned by the state's endowment fund and the other half owned by public trust—have been leased to the drillers.

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Thousands of acres of the Gem State's public lands have been leased to oil and gas developers—the lion's share in Payette County.

Boise Weekly has chronicled the burgeoning gas drilling industry, which has been trying to jump-start in earnest since Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter was bragging that Bridge Resources had "hit a hell of a big well." Bridge went on to continue leasing properties from landowners and drilling several exploratory wells. But following a series of investigative reports by Boise Weekly, Bridge's financial house of cards collapsed, selling off its leases to the next round of developers.

Since then Texas-based Alta Mesa Services snapped up a number of leases and wells from Bridge and moved forward with its plans to build a natural gas processing plant near U.S. Highway 30, south of New Plymouth.

But it turns out that Alta Mesa, which is partnering with Snake River Oil and Gas, also has its eyes on Canyon County, leasing nearly 3,500 acres of public land there. This morning's Idaho Press-Tribune reports that all of the Canyon County leases purchased by Alta Mesa are north of Highway 44.

But a spokesman for Alta Mesa said the company is still focusing most of its gas exploration operations on Payette County—at least for now.

The state of Idaho has collected nearly $695,000 in leases of public lands to the gas exploration companies. To date, approximately 8,700 acres of Idaho's public lands—about half owned by the state's endowment fund and the other half owned by public trust—have been leased to the drillers. Funds raised through leases of the endowment fund are funneled to Idaho public schools.