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More than two dozen controversial Montana oil and a gas leases slated for sale next week have been shelved by the Bureau of Land Management in response to public concerns.

The parcels, 26 either along the Beartooth Mountain Range or on the outskirts of Livingston, were to go on bid March 12. Public comment on the projects prompted the BLM to reconsider, said Al Nash, bureau spokesman in Billings.

The parcels are at least deferred for sale at a later date, but might not be reconsidered at all.

“There have been serious questions raised, and we feel it is appropriate to step back and review our existing policies to see indeed if they do provide the appropriate level of protection,” Nash said. “When we listened to the public, they talked to us about a variety of issues including water quality and other environmental issues, especially the folks in Livingston who were concerned about the visual impact. We received serious questions and we want to respond.”

In November, Livingston-based Park County Environmental Council and local landowners filed an administrative appeal on Thursday to protest the leases. 

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Of the 63,496 acres of federal public land up for auction at the March sale, some of the leases border the community of Livingston, the Yellowstone River, and would be within view of the community’s downtown. The community argued that the loss of tourism dollars far outweighed any profits from oil and gas in a region known for producing little of either fossil fuel.

In addition to the 26 full parcels deferred, there were a few partial parcels removed along the Yellowstone and the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone, Nash said.

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