An Osage government-sponsored company, Bluestem Ranch LLC, and two private Osage ranchers have been awarded the initial leases on the tribe’s Bluestem Ranch property, the Office of Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear announced Friday.

The Osage Nation Procurement Office issued Notices of Award for the leases, the Chief’s office said. According to the announcement, the leasing process started with publication of a Request for Proposals. A selection committee then spent several weeks determining lessee finalists.

Standing Bear’s office said the process conformed with the Principal Chief’s call for the property to be managed with transparency and accountability.

“Acquiring this land is a historic moment for our Tribe and this success is a tribute to our entire organization and team,” said Standing Bear. “It is only right to manage this asset in an open, fair and responsible manner.”

The tribe purchased the Bluestem property last year from media moghul/conservationist Ted Turner.

According to the Chief’s office, 20 leasing bids were submitted for grazing and ranching activities. Lease payments are to be made to the Osage Nation, the release stated.

Some members of the Osage Nation Congress have suggested leasing the entire 43,000 acres to Bluestem LLC. The Chief’s office said that would require bypassing competitive bidding and the procurement-selection process. Standing Bear said he supports the Bluestem company, but added that he also wanted “to give the free market a chance.”

“We should allow leases by private Osage ranchers who can show their payments and terms would be competitive or exceed those of a government-sponsored company,” the principal chief said.

“We have an internal difference of views as to which groups will have responsibility to manage this land,” said Standing Bear. “I am confident that we will ultimately arrive at a conclusion that manages this land in a responsible way so that we can protect it for generations to come.”

In addition to being leased one of the tracts for ranching purposes, Bluestem LLC also has been asked to manage a separate proposed operation on the property — Wah-Zha-Zhe Nature Preserve.

The Bluestem lease proposals are to be reviewed and approved by the Osage Congress, before being sent to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, the release added.

For more information about the Osage Nation, visit http://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/