Homeowners try to lease mineral lands beneath home

PINEDALE — After two harrowing rounds of state lease auctions that invited bids for the mineral estates under their home beside the New Fork River, a local couple is applying for the 240-acre lease in the state’s “over the counter” option. 

Applying for an unsold Office of State Lands and Investments’ lease “over the counter” falls in a time period after two unsuccessful auctions. 

Homeowners Jan Allen and Mike McFarland, who live next to the New Fork River, took this route after a July lease sale and another in November brought no bidders for Parcel 188 or three other parcels underlying the Barger Subdivision, Bomgaars and private property. 

The first sale came as a total surprise, McFarland was told. OSLI only has to advertise upcoming auctions on its website and in the Casper Star-Tribune, considered a statewide newspaper. And the couple was unaware that an individual could “bid” on a lease parcel. 

“Everyone thought we would have to submit a business plan for a mineral lease,” McFarland said. 

They and others concerned about the possible impacts of mineral-lease development along the New Fork River contacted the state office with concerns before the July sale. McFarland said he spoke with House Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Sublette, recently, who is floating a draft bill for the state office to notify surface property owners in writing of pending subsurface lease sales. 

Before the July sale, OSLI Mineral Leasing Supervisor Tate Smith said the parcels’ surface land would be protected with lease stipulations. Still, McFarland and Allen, who see moose, deer, elk and eagles on their property, were very relieved to see the words “canceled” by those parcels after the July sale. Then Parcel 188 was listed again for the recent November sale – and again, no bidders. 

“Jan grabbed the bull by the horns and talked to (Smith) and did her homework about the parcel,” McFarland said. “He couldn’t have been a more pleasant and helpful guy.”

 After two unsuccessful auctions, Parcel 188 opened up for the “over the counter” application period that closed Dec. 6.

McFarland and Allen learned that while OSLI usually leases mineral properties to operators who plan to develop and bring in more revenue to the state, the minimum bid on a parcel is $1 per acre a year for a five-year lease. 

And, according to the OSLI’s procedure, a “qualified” person is a U.S. citizen over the age of 19. 

After the couple talked to their concerned neighbors, McFarland and Allen decided to go for it. A private individual does not need to submit a development plan. McFarland put his name on the application with a $1-acre bid of $240 plus a $50 processing fee and sent it to OSLI. 

“We pay our money for five years, to be paid annually, to keep (the lease) in place,” he said, adding this comes as a huge relief to everyone whose land is on top of the mineral estates. “Everyone wants to pitch in but we’ll talk about that later. I won’t feel better until we know we’ve been approved.” 

Now, it is up to the State Loan and Investment Board members, which are also the top five state elected officials, to presumably OK the application at their Feb. 7 meeting. 

The Office of State Lands and Investments has its updated oil and gas lease map viewer of active leases, inactive leases and current or most recent auctions at http://gis.statelands. wyo.gov/osligis/oilandgas/.