Opinion by Ryan Lance
Improving State Trust Lands
By Ryan Lance, Director of the Office of State Lands and Investments
If you hold a lease on State Trust Lands and have improvements that were made prior to June 30, 2010 that have not been approved by the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners (Board), you have until June 30, 2014 for those improvements to be approved retroactively by registering them with the Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI).
By registering improvements, including fencing, wells, stock tanks, pipelines, solar panels and reservoirs, it allows the owner of the improvements to be eligible for reimbursement of the contributory value of those improvements should an Agricultural and Grazing Lease be lost due to a conflicting lease application or in the event that the State Trust Land is sold. Any prior improvement for which permission was denied is not eligible for registration.
Generally, lessees are allowed to make improvements upon the State Trust lands by first gaining Board approval prior to construction. In 2011, the legislature amended state statute W.S. 36-5-110 to clarify that approval must be applied for prior to making any improvement in excess of $2,000 per section for each separate improvement. In the past, lessees were permitted to make multiple improvements that may have remained under the $2,000 threshold, but once that threshold was met, they were required to apply for Board approval for each subsequent improvement, independent of its value. The new wording makes it clear that the $2,000 limit is meant to be applied to each separate improvement and not meant to be applied to all improvements.
The legislature also included a provision allowing registration of improvements, made to State Trust Lands prior to June 30, 2010, that had not previously received Board approval. In the legislation, it expressly provides that those improvements registered with OSLI prior to the June 30, 2014 registration deadline would be treated the same as those improvements that had been given full Board approval in terms of eligibility for reimbursement of contributory value should the lease be lost.
In summary, if you have improvements on State Trust lands, you have until June 30, 2014 to take advantage of the opportunity to register those improvements that have not previously received Board approval.
You can obtain a registration form by visiting OSLI’s website at lands.state.wy.us or at slf-web.state.wy.us/Surface/RegistrationForm&Plat.pdf, which links directly to the registration form.
For all improvements made after June 30, 2010 and going forward, an Application for Construction of Improvements on State Land must be submitted to OSLI. The form can be found on the OSLI’s website, or directly at slf-web.state.wy.us/surface/improvements.pdf.
If you prefer to have these forms mailed to you, or if you have questions, please call the Office of State Lands and Investments at 307-777-7333.