Hill looks at state lands ownership, activitiesWritten by Saige Albert
Casper – With just over a year under her belt as the director of the Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI) Bridget Hill says, “We have an amazing staff who does amazing work, and that contributes to why our office is running so well.”
“We are keeping true to our mission and the things we are trusted to do, which is take care of the state trust lands,” she continues.
The state of Wyoming manages 3.5 million surface acres and 3.9 million mineral acres with the mission of “effectively managing natural resources and funds for current and future generations.”
Hill notes that in fiscal year 2014, nearly $240 million was generated for the beneficiaries.
“Most of that money, $225 million, came from mineral royalties,” she explains. “An additional $14 million is from other uses, primarily from grazing lease revenue and other surface use revenue.”
“We have found that the primary use of our land is agriculture, and 90 percent of our surface is leased by agriculture,” Hill says, adding that ranchers are vital to providing good stewardship on state lands. “It would be impossible for us to get out on a regular basis and visit those 3.5 million surface acres. We count on agriculture to be good stewards of the land.”
Over the course of the last year, Hill notes that a number of questions related to water, particularly coal-bed methane (CBM) water wells, have come up.
“The transfer of ownership of CBM wells is a hot topic recently,” she says. “Ranchers are allowed to keep the wells as a stock reservoir if they are interested and it would benefit the operation and state lease.”
To transfer the ownership, she notes that several documents are required.
First, lessees must have proof from the company that the well has been properly plugged and abandoned according to specifications and requirements of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
“We then need a water quality test from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality,” Hill notes. “We want to make sure the water is quality enough to be produced.”
Finally, a lessee application for improvement is required by OSLI. As part of that application, a groundwater permit must be obtained from the State Engineer’s Office, with OSLI as a co-applicant.
“The well has to be completed and in use within one year,” she adds. “The same thing applies to reservoirs.”
Hill also mentions that lessees are not obligated to take over the wells if they are not interested, but it is an option.
Another hot topic related to recreation on state lands is trapping.
“We have opened up legally accessible state parcels for general recreation, and one of those things is hunting,” Hill says. “What we believe does not fall in the definition of hunting is trapping.”
Hill continues that since 2009, if someone wants to trap on state lands, they are required to fill out an application.
“We wanted to be aware, and we wanted our surface lessees to be aware, of anything left out on state parcels – which includes traps,” she adds. “We recently determined that no one was filling out the form.”
After cooperation with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, which regulates trapping, increased efforts have been made to inform trappers that permission is required on state lands.
“On the permission slip is a part that needs to be completed by the surface lessee,” Hill adds. “We want the surface lessee to be aware if trappers are requesting permission to trap on their leases and let us know if they have concerns.”
Hill encouraged anyone with questions about state lands and activities on state lands to contact the OSLI for more information.Hill spoke during the Private and State Lands Committee Meeting at the 2014 Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup.