OSLI Director Bridget Hill offers updates on agency actions, programs
Casper – New Director of the Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI) Bridget Hill presented updates for grazing lessees and landowners during the 2013 Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup.
Hill, who was appointed by Governor Matt Mead to serve as OSLI director after Ryan Lance stepped down, has an extensive background with public lands and noted she is excited for the new endeavor and is learning more about OSLI operations every day.
For updates, Hill mentioned that any and all improvements on a piece of property or grazing lease need to be registered with the OSLI office before June 14,2014.
“From the 1920s to 1940s, nobody was actually following the language of the statutes for registering improvements. Lessees would go ahead and put improvements on the land and then get them approved,” said Hill.
This practice resulted in those improvements being installed before OSLI approval having no contributory value. The legislature has recognized the issue, and they have put into the statute a grace period to allow lessees time to register all their improvements.
“A grace period that will allow lessees to register their improvements, even if they were put on the land before they were approved. As long as they are registered they will be eligible to receive contributory value of those improvements,” replied Hill.
There is a form on the OSLI’s website along with an explanation describing how to register improvements.
“Even if you think your improvements are already approved, go ahead and list those all on that sheet,” Hill said.
If landowners and grazing lessees are unsure about the improvements on the OSLI list, call the OSLI office with lease information, and they will be able to verify if improvements are on the list or not.
Total program compliance
There is also a new program with the OSLI called the Total Program Compliance.
This program is an internal communication mechanism within OSLI that allows individual divisions to communicate with each other and know if private industry companies are complying with the OSLI’s rules and requirements.
Generally the private industry companies requesting or applying for permit at OSLI will be mineral companies.
“Mineral companies need various things to get their mineral work done. They need easements and temporary use permits. When they apply for those our office now has a way to see if they are in compliance with all of our rules before we process their application,” explained Hill.
OSLI can also find out if the mineral companies have been making their impact surface payments to the grazing lessees.
“We are able to flag that and get it taken care of before we grant any other applications that they are seeking. That is a good thing, not only for our office, but for our grazing lessees that have experienced some trouble receiving their surface impact payments,” said Hill.
Another new legislative initiative put into place within OSLI is that authorized enforcement officers are now able to cite people for violations on state lands.
If there is resource damage OSLI can now ask for restitution related to the damage as well.
“Now we have the authority to close state parcels for public access if we noticed resource damage or if there is a public health and safety issue. If somebody violates that closure, it is now a misdemeanor,” warned Hill.
Surface impact payments
Hill also stated there has been a lot of discussion lately with mineral companies that want to develop minerals on state lands.
“The first thing to know about anybody seeking entry onto state land that is leased under a grazing lease is the company or person has to contact and negotiate with grazing lessee for surface impact payments,” said Hill.
There are a few exceptions for people that do not have to negotiate surface impact payments with the grazing lessee. Those exceptions are any employee from OSLI, a member of the public who has been granted the right to be on the property for general recreation purposes or people who have already been granted a valid easement or temporary easement.
“Anybody else seeking entry on a parcel that is under a grazing lessee has to negotiate,” said Hill.
The agreement amount for the surface impact payments should be consistent with other surface impact payments that are adjacent to state lands.
If an agreement cannot be reached, OSLI rules state the director is in charge of setting the surface impact payments. Both parties submit evidence to the OSLI office and what they believe the surface impact payments should be.
The OSLI director will look at the evidence both parties submitted and at anything else they find relevant in past files to set the payment.
“Not many people are aware of this, but while mineral companies are negotiating their surface impact payments to grazing lessee, OSLI rules do allow for them to have immediate entry onto the land as long as they are negotiating and have paid a deposit set by OSLI,” said Hill.
The process of gaining entry onto a grazing lease for mineral companies also applies to any seismic and geophysical processes.
“If lessees experience anyone trying to gain entry onto their property or grazing lease can call OSLI, and they can help look at any rules related to processes. If anyone is on private land looking for entry, they should contact the landowner first and negotiating with them privately,” stated Hill.