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Energy Innovation:UW seminar hosts panel discussion on energy development and ranch management collaboration

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The University of Wyoming (UW) College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources (CALSNR) held the second installment of its Ranching in the West Seminar Series on March 18 in Gillette. 

The panel discussion focused on energy innovations and collaboration between the energy and agriculture sectors and featured six notable panelists from across the state of Wyoming, including Wyoming State Sen. Eric Barlow, Rock Springs Grazing Association Operations (RSGA) Manager Don Schramm, Landman Jaycie Burch, Peabody Senior Land Manager Fred Eden and Ranchers Frank and Terry Henderson.  


The panel began by discussing the challenges faced when balancing ranching needs with energy development. 

Schramm shared he believes the biggest challenge is understanding mineral ownership, as different entities may own the surface rights, the pore space and the mineral rights on one section of land. 

In her position working for a midstream company, Burch noted one of the biggest challenges she has faced is aligning a timeline which works for both parties.

“A company or operator may have a stringent schedule, while the surface owner they are trying to cut a deal with may not necessarily be on board with this timeline,” she said. “Timelines shift and change. It just comes down to knowing what is important to the landowners and ranchers and keeping an open line of communication between both parties.” 

Barlow shared, as the owner and operator of his family ranch in Gillette, the biggest challenge he has experienced is finding the time and necessary resources to understand what kind of changes and consequences he might run into regarding energy development on his operation. 

Terry agreed, adding, “A rancher’s ultimate concern is their private property rights. Former President George Washington is quoted saying, ‘Private property rights and freedom are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other.’ In production agriculture, these property rights are something we want to last for generations, not just for a few years.”


Although some kind of challenge always exists among collaborators, many of the panelists concurred the positives outweigh the negatives. 

“I can think of way more positive things about oil and gas activity in Wyoming for ranchers than I can negative,” remarked Burch. 

Burch and Schramm noted oil and gas activity provides ranchers with well-maintained roads which allow for year-round access to land that may otherwise not be available for use during certain times of the year.

Terry and Frank both touched on the fact royalties and other payments made to landowners who have instituted some kind of mineral development on their operation help keep them financially sustainable. 

Eden commented, “From the coal mine perspective, I think there is a really unique interface which allows for mutual development and a great reward on the back end when we have reclaimed the land and turned it back over to the rancher. It creates a wonderful opportunity.” 

Additionally, Barlow mentioned these benefits reach further than those immediately involved. 

“I will speak a little in my role in the state government. Think about the schools we have in this state,” he said. “The coal bid bonus money from Campbell County has built schools all over the state of Wyoming for the past 20 years.” 

“The benefits of energy are not just for individual families, but the broader community in the state of Wyoming,” he added. 


To wrap up the discussion, the panel mulled over their thoughts on opportunities in the carbon market and the future of energy exploration and ranch management collaboration. 

While many of the panelists agreed there is an opportunity for ranchers in the carbon market, Terry shared she believes it is simply a political trend that will fade out in the next decade. 

“I would say we just need to stay informed and keep an eye on political whims,” she said. “I would say we should just grow more grass.” 

On the contrary, Barlow explained northeast Wyoming is already seeing some opportunity in the carbon market with the CO2 line that runs from the southwest corner of the state to Montana. 

“This line is mostly used for enhanced oil recovery, which is certainly a carbon market to improve existing wells,” he said. “There are also deals being signed in Campbell County right now for future sequestration projects.” 

Burch said she believes there is a an opportunity for ranchers in the carbon market and that it is a good way to diversify an operation’s income. 

Schramm pointed out there is still a lot to learn regarding carbon. 

“The thing many of us need to learn about is something called a class six well,” he explained. “We have to have a class six well to go deep into a formation to pump carbon so it won’t leak.” 

He further suggested individuals seek legal advice when getting involved with carbon sequestration in order to avoid trouble down the road. 

“We are pumping hazardous waste, and the last thing we need is a leak because as an owner of the pore space we might have to defend ourselves and/or our ranch,” he stated. “We need some confirmation from the Environmental Protection Agency we won’t be held reliable.” 

Eden agreed, noting to his knowledge, only one class six well is currently permitted in the state. 

“Without this key component of infrastructure, I think underground carbon sequestration is going to struggle,” he said. 

When it comes to the future of collaboration between energy exploration and ranch management, all parties agreed the state of Wyoming presents a wonderful venue for beneficial partnerships between both industries.

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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