Pilot Hill Project Avoids Potential For Mineral Dispute Through New Partnership

Apr 9, 2020

About half of the Pilot Hill property is now protected from mineral development.
Credit Pilot Hill Land Purchase

A recent partnership between the Pilot Hill Project and Occidental Petroleum will help protect the 5,500 acre parcel of land east of Laramie from future mineral development. 

Occidental transferred its surface access rights to the minerals under the Pilot Hill parcel to the project.

"What it does is just really give us long term assurance that something way in the future for some reason would never crop up and create a disturbance on the property that wasn't in line with the intent that we have," Sarah Brown Matthews, a spokesperson for the project, said.

Last year, Occidental acquired Anadarko Petroleum. With that purchase, they also acquired Anadarko's mineral rights, which accounts for a large swath of southern Wyoming including about half of the Pilot Hill parcel. Matthews said those involved with the project originally approached Anadarko about transferring their rights, but they weren't interested. But after Occidental acquired Anadarko, they initiated the transfer.

Occidental didn't directly transfer their mineral rights but instead transferred their property access rights - saving time and money for both the company and the project while still protecting the space, according to Matthews.

"Their generosity in saying 'we want to find a way to be a partner in this and we'd like to do it in a way that is expedient and makes it viable for everybody' just really was quite moving to experience. And we can't thank them enough for this generous contribution," Mettews said. "We can't necessarily put a dollar figure around it because we didn't have to go do all the work of trying to determine what the mineral rights were worth. But their willingness to partner with us in such a gracious way is, is really quite a testament to the company itself."

The rest of the mineral rights to the property are owned by the Federal Government.

The Pilot Hill Project will connect to Medicine Bow National Forest and approximately half will have trails for non-motorized recreation. The other half will be designated a Wildlife Habitat Management Area with a primary focus on conserving critical habitat for elk, mule deer and pronghorn.

The University of Wyoming purchased 1,233 acres of the parcel in November. The Office of State Lands and Investments recently finalized a report on the proposed land exchange that will acquire the rest of the intended Pilot Hill Property.

The state of Wyoming has been in discussion with Occidental to purchase its land and mineral rights.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Ivy Engel, at iengel@uwyo.edu.