Water Rights

Water, Oil and Gas, Timber and other Natural Resources

With more than 50 years of experience in natural resource matters, we focus our attention upon the rights of landowners. The development and use of resources on a landowner’s property is often initiated by a person or entity seeking to lease or purchase rights in connection with the use of water, the extraction of oil, gas or other minerals, the removal of valuable timber, or the installation of power lines, cell towers or wind turbines. The terms of any lease, sale or other contract initially proposed may appear to be advantageous to the landowner in the short run. However, only a careful review of the rights of the landowner and, on occasion, assistance in the negotiation of a final contract, can the landowner be reasonably assured that, in the long run, his rights and property will not suffer deleterious effects and unanticipated injuries.

Clean fresh water, although generally plentiful in this area, is currently the focus of the state and federal government, particularly as other regions of both the country and the world are experiencing shortages. A landowner who may be approached regarding the sale or leasing of the water rights associated with his property must keep informed of the ever changing legal climate regarding water. Legal representation at the outset can provide the landowner with the best opportunity to both protect his interests as well to be properly compensated for any sale or lease that may be contemplated.

The sale of timber is an area where some landowners are unpleasantly surprised with the condition of their property after the timber company has left. Unfortunately the contracts with the timber company may have failed to include sufficient provisions to govern, for instance, the cost to ”clean up” the woods, and the landowner learns that such cost may exceed the amount that he was paid for the timber, in the first place.

Oil and Gas leases as well as other contracts with oil and gas companies such as pipeline rights of way have grown, over the years from about on and one half pages of straight forward language to several pages of detailed legalese. Although some of the provisions may be advantageous to the landowner, the bulk of the language defines the broad rights conveyed to the lessee, the oil and gas developer. Although it is often represented that the long form leases and other contracts, and the provisions thereof, are “standard in the industry” it must be understood that such “standard” was developed by the industry, often many years ago, and may not reflect the realities of the present time. The terms of contracts are always subject to being negotiated. However, only when a landowner is fully aware of his rights can he expect the final contract to best reflect his interests.

The extension of electrical transmission lines and pipelines are often subject to condemnation procedures if a landowner does not negotiate appropriate easements. As a consequence of the potential for condemnation, it is crucial that a landowner engage experienced legal counsel at the outset to see that all steps are taken to assure that his property rights are fully protected.

The expansion of cellular communications and wind power industries places ever increasing pressure on private property for the placement of cell towers and wind mills. Landowners whose lands include the physical characteristics attractive to companies seeking to install such facilities have a valuable resource that, unless properly addressed in contacts associated with such facilities, may be adversely impacted, possibly for generations.

Beyond legal assistance in the first instance in the negotiation and drafting of leases or other agreements, landowners often have legitimate concerns regarding existing agreements. The laws regarding contracts have been developed over many decades. Only the careful review by experienced legal counsel can provide a landowner the information regarding strategies for addressing, and hopefully remedying, his concerns.