Ranching and The Oilfield
- October 7, 2017
- Tiffany Schwenke
Relationships between ranchers and the oilfield haven’t always been harmonious. Ranching and the oilfield have had a tumultuous relationship that has improved over the years and learned to coexist.
In the early days of the oilfield, tempers were often high because the ranching industry was holding tight to the fact that they were trying to feed a hungry nation and had enough obstacles to contend with before adding the mess of the oilfield. Things such as weather and the fluctuations in the livestock markets have always been a big factor in ranching. So integrating the oilfield into the ranch was not a popular idea. Plus, let’s not ignore the fact that ranchers enjoy the privacy of their ranch. Adjusting to other people being out there working in the oilfield took some time to get used to and of course any damages to the land or gates left open were very upsetting to the ranchers. As with anything, the oilfield has had a steep learning curve. In the beginning the lack of forethought about the damage being caused to the land has brought about guildlines and regulations that now have become common practice to protect the land and the land owner. In today’s oilfield most of the land is taken care of and reclaimed to it’s natural state when the oil companies are done with that location. Granted though, there are still some areas that the oilfield does need to go back and finish cleaning up. With the guidelines and regulations in place it has created a better environment for good relationships between ranchers and oilfield companies.
Some ranchers own the mineral rights under their land and some do not. Even if they do own them this may or may not add up to be a nice sum of money… I know some people who own mineral rights but share them with over fifty cousins! With oil prices down that money doesn’t add up to much when it’s divided over 50 times. The ones who do not own the mineral rights will still get surface damage money from the oil companies and this has been a blessing many times during drought and low livestock market prices. It might not be that much money to some people, but when it is just enough to help keep your operation afloat, then it’s welcomed and appreciated.
If you spend any time at all in the oilfield you will quickly find that hundreds of oil companies work in the oilfield. Companies that drill the wells, companies that build the infrastructure, companies that gage the wells, companies that pump the wells, companies that repair and work-over the wells, companies that haul oil and water from the wells, etc… You will also find many ranchers that have family that work in the oilfield or work in it themselves. Often a ranch is not big enough to support all those living on it and so they seek employment with a steady paycheck and great benefits working in the pastures they know, just now for the oilfield.
In today’s ranching world you will find a maze of oilfield roads and oil wells scattered across the ranches that produce this nation’s livestock.
On many well locations you will find livestock shaded up or using it as a wind block. You can also find livestock drinking water from a methane well tire tank or out-fall pond. The water that comes from methane wells is tested on a regular basis and proves to be good water! It has been a blessing to many ranchers who might not of had a water source in that location before.
As with anything in life, it is about perspective. You can choose to focus on the negative or the positive. Everything has pros and cons. We are all learning as we go. Ranchers are learning to have more stipulations in their contracts to protect their land and the oilfield has been working on being more considerate to the ranchers and their land.
About Tiffany Schwenke
My family has been ranching and raising horses for over 100 years. We raise, train, and market AQHA horses at North Four Mile Creek Horse Ranch. We produce the annual event WYO WILD RIDE RANCH RODEO. I am a wife and a mother to 3 amazing...