Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Split estate mineral lands have been well established in the United States since 1900, but state legislatures have only recently begun to reexamine whether damages to the surface estate should be paid for by the surface owner or instead by the mineral developer. The Wyoming Surface Owner Accommodation Act ("WSOAA") is one such state law that allows surface owners to be compensated for impacts to the surface estate's value beyond the compensation provided for by federal law. However, unlike the preempted mining regulations of several other states, the WSOAA supplements federal regulations in a permissible manner because it does not conflict with federal laws and does not frustrate the congressional objectives of federal mineral development. In fact, I argue that when the Stock-Raising Homestead Act and the Mineral Leasing Act are considered in light of several more recent statements of policy, the actual federal goal is to allow access to mineral estates in a manner that permits both parties to use their property to the highest degree possible. The WSOAA rightfully encourages this balance by continuing the development of federal minerals, but in conjunction with mechanisms that protect the interests of surface owners.