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Oil and Gas Leasing Seminars: Know Before You Sign

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January 16, 2012

FORT BENTON, Mont. - Rural Montanans are used to doing business with a handshake, but when it comes to oil and gas leasing, the advice is to get it in writing. Three free workshops offered by the Montana Farmers Union this week, in Fort Benton, Lewistown and Great Falls, are designed to guide landowners through the oil and gas leasing process.

Herb Vasseur, president of the Montana Land and Mineral Owners Association, is sharing more than 30 years of experience. His first tip is to remember that the land man knocking on your door doesn't work for your best interest.

"The land man will only tell you what he wants you to hear. He don't talk about a lot of this other stuff: you know, 'They're going to pull a rig in here, and we're going to be running 24-7.'"

Vasseur admits that, even with his experience, he feels he's been tricked into extending leases he wanted to renegotiate - and that brings up another point. He says neighbors, family and friends need to spread the word and watch out for each other, so those who are truly vulnerable are not exploited.

"And I feel sorry for a lot of these 80-year-old widows, never seen a six-figure check in their life. And all they can think of is they gotta get to the bank and cash that draft."

Vasseur says landowners have the right to negotiate leases in their own best interest, and can set rules for where drilling happens, hours of operation, the length of the lease and restoration terms - but it all has to be done up front and in writing.

Workshop schedule: Jan. 18, 9 a.m. at the Ag Center in Fort Benton, and 2 p.m. at the Eagles Lodge in Lewistown; Jan. 19 at 9 a.m. at Great Falls Heritage Inn. The executive director of the National Association of Royalty Owners will also be at the meetings.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT