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  • David Brooks

The Changing Landscape of Land

I was recently asked, by someone fairly new to the Land business, why everyone in Land seems to be in their 30s, or their 60s, with few folks in between. I’ve been in this business since the early 80s, and explained to this person that the business went through a big change during the bust of the late 80, then again in the early 2000s.


Truthfully, engineers ran everything back in the 70s and 80s, and the landman was on a “need to know” basis. Landmen weren’t invited to planning meetings, but were told to get things done after decisions had been made. We focused on our regions, and we were expected to know the subtleties of the people of that region. Deals were done face-to-face for the most part, and at a much slower pace. In the later 80s a lot of the Land jobs dried up, just like a lot of oil and gas jobs, and very few people joined our part of the industry until things changed in the early 2000s.


Fracking really took off in the US in the early 2000s, and with that came a new type of investment: the “Resource Play”. Equity began to jump into this space by purchasing minerals, leasing land, and buying into operated and non-operated assets. Overrides and royalties became the focus of independent firms, and the innovators at places like Chesapeake began to hire landment in droves to build their portfolios.


Suddenly, good work was everywhere, and young people started entering the industry. Colleges and universities saw dramatic growth in their Land Management programs, and a new wave of Landmen went to work. New technology started showing up in our daily lives. I used to use color pencils on maps, and write letters to communicate. Now we only use letters as legal documents. We started accessing deeds and title instruments online, with fewer trips to the courthouse. We all got cell phones and email, so we’re always in touch, even when we’re “in the field”.


I’ve enjoyed riding this wave of change, and I’m looking forward to what’s coming next. The last year or so was tough on oil and gas in general, and Land in particular, but I’m starting to see the opportunities that come with a recovery. This boom will, I’m sure, be different than all the past ones.


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