60 Seconds with an Attorney: Christine E. Breen

Do I Need A Surface Use Agreement?Christine

If you are a land owner, and a person or entity seeks to use your land to access th eir minerals, you likely need a Surface Use Agreement. Whether you own just the surface rights (you own the land but not the minerals below), or you own both the surface and mineral rights (the land and the minerals below), if the minerals have been leased you want to get a Surface Use Agreement. Additionally, if you have a specific use for the land, such as irrigation or ranching, a Surface Use Agreement can set specific guidelines and requirements to preserve those uses. In short, anytime you own land with minerals situated below it, and a person or entity seeks to explore and extract those minerals, a Surface Use Agreement is strongly advised.

60 Seconds with Christine E. Breen, Esq: What is a dominant estate?

Mineral owners have a right to access the minerals they own, and in order to access those minerals they must go across the surface. That right to access the minerals creates a "dominant estate" over the rights of the surface, which becomes the "servient estate." In plain English, mineral owners have the right to use the land to the extent necessary to explore and extract the minerals, whether they own the surface or not. This right transfers when mineral owners lease the minerals to another party. Therefore, as a surface owner your ability to protect your land and its uses is significantly diminished if someone seeks to access the minerals below your land. This is where a Surface Use Agreement comes in handy.

60 Seconds with Christine E. Breen, Esq: What is a Surface Use Agreement?

The Surface Use Agreement is an agreement between the surface owner and the person or entity that has the right to explore the minerals below the surface owner's land. It typically outlines certain requirements that the mineral rights holder must follow. These requirements may include restoring the land back to its original use once exploration ceases, re-planting native flora, protecting certain water bodies that may be present on the land, and mitigating dust from truck traffic. A Surface Use Agreement can be a handy tool for surface owners to protect the functionality and aesthetic nature of their land, as well as ensure adequate compensation for any damage that may occur to the land. If you have a specific use for the land, such as irrigation or ranching, a Surface Use Agreement may set specific guidelines and requirements to preserve those uses.

Note: Information provided on this website is not offered as legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for seeking professional advice from an attorney in your state. Please review our disclaimer.