Karen: “I’m Karen Turner. I’ve been married to LJ for almost…46 years? 47? Anyway, a long time. I came out here teaching school in 1967, and we’ve been raising cows and sheep ever since.”

LJ: “I’m LJ Turner. I was born here, and raised here, and I’ve lived all my life here. This ranch was homesteaded by my family in 1918 and 1919, and it’s been here ever since.”


LJ: “There’s, what…one, two, three, four, five. Five deep oil wells. Those are conventional wells. There’s no unconventional oil wells here yet. We’ve got a company coming in here now that wants to do that…they’re threatening that we either make peace with them, and accept their agreement for surface access to our ranch, or they’ll just sue and condemn their way in. See, here’s the line of wells they want to drill across here. All of these pads will have two, or three, or four, or a half-dozen wells on them.”



LJ: “See, your split estate ownership– which we have in most of the West, and definitely Wyoming–is that each of these sections, whenever it was homesteaded, well, the government kept half of all the minerals. And they have access. The government reserves the right to go in and access those minerals. Then they lease the mineral rights to an oil company, and so the oil company assumes this right– that they can access the minerals, and go onto your land, and go do it.”

Karen: “Split estate means somebody owns the surface land, and somebody else owns the minerals. So, that’s where problems come in. Like, in this section here, let’s say. If that was homesteaded by whoever, Joe Blow, back whenever, okay– at the time, whoever homesteaded got half the minerals, and the government kept half the minerals. So, even though Joe Blow’s family now owns all the land, they don’t own all the minerals. So you can’t keep them out.”

LJ: “The government has a right to access their property. Their property being the minerals.”

Karen: “So, you try to make the best deal you can, but you really can’t keep them out, because you don’t own the minerals. If you own all the minerals and all the land, you can keep ‘em out. But that’s very rare.”



LJ: “When my mother was still alive, they fracked one of the wells over here…I’m not sure if it was the one down here on 6, or if it was this one, but when they fracked it, well, she started getting oil in her water. You’d get a scum of oil on it. It’s kind of a family joke, because Mom jumped on one of the oil people about this oil in her water, and this kid was from Oklahoma, or Texas, somewhere else, and he told her, “Mrs. Turner, Mrs. Turner, count your blessings. A little oil in your water keeps your bowels loose.'”



LJ: “They flare these oil wells all the time.”

Karen: “You can hear them. They roar. It’s like listening to a blast furnace. And they produce a lot of light. When they flare that one up the creek, we can see the light at night in our bedroom and the shadows dance around. It’s like a huge blow torch.”

LJ: “That one’s been there for decades.”

Karen: “That’s what I don’t understand. Suddenly, after 20 or 30 years, they start to flare it. It’s like, why are they flaring, you know? It doesn’t make any sense to me. They didn’t need to flare for 20 years…how come suddenly they’re flaring again?”



LJ: “I have a friend up here who’s a welder, and he works over in the oil field quite a bit. He said they had a heck of a time over there one time. He said they needed to cut the rig off, but that there was so much methane that everyone was too scared to get a torch in there to try to cut it off. There’s a huge amount of methane that’s being vented and no one even wants to talk about that.”



LJ: “Ranching is more than just my livelihood. The livestock, and the wildlife…you develop a kinship with the country. So whenever you see all of this change, well, it changes the whole thing. Hunting used to be a big thing in the fall. But this last year, we had to quit the whole thing, because there’s just not enough game to do it. All the mineral development has had a real impact on the wildlife.”

“It used to be that we’d never see anyone other than some of the neighbors, or somebody that was coming to see someone. Now, most days, we have 50 pick-ups on the place.”

LJ & Karen Turner
Gillette, WY