A Land Rush in Wyoming Spurred by Wind Power
The lure of steady winds in the open spaces of the American midwestern and western states is driving a land-grab by developers hoping to get land rights and easements on-the-cheap from unsuspecting ranchers and farmers. Savvy landowners are now banding together to form cooperative wind energy associations to share information about property and easement values, and to collectively bargain with developers for the best prices.
WHEATLAND, Wyo. — The man who came to Elsie Bacon’s ranch house door in July
asked the 71-year-old widow to grant access to a right of way across the dry hills and short grasses of her land here. Ms. Bacon remembered his insistence on a quick, secret deal.
The man, a representative of the Little Rose Wind Farm of Boulder, Colo.,
sought an easement for a transmission line to carry his company’s wind-generated
electricity to market. His offer: a fraction of the value of similar deals in
the area. As Ms. Bacon, 71, recalled it: “He said, ‘You sure I can’t write you
out a check?’ He was really pushy.”
A quiet land rush is under way among the buttes of southeastern Wyoming, and
it is changing the local rancher culture. The whipping winds cursed by
descendants of the original homesteaders now have real value for out-of-state
developers who dream of wind farms or of selling the rights to bigger companies.
But as developers descend upon the area, drawing comparisons to the oil patch
“land men” in the movie “There Will Be Blood,” the ranchers of Albany, Converse
and Platte Counties are rewriting the old script.
Ms. Bacon did not agree to the deal from the Little Rose representative, Ed
Ahlstrand Jr. Instead, she joined her neighbors in forming the Bordeaux Wind
Energy Association — among the new cooperative associations whose members, in a
departure from the local culture of privacy and self-reliance, are pooling their
This allows them to bargain collectively for a better price and ensures that
as few as possible succumb to high-pressure tactics or accept low offers.
Ranchers share information about the potential value of their wind.