Landowner Perceptions of Oil and Gas Development in Mississippi and Policies Associated with Managing the Industry and Natural Resources
AdvisorGrado, Stephen C.
CommitteeJones, Walter D.
Martin, Steven W.
Wiseman, W. Martin
Advances in oil and gas drilling technologies have led to an on-shore shale boom in the United States. This has increased drilling on forest land and conflicts regarding the tradeoffs of this practice. This study examines the forest landowner perspective of oil and gas development on forest land, policies that regulate the industry, opinions of land use tradeoffs, and what influences landowner decision making. This study also examines the balance of power between federal, state, and municipal government regarding the regulation of the oil and gas industry. A systematic random sample of 1200 landowners with more than 10 acres of land in six counties within the Mississippi portion of the, Tuscaloosa Marine Shale play were chosen, to receive a mail survey. Each of the selected counties have seen an increase in drilling in the past 5 years. The survey was designed using prior research of community perceptions, land use tradeoffs, energy development, and information from focus groups within the region. Over 63% of landowners indicated that equal priority should be given to policies to protect the environment, and policies that increased economic returns from drilling. The primary reason for owning forest land was to pass it down to future generations, and 80% indicated a willingness to participate in an oil and gas lease. However, only 71% of those who ranked hunting as a very important reason for owning land would agree to an oil and gas lease. Improving leasing and restoration practices were recommended most frequently by the landowners to improve the drilling process while water quality and protecting natural resource income were the greatest concerns to landowners. Over 54% responded that they have a friend or family member employed by the oil and gas industry, and yet still believed that more transparency, communication, and better leasing practices are needed. Landowner values such as reasons for land ownership, economic stability, and potential community impacts, influenced decision making. Policy makers should be aware landowners are concerned about the need for policies that protect their property for investment and future generations, as well as benefit the local economy.