The Roundup -

Just Call Us Mom & Pop


Dan and Gilda Clancy

Longtime “Landman” Dan Clancy has been helping to bring mineral owners together with oil and gas producers since his twenties. His job, like all landmen, begins after a petroleum engineer and a geologist outline an area of interest. Depending on the size of the area, one project can keep a landman occupied for some time. For Dan, and several others in the field, the Bakken formation in the Williston Basin has added years to his career.

Clancy, a Montana native, first became interested in the work after following a friend out to Williston, ND in 1979, during a time when oil exploration and development was exploding, said Dan. He explains that he asked his friend to show him “how to do it”. Having taken courses in realty, understanding deeds, land townships and boundaries came easy to Dan.

“In this field, it’s all about who you know; networking and building relationships,” said Dan. He explained that because of the cyclical nature of the oil and gas industry, there are really only three waves of landmen; those in their eighties, those between 55 and 65, and “the new guys”, who range between 25 and 35 years old.

For roughly thirty years now Dan has self funded travel across the countryside for brokerage firms, typically hired by oil and gas companies to find the owners of potentially productive pieces of land. He took five years off in the early nineties, but got back in it in 1996 and says he hasn’t missed a day since. Working as far north as the Canadian border and as far south as the Mexican border, he estimates that only 12% of his career has been spent in Montana.

A landman’s job isn’t your typical 8-5 position, and a single project can last anywhere from a week to several years. Dan recently finished a job in the Bakken which lasted six years. Several variables make the process quite tedious and time consuming. One tract of land can have as many as 1,000 mineral owners, each of whom must be contacted ahead of leasing and drilling. Dan explained that he’s had cases where patents started out at 320 acres and were split down to less than 1% among several owners, usually through extended family. The largest lease Dan has done exceeds 100,000 acres.

Much of the country’s lands are owned by the state and federal government, and in these cases, a landman must get information on mineral rights through the Bureau of Land Management and/or the State Department of Lands. For records on privately owned lands, information on mineral rights can be found in the county courthouses, where Dan spends much of his time. North Dakota has recently put records online, now saving any iPad-owning landman the job of visiting the county courthouse at all.

The best part of the job, Dan explains, are the mineral owners. “People think you’re Santa Clause.” He shared the stories of ranchers whose leases afforded them much needed fencing and deals for new roads and reservoirs. Another story included an elderly woman whose door he knocked on to ask about leasing her mineral rights. She was in need of a furnace but couldn’t afford one; not until Dan came to the door anyway. And then there are the stories of the not so hard up mineral owners, like one gentleman Dan spoke of. “He needed help spending his money,” said Dan. “So I told him to buy his wife a fur coat, and by God he did!”

Over the course of Clancy’s career, he’s witnessed several kinds of mineral rights beneficiaries, especially when dealing in probate. One owner left his mineral rights to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and another to the University of Los Angeles. Dan said it isn’t unusual at all for an owner to leave their mineral rights to a charitable organization.

In addition to Dan’s work as an independent landman, he and his wife of 17 years, Gilda, are saving for retirement with a small business they own, buying and selling mineral rights. “There’s no 401k in this business,” joked Gilda. “Dan’s taught me a lot,” she said. Gilda deals with mineral appraisal, state land records and auctions, estate and probate, and bookkeeping for their own side business. “Just call us Mom & Pop,” said Dan.

The Clancy’s have turned other opportunities into investments as well; “turnkey investments,” to be exact. Because Dan’s job has often taken him out of state for long stretches of time, Dan and Gilda have bought and re-sold temporary homes in Sheridan, Wyoming, Dickinson, ND, and Havre, MT. “It’s been kind of fun to go and stay with him,” said Gilda. But she hasn’t always traveled with Dan.

“My heart’s always been in politics,” she explained. Gilda has volunteered on various campaigns, worked as a Committee Secretary for the Legislature, and was elected to the Montana State House of Representatives in 2001. This past year, she also threw her hat in the ring for a County Commission appointment in Helena. “I couldn’t do it if it weren’t for the oil business,” she said. “Dan’s career has allowed me to pursue politics.”

Though the job has often required that the Clancy’s spend time apart, travel long distances, dip into their own pockets, and invest much sweat equity, Dan says, “We’ve always made a better than average living.”


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