Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Political Science

Committee Chair(s)

Damon Cann


Damon Cann


Michael Lyons


Shannon Peterson


The issue of public lands management and ownership in the West has long been contentious. This thesis takes a quantitative approach examining outcomes of the rates at which oil and gas wells in the state of Utah are orphaned and/or capped. Findings indicate that orphanings occur at a statistically significant higher rate on state owned land as opposed to federal and private, and wells on tribal land have no recorded orphaning. No other variables were significant in their relationship to orphaning. The proposed explanations for this disparity are two-fold: First the longer periods of inactivity permitted by the state simply increase the chance a lessee will dissolve, leaving the well orphaned. Secondly, potential access to a greater amount of land upon which to drill incentivizes lessees to cap wells upon federal land at a higher rate. Tribal and private wells both allow for a more individualized approach and additional contractual agreements that minimize orphanings. This analysis demonstrates that the state of Utah’s management system results in a higher rate of orphanings, and in addition paves the way for comparative analyses in other aspects of land management. This allows for a more nuanced discussion and better understanding of differences in management systems and outcomes.