By Sarah Elmquist Squires

Managing Editor

Decades ago, uranium was big business in Jeffrey City, where the mines fueled a thriving town that was home to thousands of residents. But after that boom there was a bust, and when the uranium market collapsed in the ‘80s, most of the city’s residents left. 

Every so often, there’s talk of a new mine or industry that would repopulate the town, but so far, no new boom has landed. But last week, when Lander School Board members reviewed bids on three parcels owned by the district, they learned that one company is betting on oil extraction in Jeffrey City taking off. 

Lost Soldier Oil and Gas, LLC, has already purchased about 10 properties in Jeffrey City, explained All Action Realty’s Tom Sawyer, who has been working with the Colorado-based oil company on land acquisition. In an interview, he explained that Lost Soldier drilled a well there last year, “so people kind of know something’s going on.” 

The company bid around $76,000 for the three Fremont County School District #1 parcels, the high bidder for each, and Sawyer said the plan was to rehab the school building to serve as office space and housing. “The building needs a lot, obviously,” Sawyer told board members, adding that Lost Soldier was willing to invest a lot in the building. “They do plan on rejuvenating the building and making it to be part of the community again.”

Lander Schools Business Manager Travis Sweeney recommended the board not accept the bids at this time, a recommendation the board ultimately followed, opting to seek a private appraisal for the property. Sweeney said the county assessor’s office put a value on the parcels at close to $1 million, but said in the past when the district has called for bids, it had received none, or in one instance, a bid for a quarter-million dollars, but the bidder passed away before the deal went through. 

The day after business office staff opened the bids, Sweeney said, he got a call from a Fremont County commissioner who expressed interest in the property, although reports later indicated that Fremont County Commission Chair Larry Allen had indicated the county was not interested in purchasing the parcels. 

Whether the district renews its call for bids following the appraisal, Lost Soldier is moving ahead with its plans for Jeffrey City, Sawyer said. “It’s not an end-all, but was definitely part of the plan,” he said of the purchase. The oil and gas exploration, he said, has excited local leaders. “We’re hoping for good things for our county,” Sawyer added.