Here’s a Houston Chronicle article on the big natural gas play in Arkansas’s Fayetteville Shale. The story says the drilling activity saved Southwestern Energy, the big force in the exploration, and details how Southwestern snuck around Arkansas to line up leases, at bargain prices in the beginning.

It was three years ago, when natural gas prices really started to pop, that Korell’s gang started sneaking around the small courthouses of rural Arkansas, quietly blocking up the mineral rights to land mostly used for growing timber and grazing cows.

“We were frightened to death someone would find out what we were doing, because it’s hard to keep a secret in this business,” he said.

So Korell brought in people from out of state to conduct title searches to identify landowners and approach them about purchasing mineral rights for as little as $25 an acre. They managed to patch together close to half a million acres before going public with their plan to produce natural gas from shale in mid-2004.