Areas of Practice

Oil & Gas
Land Use
Endangered Species Act

Michael J. Sherman

Michael J. Sherman

Michael Sherman helps clients buy, sell, lease, finance and permit mining, wind, solar and oil and gas projects in California. For every client and project — big or small — Michael has a drive to never quit until the job is done. Clients value Michael’s hard work, resourcefulness and persistence — all values instilled in him by growing up and working in the agricultural industry. Prior to practicing law, he owned a custom hay and straw business and worked on his family’s dairy cattle and hog farms in Oregon. This experience guides Michael’s approach to always provide practical and straightforward advice, with an eye on the bottom-line.


Aggregate, Industrial Mineral and Metallic Mineral Mines
Michael’s work with mining companies extends throughout California with experience working on over 60 mine sites in 25 counties. His experience includes examining title for unpatented mining claims, negotiating mining leases, conducting acquisition due diligence, permitting new mines and expansions under SMARA, and resolving compliance issues and enforcement actions by local lead agencies, the SMGB and DMR. This breadth and depth of experience as a California mining attorney makes Michael a more effective advocate and advisor to his mining clients. His mining experience includes:

  • Transactional matters (purchase and sale, leasing)
    • Negotiated conveyance documents and advised on due diligence issues for acquisition of mineral rights and unpatented mining claims at rare earth mine in San Bernardino County
    • Advised on California mining issues related to merger agreement for rare earth mining company in preparation for initial public offering
    • Negotiated mining lease for aggregate mine in Riverside County
    • Drafted easement agreements, mitigation purchase option agreement, and water use agreements for roofing granules mine acquisition in Amador County
    • Negotiated and drafted mining lease for underground gold mine in Amador County
    • Drafted mining lease for placer gold deposit in Plumas County
    • Negotiated and drafted mining lease and option to purchase for open pit gold mine in San Bernardino County
  • Mineral title examination on private land, State lands, unpatented placer mining claims, lode mining claims and mill sites:
    • Mineral title opinion for 2,000-plus acre rare earth mine involving split mineral estate private land, California State lands, and federal mineral reservations
    • Unpatented mining claims (370 lode claims and 280 mill sites) for gold mine in Imperial County
    • Unpatented lode claims, mill sites and patented mining claims for silver mine in San Bernardino County
  • Compliance with the California and federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), California Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA), Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), Clean Water Act (CWA), California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA):
    • Aggregate mine in Fresno County (SMARA and CEQA compliance)
    • Aggregate mine in Madera County (SMARA, California ESA and CWA compliance)
    • Gold mine in Mariposa County (CEQA, SMARA and backfill requirements)
    • Silver mine in San Bernardino County (CEQA, SMARA and backfill requirements)
    • Gold mine in Imperial County (CEQA, SMARA and backfill requirements, DRECP)
    • Gold mine in Los Angeles County (FLPMA and NEPA compliance)
    • Gold mine in Nevada County (vested rights, SMARA and CEQA)

Oil and Gas Exploration and Production

Michael also represents upstream California oil and gas companies. In an industry heavily scrutinized by regulators and the public, oil and gas clients appreciate Michael’s thorough and thoughtful advice when addressing land use, endangered species and regulatory issues. He also regularly assists clients with oil and gas transactional and title issues, including negotiating purchase and sale agreements and leases and issuing drilling title opinions and division order title opinions.  His California oil and gas experience includes:

  • Rendered more than 75 title opinions on producing and non-producing oil and gas properties throughout California:
    • Complex division order title opinions and division of interests, ranging in size from a few mineral owners to 500-plus mineral owners
    • Drilling title opinions for vertical and horizontal wells
  • Advised on acquisition, financing and bankruptcy matters, including:
    • California oil and gas counsel for Chapter 11 restructuring of oil and gas producer in California, resulting in exchange of $4.4 billion in debt for equity and the securing of $1.4 billion of exit financing
    • Title due diligence for $25 million acquisition of private and state oil and gas leases and producing oil wells in Kern and Monterey Counties
    • Purchase and sales agreements and bills of sale for numerous oil and gas leases and wells throughout California
  • Drafted, negotiated and advised on compliance with joint operating, farm-out/in, declarations of pooling, easements and other agreements related to exploration and production
  • Advised on compliance with CEQA and SB 4 well stimulation permitting law

Renewable Energy

Michael works with renewable energy companies on project siting and permitting issues.  His experience includes real estate, local land use, and state and federal permitting issues for wind and solar projects in California and the Pacific Northwest.  Representative matters include:

  • Drafted and negotiated wind leases for 23,000-acre wind project
  • Reviewed ALTA surveys for large wind projects and advised clients on site control issues
  • Prepared easement documents, crossing agreements, encroachment agreements, subordination agreements and other curative documents related to renewable energy projects
  • Environmental due diligence on ground-mounted and rooftop solar projects throughout the United States
  • Advised on permitting requirements for battery storage project in Kern County, California
  • Negotiated settlement over alleged violations of federal Endangered Species Act related to modification of habitat for San Joaquin kit fox

Fish and Wildlife Permitting and Compliance

Clients in the oil and gas, mining, agricultural, renewable energy and other industries also rely on Michael’s experience with a wide variety of fish and wildlife issues, including federal and California Endangered Species Act permitting, enforcement actions by the USFWS and CDFW, streambed alteration agreements, and compliance with the California Fish and Game Code.  Michael’s fish and wildlife experience includes:

  • Assisted with preparing applications for Section 2081 incidental take permit under the California Endangered Species Act and Section 1602 streambed alteration agreement for large-scale residential/mixed use project in Los Angeles County
  • Advised on California Endangered Species Act and federal Endangered Species Act issues for solar projects in the San Joaquin Valley, including incidental take issues for San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard
  • Assisted clients facing potential enforcement actions by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for alleged violations of the California Endangered Species Act and federal Endangered Species Act
  • Prepared Section 2081 incidental take permit application under the California Endangered Species Act for an aggregate mine with potential impacts to California tiger salamander


  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Member; RMMLF Young Professionals Committee, Former Member
  • Bakersfield Association of Professional Landmen, Member
  • Los Angeles Association of Professional Landmen, Member
  • California Construction and Industrial Materials Association, Member
  • California Independent Petroleum Association, Member
  • Environmental and Real Property Law Section, California State Bar, Member
  • Environmental and Real Property Law Section, Sacramento County Bar Association, Member


University of California, Hastings College of Law (J.D., 2008)

University of Oregon (B.A., Economics & Political Science, B.S., Business Administration, 2005)

Articles and Presentations

Oil and Gas

  • Gaps in Production under HBP Leases, Bakersfield Association of Professional Landmen, May 2020
  • RMMLF Mineral Law Newsletter, California Oil & Gas Reporter, 2019 to 2020
  • California Oil & Gas Newsletter
    • Top Regulatory, Environmental, Legal, and Political Stories to Watch in 2020, January 2020
    • Update on the Kern County Oil & Gas Ordinance, February 2020
    • Update on CEQA and the Kern County Oil & Gas Ordinance, May 2020
    • Update on the Ventura County 2040 General Plan and Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance, September 2020
  • On My Desk Today:  A Day in the Life of a California Landman (co-presenter), 37th Annual West Coast Landmen’s Institute, Sept. 2019
  • Underground Trespass: You Can’t Touch This (presenter), AAPL Field Landman Seminar, March 2018
  • Surviving the Drought: Why You Should Care About California Water Rights and Regulation (co-presenter), 34th Annual West Coast Landmen’s Institute, Sept. 2016
  • Crossing the Community Property Border (co-presenter), 62nd Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute, July 2016
  • Bankruptcy in the Oil and Gas Industry (presenter), 33rd Annual West Coast Landmen’s Institute, Sept. 2015
  • Advanced Division Order Issues (presenter), Private Client, March 2015
  • Potential Water Supply and Quality Issues Affecting California’s Oil and Gas Industry (presenter), California Water Laws and Regulations CLE, Jan. 2015
  • California Oil and Gas Law: Division Orders and Net Revenue Interest Calculations (presenter), Private Client, Dec. 2014
  • Review of the ‘Typical’ California Oil and Gas Lease (presenter), 32nd Annual West Coast Landmen’s Institute, Oct. 2014
  • The Not So Good, the Bad and the Ugly – What Every Landman Needs to Know About Community Leases (presenter), 31st Annual West Coast Landmen’s Institute, Sep. 2013
  • Just Passing Through, Nothing to See Here: Pass-Through and Pore Space Rights (presenter), Bakersfield Association of Professional Landmen, Feb. 2013, Los Angeles Association of Professional Landmen, May 2013


  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Exploring the Use of Good Neighbor Agreements for Mining Projects, 2019 CalCIMA Education Conference
  • Multi-Property, Multi-Owner Projects – Aggregating Property Interests (presenter), AMA 2018 Fairbanks 26th Biennial Convention: Prospecting Alaska’s Future, March 2018
  • Environmental and Natural Resources Law in the Trump Era (co-presenter), CalCIMA Education Conference, Nov. 2017
  • Federal Lands: Permitting in the Wild, Wild West (co-presenter), CalCIMA Education Conference, Nov. 2017
  • Innovative Approaches to Meeting Mining Industry Energy Needs (co-presenter), Industrial Minerals Association – North America Annual Meeting, Sept. 2017
  • An Update on the Modernization of California’s Surface Mining Law & Backfill Regulations (co-presenter), American Exploration & Mining Association Annual Meeting, Dec. 2016
  • California Supreme Court Extends State Land Use Power to Federal LandDaily Journal article, Sept. 2016
  • The Next California Gold Rush?  An Update on the Regulatory Environment for Metallic Mines in California (presenter), Mining and Land Resources Institute, March 2016
  • Annual Mining and Public Land Law Update (presenter and author), 60th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute, July 2014
  • California Mining Law: Backfill Requirements for Metallic Mines (presenter), California Department of Conservation, May 2013
  • Federal Mining Law Year in Review (co-author), American Association of Professional Landmen Annual Conference, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Fish and Wildlife

  • The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan: Reconciling Competing Policies in the California Desert (co-author), North American Clean Energy, Nov./Dec. 2016
  • California’s Endangered Species Act: Its Role as an Overlay to the Federal ESA and the Key Areas of Difference (presenter), LSI ESA/CESA Seminar, June 2016