On the eastern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, along the banks of the Devils River, is an area that was once known for the imminent danger this country posed to soldiers and civilians alike. During the frontier days of the Lone Star State, the Comanche made sport of attacking those trekking across the Big Bend from San Antonio to El Paso. Although the U.S. Army established Fort Hudson in 1857, these attacks continued well beyond the close of the Civil War.
Today, this territory is renowned for its pristine waters. The Devils River is the cleanest river in Texas. It also forms a crucial part of the Rio Grande drainage basin, and the Texas Nature Conservancy made it a goal to keep it this way.
“We’ve been working on the Devils River for 20 years,” says Jeff Francell, Director of Land Protection for the Texas Nature Conservancy. “We bought our first preserve in the early 1990s, and since that time we have protected as much of this area as possible from fragmentation and incompatible land use.”
The Baker Ranch and Prosser Ranch sat side by side, making up a total of some 40,000 acres, including six miles of Devils River frontage. The Texas Nature Conservancy acquired both in order to protect the river as well as Fern Cave, among the largest caves in Texas and home to one of the world’s largest Mexican free-tailed bat populations. Its challenge was to find buyers for both ranches who would be willing to join with the Conservancy in protecting this priceless treasure. Fortunately, a landowner who shared the organization’s conservation focus came along and swooped up both.
Jeff Boswell’s client was looking for a place where he could pursue his love for nature photography, and he had his heart set on West Texas. “At first we looked at a smaller place, but he fell in love with the Devils River, and he knew he wanted to protect it,” says Boswell, a Houston-based broker with Republic Ranches.
“One hurdle we faced was that most people thought a conservation easement was already in place,” says Kevin Meier of duPerier Texas Land Man, who represented the Texas Nature Conservancy on these properties for a year and a half.
“You had to explain to prospective buyers that the conservation easement was able to be written and negotiated to meet the criteria that The Nature Conservancy has to follow to meet their mission,” Meier adds.
Fortunately, that mission just happened to be one that Boswell’s client felt equally passionate about.
“We needed to make sure a conservation easement put buffers along the river’s edge barring development. We also needed to put no-development areas around the cave, springs, and river frontage,” Francell says.
The buyer agreed to protect the land conservatively, taking only two divisions per property, signing off on a limited number of new homesites, and creating no-development zones within 750 feet of protected areas.
“My client knows that he has a valuable asset on his hands, and protecting the Devils River will protect his asset,” Boswell says.
It was a classic win-win all the way around.
“It couldn’t have been a better buyer as far as conservation goes,” Meier says. “It was a match made in heaven.”
Based in Bozeman, Montana, Corinne Garcia freelances for Marie Claire and Country Living.
Download your digital version of the Spring 2013 edition of The Land Report.
Page through each issue of The Land Report in 2012, and three trends stand out:
1) Legacy properties continue to command a premium. Witness Larry Ellison’s mega-million-dollar purchase of the island of Lanai.
2) The market continues to crave income-producing properties, especially productive farmland.
3) America’s leading landowners view stewardship as a critical element of their trust. Witness Louis Moore Bacon’s remarkable conservation gift, which led to the creation of the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area.
One transaction encompassed all three of these elements: the sale of Montana’s historic Broken O Ranch. The history of the Broken O predates statehood. Its legacy is peerless. And its capacity to produce cattle and prodigious amounts of grain is matchless. When these 124,000 acres changed hands in November, one passionate, innovative business- man assumed an imposing mantle that had been meticulously crafted by a peer from an earlier era. For these and so many other reasons, the Magazine of the American Landowner is proud to designate the sale of the Broken O as the 2012 Deal of the Year.
Located along a 20-mile stretch of the Sun River, the roots of the Broken O reach deep — to the days of the Montana Territory. Its current incarnation was masterminded by Bill Moore, founder of the country’s largest privately owned paint company, Kelly-Moore. What began in the 1980s with Moore’s acquisition of a single ranch property along the Sun River evolved into what Forbes described as “one of the largest agricultural operations in the Rocky Mountain West.”
The Broken O’s new owner — Stan Kroenke — is no stranger to the land either. Kroenke ranked No. 10 on the 2012 Land Report 100; among his other ranch holdings is the largest contiguous ranch in the Rocky Mountains, the 540,000-acre Q Creek Ranch.
“Stan looks for quality,” says Kroenke’s broker, Joel Leadbetter of Hall and Hall. “The Broken O is so diversified with agricultural and recreational opportunities, and it’s such a large continuous landscape. That’s rare these days. The Broken O also complements and enhances the attributes of Stan’s other ranches and their operations.”
The rich and alluring history of the Broken O Ranch dates back to the 1800s, a time when cattlemen of the Lonesome Dove era ventured west to tame vast sprawling landscapes. One of those intrepid hopefuls was Daniel Flowerree, a Missourian who made his fortune in Montana’s gold fields. After settling in the Sun River Valley, his Flowerree and Lowry Cattle Company boomed, running as many as 40,000 head. Then a series of brutal winters took a bitter toll.
Shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, Flowerree’s ranch was acquired by the Teton Land Company. In the decades that followed, the operation eventually grew into one of the largest cattle operations in the West. In 1945, John Hamilton of Hamilton Beach appliances purchased it.
Bill and Desiree Moore bought the Hamilton Ranch in 1988. One of Moore’s next acquisitions was a neighboring tract, the Freeman Ranch. He would forge a deep, long-lasting bond with the family. Dan Freeman became a close friend and Bill’s right-hand man.
Over the ensuing two-decade span, Bill Moore and Dan Freeman worked in concert, assembling more than 20 blocks of land and building the enormously successful ranching and agricultural enterprise that is in place today.
“As his ranch manager for more than 20 years, Dan brought Bill’s dreams and his passions to fruition. It was a rare combination,” says Mike Swan, the seller’s broker. Swan, who was affiliated with the leading firm of Bates Sanders Swan Land Company throughout the marketing and sale of the Broken O, announced the formation of Swan Land Company in February 2013.
The Broken O is its own hedge fund,” Swan says. “Production is at such a massive scale that any one of the individual entities could make a tremendous agricultural operation independently.”
In addition, the Broken O features a matchless recreational component. Twenty miles of Sun River create an immense resource not only for fish but also for waterfowl, upland birds, mule deer, and elk. Thanks to the Sun River and other historic rights that date back more than a century, the Broken O is the largest private water rights owner in the State of Montana.
The ranch also enjoys close proximity to “the Bob.” At more than 1.5 million acres, the renowned Bob Marshall Wilderness is one of the largest wilderness areas in the Lower 48.
Along with building an agricultural empire, Moore also built a reputation as a steward of the land. He improved the ranch’s extensive pastures by planting native grasses. Moore placed three conservation easements on approximately 9,700 acres along the Sun River corridor. The Moores eventually became a mainstay of the community, employing a large number of locals, funding a community center in nearby Augusta, and donating to local schools and charities.
Kroenke is also no stranger to land stewardship. “Stan bought his first ranch in 1997, and balance has always been important to him,” Leadbetter says. “He looks at everything: the business, ecosystem, fishery, wildlife, and landscape. He always strives to be a very good steward while running sustainable ag operations.”
A deal of this size requires a tremendous amount of preparation. Swan spent months working with Freeman and the seller’s legal team to prepare volumes of due diligence material, including inventory lists, equipment and cattle documentation, background information on 27 houses, soil reports, land title commitments in three counties, information about water rights, state and federal land leases, grazing permits, gravel permits, DEQ permits, conservation easements, and hunting leases, to name a few.
“The preparation was instrumental to the successful transaction,” Swan says. “Our goal was to package the ranch to the point that when the buyer came through the door, everything they needed to know about the Broken O was at their fingertips.”
And interested buyers did come knocking, including private investors and investment funds as well as corporate entities.
As luck would have it, Leadbetter and Swan are both based out of Bozeman; the two know each other quite well. “We both grew up on ranches in Southwest Montana and have ag backgrounds,” Swan says. “We were working with a buyer and a team that understood the materials we provided and spoke the same language. That was paramount to the transaction.”
Of equal importance was that Leadbetter’s client instantly recognized the sterling qualities of the Broken O. “Stan looked it over, and he knew he wanted it,” Leadbetter says. “He’s that kind of guy — very bright — and wants to continue that legacy of innovative agriculture and enjoy the wildlife and fishing and all that the Broken O has to offer.”
An especially rewarding aspect only became apparent after the closing. The central character was not present, but his legacy continues. “It is a blessing we were able to sell the ranch to an individual of Stan Kroenke’s commitment to agriculture and land stewardship. My sense is that this transition will not only see a continued commitment to the current agricultural operation that William Moore established, but a continual enhancement and improvement of the ranch overall. I’m sure if Bill Moore were alive today, he would be pleased.” Swan says.
Enjoy the entire issue HERE.
December 15, 2012 by Land Report Editors
Filed under Agriculture, Auctions, Back Issues, Cattle, Conservation, Dogs, Federal Policy, Great Lakes, Great Plains, Midwest, Northeast, Pacific, Public Land, Recreation, South, Southwest, West
Travel to Sonoma County and enjoy a rare and revealing portrait of John Jordan and his family’s renowned vineyard and winery. Learn the latest about the white hot market for Midwest farmland. Or follow the twists and turns of the Yellowstone River as it winds its way onto your iPad courtesy of the new documentary Where the Yellowstone Goes, sponsored by Trout Headwaters.
All these and many more stories So be our guest and enjoy our latest issue HERE.
For more up to the minute reports on listings, auctions, sales, and breaking news pertaining to land and landowners, be sure to follow The Magazine of the American Landowner on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Update October 2012
This summer, Bio-Logical Capital, a land investment, development, and conservation company, acquired Hana Ranch in East Maui for an undisclosed price.
Bio-Logical Capital plans to preserve the property as a working cattle ranch and has plans to expand organic farming on the land. According to senior vice president for Bio-Logical Capital Guy Kaulukukui, “It is at once a privilege and a great responsibility. Hana is one of the last, best places in Hawaii untouched by urbanization, rich in abundant natural and cultural resources, and with the potential to become a model for sustainable ranching and farming practices in the state.”
Hana Ranch has been on the market since September 2008. Daniel Omer of Island Sotheby’s International Realty represented the Hana Ranch Partners.
Read more here.
DECEMBER 19, 2011 POST:
Situated in the tropical setting of eastern Maui, Hana Ranch is considered one of the most beautiful locations in the world.
Featuring two miles of Pacific oceanfront that rises over 2,200 feet up the slopes of Haleakala, this 4,500± acre working cattle ranch sits in one of the last places in Hawaii that remains untouched by the stresses of urbanization and over-development.
As a founding member of the Maui Cattle Company, which is known for its all-natural grass fed beef, the ranch’s cattle operation includes a cow herd of approximately 1,200 and produces 1,000 calves per year.
Hana Ranch is listed with Island Sotherby’s International Realty. For more information, contact Dan Omer at (808) 281-2100.
Click here to see the full list of Land Report’s Top Ten priciest properties.
Thanks to the donation of a 77,000-acre conservation easement in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains by Land Report 100er Louis Bacon, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was able to announce the establishment of the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area as the nation’s 558th unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. “Following in the footsteps of our greatest conservationists, Louis Bacon’s generosity and passion for the great outdoors is helping us to establish an extraordinary conservation area in one of our nation’s most beautiful places,” Salazar said. Bacon’s Trinchera Blanca Ranch is the largest contiguous, privately owned ranch in Colorado.
Read more here.
Download the October newsletter here.
Productive ag land sets a new auction high.
A major bump in U.S. hunting and fishing numbers.
These are a few of the featured items in our October 2012 newsletter, which is now available HERE.
From coast to coast, interest in land and land-based assets continues to rise. See so for yourself as we present new listings, new sales data, and auction updates.
H20. It’s the lifeblood of your land. No other feature rivals this resource for enhancing habitat, nurturing biodiversity, and bringing beauty (and value) to your property.
Stand in the middle of Montana’s Running Colter Ranch and perk up your ears. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the sweet summer melody of Western songbirds, the rude quacking of a duck, and maybe even the honk of an occasional Canadian goose. Listen more closely, and I promise that you can pick out the swishing sound of big bunches of native grasses catching the wind and bending in the breeze.
These are exactly the sorts of sounds one would expect to hear on a ranch in Montana, right? But on the Running Colter Ranch, they mean much more. They mean the plan is working. Just five short years ago, this ranch was a dried-up stretch of ranchland. Deep cracks in the dirt revealed rusty pipes. The wetlands that once existed had long since been filled in. Brown grass spread out as far as the eye could see — brown grass that is now lush, green, and full of wildlife.
The reason? The sound that is hardest to hear: the sound of running water.
It’s a prime example of revival, restoration, and dedication, and it all revolves around water. “Water plays that central role in the biodiversity of our resources, our private property, and our environment,” says Mike Sprague, founder of Montana-based Trout Headwaters, Inc. (THI).
“Water is the key to life” is Sprague’s motto, and he should know. Throughout his career he’s worked with water. Sprague founded THI in 1995 using state of the art technology and scientific practices to help landowners across the U.S. restore and protect the wetlands and water systems coursing through their properties.
And the results of his work — whether it be a current 100,000-acre project featuring three watershed systems in the Rocky Mountains or a 100-acre parcel on the East Coast — have been no less than inspiring.
Sprague has observed a compelling phenomenon that occurs once a landowner restores waters to their purest forms. As a result of this effort, every aspect of the land — from the economic value to the aesthetic elements and everything in between — is enhanced. Healthy, happy waters bring nature back in balance. They provide an alluring habitat for native birds and migratory waterfowl. All species of wildlife flourish, including pesky varmints.
Rejuvenating a watershed increases productivity for farming and ranching. It creates superior recreational opportunities and viewsheds. And it strengthens the relationship that owners have with their land. There’s also the future factor, leaving the land better off for future generations.
Consider the 700-acre functional farmlands of the Running Colter. Lands such as these, with a century of agriculture use, were impacted with human-caused issues revolving around farming, development, infrastructure, and mismanagement. This can include improper grazing techniques, pesticide use, and wetland disruption.
It wasn’t that the previous landowners purposely meant to do any harm; more than likely they were adhering to the ag procedures of their day. The ranch’s previous owners had no intention of causing longlasting harm to the land.
Examples of this on the Running Colter included filling in wetlands and diverting streams underground. These practices allowed for more agricultural water in the short term, but much less in the long run— to the point where the native landscape slowly dried up. Native plants were supplanted by noxious weeds. Wildlife sought more fertile forage. Last but not least, farming yields eventually diminished.
After decades of decay, the Running Colter Ranch was acquired by a private conservation fund in 2008. Sprague’s team at THI was put in charge of restoring the wetlands and stream systems.
“At first, it was difficult to imagine what the water here could become,” Sprague says. “The bulk was wetland more than 80 years ago. Now it was in pipes, and the wetland areas were filled. The land had become increasingly drier.”
Sprague’s team dug in, literally, and spent a year re-elevating groundwater to restore streams and shallow wetlands. Then they created a management plan that involved leaving much of the landscape to heal up naturally.
Five years later, the barren landscape is a thriving wetland habitat. “You almost can’t believe you’re standing on the same property,” Sprague says.
Sprague appreciates the resurgent ecosystems firsthand. Since revitalizing the ranch’s waters, he has fly-fished and hunted the Running Colter many times. “We’ve also reestablished valuable irrigation for farming and recreational activities,” he adds.
So what lessons can be drawn from the Running Colter Ranch restoration project? What are the implications for other landowners around the country?
According to Sprague, there are many. And they begin with a simple understanding, one that concerns the disconnect between our water needs and our water sources.
“For most of us, we tend to think of water in a very utilitarian way,” Sprague says. “After all, the vast majority of the planet is covered by water, but a very small percentage is useful to us.
Sprague explains that there is a perception that the water running through our land is all fine and dandy. In many cases, especially when landowners have bought properties once primarily used for agriculture, that’s not altogether accurate.
When a landowner acquires a property with this kind of history, he or she faces problems that involve the deterioration of watersheds, an extremely common yet unintentional byproduct of historical agricultural practices. When a watershed deteriorates, so do many other living things around it. Some of this damage can go unnoticed at first. After all, if there is no visible debris in a streambed or a drainpipe dumping toxic waste into a river, the damage can be hard to detect for the untrained eye.
It’s also difficult for the untrained eye to imagine the impact of better waters. Biodiversity allows countless elements to thrive. Even if water-rich landowners are uninterested in using this asset for economic purposes, such as farming or ranching, most still want to protect the potential economic, aesthetic, and recreational values. “It becomes a question of managing that small finite resource,”
But how does one go about assessing the damage and then fixing it? Although it sounds daunting, according to Sprague it doesn’t have to be. “Oftentimes the problems can be dealt with in a very cost-effective way,” he says. “Restoration can be done passively or actively, and both ways can have very successful outcomes.”
To identify the disturbances, THI completes an initial consultation at no cost to the landowner. Then they come up with a plan that allows landowners to put projects into phases and take various approaches given the issues identified.
Most improvements fall into one of three basic budget categories. The fastest (and most costly) is a full-on water reclamation project such as the one implemented at the Running Colter. Depending on the size and issues, this can include a year or more of hands-on work with equipment and personnel on the ground followed by extensive monitoring. A middle ground, involving a partial reclamation project, involves consultants mapping out a plan and then letting a landowner implement it.
The slowest but most cost-effective route is a holistic approach based on improving what is already in place as well as future monitoring. “A project can be as simple as marking off the disturbed area, and allowing nature to heal itself, which it does very well when left to do so,” Sprague says.
No matter the approach a landowner decides on to improve his or her waters, the end results are well worth the time, effort, and investment. A landowner now has developed an intimate knowledge and connection with his land, has increased the value and the recreational usage, and has left it better off than when he first came to own it, for future generations as well as neighbors downstream.
“Water is such a centerpiece of so many properties, and it’s all connected,” Sprague says. Then, a serious expression on his face, he adds an all-important closing comment. “It’s incumbent on each one who owns the banks of a stream to keep the water quality up to its purest form. That land and that water are going to be there long after we are gone, and we have the ability to pass that forward in better condition than we found it.”
Corinne Garcia freelances for Marie Claire and Country Living. Based in Bozeman, her speciality is penning stories about Big Sky Country.
Download the digital version of The Land Report’s Summer 2012 magazine.
Every day at 6:45 am, William S. Haines Jr. makes his daily rounds at Hog Wallow. Why? To check in on the 1,300 acres of sprawling cranberry bogs and reservoirs, which are expected to produce 300,000 100-pound barrels of cranberries this year.
Haines, 59, is a fourth-generation farmer who grew up on what is now a 14,000 acre farm that his great-grandfather started in 1890. As owner and CEO of Pine Island Cranberry Company, Haines oversees the largest cranberry operation in New Jersey and one of the top five in the country.
Much of Haines’ success comes from heeding the lessons of his elders, including those pertaining to the importance of water in any farming operation. When asked why cranberries thrive here, Haines’ answer is simple: “abundant, clean water and acidic soil.” Recalls Haines of advice from his father, “Before you make any decision, ask, ‘Where does the water come from and where do you want it to go?’”
Named New Jersey’s outstanding forest steward by the state Department of Environmental Protection for the management of his woodlands on the Wading and Oswego Rivers, Haines recognizes the interdependent relationship between the farm and the forest – one whose long-term health depends on regular thinning and controlled burns.
Admired by fellow cranberry farmers for his work ethic, Stephen Lee, president of Lee Brothers Inc., commented that Haines is “very intense, hands-on and knowledgeable about whatever he’s going to do. He learns about it and does a first class job.”
Considered to be one of the country’s best forest stewards and a leader in forest management, Haines has long been committed to the land, including helping to expand Burlington County’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation programs and to create a Parks Department, which has preserved over 1,000 acres and developed six parks in the county.
Read more here.
Photo Credit: Pine Island Cranberry Company, Inc.
Ron Morris of Ranch Marketing Associates reports that the Y Cross Ranch has come on the market for the first time since it was assembled by Courtenay Davis in 1941. Located northwest of Cheyenne, the 60,000+ acre swath of Wyoming cattle country will be sold via sealed bid. The ranch totals 60,782 acres and consists of 50,333 deeded acres, a 3,949-acre State of Wyoming lease, and a 6,500-acre Forest Service lease acres for a total of 60,782 acres.
The Y Cross Ranch has traditionally operated as a cow/calf ranch and averages 650 to 850 pairs along with 650 to 800 yearling cattle. The ranch’s water rights, some of which date back to the days of the Wyoming Territory, support the production of more than 1,000 tons of grass hay. In addition to its cattle operation, the ranch supports a significant big game population, including elk, mule deer, antelope, black bear, and the occasional moose or mountain lion. Yearly hunting revenues range from $40,000 to $60,000.
In 1997, the ranch was donated by the Courtenay Davis Foundation to the Colorado State University Research Foundation and the University of Wyoming Foundation as joint beneficiaries. Since then, the Y Cross has served as a working laboratory for observation and study of plant and animal systems in a natural environment along with scholarship and/or internship support for Colorado State University and University of Wyoming students majoring in agriculture and natural resources.
The Y Cross Ranch is being offered for sale in its entirety and includes all real estate, improvements and water rights, through a sealed bid process. Broker cooperation is invited. Contact Ron Morris of Ranch Marketing Associates for details at (970) 535-0881 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more HERE.
July 1, 2012 by Land Report Editors
Filed under Agriculture, Auctions, Back Issues, Cattle, Conservation, Dogs, Energy, Equities, Farming, Federal Policy, Great Lakes, Great Plains, International, Midwest, Minerals, Northeast, Pacific, Public Land, Recreation, Residential Property, South, Southwest, Taxes, West
Did you know that the Supreme Court just issued a landmark ruling? I’m not talking about health care. I’m talking about land. That’s right, the high court came down 9-0 for landowners in a suit that was brought against the EPA by Idaho’s Sackett family.
We’ve been following Sackett v. EPA for over a year. It’s one of the many eye-opening stories you’ll enjoy in the Summer 2012 issue of The Land Report, now on newsstands from coast to coast.
You can access the digital edition free of charge HERE.
Our summer issue also features the story of an innovative gift to the University of Wyoming, one that kicks in when Wyoming’s River Bend Ranch sells. It’s a great example of stewardship, one that Greg Fay brought to us and that we are proud to share. Learn five great ways to add value and beauty to your land by improving your waters. And be sure to have a look at our third annual roundup of the nation’s leading auction houses. No surprise here … farmland prices continue to best record highs.
So be our guest and enjoy our latest issue HERE.
For more up to the minute reports on listings, auctions, sales, and breaking news pertaining to land and landowners, be sure to follow The Magazine of the American Landowner on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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