It’s amazing – the yarns that can be shared about certain tracts of real property. Our April Newsletter takes a closer at several standout stories, including one that I am quite confident is destined to end up before the Supreme Court in a year or two. Why? The two states involved have been disputing their boundary for only the last 195 years.
Also in our April Newsletter you’ll find the story of an Oregon Senator who is considering a shift in federal management of certain timberlands. Meanwhile the Texas Legislature is currently embroiled in how best to combat the drought that has plagued much of the Lone Star State.
Last but not least, an uptick in the housing market has brought renewed activity to North American forests. Learn more as one of America’s largest landowners gears up for increased lumber sales.
Dating back to 1948, Prairie Wings Duck Club in Jefferson County, Arkansas is one of America’s best, private hunting clubs, offering, green-timber mallard duck hunting, along with impressive whitetail deer hunting.
Adjoining the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area and other properties intensively managed for waterfowl and whitetail deer, Prairie Wings Duck Club consists of 1,650± total acres, including 1,130± acres of impounded, mature hardwood timber; 464± acres that are cultivated for rice and soybeans; and 56± acres including the lodge and equipment storage sites, levees, bayous, and roads.
The flooded timber offers six (6) beautiful shooting holes, which some of them have been the inspiration for a few paintings by nationally acclaimed wildlife artists. The timber is a mixed species oaks, which has been well managed over the previous century. There are five (5) wells and five (5) relifts for watering and dewatering the two large green-timber impoundments.
The cultivated acreage strategically rests around the perimeter of the impounded timber and offers sanctuary and feed for the wintering waterfowl. All of the cultivated acreage is managed in a rotation of rice and soybeans providing excellent habitat for resting and wintering waterfowl. The farmland acreage is 100% irrigated and all precision leveled for efficient water management. A professional farmer is in place and the property is farmed on a crop-share basis.
The charming Prairie Wings lodge rests on the banks of Fish Lake Ditch and is abundant and widespread over a single level intertwining structure that is as dated as its prominent history. The lodge is designed to accommodate large groups of shooting sportsmen in warm comfort and includes six (6) master suites, nine (9) guest bedrooms, a guide’s quarters, and abundant bathrooms. The kitchen and dining room are fully equipped to service all the culinary needs of the lodge. A huge deck with fire pit is adjacent to the lodge positioned on Fish Lake Ditch. The exterior features cypress of the local bottomlands. Equipment storage and dog kennels is located just away from the lodge.
This property has been commercially hunted for ducks since the mid-1990s. Records show an average success of over 2,500 harvested ducks per year.
Listed with Lile Real Estate, Inc., Prairie Wings Duck Club is available for $15 million. For more information, contact Gar Lile at (501) 374-3411 (office) or (501) 920-7015 (mobile).
This is the second in a series of posts by Field Reporter Joe Nick Patoski that looks at the wildfires currently raging out West.
With the Waldo Canyon and the House Park fires raging for weeks, the month of June goes down as the most destructive for wildfires since Colorado became a state.
It wasn’t always this way.
Early accounts of wildfires in the American West by European settlers were spotty, at best, mainly because the West is so big and there were so few settlers, at least at first.
When forests burned, there was very little anyone could to do in response to protect property but let the fire burn, which is precisely what Native American tribes did when a big burn ignited.
Fire-fighting techniques have improved considerably over time, especially in the past 25 years. But even with the development of fire-retardants, employment of aircraft, smarter strategies, and constantly better technology, wildfires persist. If anything, man appears to be losing ground to nature on flame front.
Fire is part of a forest’s life cycle, taking down dead and sickly timber, clearing out brush and understory, and scarifying seedlings that require intense heat in order to germinate. It works the same way on prairie grasslands and the plains. Without fire, the vegetation wouldn’t thrive.
Even severe fires caused by heavy fuel loads are normal cyclical occurrences; the big differences are how the cycles have become more frequent, and how more than a century of fire suppression as sound land management, a philosophy spurred largely by the establishment of cattle and other livestock operations, has created an unprecedented heavy fuel load.
It’s important to note that different types forests burn differently, depending on the dominant forest tree and elevation. A century can pass between severe wildfires in high elevation forests dominated by lodgepole pine, aspen, spruce, and Douglas fir. Lower elevation forests with piñon pine, and junipers tend to be drier which leads to more frequent fire events – every decade or two. This keeps forests open and less dense.
The West used to be emptier too. Construction of homes in and around forests has skyrocketed since the 1970s, creating a precarious wildlands-urban interface (WUI) as Colorado State researchers David M. Theobald and William Romme label it. As civilization encroaches, management of forests becomes considerably more difficult. And what provides bucolic scenery most of the time to those arboreal interlopers also provides all the necessary tinder to leave nothing but ashes if flames reach a domicile.
Nationwide, the WUI encompasses an area about 14% larger than the state of California, with an estimated 89% of that wildlands-urban interface privately-owned. That means it is private landowners who will most likely shoulder the burden of wildfire management and prevention strategies such as managed thinning of forest and prescribed burns. Federal and state government planning is limited to federally- and state-owned lands.
Still, sound management practices can only do so much. Increased human population, construction in the wildlife-urban interface, a build-up of tinder in the understory due to more than a century of fire suppression are mere enablers compared to a warming climate. Increased temperatures leading to earlier spring thaws and less snow melt appears to be the biggest driver behind the increase of severe wildfires.
The West was considerably wetter when wildfires in the American West first began to be studied. The climate has turned drier over the past century and a half. Add to that a perfect storm of more immediate weather conditions: the interior West is in extreme drought and in late June, a record-breaking heat wave settled over the southern and central Rocky Mountains accompanied by dry humidity and winds.
Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University. She is also the co-author of a study that appeared in the journal Ecosphere concluding the risk of wildfires in the American west will increase as a result of climate change.
“Climate change is shifting rainfall patterns around the world,” Hayhoe told the Living on Earth radio program. “We’re also seeing that climate change is increasing our average temperatures, which raises the risk of having those hot, dry conditions that we need for a wildfire to spread.”
Colorado is fortunate to have numerous experts at Colorado State University who are studying the past, present, and future of western wildfires.
“A great understanding has developed about historical fire stories in Colorado,” says Dan Binkley, Professor of Forest Ecology at Colorado State. “The first thing to emphasize is we have a grand variety of forests across the West, and the fire stories that go with the landscapes are very different for different types of forests.”
Depending on one’s location, property owners have tools to prepare and protect themselves and their property, says Binkley.
“For homeowners, the most effective options are to learn about ‘firewise’ treatments to reduce the flammability of the local area around a house; join with a community to develop a Community Wildlife Protection Plan; and work with the community and adjacent land managers, such as public land people, to reduce the most severe risks at landscape scales. “
Binkley recommends tapping into the Colorado State Forest Service for information on all the above options. The statewide forestry staff visits and works with Colorado landowners.
All well, and good, but reality has yet to catch up to the knowledge. Since 2002, the contracted fleet of airborne fire-fighting tankers that the US Forest Service depends on has declined from 44 to nine while there have been six deadly crashes, all of them involving aircraft more than 50 years old.
Similarly, the US Fire Protection Program Analysis system, which was launched in 2002 in response to a history of all-out fire suppression, has yet to be implemented, although the computerized program that would coordinate fire-fighting agencies and responders to assess and reduce risk and control costs, was supposed to be online in 2007.
The failure to efficiently coordinate agencies and responders mattered not a whit to Dr. Bonnie Warnock, chair of Natural Resource Management at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, who got a call at the school last year that her ranch was burning.
“My heart said no but my head said it was OK,” she said.
Dr. Warnock rushed to her place.
“It was very stressful. The whole back pasture was burned, the boundary fence was on the ground. What do I do? I had not planned at all. How do I deal with this financially and emotionally? We have to sell one-third of our cows. We don’t have enough feed. That’s a capital investment for us that we are having to sell off and we’ll have to buy more back,” Warnock said.
She knew too well the fire was part of the process.
“Historically, our landscape did evolve with fire. If you’re looking at it from a plant perspective, this is not a catastrophe. This is a natural occurrence for the semiarid ecosystem we live in. Typically, we have two or three wet years followed by a dry year during which lightning strikes cause wildfires. This process has maintained the grasslands and kept brush from encroaching.”
That is, until the pioneers arrived and established permanent communities. “When early European settlement of this region began in the late 1800s, there was a lack of understanding of this process and land was overstocked and overgrazed,” Dr. Warnock said. “Drought was something the settlers weren’t experienced with. The overstocking and overgrazing removed the grass and fires disappeared from the Trans-Pecos.”
Range science changed that practice. “Since the science of range management developed in the 1950s, our ranchers have done a good job,” Dr. Warnock pointed out, while adding the caveat that even sound practices can do only so much.
“Through this most recent wet period, they haven’t been overgrazing and overstocking, which has benefitted the ecosystem. But over the past three years, we’ve grown a huge amount of fuel in the Trans-Pecos, so the first fire in 100-150 years since the region had been settled was extremely large. It was so big we weren’t prepared to deal with it. This is unprecedented.”
As critical as the drought and wildfires have been, the next few months afterwards were even more critical. “If we get rain in the next month or so, the country will come back and look better. If it doesn’t rain we will lose perennial grasses and see an increase of desertification,” Warnock said.
This awareness has led to the formation of a non-profit association in Far West Texas that uses prescribed fire as a management tool to reduce fuel loads. “Going forward, this is something we need if we are going to have green grass,” Dr. Warnock says, acknowledging a perception issue with prescribed burning from city and town dwellers and the new breed residing in the wildland-urban interface.”
“These people are at the highest risk if a prescribed burn gets away and at the greatest risk from wildfire. Most of these people come from cities and are not supportive of prescribed fire. That makes it difficult to employ this tool,” Dr. Warnock says. “There is a lot of support for prescribed fires by ranchers. We need to educate small landowners living on the edge of towns.”
“We need to work on finding mechanisms to reduce accidents. How do you keep people from welding or throwing out a cigarette when there’s 45 mile per hour winds and 2 percent humidity? “
Like the rest of us, even though she knows what she knows, Dr. Warnock has no interest in seeing it all happen again.
Read part one of this series here.
Photo Credit: Don Savage Photography
The Magazine of the American Landowner presents the first in a series by Field Reporter Joe Nick Patoski as he takes a closer look at the wildfires raging out West.
The American West is on fire again, with wildfires breaking out across the Gila Wilderness in southwest New Mexico, around Ruidoso in southeastern New Mexico, and throughout Colorado. The Gila fire now ranks as the worst in New Mexico’s recorded history. Colorado’s High Park fire (pictured above) west of Fort Collins has destroyed more homes in state history. And all that was before summer even officially started.
Most western states have been experiencing drier-than-normal range conditions, and many regions are officially in drought. Conditions have been ripe for a major outbreak quite awhile. Maybe it’s an old writer’s faded memory, but it seems like massive wildfires used to happen every three or four years. Lately, it’s pretty much an annual occurrence, a seasonal rite, if you will.
Last year, Texas burned. Four million acres were scorched and it took 16,000 emergency responders from all 50 states and Puerto Rico to tamp it down. Wildfires near Fort Davis in Far West Texas and around Bastrop in Central Texas were the two worst in state history.
Other states will have their turn soon enough. What’s going on here?
Is this normal or an aberration? Where do wildfires fit into the big picture, beyond the considerable destruction and property damage in their wake? Who’s paying to fight the fires and to mitigate property damage? The largest mountain pine-beetle epidemic in recorded history, which has ravaged western forests with 3.3 million acres of ponderosa, piñon, whitebark, lodgepole, and eight other pine species destroyed in Colorado alone, has created ideal conditions for fire. The pine beetle’s success is tied to rising temperature, suggesting climate change is another enabling factor for increased wildfire. Forest management practices are being scrutinized, as is the impact of humans. Before European pioneers arrived to establish permanent settlements, the natives let fires burn. Are we tilting against windmills trying to stop them? Most important, what can communities and individuals do to protect their land and to lower the risk?
We can argue about what it all means until we’re gone, but the good news is there are answers to these questions. Accumulated data, good science, history, facts, truths, and verities all tell stories worth telling that inform and expand our knowledge about western wildfires.
Over the next few weeks, while the western forests and rangeland burns, we’ll visit with some folks whose perspectives on fire, ecosystems, biology, prescribed burns, economics, erosion, range science, meteorology, and, of course, land ownership have the potential to inform and enlighten if we’re willing to read, listen, and ponder. That won’t stop the fires from breaking out, but it can certainly make our responses smarter.
Read part two of this series here.
May 1, 2012 by Land Report Editors
Filed under Agriculture, Arizona, California, Cattle, Conservation, Developers, Equities, Farming, Federal Policy, Field Reporters, Great Lakes, Land Report Top 10, Massachusetts, Newsletter, Northeast, Pacific, Public Land, Recreation, Residential Property, Southwest, Timber, Water, West, Wisconsin
Many items to consider from our May newsletter, but let’s stick to page one material. The Land Report Top Ten has a brand-new look with Montana’s Broken O Ranch now crowning the list. The 124,000-acre Bates Sanders Swan listing features more than 20 miles of the Sun River, carries 3,500 mother cows, and produces about 25,000 tons of alfalfa hay and 700,000 bushels of small grain crops annually. At $132.5 million, it’s not a ranch. It’s a hedge fund, one built on a rock-solid agricultural asset.
Two properties have joined the Top Ten: Hawaii’s Dillingham Ranch, our new No. 5 at $65 million, which is listed by Zackary Wright with Christie’s; and Swain’s Neck on Nantucket Island, the new No. 7 at $59 million, courtesy of Gary Winn at Maury People Sotheby’s International Realty. There has been a $5 million reduction on No. 4 California’s Rancho Dos Pueblos, which Kerry Mormann & Associates now has listed for $79 million.
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 and Twitter. The Land Report is now on Pinterest.
P.S. Our award-winning quarterly magazine is available in a print version via subscription.
March 1, 2012 by Land Report Editors
Filed under Agriculture, Auctions, Bankruptcy, Cattle, Conservation, Developers, Dogs, Energy, Equestrian, Equities, Farming, Federal Policy, Field Reporters, Great Lakes, Great Plains, Hunting, International, Midwest, Minerals, Newsletter, Northeast, Pacific, Public Land, Recreation, South, Southwest, Timber, Topics, Water, West
The Spring issue of The Land Report has arrived!
Right now it’s en route to bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and subscribers’ offices around the world, but thanks to the miracles of modern technology you can read right now right HERE.
Learn the stories of America’s Best Brokerages in our second annual survey. More than 70 are profiled from coast to coast. Read how Bernie Uechtritz pulled off 2011′s Deal of the Year by selling Camp Cooley Ranch in just 45 days. Find out why George Clooney has such strong ties to the land in the Academy Award-winning movie The Descendants.
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 and Twitter. Better yet, Land Report is now on Pinterest.
P.S. Our award-winning quarterly magazine is available in a print version via subscription.
Most everyone who knew Taylor Emmons marveled at his athletic abilities, sense of sportsmanship, love of the outdoors, and his empathetic nature. His untimely passing was felt by thousands, as evidenced by the capacity crowd at his celebration of life service. Thanks to his purpose-driven father, a ton of collective effort, and some foresight from Taylor himself, the passions that marked this great kid’s life will be perpetuated through the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund and Taylor’s Trees. At the heart of these dual philanthropic tributes is a rich parcel of Maine timberland.
This whole process started before Taylor died, and it just kind of dovetailed into his legacy,” says his father, Mike Emmons. Some seven years ago, the family moved from Maine to Sarasota so that Taylor’s older brother, Mikey, could develop his baseball skills at the world renowned IMG Academy. Taylor was enrolled at The Out-of-Door Academy (ODA), and he flourished at the college prep school. The National Honor Society member was captain of the golf team, co-captain of the baseball team, and named Homecoming King by his schoolmates. “He loved The Out-of-Door Academy,” says his dad. “He did well academically, did very well in sports, and was just a very popular kid.”
Taylor graduated from ODA and was a University of Miami sophomore when he was fatally struck by an SUV near the Coral Gables campus in December 2010. He was 19.
“The thing about Taylor — and it’s easy for me to say because I was his dad — but you talk to anybody and they’ll tell you that even though he was a really good looking kid and a good athlete, he treated everybody the same. He liked everybody, and everybody liked him. I don’t know what the final number was, but when he died, the funeral home had never seen a crowd that big.”
Emmons, a 30-year veteran of the land game, got his start with Harry Patten in 1980 (see Land Report Summer 2009). He also pursued investments on his own. A few years ago, he came across the parcel of timberland from which Taylor’s Trees would evolve.
“I had an acquisitions guy who was out looking for property,” Emmons recalls. “I had moved to Florida and went up to Maine for a week to Sugarloaf to go skiing, and he said, ‘Mike, I think you ought to come take a look at this piece of property. It seems like a pretty good deal.’
“So I skipped a day of skiing and went and looked at this piece of property in Maine. It was a great deal, and I bought it. It was 9,000 acres. It didn’t really have any timber value. About 2,000 acres had been put into a conservation easement to protect the two streams. I took the other 7,000 acres and subdivided it into some 500-acre tracts and just never got around to selling it. The more time I spent up there, the more I fell in love with the place. The idea of owning 7,000 acres and growing timber on it and passing it on to my kids started appealing to me. So I decided not to sell it,” he says.
During his junior year, Taylor had participated in an Out-of-Door Academy program in which the school’s students stuffed backpacks with basic school necessities for kids without the means to buy them themselves. The experience was an eye-opener, and the teen expressed concern about the thousands of homeless kids in otherwise affluent Sarasota.
“Taylor said, ‘there seems to me there’s something we ought to be able to do,’” recalls his dad. “It really bothered him.” The thought stuck with Mike as well:
“I got to thinking about it from time to time, and then one day I got a call from Josh Rhodes, who hunts bear on our property in Maine. Josh says, ‘do you mind if my wife goes tipping on your property?’ I said, ‘Under one condition. You’ve got to send me a wreath.’ So two weeks later, I get this absolutely beautiful wreath from the clippings off my property, and it smells just like Maine. I got to thinking that maybe we could grow some Christmas trees and ship them down here and the kids from the academy, in conjunction with the underprivileged kids, could sell them [as a fundraiser].” After factoring in the logistics of clearing the land, planting 1,000 trees per acre, and shipping the harvested ones from Maine to Florida, Emmons realized it could be more than a moneymaker. As Taylor had hoped, it could be a great way to help others.
While the first crop of trees grew in, wreath sales would provide a little cash flow. At the same time they would help develop a customer base.
“Originally my thought was to raise money for the school as well as the disadvantaged kids,” he says.
Emmons and David Mahler, headmaster at ODA, held a series of meetings to discuss the project. Mahler was intrigued with the idea and encouraged Emmons to pursue it. “We talked about it before Taylor’s passing, the idea of using some of the proceeds from the tree farm to help these kids,” says Mahler. Today, Emmons’s long-term goal is to create a place in Maine where students from ODA and underprivileged kids from Sarasota can experience the great outdoors while hunting, fishing, pulling lobster traps, and, of course, planting trees.
“It takes about six years for a planted pine to become marketable,” Emmons says. “My daughter, Samantha, was moving from the Lower School to the Upper School, and I said, ‘wouldn’t that be cool if the kids who were in sixth grade actually participated in planting the trees, then six years later, when they’re harvested, they’re actually selling the trees that they helped plant six years before?’”
As summer 2010 got underway, Emmons’s crew cleared the land and planted the first 4,000 trees. Six months later, Taylor’s life was tragically cut short. In lieu of flowers or other tokens of sympathy, the family established the Taylor William Emmons Scholarship Fund and asked for donations in Taylor’s name.
“We’ve received over $136,000 in donations from family, friends, and people we didn’t even know,” Emmons says. “The outpouring was just incredible. To this day the money still pours in.”
In keeping with the legacy, the memorial foundation has partnered with All Faiths Food Bank to sell handmade wreaths from Taylor’s Trees in Maine. All proceeds from the sale of the 22-inch double-sided wreaths will go to the Taylor William Emmons Scholarship Fund and the corresponding backpack program, which feeds hungry children through the food bank.
This past June, the ODA’s baseball field was dedicated in Taylor’s honor. Topping off the ceremony was the announcement of Desmond Lindsay as the first recipient of a Taylor William Emmons Scholarship.
“Desmond possesses a lot of Taylor’s qualities. We have no doubt … he is going to carry on his name perfectly,” says Taylor’s mom, Katie.
“What I want is that every year a kid gets to go to the academy because of Taylor,” Mike Emmons says. “I want to have four kids in the school on scholarship in Taylor’s name. One in every class.” To that end, Emmons has set a goal to generate $1 million so that the scholarship fund can be self-sustaining.
Says David Mahler, “Taylor was a great kid: a strong student, an exceptional athlete, fun-loving, friendly, and outgoing. The Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund is an incredible way to maintain Taylor’s legacy. It’s really a testament to Mike and Katie and the strength of the Emmons family that in a time of such sorrow and sadness, they’ve decided to changes lives for the better. This scholarship will change innumerable lives going forward.”
The Emmons family also has a living, breathing memento of Taylor’s big-heartedness. Through a Facebook connection, Taylor rescued a dog while in college. When he brought Bella home for Thanksgiving, Mike insisted that Taylor take her to the local shelter in Bradenton. His message was a simple one: college is no place to raise a pet.
The day after Taylor’s tragic accident, his older brother, Mikey, rallied the family to call the shelter and get Bella back. Though she had already been adopted, the shelter understood the family’s circumstances, and made the necessary arrangements for Bella to come home. Another timeless reminder of this wonderful life. — Nancy Myers
To place a wreath order, log on to www.temmons.org. To learn more about the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund, call Executive Director Sandy Albano at (941) 915-9249 or send her an email at email@example.com.
JANUARY 3 UPDATE:
In late December, a deal was struck to sell the 80,200 acres of timberland in northern Wisconsin for $42.9 million dollars to two companies that manage timberland throughout the U.S.
According to LandVest, Inc. broker David Speirs, the Lyme Timber Company, which is based in Hanover, New Hampshire, has an agreement to purchase 72,800 acres. The Forestland Group, headquartered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is set to purchase the remaining 7,400 acres.
NOVEMBER 17 POST:
The Wausau Paper Timberlands offer approximately 80,000 acres of prime timberland located throughout the northern half of the state of Wisconsin. A leading producer of fine printing and writing papers, towel and tissue products, and specialty papers, Wausau has been divesting non-strategic timber holdings since 2005. Most of these 80,000 acres have been sustainably managed by Wausau since the 1940s for the production of wood fiber.
The acreage consists primarily of natural and planted northern pine species. In addition to timber value, the acreage offers an extensive number of land uses, including recreational and conservation opportunities.
Take a moment to scan the November edition of The Land Report newsletter. You’ll be amazed at the amount of activity going on in land markets currently.
Impending auctions of key parcels, record-setting new listings, fire-sale prices on bankrupt holdings – the number of transactions taking place in all sectors is quite encouraging and, as you will soon read, in all parts of the country.
P.S. Our award-winning quarterly magazine is available in a print version via subscription.
Check out this informative video from ranch brokers Ken Mirr and Jeff Hubbard of Mirr Ranch Group.
Ranch brokers Ken Mirr and Jeff Hubbard discuss the increase in demand they are seeing for income-producing properties for sale. These ranch experts suggest that this type of ranch, coupled with recreational values, makes for a truly special property. Thunder Ranch, a Utah ranch for sale, is used as an example.