2011 Market Update: Chip Lenihan has been fly-fishing Colorado’s best waters for 40 years. His side gig? Running the Telluride office of Fay Ranches as lead broker. The Land Report turned to this former mayor of Telluride for an update on today’s recreational properties market.
How is that manifested?
Buyers are willing to sit back and wait until they get real value for their money.
Who’s driving today’s market?
The biggest part of my business is families. Men tend to drive the decision-making on hunting properties and ag land, and women trend more in the direction of resort sales, ones that are closer in to town and that feature more amenities. But come rain or shine it’s families who are looking to enjoy the sort of lifestyle you can only find out in the great wide open.
What’s been the biggest surprise of 2011?
The number of investors parking their money in land. The capital is out there. But after what happened in 2008, no one is in a hurry to put it in traditional markets.
Five years ago, land was a hot commodity. Everybody wanted to get on board before the train left the station. And that brought a lot of buyers with short-term horizons into our market. Today, investors recognize the value inherent in current markets. A good number of them are looking at land as a smart buy, one with proven returns, long range stability, plus big upside from a personal standpoint.
Public land. Do buyers want to border national forest or BLM, or should they steer clear?
Great question. if you’re scouting a potential property and it borders public land, it’s absolutely essential to determine how intensely it’s used. Are you up against an unused corner of a national forest? Great. That will add a 10% to 20% premium to the value of your property. Does a hunting outfitter operate a base camp right across your fence line that’s going to bring in 25 guns for deer and elk season? Might not be your cup of tea.
Former Governor Mitt Romney’s proposal to designate the Berkshires and all of Western Massachusetts as national forest is being considered once again. Massachusetts is one of just six states without national forest designation, a situation the Romney administration sought to counter in 2003.
A key aspect of the proposal being considered is that the federal government would not acquire any private land. Instead, it would seek easements from local property owners to restrict development and thus allow the land to remain on tax rolls.
The proposed Massachusetts model, which is being called a “family-forest based” designation, is being pitched as a partnership between private landowners, the state, and the federal government.
“”Landowners would retain the rights to own the lands, but sell their right to develop it,” said Lisa Capone of the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. “The land also remains a working forest, with some level of access to outdoor recreation and protection from commercial development. Massachusetts would be the first state to have the land-easement concept.”
The nation’s largest landowner may be getting a last-minute, going-away gift from the Bush Administration. The Forest Service may amend existing easements, a step that would allow Plum Creek Timber (NYSE:PCL) to pave roads through USFS land. Such a move would facilitate an important first step for the giant timber REIT as it converts forested acreage to residential developments. Read the complete story here.
Worthwhile read in the New York Times today by Kirk Johnson for the National Desk. The focus of the article is less about timber or timberland as an investment and more about the Montana logging communities whose lifeblood has been altered by forces far from home, including the mortgage meltodown, climate change, and the drop in demand for … wood chips. Read more
On Friday the Interior Department ruled that Americans will be able to carry concealed weapons in some federal parks and wildlife refuges. The announcement overturns a decades-old Reagan Administration regulation that required all guns brought into national parks and wildlife refuges be unloaded and kept in an out-of-the-way place such as the trunk of the car.
The great plague that is the pine beetle infestation has now destroyed millions of acres of timber across the western U.S. and into Canada. The extent of this calamity is so enormous that last month we covered the devastation at this website. This week Jim Robbins at The New York Times picked up the storyline and filed his own excellent report about the disappearing forest. Here are some of his key observations: Read more
BY JOSEPH GUINTO
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2007
Under a federal law, the BLM, an arm of the Department of the Interior, has begun buying private properties that carve into federal wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests, and their ilk, making those lands difficult to access or manage. Though the law—the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act—was passed in 2000, federal agencies had not used it to make a land acquisition until this fall. In September, the BLM, working with the Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, offered $18 million to snap up 19 parcels of private land in seven states. Overall, some 9,000 acres of land were acquired in New Mexico, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, and California.
The last of those states provides a good example of the law’s intent. The BLM and other agencies spent $850,000 to buy 321 acres near the Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Preserve, a tongue-twisting federal wildlife refuge near Palm Springs. The preserve features both sand dunes and rocky hills and is home to the threatened fringe-toed lizard, which is found nowhere else in the world. The reason the BLM wanted the land was that it separated the preserve from the Joshua Tree National Park.
The equally tongue-twisting Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act can also work the other way around. In cases where federal lands are isolated by surrounding private properties, making them of little value to the government, the BLM can offer those parcels for sale. It can also sell off lands that have clear residential or commercial worth. The BLM has made $95 million from such sales so far.
Most of that money is required to go to further land acquisitions, like the purchases the BLM made in September. “These purchases promote conservation while helping ensure efficient and effective public lands management,” said Lynn Scarlett, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, during the dedication ceremony for the Coachella Valley property.
And if you’re wondering: No, this is not eminent domain. The act stipulates that government agencies only buy property from willing sellers.
October 1, 2007 by Joseph Guinto
Filed under Cattle, Conservation, Feature, Federal Policy, Field Reporters, Great Plains, Joseph Guinto, Magazine, October 2007, Public Land, Recreation, Regional News, Topics
BY JOSEPH GUINTO
PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2007
More than 5,000 acres of federal land in North Dakota’s Badlands could go up for sale. That’s up to Congress. The property is supposed to be offered as a unique offset to a purchase made by the U.S. Forest Service. Last spring, the Forest Service ended a years-long controversy by spending $5.3 million on a 5,200-acre ranch across the Little Missouri River from the Elkhorn Ranch, a property once owned by Theodore Roosevelt and considered by many as the nation’s “cradle of conservation.”
Roosevelt retreated to the ranch in the late 1880s and emerged three and a half years later as an avowed environmentalist who would, as president, go on to add millions of acres to the government’s holdings for use as national forests, parks, and wildlife refuges. But adding to the government’s holdings was just what the Forest Service didn’t want to do when it bought the neighboring Blacktail Creek Ranch. After all, the government already owns 1.2 million acres in North Dakota. Some local ranchers and officials vehemently opposed taking a working ranch out of production just so Roosevelt’s property could continue to enjoy an unspoiled view.
So, in a unique compromise, the Forest Service said it would buy the Blacktail Creek Ranch and sell an equivalent amount of land it already owns in North Dakota, but that it would sell that land only to about 40 ranchers who currently own property in Billings County, where Elkhorn Ranch is located. And that’s where Congress gets involved. Or not. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota and a proponent of the ranch purchase, says he doesn’t support legislation with such restrictions.
When Smokey Bear says, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” he really means it. After several years of historic wildfires in the West that have strained firefighting budgets, burned thousands of acres, and destroyed homes, lawmakers in Washington and at the state and local levels are preparing to ask landowners to help combat the blazes before they begin. Read more
Whether you’re tearing it up in an off-road vehicle or all torn up about their impact on the land, you’ll probably want to know about the tongue-twisting new advocacy group known as Rangers for Responsible Recreation. The group, backed by Washington, D.C.-based lobbying outfit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), may be the most influential so far to push for broader regulations on off-roaders riding on public lands. And their efforts could have a spillover effect on private properties. Read more