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Letter from Rick Clark regarding Columbus Peak Land Exchange


 

The opinions expressed by contributors are their own, and may not reflect the opinions of the Sheridan County Republican Party.


 


Update Letter from - State Lands Action Team Chairman:


January 12, 2024


We have begun to better understand what is going on with the Columbus Peak Ranch (CPR) Land Exchange, and we have major concerns that the Exchange will be approved either at the February 1, 2024 State Board of Land Commissioners (SBLC) meeting or in April.


The unanimous decision by the State Lands Action Team to suspend negotiations following the 10.04.2023 public hearing at which 97% of those surveyed opposed any compromise appears to have resulted in a major push by the landowner and the SBLC to exchange the State Trust Land.


The landowner, in negotiating with the SBLC without the State Lands Action Team’s involvement; and, as a result of the second appraisal, has proposed to increase the Cash Equalization Payment from $410,950 to $840,000 which would increase the annual interest to the State from about $17,835 to somewhere between $37,294 to $47,062. The State and Columbus Peak Ranch also worked out a 98 acre (permanent?) Walk-In area for hunting (location not revealed). The extra cash may seem generous; but, in our opinion, it is not compared to the value of the loss of this land to the public. The 98 acres is important depending on its location but is below what our committee had negotiated. The reservoir, also negotiated for public use by our committee, is not in the current agreement between the State and CPR.


What many expect to happen after this Exchange is settled is that, eventually, the State Trust Land that adjoins this 560 acres will also be acquired by private owners. In the worst case scenario, eventually, the entire 2500 acres may be lost. In a negotiation offer last year, we asked that Columbus Peak Ranch do no more exchanges on the remainder of the State Trust Land. That ask was declined.


Anyway, as we understand, because the Governor has a conflict of interest with the CPR appraiser, another appraisal is in the works. If this appraisal is complete by the Feb. 1 State Board of Land Commissioners meeting, and if it meets the State’s specifications, the State Board of Land Commissioners is expected to approve the CPR Exchange.


We continue to work to prevent this, and we ask you to understand that:

  1. We “suspended” negotiations as a result of public input.

  2. Land values from an obsolete appraisal also hindered negotiations.

  3. We now have no voice in the process.

  4. The negotiation described above was reached without the State Lands Action Team being at the table.


We remind you that we are a grassroots volunteer organization, we operate with no source of income as a committee, and we have no legal representation.


We continue to do the best we can, we are very disappointed in this potential loss, and we hope you will join us in continuing to oppose the Exchange as long as we can. Please don’t hesitate to write the SBLC or join the meeting in Cheyenne on 02/01/2024 or by Zoom (see OSLI website)


We greatly value your input and look forward to your responses.


Thank you for almost 3 years of opposition and about 1115 letters to the Office of State Lands and Investments!!!


Rick Clark

State Lands Action Team Chairman

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