State to consider two land exchanges

DAYTON — Owners of the Horseshoe Ranch and the Hanft Ranch southwest of Dayton have both applied to the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments to participate in a land exchange.

The exchange would convert both private ranches into state trust land.

However, the Horseshoe Ranch does not currently lease any state trust land, and the Hanft Ranch does not lease enough state trust land to make a straightforward value for value exchange so some creativity is required, Jason Crowder, assistant manager for the Trust Land Management Division, said.

Current lessees of state land in the area who have expressed an interest in acquiring the land they lease must form an agreement with the owners of the Horseshoe and Hanft Ranches to create a value for value exchange, Crowder said.

Based on appraised values of all properties involved, current lessees would agree to buy shares of ownership in both ranches equivalent to the appraised value of their leased state trust land.

When enough shares have been sold to match the value of both ranches, the transaction can be completed by the current lessees paying the appraised value of the state trust land to the owners of the ranches via ownership shares, facilitating the purchase of the ranches, Crowder said.

After this has been completed, the Board of Land Commissioners will issue patents to the lessees for the state trust land they acquired and simultaneously receive a warranty deed for both the Horseshoe and Hanft Ranches.

The Board of Land Commissioners granted approval to initiate the exchange process for the Horseshoe Ranch, which is owned by CR Energy Corporation, in June. The board approved the Trust Land Management Division to initiate the exchange process with the Hanft Ranch, owned by Larry and Vicki Hanft, in August.

Crowder said reasons for the exchanges included ease of management through switching ownership patterns in the ranch; financial and estate planning; and a desire to maintain ranch legacies.

“They want to see their ranch legacies remain intact so that operations as a whole remain intact and so it won’t be subdivided. They thought that state ownership would help with that,” Crowder said.

Crowder said that if the exchange is completed, the ranches would be managed for their “highest and best use,” which would likely be their existing agricultural uses and some commercial use in the case of the Horseshoe Ranch.

The owners have not requested a leaseback option at this point, so the Horseshoe Ranch and Hanft Ranch would likely be advertised for leasing options, as well.

Additionally, the Office of State Lands and Investments is always looking for ways to increase public access for hunting and other recreational opportunities, Crowder said.

The Horseshoe and Hanft Ranches would both offer valuable public access options due to their location and accessibility from county roads.

In fact, the Trust Land Management Division is working with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department with regards to a large elk herd in the area that could be better managed through state ownership of the land.

Current state lands that are being considered for the exchange are mostly in Sheridan County. State lands that will be disposed — or sold to their current lessees and thus taken out of state ownership — typically generate low revenues and do not offer public accessibility, Crowder said.

Crowder did note that only state lands that lessees have expressed an interest in owning will be considered for the exchange. The Office of State Lands and Investments will not pick and choose state lands for the exchange with no prior consent of grazing lessees, he added.

The total acreage of both ranches to be acquired by the state should the exchange be successful is approximately 7,000 acres. However, the exchange would be a value for value exchange, meaning that disposed lands may total more acreage than gained lands since the Horseshoe and Hanft ranches offer greater land value than the lands proposed for disposal.

At this point, the exchange process is in its early stages, Crowder said, with land appraisals and assessment of wildlife and recreation opportunities just beginning. It is estimated that the land exchanges will be considered by the Board of Land Commissioners in spring 2014.

 

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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