THE RAW DEAL

Field and Stream - - ON THE COVER -

A RE­CENT EX­AM­PLE OF HOW STATES CASH IN AND SPORTS­MEN LOSE OUT

IN OC­TO­BER 2016, Utah’s Trust Lands Ad­min­is­tra­tion put 3,700 acres of state prop­erty on the auc­tion block. With no min­eral or en­ergy op­por­tu­ni­ties, the lands had lit­tle leas­ing po­ten­tial; the state knew, how­ever, that sell­ing the tracts could gen­er­ate a hefty sum. The lands in­cluded prime parcels, like a scenic 200-acre Cave Val­ley tract ad­join­ing Zion Na­tional Park. That plot, called “the best of the best” by auc­tion­eers, brought $1.74 mil­lion, with Un­der Can­vas, a re­sort-style “glamp­ing” com­pany, los­ing a bid­ding war to the Ly­man Fam­ily Farm, a cor­po­ra­tion owned by Utah en­tre­pre­neur Joe Hunt. Other tracts that sold in­cluded 1,240 acres on Di­a­mond Moun­tain, home to Uin­tah County’s best big-game hunt­ing, and a 390acre par­cel on San Juan County’s Comb Ridge, a pop­u­lar pub­lic-land ac­cess point and through which runs the Hole in the Rock Trail, a his­toric route of Mor­mon pioneers. Hunt’s “fam­ily farm” also bought the Comb Ridge prop­erty and quickly gated the ac­cess road. Lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and con­ser­va­tion groups protested the Comb Ridge sale, but there was noth­ing they could do. If states can gen­er­ate more rev­enue through sell­ing prop­erty than by re­tain­ing and leas­ing it, then that’s what they will do. All told, the state net­ted $5.52 mil­lion from the auc­tion, with the Ly­man Fam­ily Farm buy­ing seven of the 12 parcels. Since its in­cor­po­ra­tion in 2014, the com­pany has pur­chased roughly half of the Utah tracts up for auc­tion, 19 of which had sig­nif­i­cant ar­chae­o­log­i­cal, hunt­ing, or scenic value, or pro­vided ac­cess to fed­eral pub­lic lands. None of the parcels had agri­cul­tural po­ten­tial, so no one knows the rea­son for the pur­chases. What is clear, how­ever, is that there’s no short­age of buy­ers happy to take pub­lic lands off of our hands.

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