Sundance Times Editor,
It is with regret that I am resigning from all my elected and appointed positions due to personal circumstances. I will be unable to complete my terms of office. I have tried to serve as a useful member of the community and apologize for this sudden announcement. I had fully intended to carry out my full term. I wish everyone the best for the future. Margaret and I are moving out of Wyoming as soon as we can arrange everything and weather permits and we can sell lots of stuff. It has been our honor to associate with such friendly and dedicated people. I am sorry, but this must be done. A new chapter begins.
Things are running quite smooth at the city, but there have been some changes that I should share. First, Kathy was notified that the grant to pay off the remaining balance on the daycare came through. This grant is for $220,000 and should pay off the remaining balance on the building. The building is a great facility and should last for many years.
The council and I spent last week in Cheyenne being trained on the new rules from the state and participating in the debate about the state budget for cities and counties. There is a big push in the current administration to make towns more self-reliant. The budget includes several million dollars for projects, however, there are restrictions that prevent us from additional hiring and increasing wages, although it is still unclear how this will be monitored.
The council, staff, and former Mayor Miller sat on a committee for the hiring of a City Engineer. Their recommendation to me is to appoint Tri-Hydro of Laramie to be the City Engineer. There was considerable interest from engineering firms, but during the process, the Tri-Hydro proposal was selected.
The last thing is civility. The anger toward government has always been there, however “Proud to be an American” used to dictate that you did not attack politicians. Most of these people are doing all they can for the country, state, counties, cities, and their various committees and boards that they represent. When I am in Cheyenne, I am proud that our state has high enough regard for each other that the dialog is civil.
Paul Brooks, Mayor
Having followed the Conservation Easement letters and opinions in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, I find that I can no longer sit back and not join in the fray. I have read with great interest Attorney Harriet Hageman’s talk, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” that she delivered to the Wyoming Farm Bureau convention. Remarkably, Jim Magagna and John Lunt of the Wyoming Stock Growers rose to the bait and rebutted Attorney Hageman’s remarks! Well, now, if landowners are not well informed, it is quite their own fault. I find it interesting that the only defenders of Conservation Easements are the Easements holders and purchasers such as the Wyoming Stock Growers Ag Land Trust, who obviously have much to gain by such purchases.
As the short, legislative session conducted its business, a little noticed bill, SF 42, which has passed its second reading, came to my attention. Among several huge monetary requests, was one for nearly $8 million to buy a conservation easement on a ranch near Devils Tower, by the Wyoming Stock Growers. $8 Million? Good Grief! This is money coming from the taxpayers of Wyoming! There is no money for roads and how many other legitimate governmental departments?
However in my large Senate district 1 of one Senator, our Senator, who at one time served on the Wyoming Stock Growers Ag Land Trust Board, has plans for the $8 million for his ranch at the base of the Devils Tower. For $8 million, he can go buy another ranch without a restrictive easement, and at the same time help out the WSGALT can’t he? He did recuse himself from voting on SF 42 since he is the recipient, which of course denied Senate District 1 constituents a “no” vote on this bill, and left a huge area totally unrepresented in the Wyoming State Senate. Now this tidy sum for his own pockets may not be illegal, but it smacks of being totally unethical for a Senator who is responsible for spending the Wyoming taxpayers’ money. But, there is no corruption here, not with the Stock Grower’s principles and our fine Wyoming Senator! I do wonder how many elderly ranch couples have been duped into these easements and if they got that kind of money?
There are several of Jim Magagna’s defensive statements that I would like to shred, but lest this letter grow too long, I will only pick on the statement that the WSGALT will hold their easements and not be like the rest of the land trusts who sell to the highest bidding NGOs (National Non-government Organizations). Will Mr. Magagna live to perpetuity to assure that this happens? Since the Stock Growers are obviously using tax payer dollars to buy their easements, some of which are federal grant dollars, how can they say the government won’t have some say in how the easements will be managed?
Van C. Johnson of Evanston wrote an excellent letter in the February 25 WLR. I agree with him that the Wyoming Legislature should not allocate money for conservation easements this year. I keep choking on that $8 million for the Senator’s ranch.
Dan Byfield, CEO of American Stewards of Liberty, wrote an excellent piece in the Western Ag Reporter stating eight points land owners need to be aware of. With his permission, those points condensed are:
1. CEs are in perpetuity and cannot be removed by the landowner.
2. CEs allow for merger of estates and when the holder of the easement buys the remaining property rights, they merge and the easement disappears leaving the land trust or government to do as they please with the property.
3. CEs create a baseline for habitat, natural resources, endangered species, and other natural features that cannot be changed unless approved by the managing partner.
4. The holder of the CE is the dominant owner, and the landowner becomes subservient on all management decisions.
5. The land trust has sole discretion to make decisions about the conservation purposes like fewer cattle or buffer zones.
6. CEs can be transferred to a 3rd party, but only to a government entity or another land trust by the holder and that party becomes the managing partner of your land.
7. A third party can enforce easements by taking the landowner to court.
8. CEs become available for mitigation for displaced endangered species. CEs are placed in computer databanks called mitigation banks, and the CEs can be condemned as replacement habitat.
As ranchers we all flirt with the ever possibility of the Sheriff’s sale, but rather than a conservation easement, a landowner might be better off selling a back forty and retaining all his property rights on the remaining land. As Kimmi Lewis of La Junta, CO says, “Keep your title clean.” The right to own property is the key to American freedoms and it is the key to a prosperous America.
Director for Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming