DAYTON – Members of a local volunteer committee fear state officials may revisit a proposed land swap near Dayton sooner than expected, after the point was filed in August in part due to ” immense public commentary “opposing the trade.”
Land Swap Columbus Peak Ranch, LLC is proposing to exchange 628.35 acres of private land east of Dayton for 560 acres of state-owned land northwest of Dayton. The State Board of Land Commissioners, which includes Governor Mark Gordon, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, Auditor Kristi Racines, Treasurer Curt Meier and Superintendent of Public Education Jillian Balow, reviewed the exchange at its August 5 meeting, voting to table the issue “indefinitely.” During the meeting and in writing, opponents expressed concern that the lands proposed for the exchange contain less water, less wildlife habitat, less biodiversity and other features that make it a business. unequal.
“The case that was filed in October was filed on an undetermined date, which means it could come back at any time. It could come back in October, it could come back in a year. The board has not given us any advice on this, ”said Jason Crowder, deputy director of the SBLC this week.
The council ordered community members and the claimant, landowner Ross Matthews, to start negotiations for fairer trade, Crowder said. Before voting to table the issue, Dayton resident Gale Smith asked the board if it was typical for a land swap like the Columbus Peak Ranch to generate such opposition.
“Is it normal, or worrying, that there is 90% opposition to a land swap like this?” Is it normal that the five members of the legislative composition of Sheridan County oppose it, both senators and representatives, and that four of the five county commissioners oppose it? Smith asked. “It says a lot about the possibility of losing such a precious possession in Sheridan County.”
Crowder said on August 5 that the board of directors had had a “solid conversation” about what they wanted to see in the proposed transaction, based on the overwhelming public comments heard at the meeting and submitted in writing ahead of the meeting. meeting.
“The council wanted to see a kind of back and forth between the community and the applicant to see if there was a way to have a solution, if it was different from what was offered to them,” he said. -he declares. noted.
The State Lands Action Team met after the meeting and includes volunteers Smith, Mike Barrett, Rick Parish, Rick Clark and State Representative Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, who will stand come together to represent citizens’ concerns about future access and equity in land swaps. The existing parcel of Crown land includes a “super large capacity” Bear Claw Love # 1 reservoir and only seasonal reserve water ponds visible by drone footage on existing private land. In videos posted to Facebook in July, Smith’s son was able to catch fish after fish in the state tank.
“We heard that the state owns part of the water rights in the large reservoir, and that the water is valuable,” Clark said, adding that he understood the water was being sold from Park. Reservoir at Sheridan Area Water Supply Joint Powers Board for as much as $ 4,200 per acre foot.
“This could potentially add up to over $ 220,000 each year for the state of Wyoming,” Clark said. “I’m not saying the state will ever want to sell this water, but who knows for sure? Why should the state and the public give up this much-loved commodity? From what I understand, if the land is traded, the state will lose its current share of its water rights in the reservoir. “
An appraisal of the subject lands indicated that the state lands had a market value of $ 2,296,000, while the Columbus Peak Ranch property has a market value of $ 1,885,050. Therefore, even if the proposed exchange did occur, Columbus Peak Ranch would pay the state $ 410,950, which would then be deposited into the public buildings of the Capitol and the permanent land holdings of the Agricultural College for use.
The parish said the committee had requested a further assessment, and an assessment that considered the water rights in question.
“We didn’t think the valuation was accurate,” Parish said. “If the property is traded, will it cause accessibility issues to get that water out of there?” Or future sales or things of that nature? “
Crowder said the SBLC had received “an indication that communication was taking place” between the local community and the landowner, and that the claimant had asked council to bring the exchange back to October.
“The board decides if this is going to happen,” Crowder said. “We have received this request, and we are working on all the information to see if it meets what the board expected in August.”
But there were no formal negotiations between the parties, according to the state land action team, and only a preliminary discussion between Western and the landowner and the claimant, who did not referred several requests from The Sheridan Press for comment.
“I think it’s probably a little too quick to come back to this topic, but I look forward to working with Mr. Matthews and finding common ground,” Western told The Press. “We’re just starting these conversations. “
That the issue returns in October, when many people concerned about the state’s future plot go hunting, seems inappropriate, several members of the Land Action Team said. State.
“The problem is that a lot of the people who are on this committee and a lot of people who have expressed their concerns about it are athletes,” Parish said. “The hunting season started on August 15th and a lot of people went out. I was bow hunting myself this morning. On October 7, rifle seasons go for several species.
“I thought we would have six months to talk about negotiations,” Parish said.
The formal public comment period has ended and all comments have been provided to the board, but Crowder said he will continue to seek public comment on the matter to forward to the board.
“We are happy to accept more,” he said. “The official public comment period is closed and there is no new one, but if there are people who want to send more, they can send them to me directly. I will make sure the board gets them before they reconsider the transaction at any time. “
He also indicated that while staff prepare documents for the October meeting, they would likely include any intention to withdraw the issue. This procedure would then be included in the normal course of public notices for all matters of the board, which takes place approximately one week before the meeting.
The parish said he appreciated the public’s participation in the process.
“This is valuable land that will only grow in value in the future,” he said. “Comments can be given until the October 7 meeting. I hope the people who didn’t know it the first time are more so this time. There was a big difference between the people who were for and against, because we like open spaces.
“If this was fair trade… I’m not against the process, nor against Mr. Matthews,” Parish said. “He has the right to do it, but we as citizens have the right to say that we don’t agree with it or think it is fair trade.”