Why are the feds paying $3.3 million to graze for 30 years on land worth only about $4 million?

More on the Royal Teton Ranch bison grazing deal

My earlier article about the Church Universal and Triumphant’s $3.3 million deal with the government and some conservation groups for bison grazing has spurred the AnimalTourism blog to do some more investigation into the value of the Royal Teton Ranch itself. What they conclude is pretty interesting. They estimate the value of the ranch to be about $3.9 million.

They ask one question though that I think can be easily answered. Why didn’t the government just buy the RTR rather than pay the exorbitant fee for 30 years of bison grazing? Well, I think that would have been a more reasonable approach too but the CUT didn’t want to sell and the government isn’t buying much anymore these days. The CUT appears to be struggling financially without these payments so they sought the best deal they could and found gullible government agencies and conservationists. It’s a shameful situation.

Why are the feds paying $3.3 million to graze for 30 years on land worth only about $4 million?
AnimalTourism News.


  1. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    Thanks for this interesting article. I saw those 67 buffalo captured in the field last week and have been angry about the ridiculous CUT Deal since it was announced almost three years ago. This certainly adds good fuel to the fire from the policy perspective. From the field perspective, it’s even more ridiculous. You sit on the other side of the Yellowstone River. You watch buffalo hazed and then captured (twice, pronghorn were also caught in these hazes). They are then basically tortured in captivity, only to be put with a random 25 buffalo (not necessarily from their family units), just to be kept here temporarily until April 15. If those buffalo somehow make it across the Yellowstone, they are immediately hazed into the hunt zone to be shot to death in what is essentially a canned hunt (I saw 15 dead carcasses last week, as well).

    If you are there, you realize that they won’t buy that land, though, because they don’t really want buffalo on CUT land. The geography there suggests that this will essentially be a captive herd. It’s too close to Yankee Jim Canyon and the big worry of the livestock industry (the Paradise Valley). They are hemmed in, and they don’t want them on the other side near the few cattle owned by Hoppe.

    This is a deal just for political expediency for the federal and state governments and for the sell-out NGOs (GYC and NPCA); it’s about nothing more and nothing less. If they bought the land, it wouldn’t change that, but would cause them more problems politically with policy.

  2. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    This looks like another “Faith-Based” government program.
    This should allow the CUT ranch to restock its doomsday bunkers.

  3. Elk275 Avatar

    I read that article and if one believes what the author wrote then one is not thinking or does not have any knowledge about this issue. This is my business. The ranch is worth many times 3.9 million. I do not have time to write now.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      You might be right. The place is as big as a small town.

    2. Elk275 Avatar

      I just did some quick research as I have information that is not public and I must be use caution.

      Forty acres up Tom Miner Creek with a non commerical easement to the forest service lands sold for $28,000 an acre. This property is no more than 4 miles from the CUT. One hundred to five hundred acre parcels in Paradise Valley with Yellowstone River frontage are selling between $15,000 to $25,000 an acre. The CUT has about five miles of Yellowstone river frontage.

      The CUT has a checkmate on the northen herd of buffalo and there is nothing that can be done about it with multiple millions.

      1. JimT Avatar

        Not sure why this would be protected information since real estate sales are public information in the typical state.

        I think the history of the Feds being out bargained in the history of land swaps and land sales makes all of us skeptical that we are getting good value for the taxpayer dollars expended. Nonetheless, in the universe of Federal expenditures, at least this has an upside even if it is not a good business deal.

      2. Elk275 Avatar

        Jim T

        Montana is a non disclosure state, real estate prices are not public information. The only source of sales prices are the MLS or from private parties. I generally get my large land sales from ranch and farmer appraisers or large ranch and farm brokerage firms. Sales prices are given to me with a unmentioned code of strict confidentiality and there use is limited in my scope of work.

  4. Dave Avatar

    Sorry, but if the private lamnd owners don’t want them or if it isn’t lucrative for them, why would they? It is called capitalism and private property rights, not to mention the economic effects on cattle exports due to the threat of brucellossis. The bison herds should be culled by hunting. Hunting is the most economic way and unfortunately it the best for the herd. Keeping them in pens is not the answer, just as it is not the answer to the 36,000 wild horses currently penned by the BLM. How is that better for a wild animal?

  5. JimT Avatar

    Dave, the disease you reference has a history of being linked to elk-cattle encounters, not bison-cattle encounters, despite the propaganda of the ranching industry. Remember, lurking in the background of all discussions related to ranching is the issue of a rancher’s reliance on public lands to stay in business, and the sweetheart welfare deal they get in terms of fees, and non enforcement by BLM and USFS…

    As for bison herds…I have always advocated that IF there was going to be public lands grazing, it should be by a species that has the least destructive impact, and that would be the bison.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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