Curious land sales

A couple of huge land sales have made the news lately and are under intense scrutiny.

As Assistant Editor Rachel Gabel writes in this week’s magazine, the Bureau of Land Management purchased Marton Ranch, which consists of 35,000 acres in Wyoming’s Carbon and Natrona counties.

The sale is said to be the BLM’s largest land acquisition in Wyoming’s history.

The problem is that the BLM purchased the land without notifying the proper authorities in Wyoming and it was not listed on the priority funding projects for the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to review.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon checked with former Gov. Matthew Mead to see if he was notified about the potential sale, and his answer was no.

This is important because now that the land is owned by the federal government, they can no longer collect property taxes from it that would be used to benefit school districts.

BLM is calling it an oversight, but I, and others, don’t believe that for a minute.

Now that Gov. Gordon is aware of the sale he is digging into it and will hopefully uncover the BLM’s intent.

Another land sale that hasn’t been covered by our magazine occurred in North Dakota.

A trust associated with billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates purchased 2,100 acres of land worth $13.5 million dollars from a local farm family in Grafton, N.D. The land is in Pembina and Walsh counties.

In North Dakota, county recorders must give the state’s attorney general a copy of the title if the land is sold to a corporation or LLC because of the state’s anti-corporate farming law.

“In a letter dated June 21, 2022, and addressed to the Red River Trust, care of trustee Peter Headley, in the trust’s Lenexa, Kansas, office, and also at an office in Grafton, N.D., where Campbell Farms is headquartered and still operates, the attorney general’s office notified the trust that all corporations or limited liability companies are ‘prohibited from owning or leasing farmland or ranchland in the state of North Dakota,’ and from ‘engaging in farming or ranching,’” according to an article written by Mikkel Pates, a reporter for Agweek magazine.

I the spirit of transparency, I am from Walsh County in North Dakota and Mikkel Pates worked for me when I was the editor of Agweek.

I can understand why Gates would want to purchase land in this area of North Dakota because land there is very productive.

I have no doubt that North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley will investigate the purchase and determine if it is legally acceptable in the state.

It’s not known whether either of the landowners were aware that these land sales could be illegal or at least disputed, and we will probably never know.

In the meantime, Rachel Gabel will keep you posted as to the progress of the Wyoming sale and I will keep an eye on the North Dakota purchase.


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