Archive for November 27th, 2007

by jhwygirl

Bill Schneider of NewWest has piece up titled “Cabela’s Desecrating its Own Brand” which calls on the outdoor sports vendor icon to “get out of the real estate market.”

On an basic level, I agree with Mr. Schneider. The issue he’d like to see remedied, though – he and many others – is public access to what the Montana Wildlife Federation calls “traditional public hunting properties.”

At the heart of the matter is the fact that Cabela’s is using its brand name to promote the sale of high-end real estate through its franchise “Cabela’s Trophy Properties.” And the high-end real estate it sells is sold to buyers who cut-off access to the public. Primarily sportsman’s access, I assume. Because I don’t hunt, and I’m being cut-out too.

As I said, it’s not that I disagree with the piece. It does seem, though, to make a pretty big assumption (if only by association) and it fails to recognize the heart of the issue. It is well worth the read, and I definitely recommend the piece. There are tons of comments.

The heart of the issue is not Cabela’s hypocrisy – it is a corporation, after all, geared towards making money. It feigns no non-profit status. Nor is it realtors in general (although I personally hold realtors in such regard that is only slightly above the dog do-do I stepped in the other day. (ouch, I know – go ahead and slam away)

I’ve mentioned that I have a thing for trial attorneys – so don’t even go there.

The problem lies – if you really wanted to seek a solution – with the assumptive leap of calling the lands “traditional public hunting properties.” They’re not. The public has no right to recreate on private lands. And private lands are what we’re talking about.

If one really wanted to seek a solution to the gobbling up of Montana’s lands by out-of-state buyers who cut-off public hunting and public access (and not all of those who are buying these lands are from out-of-state), seek a solution with the owners of the properties. Those that are selling. Not the agent.

Truth is, Montanans are fiercely pro-property rights, to their detriment in many cases (zoning in East Missoula, for example). Few, if any, Montanans are going to place blame on the property owner – who has the ability to grant, prior to sale, any darn easement of his choosing across his property as he so wishes – they’re going to blame it on Cabela’s.

It’s convenient and it’s easy: Blame it on the corporation.

Realtors all over the state are selling former ranches and large tracts of land – but this is the first time I’ve seen the anger of the loss of access pointed towards anyone but the out-of-state landowner. Like I said, it’s easy.

Montanans, it seems, don’t even want to blame the in-state realtor. It’s only the evil out-of-state corporate Cabela’s Trophy Properties.

Truth is, Cabela’s is playing the same role that Trout Unlimited played this past legislative session with regards to public access to the state’s rivers. The same role that Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is playing with its conservation easement services it provides to large donors. Only Cabela’s is doing it from the purely profit-oriented corporate world, not the non-profit perspective of TU and RMEF.

I’d love to blame Cabela’s – that’d make it easy to solve, wouldn’t it? Put such pressure on a publicly owned and traded corporation that they’d be faced with a choice to either go out of business or change their ways – solve the public access issue, right?

Wrong.

Focusing the blame on Cabela’s won’t solve the issue. It won’t even put a dent in it.

by jhwygirl

Last night’s city council meeting saw the approval of 627 acres of open space easements in the south hills of Missoula, an event that Missoulians forever will look back (or up, or over) and be grateful.

Missoula was actually blessed with 1052 acres of open space easements – including a 425 acre easement that was outright donated by the Hayden family.

The Hayden family made their donation to Five Valley’s in early October.

The Rimel family’s easement – 160 acres of their working ranch – and the Line family’s – 427 acres of their working ranch – were put into conservation easement by Five Valley’s Land Trust and preserved in perpetuity as open space on the hills surrounding the the valley.

1052 acres is a hell of a lot of land. In fact, the easement represents a large majority of all remaining South Hills open space visible from most of the City and the Missoula Valley.

Five Valley’s Land Trust had a really neato 3-D map that put the size and scope of the open space into an awesome perspective. I couldn’t find it on the website. Hopefully they’ll be putting it up.

The easements cost the city and county $1,167,750 of its open space bond – and Five Valley’s Land Trust donors threw in $200,000 more.

The Line and Rimel families weren’t finished with just placing their land into conservation easement. They reduced the cost of that easement, combined, by 42% of the fair market value of the land. In other words, this easement should have cost almost double what it did.

This open space – unlike the other recent acquisitions – came with an amount of public access. John Rimel agreed to a public trail easement along the north border of his property. If negotiations are successful – with the Craighead’s, I believe – the public will have access from the Whitaker Drive and Rimel Road all the way to Hillview Way, connecting to Moose Can Gully Park.

John Rimel spoke, emotionally, to council last night, detailing how the discussion all began – years ago, over a few beers. Six month later, another beer or two – and eventually things began to come together. Just hearing him speak made me want to give him a big ole’ hug.

Instead, maybe I’ll just send them a Christmas card.

Thank you Dick and Joyce, John and Whitney, and the Line family. You’ve given Missoula a legacy that generations yet unborn will enjoy. Forever.




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