It’s Easier to Blame It on Cabela’s

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.

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  1. Big Swede

    Every once in a while you hear about someone digging through rubbish and finding a masterpiece-well, I found a treasure here-great post.

  2. With any luck the out of state buyers will lose their butts in the current housing debacle. Lots of overextended specuvestors out there!

  3. This is such a great post, jhwygirl. You’ve nailed this issue.

  4. drylander

    This post was wonderful perspective to Bill’s – thanks, jhwygirl, for bringing this up.

    It’s tough to come from this state and watch it transform to what it’s starting to become – a place for that haves, rather than the have-nots. And, it becomes all too easy to place blame to the most visible part of the issue, rather than go to it’s root. It sure makes everyone feel better, but your post illustrates the complexity to the issue.

    Coming from a farming family, it’s difficult to look around and see places that we could normally access become totally cut off and removed because another value system was brought in along with the signing of the property deeds.
    Sure, we’ll always have our federal lands… but as we are becoming aware, many of our treasures lie in the hands of private hands. Hands, who in the past were so much more gracious to the public (and at a time when the public gave more respect to the landowner too).

    All I know is that it’s sad to see our state become bought up by people whose values are so much different than what Montana used to be about.

  5. Jedediah Redman

    I lived for awhile in Kimball, Nebraska–just west of Sidney–and I used to drive frequently to and through Chappel.
    The Cabella boys were just names in the phonebook back then.
    I think the original article pointed out the original fishing lures were purchased in a joblot at Chicago and brought back home by the elder sibling–to sell–not for fishing on Lake McConaughey; so I think any thought that the Cabellas may be sportsmen–or even civic-minded entrepreneurs–is probably comparable to my early belief in Santa.

    Get ready for the 21st century, folks:
    Montana is no longer the rustic hideaway we were getting used to…

  1. 1 Business as Usual « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] last month, jhwygirl posted about Bill Schneider’s article at New West concerning the intense anger over Cabela’s […]

  2. 2 Cabela’s Attempt to Make Peace with Montanans. « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Cabela’s is attempting to make peace with Montanans over a recent outcry over their real estate franchise Cabela’s Trophy Properties. They presented a $50,000 check to Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission on Thursday, and pledged an additional $12,000 per year for the next five years. […]




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