Business as Usual

by Rebecca Schmitz

Late last month, jhwygirl posted about Bill Schneider’s article at New West concerning the intense anger over Cabela’s “Trophy Property” real estate division. Earlier this year the 29,000 acre Weaver Ranch north of Winnett was sold through Cabela’s to a New Yorker who plans on closing it to sportsmen and subdividing it. Bill followed up this week with an interview with Cabela’s Senior Vice President, Mike Callahan. Mr. Callahan expressed regret over the damage this sale did to his company’s reputation, and made a few promises:

“From now on, you’ll see a different flavor on our website and in our trophy properties catalog,” Callahan assured. “We discourage subdivision, and in the future you’re likely to see some new policies in place with our affiliated brokers, and we don’t expect this situation to happen again.”

That’s all well and good, but as several people pointed out in the comments, the new language used on Cabela’s website has, to paraphrase New West reader Craig Moore, all the force of a UN resolution. For instance:

We strongly urge all new and existing landowners to throroughly research and consider public hunting and fishing access programs…Cabela’s does not condone or promote the subdivison of large or historic ranches…

It’s certainly nice that Mike and the rest of the folks at Cabela’s do not condone subdivision, but their strong urges and the Montana Subdivision and Platting Act are two different things. They’re in the real estate business now. Despite Mr. Callahan’s assurances to Schneider, once their “Trophy Property” holdings are sold, there’s very little they can legally do to influence the buyers. It would better for all concerned if Cabela’s was honest with Montanans like, unbelieveably, Plum Creek. The Darth Vader of the timber industry has made it perfectly clear that, for better or worse, they don’t give a rat’s ass what the new owners do with their former Montana timberlands. In a strange way that’s refreshing. For example, my mom lives near Condon. A few years ago, a Realtor bought some of Plum Creek’s logged land across the road from her and subdivided it. One of these new properties, about 100 acres, was bought by a fellow from North Carolina who stumped it, planted a sea of grass, and plunked down a small-ish seasonal trophy home. He sold that grass McRanch just recently to someone from Missouri for $3.2 million. Thanks to Plum Creek’s honesty, my mom and other residents know exactly what’s going to happen to the rest of the company’s property in the Seeley-Swan. They’re not happy about it, but at least they’re not being lulled into a false sense of security. Cabela’s should follow Plum Creek’s example and simply admit they can’t be both a friend to Montana sportsmen and a “Trophy Property” broker. They might lose a lot of customers here, but it’s better than making promises their buyers can’t keep.

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