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Conservation, Development & Class Conflict: The Case of Ameya Preserve

Conservation, Development & Class Conflict: The Case of Ameya Preserve

 
  Turned earth at the Ameya Preserve near the site for the village area, which is slated to include 35,000 square feet of community buildings. photo by David Nolt.

Fifty miles north of Yellowstone National Park, in Montana’s aptly named Paradise Valley, an ambitious North Dakota native and Wall Street millionaire named Wade Dokken is planning a unique luxury home community called the Ameya Preserve.

Unlike its brethren around the Rocky Mountain West, the Ameya Preserve will have no fancy golf course, no private ski hill, no Prada boutiques or mega-mansions behind high walls. Instead, there will be lots of wildlife, open space, energy efficient houses, and a host of cultural amenities of a decidedly high-brow ilk.

Dokken makes a rather bold claim: “I’m not a developer,” he says. “I’m a conservationist.” He touts his credentials as a liberal Democrat, and says the 300-plus-home Ameya Preserve, set on 9,500 acres of pristine ranchland, will be nothing less than “the most sustainable community ever built.”

In crucial respects, though, the Ameya Preserve project shares a great deal with other ultra-luxury developments in Montana and around the region. It promises to be an economic engine for the town of Livingston and surrounding Park County, just as the Yellowstone Club in nearby Big Sky has driven the economy of Gallatin County. It’s being marketed to wealthy people around the world who will likely spend only a few months or weeks a year there (a single lot at Ameya was the most expensive gift in this year’s Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, at a cool $2.3 million).

And Ameya has spurred emotional opposition from many locals. Some are upset at what they regard as misleading and hypocritical promises about conservation. Others are opposed to the proposed sale to Ameya of state lands that lie within the property. Still others decry the very idea of such a development taking place in the midst of rich wildlife habitat. But at the heart of the matter are complex and conflicted feelings about what kind of place Montana is, what it is becoming and who is bringing the change.

Dokken himself publicly put his finger on the issue, declaring in a letter to the Livingston Enterprise that opponents of his project were suffering from “class envy.” It was a foolish thing to say, and he has since apologized. But while one could debate how much “envy” has to do with it, the fight over the Ameya Preserve is certainly in part about “class.”

Like much of Montana, Park County has sublime scenery, but an underdeveloped economy — and most people don’t have a big problem with rich people moving in and helping everyone make money (as long as they’re not rude and condescending). At the same time, though, the locals resent it when “outsiders” fence off land where they had once hunted, or ruin their views, or change the culture of their communities.

More than most of America, Montana has an egalitarian spirit; long, cold winters and low wages create a certain camaraderie. There is a powerful pride of place, and nowhere more so than in the old railroad town and Western writers haunt of Livingston. Something like Ameya Preserve just seems too big, too different, too foreign, too wealthy, too pretentious — in short, out-of-place, a prospective enclave of very rich people who are from a different class, and who might as well be from a different planet.

“My fear is, Paradise Valley is going to be turned into one great big development area,” says local rancher and Park County Commissioner Jim Durgan. “There aren’t many neighbors left. Let’s put it that way.”

———-

 
  Wade Dokken, left, and Park County Commissioners Jim Durgan, middle, and Dick Murphy, right, at a site visit to the Ameya Preserve in September 2006. Photo by David Nolt.

Wade Dokken himself is much less the outsider than those who will buy homes at Ameya Preserve. He grew up in the cattle country of North Dakota. His father worked for a time as a miner in Butte, and Dokken spent many summers in Montana. He went to the University of North Dakota and later got a job as a stock broker at Paine Webber in Minneapolis.

Dokken was evidently very good at his job, and he eventually joined American Skandia, the money-management arm of a Swedish insurance company. By 2000, he had worked his way up to chief executive of the company. When he left in 2003 (after a scandal at the parent company forced the sale of American Skandia) he was a wealthy man and ready to return to the West.

Dokken is a commanding presence, tall and hefty with a groomed goatee and feathered hair. His speech is matter-of-fact, but he can be quite engaging, and is also given to a certain grandiosity: He describes the Ameya Preserve property, formerly the Bullis Creek Ranch, as “arguably the most important land in the lower 48 to conserve.” In planning the development, Dokken says he and his partners “created a new way to live.”

Unlike many a Wall Street mogul, Dokken’s politics are decidedly liberal. He describes himself as “an FDR-Truman-Kennedy-Johnson-Humphrey-McGovern-Carter-Clinton Democrat.” He often casts Ameya Preserve in distinctly political terms.

Environmental protection is one pole of that political philosophy, and free-market capitalism is the other.

In a May 2007 vision letter, Dokken emphasized his and his partners’ high-minded goals: “Throughout our previous careers, we gave time and money to conservation and other worthy causes. That commitment is now our first order of business…Our core mission is to use limited, very carefully designed development as a funding source to save substantial and important land and wildlife…And, as we have undertaken to create amenities that are inherent to our green values, we are harnessing the power of private capital for public good — philanthropy, the arts, the sciences, the humanities and our shared environment.”

On a September 2007 visit to his property, Dokken elaborated on his motivation for creating the Ameya Preserve.

“I was trying to find a free-market alternative that exists for conservation goals,” Dokken told NewWest.Net. “I wanted something that had very high environmental values that justified an investment.”

Dokken and his two primary partners, brother-in-law Jaime Prieto and Stan Feagler, are all new to the development world. Prieto spent more than two decades in the marketing business, orchestrating public images for such brands as Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods and eventually serving as worldwide director for the Motorola account at marketing powerhouse Ogilvy & Mather.

Stan Feagler spent 17 years at the luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent, working his way up to CFO, and met Dokken when the Ameya project was in its infancy. Prieto and Feagler both moved their families to Montana soon after Dokken purchased his property.

Dokken’s sister Lisa — whose husband is Jamie Prieto — describes her brother as very gregarious and deeply committed to both conservation and social work, and she says both passions led to the project.

“It’s just kind of a culmination of things for him,” Lisa Dokken explains. “To be able to build and create something that he thinks is incredibly worthwhile for the better cause, to be able to do something that is out in the forefront, cutting-edge of environmental stuff. But also to create an economic model that could be successful while also taking that and sharing a large chunk of it with the broader community of Livingston and within the issues of conservation and poverty alleviation.”

Wade Dokken’s political liberalism, though, is not doctrinaire. He broke ranks with his party in 2000 when he penned New Century New Deal: How to Turn Your Wages into Wealth through Social Security Choice. In the book, Dokken argues for the privatization of social security by allowing Americans to voluntarily invest in private accounts (a policy that would, not incidentally, be enormously beneficial to money management firms like American Skandia).

Dokken described privatization as “a golden opportunity to appeal to the dreams and aspirations of the new investor class” and wrote in his book, “The liberal leadership and left-wing allies of my party have always preferred welfare over wealth creation and anti-Wall Street populism to new investor class pragmatism.”

Dokken’s bootstraps-by-portfolio view on social security is similar to his view on conservation. During Dokken’s tenure on the board of directors of the Connecticut Nature Conservancy he read Dutch author Bjorn Lomborg’s book The Skeptical Environmentalist. Lomborg’s work is widely criticized in the scientific community, and though Dokken does not support all of Lomborg’s assertions, he found inspiration for his new mission in Lomborg’s words.

“I disagree with most of the book,” Dokken says, “but the basic insight is there are free market ways to do more leverageable things.”

———-

At Ameya Preserve, the selling point for the buyers will be beauty and sustainability on the one hand, and culture on the other.

Dokken says he’ll put 8,000 of the 9,500 acres he owns into a conservation easement. He is spending heavily on environmental studies and sophisticated land-planning to minimize impacts on wildlife and the environment.

Ameya is also partnering with heavy-hitting environmental organizations and programs; Larry Selzer and the Conservation Fund will enroll Ameya in their “Go Zero” campaign to “offset all of the CO2 generation for all families of Ameya Preserve during their entire lifetimes” through tree planting and Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute will guide the green building practices at Ameya to create signature Ameya green-building guidelines “that will encourage (but not force) residents to make their homes as green as possible.”

Dokken has pledged $75,000 to the Yellowstone Business Partnership to help fund the organization’s Framework for Sustainable Development, which will grade developments’ environmental efforts on a broad range of criteria.

And then there are the cultural celebrities. Alice Waters, the Berkeley-based chef and leader of the Slow Food Movement, will help direct a private restaurant at Ameya (which the Wall Street Journal reported, is in exchange for a $100,000 donation to the Slow Food organization and $400,000 paid directly to Waters in an unsigned contract). Jack Horner, the famed Jurassic Park paleontologist from nearby Montana State University, will lead dinosaur digs (Dokken gave $3.2 million to Horner’s institution, the Museum of the Rockies, which subsequently changed Horner’s title to the Ameya Preserve Curator of Paleontology).

The list goes on: the Montalvo Artist Residency will help choose artists for Ameya’s in-house artist-in-residence program. Washington Mall Peace Museum designers Christopher Chadbourne & Associates will design Ameya’s nature center. Toronto Symphony conductor Peter Oundjian will help form the Ameya music program. United States Fly Rod & Reel “Angler of the Year” Craig Matthews will lead an Ameya Fly-Fishing Academy.

And no cultural community would be complete without a visit from poet Maya Angelou, who agreed to speak annually on the writing process to Ameya residents.

On the sales end, meanwhile, luxury real estate specialists Sotheby’s Realty and Synthesis Realty are busy selling Ameya to potential buyers all over the United States (though neither would discuss the project on the record).

———-

Yet despite all of this — or perhaps, in part, because of it — Dokken’s plans are more than a little controversial in Livingston and surrounding Park County.

Park County Commissioner Jim Durgan, who grew up and still ranches on his grandfather’s Paradise Valley ranch, attended a barbecue that Dokken threw shortly after he purchased the property in 2005. Durgan and others say Dokken made an emotional speech proclaiming his intent to protect the vast majority of the property and allow public access. Durgan was encouraged by the idea of a property owner protecting what he describes as “a very special spot in our valley.”

But what Durgan has seen is not what he expected.

“When he first came in, the proposals sounded pretty good,” Durgan says. “He seems to have changed his mind.”

Livingston ecologist Pete Feigley has mounted an aggressive campaign against the Ameya Preserve, calling it “a frivolous waste of resources” and arguing that the developers’ main environmental claims are inconsistent, misleading and false.

“Ameya Preserve is a luxury resort community that will consist of second homes, or third or fourth,” Feigley says. “Luxury second homes are by definition unnecessary. Consequently, they represent a waste of resources rather than a conservation of resources.”

A local hunting and fishing club pointedly turned down Dokken’s offer of permits to bow-hunt on the property, saying the gesture toward public access — always a hot-button issue — was mere tokenism.

There is no zoning in Park County, and ultimately Dokken will likely be able to develop his land however he likes. He says — quite rightly — he is going far beyond what is required, whether it be extensive environmental studies on the property or donations to local organizations and schools. Ameya has received preliminary plat approval — the first stage of a subdivision — and some construction on infrastructure is already underway, though the developers have not yet submitted a final plat application.

But there are two things that could get in the way. One is an unresolved issue regarding two sections of state land that lie within the proposed development, and whose purchase would appear to be critical to the project. Dokken expects to buy them as part of a state land sale program, but the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has come under fire for doing an inadequate analysis of the proposed sale. It remains in limbo pending the release of a revised environmental assessment.

The second potential obstacle is more ephemeral, but equally important: if Dokken is viewed as an arrogant exploiter of the land, rather than a sincere conservationist, it will undermine the commercial premise of the development. The type of people who would be impressed by Alice Waters presumably don’t want to be viewed as hypocritical greenwashers — and in fact Alice Waters herself is already taking some flack for her involvement. And nobody, least of all someone who has spent millions for the “emotional experience” of a culture-rich second home community, wants to be viewed as a pariah by the locals.

Dokken, by positioning the Ameya Preserve as a conservation development, has invited a lot of extra scrutiny. Now he’s getting it.

(Correction: This story initially stated, incorrectly, that Ameya had not yet received preliminary plat approval. The error has been corrected, our apologies.)

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a series about the proposed Ameya Preserve development near Livingston, Montana. (Click here to read Part II, click here for Part III, here for Part IV and here for Part V.

About David Nolt

Comments

  1. Robert Hoskins says:

    Free market environmentalism in all its forms is a fraud. What people like Wayne Dokken are doing is nothing more than creating a 21st century form of feudalism, keeping what’s left for themselves. That’s a rather cynical and contemptuous form of conservation.

    I applaud the efforts of people like Pete Feigley to oppose this development.

    David, please contact me at info@gravelbar.org. I’d like to talk with you about the Sun Ranch easement, which is starting to look like another feudal event.

  2. Craig Moore says:

    Perhaps there is a reason that gives a ‘pass’ on the green credentials of Rob and Janae Galanis at Horse Butte, while the fire is put to Wade Dokken. What’s the difference between the two development ideas for nonresident land barrons? Will NewWest follow up with an equally critical and questioning article on the Galanis venture?

  3. Robert Hoskins says:

    Green credentials are earned.

  4. Gman says:

    The photo associated with the article looks a lot like illegal ex parte communication between a subdivider and elected officials.

    MCA 2-4-613. Ex parte consultations. Unless required for disposition of ex parte matters authorized by law, the person or persons who are charged with the duty of rendering a decision or to make findings of fact and conclusions of law in a contested case, after issuance of notice of hearing, may not communicate with any party or a party’s representative in connection with any issue of fact or law in the case except upon notice and opportunity for all parties to participate.

  5. mw says:

    The trade off of “saving 8,000 acres while “developing” 1500 acres is better than losing all 9500 acres. If the 8000 acres is elk & deer winter range & it is useable after the 1500 acres are developed then all is not lost. An additional question that is not knowable at this time is what will be the ultimate fate of all of the remaining private lands in the Paradise Valley? How much more will be urbanized?

  6. Glenn Hockett says:

    To Craig Moore:

    One big difference is the Ameya Preseve project invloves the purchase of 2 state sections of public land, which are critical habitat for elk and other wildlife, especially winter range. I am not sure to what degree those properties would go under the development knife. Maybe others could weigh in on that.

  7. traildog says:

    Dokken is another wealthy, Clinton/Rubin/Leiberman democrat who is about as liberal as our governor. Check out Uncle Wade and all his “liberal” friends from Park and Gallatin Counties at the link below.
    The county, the state, the nation, the world do not need anymore gated communities for the richest people in the country to have a fourth or fifth home.

    http://www.gallatindemocrats.com/Photo%20events/WadeDokkenparty06.htm

  8. Don says:

    Dear MW,

    Yes, the clustering design is likely a good thing, assuming Wade actually follows through with setting aside 8,000 acres. Simply because the supposed design is better than break up the ranch into 20-acre parcels, does not make it a boon to conservation. The 8,000 acres are likely undevelopable anyway, due to topography or other hazards. (Look at a 7.5-minute topomap of the area!) Wade also plans to put much of that undevelopable land into conservation easement (no legal commitment yet). (He may well be setting aside the wildlife habitat of least value.) Guess who ultimately pays for the conservation easement – the taxpayers. Keep in mind that Wade will claim development value for that land being placed in easement (ca. $2 million for 10 acres = $200,000 per acre. Multiply that by 8,000 acres – I can’t count that high). That is a scam!

    Placing 300 homes in that area, plus access roads and other infrastructure will greatly diminish the value of the habitat. Check out the Ameya Preserve website. As Pete Feigley has pointed out in various places, Ameya is advertising lots “at the edge of a meadow, in the shelter of aspen stands, or bordering on nearby wetlands…” If you think building sites in such limited habitats is good for wildlife, your sadly mistaken. Ameya’s claim of wildlife conservation is merely a catchy marketing phrase designed to lure people who think green is sheik. Dokken’s green veil is extraordinarily thin.

  9. Craig Moore says:

    Glenn, I’m sure there are all sorts of superficial differences. My question goes to David’s questioning of the intentions, green credentials, and buyers in one case (Dokken) but giving a pass on those same issues in the other case (Galanis).

  10. Dave Skinner says:

    You know, if it has to be like this, setting aside 8000 acres is probably the least worst way it will happen, even if the profits from this fiasco will probably go to political donations for more liberals. It’s too bad about the edge habitat, but then again, through deliberate vegetation management, one can certainly make more.
    And I must question the math skills of some of those here. The parcels being sold have not only the lot ground, but a share of the larger package which will be a joint conservation easement held by whatever entity Dokken sets up. And I bet you that people smart enough to have a couple million have advisers to make sure that the contract doesn’t allow further subdivision of the 8000 acres. That might not apply to the lucky-sperm club, but it probably does.
    Sure, the bowhunt thing is token. But then, there’s no buy in from the hunters so why should it be any more than a token gesture?
    Sad.
    I looked at the Neiman Marcus item, just a lovely picture of a perfect alpenglow evening. Yah….what about when the wind does its Paradise Valley thing and the viz is zero and temps 40 below that? Charming.

  11. Ann says:

    Craig;
    Just what do you have against the Galanis’? Have you ever MET these people? Have you even seen the property in question? Do you have ANY idea what would have happened to this property had the Galanis’ NOT purchased it? Have you seen ANY of the developement that is and has gone on in the West Yellowstone area?
    Rob and Janae’ are a nice couple that are trying to do what would be best for this area. Considering the alternatives, I for one am TICKLED to have them for ‘neighbors’.
    What difference does it make if he’s a Real Estate Investment Banker or won the Lottery? It is their property now and not your concern as to what they propose to do with it. I live here and am VERY happy they are the ones that now own that ranch.
    Because of them the property will still have the chance to ‘breathe’, and so will the wildlife that is in the area. Unlike the subdivision that is just a little south of me, with a house every 50 feet or so.
    It is also nice to know that every Tom, Dick and Harry won’t be allowed to be on that property to tear it up with dirt bike tracks dogs running at large, snowmobilers ignoring other peoples rights, and the list goes on.
    Seems to me Craig your a bit jealous because somebody has the means to do a little good for an area, and preserve it from concrete and asphalt.
    9500 acres is a heck of a lot more than the measly 700 the Galanis’ have. So get off their backs geeze.

  12. Craig Moore says:

    Ann, please read my comments here. I question NW’s disparate scrutiny of the two real estate ventures, not the people, Galanis or Dokken, involved. They look the same to me.

  13. Ann says:

    Craig;
    Maybe these comments, but you have to admit that your past comments have not been in favor of the Galanis’ mission. You seem to think they have a hidden agenda, and that is not the case.
    I could only wish you would spend this kind of effort on the ridiculous Pork Barrel spending when it comes to taxpayer dollars, instead of what people do with their OWN money.

  14. Craig Moore says:

    Ann, thanks for the admission that I did not do as you claimed. It always pays to read before reacting. I have no reason to believe that either the Dokkens or the Galanis’ are not nice people.

    In terms of the Galanis’, Dokkens, or developer opportunists of similar ilk and intentions, I am not in favor of Montana being sold off to the people David describes as “…very rich people who are from a different class, and who might as well be from a different planet.”

  15. Ann says:

    Craig;
    Then I suggest you do what a Real Estate agent told me to do. If you don’t like outsiders buying it then YOU buy it. After all it’s not like it wasn’t on the market.

    This entire country is now what it is because of outsiders.

  16. Craig Moore says:

    Ann, let’s not quarrel over nothing. May your life be filled with the blessings of the Season.

  17. David Nolt says:

    GMan, the photo is from a publicly notified official Park County site visit for preliminary plat approval of Phase 1 at Ameya. Perfectly legal.

    Craig, I’m not quite sure why you are confusing these two stories. The Galanis story was about brucellosis, bison management and the Galanis’ assertion that the DOL cannot enter their property to haze bison because there are no cattle there. If you read this and the next four installments of this story, you will realize–though their is a common vein of the New West pattern of non-traditional landowners “conserving” large tracts of wildlife-sensitive land–that’s about where they stop being similar.

    If presenting the facts of this development and this community’s reaction to it is “skewering” and presenting the facts on the Galanis’ and DOL’s stances on bison management is giving a “pass,” I don’t know what to tell you sir. It is what it is, and these are two distinctly different stories. This discussion might be better served if we stick to the story and related issues at hand. Thanks (sincerely) for the scrutiny, though.

    Thanks for reading everybody, and stay tuned over the next four days…

    -David Nolt

  18. Craig Moore says:

    Dave, you have me scratching my head. Both projects involve developing prime wildlife lands into a series of McMansion estates. Both projects have conservation as their stated goals. Both projects will make the developers mega-bucks. Both projects invole nonresident developers. Both projects have the type of buyer you described as “…very rich people who are from a different class, and who might as well be from a different planet.”

    Now why the disparate scutiny of the two deals and the harsh judgement only for Dokken?

  19. Craig Moore says:

    Dave, let me clarify further. There is a common set of facts in both real estate projects as I noted above. You raise issues and make disparging comments (Dokken buyers) related to those facts but are silent on those issues with Galanis. That is the disparate scrutiny that I mean.

  20. David Nolt says:

    Thanks for clarifying Craig. I agree, the Yellowstone Ranch Preserve and Ameya have the New West landowner/wildlife thing in common, as I stated above. My story on the Galanises did not focus on their development plans; it was about bison, etc. If I were to spend even half the time on a story on the Galanises and their development as I have on Dokken and Ameya, I would be happy to apply the same scrutiny I did here.

  21. Craig Moore says:

    David, peace. I request that you hold all of these sell-offs of Montana to the same level of scrutiny.

  22. peter webster says:

    It’s not “class envy.”
    I’ve simply come to feel the rich and powerful are despicable.

  23. Robert Hoskins says:

    I stand corrected on Pete Feigley’s non-opposition to the development, although given the facts of it, there is a lot to oppose.

    Regarding the Galanis’, the difference between their actions and Wade Dokken’s is that the Galanis’ have stood up for something, for buffalo, whereas it seems clear that Wade Dokken is standing up for his wallet, despite all the hype about him being a “conservationist.”

    I think David’s story is remarkably detailed and even handed. Dokken has made his claims, and his critics have made theirs. There’s enough here for us to make considered opinions, especially given the references to the Ameya Preserve’s own marketing material. Quite frankly, Dokken’s own propaganda comes across as pure image and no substance. Luxury and exclusion are the watchwords.

    It’s a naive or dishonest conservationist on the take–and there are such “conservationists”–who thinks luxury and conservation are compatible.

    Remember, conservation is CONSERVATIVE. There’s nothing conservative about this development.

    I look forward to the subsequent stories. David’s done a lot of work here.

  24. bearbait says:

    Dead Ed’s Bullis Creek Ranch has been sold to another dude with dough. Live with it. It is going to be developed so that some folks can spend an inordinate amount of money to salve their green deficiencies. Hubba hubba. I like the part about their buying carbon credits out front for their prospective clients. I thought it was in Tennessee, not North Dakota. I have some I would sell in the Warner Valley in Oregon in the great greasewood carbon sink. Either that or I will have to develop the land as a wetland mitigation bank. Think they will do that on Bullis Creek?

    The Neiman-Marcus deal is a nice touch. There will be a gate, owner only access, and the State sections will not be accessible to the public, just as they are not open today.. if the State sections sell or are traded for more land in some big game wintering area, tell me what the loss is? The public was never a part of that property, nor will they be anytime soon.

    If people don’t like the whole idea, they ought to go thank the likes of the Clintons, Babbitts, Framptons, et al. There are huge tax breaks for those who can afford to develop that type of property using “lost value” appraisals to write down the investment. Joe Sixpack is not buying land in 10,000 acre blocks, and conservation easements are of no value to him. Nor will they provide Joe with another foot of creek to fish, or another acre of land to hunt. So Joe gets hosed two ways: one he pays more of his income in taxes than Lucky SpermGuy, or Lucky InHardWorkGuy, and then those taxes are refunded to both Luckys. Joe gets nothing in the deal. Only the right to pay for it.

    If you think it is a scam, then you have been scammed by your Democrat Congress, just like the Farm Bill 2008. Or like Oregon’s Democrat legislature’s lobby reform bill. $50 a year from any lobbyist to an elected official. One dinner and drinks. But, there is no campaign contribution limit. And that is the legislator’s money. If he leaves office, the unspent campaign money goes with him or her. You have to know that legislature is for sale. Money talks and BS walks. If you are poor, you had better join a union, ’cause as I see it, the government now exists for the government, for the unions, and for the rich. All else go back home and pray for relief, because your legislature is not going to help you nor is your Congress. Unless, of course, you can pay them to. That is why Big Green, Big Environment, are owned by the rich. It is a way to get out of taxes and own lots of property, with Joe Sixpack paying the way. And they can feel good in some sort of superficial way. Now that oil is controlled by other nations, the big scammers are going to sell carbon credits so we can still reap a fortune from oil sales. What a deal!!! And your Congress makes it law.

  25. Marion says:

    I love Dan’s assertion that planting trees in ND or where ever for carbon offsets is a scam and anyone who believes in it is a complete fool. Isn’t that how Saint Al gets his carbon credits? Paying himself to plant a tree or water it or whatever?
    Folks the large tracts of land are owned by ranchers, when you rid the countryside of them, they still own that asset and are going to sell where they can get the most money. I don’t think pleasing the environmentalists that help put them out of business is a part of their consideration. Sharing public lands with them would slow some of the mega developments that eventually shut everyone out. Waging war on them is really against the best interests of anyone who wants access to public land.
    Craig, the difference between this land and the Galanis place is the buffalo. By saying it is to protect the buffs, he has total support and no scrutiny, I suspect he is well aware that it is unlikely that anyone is going to turn infected buffalo loose on the state. He has nothing to lose whether they do or don’t, he was able to save a lot of money that would be spent on litigation if he weren’t saying it is to protect the buffalo.

  26. Craig Moore says:

    Marion, are you suggesting that ‘green washing’ bison gives camouflage to a developer’s lust for bucks? Perhpas Wade Dokken could run a few head like Turner at his Flying D ranch and escape the scrutiny Dokken has been subjected to here. That strategy seems to be working for the Galanises. I suppose Bozeman will be the private jet port for the ‘second homers’ for both developments.

  27. Doug Pineo says:

    would it be reasonable to advance the proposition that Mr. Dokken already has “enough money”? I mean, if he stopped working tomorrow, he could eat and hang out at the Livingston Bar and Grill or the Gallatin Gateway every night for the rest of his life, right? There’s no Volkswagon Taureg or Toyota Prius or private island he can’t buy. The Ameya deal is just about making more money. He’s not proposing this development on the family ranch back in North Dakota. This is not a cynic’s view. Look at the facts.

    Mr. Moore thoughtfully compares what’s proposed at this ranch with what Ted Turner’s done in Montana and New Mexico. Ted might be a wealthy non-resident. Maybe I’ll never be able to hunt on the Flying D. Still, Ted walks the talk on conservation more than most. Ain’t no hundreds of trophy houses on the Flying D. I haven’t heard he’s proposing to wipe out over 44 acres of aspen clones, and fragment the remainder.

    Haven’t seen a Russ Chatham print or painting of dense-pack trophy houses on the edge of a Montana high meadow…

  28. Marion says:

    Doug, surely you realize there is neither enough money, now power for those who have lot’s of either. If you don’t like these kind of developments try to figure ways to keep ranchers on the ranch instead of doing everything possible to get rid of them and their cattle. A ranchers total wealth is in his livestock and his land, and he must have the livestock to support the land, otherwise he has to sell. Guys like Ameya and Turner are the ones with the money, and that means they can shut out other folks.
    Only one answer, keep ranchers ranching, even if you msut share the forests with cows or sheep.

  29. Doug Pineo says:

    Marion,

    You might be confusing me with someone else who has an animus toward Montana ranchers. I have been accused of being an apologist for ranchers more than once, but so far, not as someone who’d try to run cattle out of the west. I have seen literally millions of acres of overgrazed public and private lands, and thousands of miles of degraded streams and wetlands, all from grazing. Many of these impacts can be significantly mitigated with changes in grazing practices and in some cases, reductions in stocking rates. But at the end of the day, give me grazing over subdivion and houses every time.

    It’s not grazing that’s trashing big game and sage grouse in Wyoming, it’s coal bed methane gas extraction, and associated shrub-steppe subdivision and ranchette development for all those gas field workers, and the people who move to Wyoming to serve the industry.

    My point above was that Ted Turner and Mr. Dokken both have piles of money. Though one might ask when is enough enough, this is not Scandinavia but the USA, and both are free to pursue much more. Ted has chosen to pursue true land saving action with his wealth, while Mr. Dokken has chosen a different path. They’d probably both be fun at a party, but that’s not the point, is it?

    The tradition of wealthy “outsiders” owning large ranches in the northern high plains goes way back to the middle 19th century, so there’s nothing new about the advent of Turner or Dokken in Montana. Both sing a conservationist song, only one is practicing the real deal. And even the decling number of ranchers of modest means can stay on their places if they convey conservation easements so they aren’t taxed off it.

    Peace be with you, friend.

    Doug Pineo

  30. Marion says:

    Sorry, Doug, I did not mean that you personally are trying to rid the land of ranchers, none the less, I’m sure you would agree with me that “Cattle Free by 93″ is still the moving force of many environmental groups, even though they didn’t have it accomplished by then.
    I personally feel that we need the cattle ranchers, not only becasue we need an American food source, but also becaue despite all of the hype, they do far more for wildlife than environmentalists want to admit. I have yet to see a lawsuit feed an elk or deer.
    The CBM is a tricky situation, wwe simply must have power and fuel available in our own country. It is one thing to toss out contaminated toys from China, but a whole nother thing to import basic neccesities of life that may or may not be a problem. That is one reason the oil companies and the state of Wyoming are working so hard to find solutions for the grouse. It would do no good to shut all of the wells and drilling down and put our countries well being in jepordy, only to find out the grouse are dying from West Nile and predators.
    We only have to look at our election antics to realize those with power never have enough, and the same is true of those with money.
    I don’t care how well meaning Turner is, when one man owns the most land of anyone in the US, he can push his wishes good or bad, and that is dangerous in my opinion. On the other hand, I would not stop him buying, but I would work to make it possible for the original owners to keep their home and land.

  31. Chris says:

    What is not clear to me from this article is why the state sold off the land in the first place?

  32. Mehmnet says:

    Dokken needs to go away. I have a better idea: put all 9500 acres into a conservation easement and omit the homes. We already have the RJ Reynolds “ranch” outside Livingston which is nothing but cleverly-disguised corporate campus. Enuff with these “communities”! (And you can bet Dokken is paying off the State agencies involved.)