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The spectacular 18,500-acre Sun Ranch in Madison Valley, a showcase for eco-friendly real estate development, has been bought by the CEO of a multinational mining company, the Bozeman Chronicle reports. The Montana ranch, a blend of conservation, development and sustainability, was put on the market last spring by owner Roger Lang for $55 million. The list price as of last Friday had dropped to $42 million.

Sprawling Sun Ranch Sold To Mining Exec

The spectacular 18,500-acre Sun Ranch in Madison Valley, a showcase for eco-friendly real estate development, has been bought by the CEO of a multinational mining company, the Bozeman Chronicle reports.

The Montana ranch, a blend of conservation, development and sustainability, was put on the market last spring by owner Roger Lang for $55 million. The list price as of last Friday had dropped to $42 million.

In an interview last April, Lang told New West he decided to sell the property to free up capital for his ongoing ranch conservation efforts in Montana and elsewhere in the West.

“Ninety-eight percent of Sun Ranch is protected by conservation easements,” said Lang, who made his fortune in the tech business before turning his attention to conservation. “The business plan was to sell eight to 10 home sites. But we decided that rather than battle the recession and make the business plan work, we’d take some capital off the table and put it to work buying other ranches.

“These next 3-4 years are critical from a conservation perspective,” Lang added, noting that the economic downturn was making property cheaper and slowing the pace of development.

According to Bozeman Chronicle reporter Daniel Person, Lang’s property was purchased on Friday by Sun Ranch Partners, managed by Richard C. Adkerson, the CEO of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, one of the world’s leading producers of gold and low-cost copper. Adkerson, 62, is rated by Forbes magazine as one of the nation’s highest paid executives, making $38.6 million in compensation last year.

Adkerson’s newly-purchased property near Yellowstone National Park is described by the real estate listing as “an awe-inspiring masterpiece of nature representing one of the last remaining balanced ecosystems in North America.” Elk, moose, grizzly and black bear, mule and whitetail deer, mountain goats, big horn sheep, wolverines, mountain lions, and pronghorn antelope roam the landscape. The Madison River feeds three creeks on the ranch, the former home of actor Steven Seagal.

Lang, who bought the property from Seagal in 1998, protected the majority of it with conservation easements that stay in place no matter who owns it. Lang told New West he would not have sold Sun Ranch now if the easements had not been in place.

Last year Lang purchased the 7,000-acre Schroeder Ranch south of Missoula, near the site of the proposed Bitterroot Resort. That tract is now being restored and a development plan created which also calls for conservation easements and sale of a limited number of home sites.

Even in the recession, well-heeled home buyers are looking for quality-of-life landscapes: places where they can see wildlife, go fishing and skiing, and play outdoors, as Lang told a New West conference last year. “Wealthy, high-end home-buyers subsidize wildlife conservation.”

An irony that can’t escape mention: gold and copper mining can be some of the most environmentally unfriendly endeavors in the world. Adkerson’s company is not complaint-free. In 2006, BusinessWeek noted that an influential environmental group in Indonesia accused one of Freeport’s local operating companies of improperly dumping more than 1 billion tons of residue in local waterways, among other charges. Adkerson denied the claim and told BusinessWeek that Freeport’s practices were responsible and lawful.

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4 comments

  1. lang sold the schroeder ranch as well. lang lost a lot of money on both deals. he spent millions of dollars on restoration and habitat improvement. he also employed some progresssive techniques in wolf management. i understand it is easy for all of you to hate the wealthy but the reality is they are here and some of them are doing very good work to protect the montana most of us love. easements protect the land from development and provide large tracts of habitat that benefit the wildlife, as well as the ecosystem as a whole. i would rather fund the easements than see the rest of our valleys subdivided into suburbia. the bitterroot is just about gone. it would not take long for the madison to go the same way.

  2. I have been coming to the Madison River valley to enjoy the landscape, fishing and camping for 40 years or so. It is indeed a special place. Way back when, it was open space with few signs of development. Now, subdivided ranches are creeping toward Yellowstone Park from Ennis. Not a good trend. Across the Madison from the Sun Ranch is one of the newer developments with large houses on small chunks of land. In contrast, the Sun Ranch extends from the river to the treeless slopes overlooking the valley and those 2500 acres aren’t going to be developed. You might quibble about motives, but that land seems protected well into the future.

  3. sorry dave i work. nearly 70 hours a week year round. welcome to the ranching and farming life. I am not sure what i am suppose to answer. i believe you do nothing but comment on newwest articles just to create an argument with yourself instead of getting a job. i believe mr. lang exists in mt under many hats including the sun ranch institute, transaria/cutthroat communications (a great employer for the state) and probably has his ranches set up as an LLC or other corporation as you mention. distressed sale you say. the schroeder ranch (a land property) in the bitterroot that was purchased for 26+ million recently sold for around 14 million. luckily that property was purchased by a likeminded conservationist. am i to comment on the mt legacy project? what i do know about the project does not overly impress me. but i spend my time working and improving my land and trying to assist others that wish to do the same. i do not spend all my time complaining about everyone and everything, i go out and try to make a difference. i am sure you know everything about the project as you appear to feel yourself the expert on everything. i know very little and find myself humbled by this great world every day. you can continue to pigeon hole people and label politically or socioeconomically but i do not think it will help you get past the point where you are so obviously stuck. best, ryan

  4. Good comment, Ryan.

    Just to clarify one thing: (and yes, I am friends with Roger Lang, which is how I come to know and care about some of the details here) the Sun Ranch Institute and the Sun Ranch Fund are two different things.

    Roger Lang gave Trust for Public Lands $3.9 million to protect open space in the Madison Valley; TPL is calling this money “Sun Ranch Fund.”
    http://www.tpl.org/tier3_cd.cfm?content_item_id=3280&folder_id=174

    Sun Ranch Institute is a non-profit that Roger started; read all about it at
    http://www.sunranchinstitute.org/

    Two different, wholly separate entities.