Horse Creek appraisal claims were false

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Horse Creek appraisal claims were false

Dear Editor:

Toby Dahl recently published an editorial attacking the Horse Creek Easement and my family. Although almost every statement was incorrect, I will focus on the appraisal.

Habitat Montana easements are never appraised internally as he claimed. A specialized appraiser is required to value the land and rights conveyed. For land value, this appraiser, who has a PhD and 30 years of experience, utilized 10 comparable land sales in this region. It was also reviewed twice by external experts who are qualified to evaluate it. Only one of the ten sales included mineral rights, and that sale was adjusted for comparison.

One of those ranches sold originally at the height of oil boom prices, and it appreciated yet another 20 percent when sold in 2018.

A few reasons why the original purchase price was so much lower than the current appraised value:

1) We purchased this ranch with no appraisal and paid 20 percent less than the asking price and 25 percent less than others who purchased land here in 2011.

2) The Bakken oil boom drove up land prices after our purchase.

3) We’ve put well over $500,000 worth of improvements into the ranch.

4) And, most obviously, the appraised value was for five sections of land no included in the original purchase.

Mr. Dahl ignored the fact that the original purchase had 3200 acres of checker-boarded leased in-holdings that could be sold out from under us at any time. The appraisal assumes purchase of that land resulting in a contiguous property with excellent improvements. The change in value is more than just the added acres, the whole ranch becomes more valuable with the in-holdings and their accompanying risk gone.

Mr. Dahl contends the easement value is too high – he says we simply give up development rights and provide walk-in hunting access. The 40+ page easement specifies a plethora of other rights sold concerning access and wildlife habitat. He contends there is no access for disabled hunters. Yet the map accompanying the easement clearly shows the 8 - 9 miles of county roads running through both ends of the ranch. While he contends that just a few local hunters benefit from this easement, the hundreds of hunters who continue to voice support disagree.

Governor Bullock’s decision followed Montana law and allowed an easement that had already been approved by the F&W Commission, as mandated, to move forward providing all the benefits required by the Habitat Montana program.

If Mr. Dahl thinks this is a “sweetheart deal” he has apparently never been the target of uninformed, unwarranted public attacks from people who want to define what is “acceptable” use of our private property rights – it’s been anything but sweet.

Adele Stenson,

Wibaux, MT