From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 1 - April 3, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

PDR group wants $1 million

by Cat Urbigkit

The Sublette County Purchase of Development Rights Working Group wants the Sublette County Commission to approve a pilot PDR project with an allocation of $1 million. The group could use that money to draw matching funds from other entities and the result could be two or more projects that could be funded in this pilot phase, according to the group's written proposal.

The objectives of the program include the protection of wildlife habitat and migration corridors, protection of ranch and agricultural operations that also sustain natural, scenic and other community values, and to reduce growth pressures in rural areas.

The proposal calls for the appointment of a five-member citizens review board with a paid part-time PDR coordinator. The coordinator would provide staff assistance to the board, while the board would be responsible for the PDR program and would provide recommendations to the county commission.

A numerical rating system would be used to evaluate PDR proposals, and would include categories for the quality of agricultural land recourse and economic viability, quality of wildlife habitat, taxpayer and community benefits, and leverage.

Minimum eligibility criteria are included in the proposal as well, and include a 160-acre minimum criterion among other provisions. In addition, the sale price of the development rights must not exceed the value of the development rights as determined by an independent appraisal acceptable to the board.

Project criteria for agricultural values include the size of the property or ranch (included deeded and leased lands), the size of the conservation easement, amount of irrigated land, average amount of hay or forage produced and the average number of animal unit months maintained on the ranch during the last five years.

The project criteria for wildlife values include the presence of wildlife corridors, crucial winter range, superior wildlife habitat, sensitive species and proximity to other operating ranches or properties with significant wildlife habitat areas.

The taxpayer and community benefit criteria include the location, likelihood of conversion to development, scenic and historic values, and the ranch family's length of time ranching in the county.

Leverage scoring focuses on what portion of the development rights for less than appraised value through a bargain sale the landowner is willing to give up. Other proposals include proposal partners and matching conservation easements.

There are two bonus categories as well: whether the ranch has a written financial and land management plan, and "Does the property provide fishing, public land or hunting access and are you willing to maintain or provide new access through the conservation easement?"

Proposals for participation in the PDR program would be solicited immediately after the commission agreed to a pilot program.

The county PDR working group held two public meetings to gather public input on Monday. Marbleton's meeting drew only one new face that wasn't affiliated with either the working group or the Green River Valley Land Trust. A total of 10 people attended that session, which took place at 1 p.m. on Monday.

Big Piney's Debi Morley said she felt better about the program after hearing that it isn't designed to help some wealthy person who comes in and buys a ranch and wants to benefit from the program.

"I'd rather see it go to someone who has been here forever," Morley said, to which Tom Davenport, of both the working group and the land trust said, "Amen."

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