More than 9,000 acres of land in the Paradise Valley that had once been surveyed for development by a “doomsday cult” has been purchased for conservation.
“The whole butte could have had houses on it,” said Tim Murphy, of Hall and Hall, a Montana real estate firm that represented the buyer.
The $19.5 million sale was finalized on Nov. 12, and the land is now owned by the Arthur M. Blank Family of Businesses. Blank is the billionaire owner of the Atlanta Falcons football team and co-founded Home Depot, the home improvement retailer.
“What’s most important for our neighbors to know is that this purchase is about conservation, not development,” Blank said in a press release. “We will respect the tradition of ranching while keeping our lands in their original, intact state for the sake of beauty and wildlife.”
In a nod to historical use, the current lessees will be allowed to continue cattle grazing and farming on the land.
This is the 12th transaction by Blank in the area over the past 15 years. It all began in 2001 when he purchased the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch. Prior to this most recent purchase, Blank had bought the West Creek Ranch, which adjoins the 10,000-acre guest ranch.
“For two decades, we’ve been part of the Paradise Valley community — this is our home,” Blank said in his statement. “We care about all of the people who work and live here. We hope that our history of meaningful philanthropy in Montana and our responsible stewardship of these lands demonstrates that we can forge a plan for Paradise Valley Ranch that both serves and preserves.”
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How the new acquisition will be folded into the current dude ranch operations is still unknown at this time. As noted by Yancy Arterburn, ranch manager, the new property is a 20 minute drive from the guest ranch.
“The property will be evaluated over the next few months to produce a thoughtful plan that preserves the land’s natural beauty and utilizes the spectacular setting for bringing people together in meaningful ways,” according to the press release.
Live Water Properties in Bozeman had listed the 9,260-acres of deeded land — another 280 acres are a BLM lease — for $19.95 million. The acreage is on the east side of the Yellowstone River about nine miles south of Livingston. About 1,700 acres are irrigated crop land. In the winter the ranch is home to a herd of elk that can range from 500 to 2,000 head, Murphy said.
The seller was listed on property records as Element Land Co. LLC, a foreign limited liability company. Earlier records showed Marianne C. Liebmann as one of the agents of the company. Liebmann is one of the heirs to the Cargill agricultural fortune.
The Church Universal and Triumphant had owned the ranchland at one time. The church purchased land throughout the valley after moving its headquarters to Montana in the 1980s.
Murphy called the sale of the ranch one of the larger ones to take place in years in the Paradise Valley. The area has long attracted wealthy out-of-state buyers drawn by the scenery of the Absaroka and Gallatin mountain ranges and the close proximity of the Yellowstone River and Yellowstone National Park.
“This is one of the largest intact ranches in the Paradise Valley,” said Jeff Shouse, of Live Water Properties.
“The surrounding area is one of the most sporting-oriented locations in Montana, renowned for a number of legendary fisheries and world-class hunting options for upland birds, waterfowl and big game,” according to the Live Water Properties online listing.