CUTting a Deal

CUTting a Deal

Orem, Tina
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On December 3, 2008, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks director Joe Maurier approved the controversial Royal Teton Ranch Grazing Restriction Agreement, which calls for the National Park Service, a handful of non-government groups, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) to pay $1.5 million, $1 million, and $300,000, respectively to the Royal Teton Ranch north of Yellowstone National Park in return for the ranch's owners, the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), to stop grazing cattle, sheep, and goats in the area so that bison moving north out of Yellowstone could roam freely rather than facing hazing or slaughter by various local and federal agencies.

The 30-year grazing lease requires a $1.88 million up-front payment and then $76,500 per year for 19 years so that an initially small but eventually large number of bison could roam through the ranch as far north as Yankee Jim Canyon. The agreement also proposes the construction of cattle guards and a four-foot electric fence, estimated to cost $100,000. According to FWP, the non-government groups slated to contribute $1 million toward the deal include the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the National Wildlife Federation, and the National Parks Conservation Association.

In 1999, CUT received $13 million from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) for a conservation easement on the land. The RMEF subsequently transferred the easement to the USDA Forest Service. The deal did not include the purchase of grazing rights. CUT originally purchased the ranch for $7.25 million in 1981 from billionaire Malcolm Forbes.

According to the December 2008 Final Notice, "The proposed project should lead to a slight decrease in the number of bison slaughtered during the winter."

To read the decision notice, visit fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=36075.
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