Tortolita Mountain Property

540 Acres to be Auctioned Off This August in the Tortolita Mountains of Tucson Arizona

In one of the speediest expanding places (Marana) in the entire state of Arizona are 540 acres (five parcels) of developing land in the Tortolita Mountains, arranged for online public sale August 23 on Micoley.com. The subject, which is just northwest of Tucson in Fresnal Canyon, is a leading section of territory for developers looking to append to their portfolio—it is, after all, located close to the exclusive Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain Hotel and Golf Club, along with long distances of hiking trails throughout the mountains.
Curious parties should visit Micoley.com to find pictures and details about this unique parcel, or visit the property in person to complete an inspection on site, which is very recommended. 1-866-371-3619 is Micoley.com’s information line. In addition, Micoley.com features a real time chat service through which concerns can be clarified.

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Utah

BLMto lease 151,000 acres in Eastern Utah

The Bureau of Land Management is looking for open public comment on a pair of upcoming oil and gas lease sales which affects eastern Utah. The agency has introduced a draft environmental assessment on its proposal to lease 70 parcels spanning about 74,000 acres supervised by its Price and Vernal field offices. These lands should go out for auction on November 14.

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Yosemite

Tom McClintock Not in Favor of 1575 Acre Yosemite National Park Expansion

Time is running out on a deal to secure the largest expansion of Yosemite National Park since 1939, and one man appears to be standing in the way: local congressman Tom McClintock.

Declaring his distrust in the National Park Service, the tea party Republican from Granite Bay is at odds with local Republican state legislators and the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors over efforts to add a scenic parcel of land on Yosemite’s western boundary now owned by a Bay Area conservation group. The deal is even becoming a campaign issue in this rugged part of California as McClintock fights for re-election against a fellow Republican. If a deal isn’t reached by the end of the year, the small nonprofit group that owns the land says it will have to sell. And the land is zoned for construction of up to 19 homes.

“We’ve held this for 10 years and have the holding costs — the property taxes, management and upkeep, things of that nature,” said Laurie Wayburn, president of the Pacific Forest Trust in San Francisco.

“We are now at a point where we are faced with the hard choice of asking: ‘Are we going to be able to keep holding onto it or are we going to have to sell it to the private market?’”

In 2004, the trust bought the land — a scenic landscape near El Portal that is thick with incense cedar, white fir and sugar pine trees, with breathtaking views — from a family that had owned it since 1925. The purchase, praised by the park’s superintendent, was intended to expand Yosemite to the original boundaries that conservation pioneer John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, had proposed in the 1880s when he advocated for Congress to first establish the park.

The property is 793 acres, and appraised in 2005 at $2.1 million. McClintock, who declined a request for an interview, said in an email that he wants the National Park Service to come up with a plan to use the land because he doesn’t trust the agency after its attempt to ban bicycle rentals and limit other recreation in Yosemite Valley last year. After public outcry, the Park Service rewrote the plan, dropping the controversial limits.

“There is considerable resistance in the House and in my district to the acquisition of additional federal land without clear assurances that it will be properly managed and that public access and recreation will be guaranteed,” McClintock said. McClintock’s 4th Congressional District, which he has represented since 2009, runs from Lake Tahoe to Kings Canyon National Park, and includes Yosemite.

McClintock also is one of a number of conservative Western Republicans who opposes nearly every effort to expand federal land holdings in the West, preferring it be held in private ownership for cattle ranching, logging, mining and other uses. “When is enough enough?” he said in a speech on the House floor in 2009. “The public good is not served by the mindless and endless acquisition of property at the expense of the sustainable use of our natural resources, responsible stewardship of our public lands, and the freedom and property rights of our citizens.”

The issue may play a role in McClintock’s re-election.

He is being challenged by Republican Art Moore, a combat veteran and major in the Army National Guard, who said he is in favor of the proposal to expand Yosemite’s boundaries. “Broad support exists because these bills represent a common sense approach to federal land management and acquisition,” he said in an email. “Rather than the federal government dictating what it will do, this is a situation of willing sellers and government acquisition based on fair market price.”

The process in Congress is fairly straightforward.

Last year, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, introduced a bill to expand Yosemite’s boundaries by 1,575 acres. The bill, HR1677, would include the 793 acres owned by the Pacific Forest Trust, and another 782 acres of forested land owned by several doctors, who support the legislation. If approved, it would allow the National Park Service to appraise the properties and buy them using existing money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a pot of money funded by royalties on offshore oil drilling.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has introduced a bill in the Senate to expand the park boundary. A vote is expected this summer. But if McClintock doesn’t support the measure, the GOP House leadership is unlikely to act, since the land is in his district. The deal would become Yosemite’s largest acquisition since 1939, when the federal government bought 7,200 acres near Wawona known as the Carl Inn tract from a timber company. McClintock left the door open somewhat, however, in his email to this newspaper.

“Unless the Senate acts, I don’t foresee action in the House,” he said.

Yosemite officials say they want the land, although they said they can’t formally plan for its future until the government owns it.

“It’s beautiful and there are great views,” said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman. “It includes prime habitat for rare species, and it would provide an area for us to potentially develop campgrounds and trails. Any opportunity to expand the boundary of the park is beneficial for everybody.”

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Lake Canyon

State of Utah to Auction Parcels and Increase Taxable Base

The state of Utah owns nearly half a million acres it manages as safe havens for big game, birds and fish. But with some counties concerned about a dearth of privately held — and taxable — property, the Division of Wildlife Resources is selling pieces of wildlife management areas, including 1,070 acres in Duchesne County.

On June 25 the state will auction some of its holdings in Lake Canyon, a scenic canyon off the Strawberry River that the division acquired in 2001 to support brood populations of native cutthroat trout. The sale is part of a commitment the agency made to the county, which wants to guard against a net loss of private lands within its borders, according to Stephen Hansen, DWR’s land and water asset manager.

“Private lands are the only ones where people pay property tax to pay for county services,” Duchesne County planning director Mike Hyde said. “We are providing services on 2.1 million acres on a tax base of 580,000 acres of private land.”

Federal and tribal lands abound in this county covering the western half of the Uinta Basin, framed by the Book Cliffs and the Uinta Mountains. Just 28 percent of the land is private, a portion on par with some rural Utah counties. Many others have even less. The sale is not sitting well with Utah’s angling community, which helped secure federal seed funding to meet the $3 million purchase price for the Lake Canyon acreage.

“It’s disheartening the division is selling it without contacting anglers,” said George Sommer, former chairman of the Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council. “The part that gets me about the policy [to return state-owned real estate to the private sector] is the public loses access to land.” Such policies can also infringe on private property rights since they might limit who can buy land from willing sellers.

But Duchesne officials say the county’s private land base has been shrinking in recent decades as land has been gravitating into state-managed conservation areas, many of them set up to mitigate habitat loss arising from the Central Utah Project’s river diversions.

Few counties host as much terrain in wildlife management areas than Duchesne, which currently has 93,350 acres so designated, according to Hyde. The state almost never owns the minerals under these holdings, so they usually remain open to oil and gas development.

Bill Barrett Corp. and Berry Petroleum have already sunk numerous wells along the bottom of Lake Canyon, and Berry is proposing to drill more wells to the west in the Avintaquin Canyon Wildlife Management Area, which includes Lake Canyon.

The state acquired its 4,800 acres in and around Lake Canyon from the Pinder family following the conviction of one of its members for a double homicide on its ranch there. The family insisted on selling the whole ranch, even though DWR wanted only the parts that included Lake Canyon Lake and connected drainages.

The agency has since removed all the fish from the half-mile lake and restocked it with pure-strain Colorado River cutthroat as part of a program to recover dwindling populations of this native trout. During spawning season, biologists harvest eggs and milt from the lake’s fish and use it to produce cutthroat fry in hatcheries.

This month’s auction features Lake Canyon parcels downstream from the lake. “We picked the property that would have the least negative effect,” Hansen said.

Auction materials say the property has good recreational potential with cabin sites and lots of hunting and fishing opportunities nearby. They also note the parcel sits near four active wells. DWR is not disclosing a minimum bid, nor the appraised value of the land.

Also on the block June 25 are two state trust parcels and nearly 900 acres in Carbon County’s Horse Canyon, land that had been donated to Utah State University.

DWR has already sold 950 acres in its Indian Creek Wildlife Management Area in a nod to Duchesne County’s concerns. But county officials stressed they are not expecting the state to unload an acre for every acre it acquires for conservation.

“It’s not something we are holding them hard and fast to,” Hyde said. “We want to maintain the ability to develop private land. We are trying to strike a balance.”

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Unplugged

MacGyver Fan is Living Off the Grid

Growing up, Ryan Lapinski wanted to be TV’s “MacGyver,” solving problems with a stick of chewing gum and a paper clip. “I watched that show religiously … that pretty much got me interested in outdoors. Blame it all on MacGyver, I guess,“ he said.

The June 26 episode of ”America Unplugged,“ a new series on the Sportsman Channel Thursday at 8 p.m., will feature Mr. Lapinski and his wife, Adda Lamon, as they create a home, creatively, in East Brady, Clarion County. ”America Unplugged“ takes a look at folks who are trying to live ”off the grid“ and become self-sustaining. “Ever since I was a little kid, I just preferred camping over being in a structure,” said Mr. Lapinski, 38, a native of the South. (“Pick a Southern state and chances are, I’ve lived there for a little bit.”)

He met Wisconsin native Ms. Lamon, 30, when both were students at Northern Michigan University, and while neither had family in Western Pennsylvania, the area seemed a happy compromise. “She’s really into winter and winter activities, and I’m more into summer activities. This location gives us 50-50 … If we go any farther north, it’s too cold for me. Farther south, too warm for her.“

But Mr. Lapinski made friends in Kittanning from hiking trips here. After scouting for property, he and Ms. Lamon chose a parcel of land upon which they erected an Amish-built cabin. The two-story, roughly 500-square-foot building had insulated walls, but that was about it.

“It’s considered a tiny home, but actually, that’s a whole lot more space than you think. For two people, it’s plenty of room.”

He has a degree in health education with a focus on fitness nutrition, as well as a second bachelor’s degree in outdoor recreation, including outdoor wilderness survival and land management. Mr. Lapinski also worked in construction engineering and served two tours of duty in the military.

His wife has a degree in zoology plus one in outdoor recreation.

Once they have finished the home — plumbing has been roughed out, and with the exception of a bathroom, each floor is essentially one big room — they hope to volunteer to work with youth groups such as the Girl Scouts or YMCA, as they did in Michigan.

Signing up for a reality show, he said, “was an excellent chance to show people they can live off the grid.”

They are adamant that simplifying their home life is also a money-saver. Living in their last house, he said, cost upward of $1,100 a month, including utilities and upkeep. In 36 months, when the land and cabin are paid off, they figure their monthly bill will be $200.

“We will have the same standard of living off-grid and saving $900 a month.“

They have electricity but limit lighting to a few LCD fixtures that are rarely on at the same time.They’ll have Internet for their two laptops, but that’s about it for technology: ”We haven’t had a television in over eight years.“

Providing power are a 600-watt wind turbine, and another 100 watts is collected via solar panels. They also have a 418-ampere battery bank, and the whole house runs on a 12-volt DC power system. It doesn’t sound like much, he said, but it’s enough.

Mr. Lapinski said they can rely on a root cellar as well as one of the three springs on their property for natural refrigeration.

“The last time I put a thermometer on [a spring], it was 92 degrees out and the spring was running at about 47 degrees,” he said.

Opening their home in progress to television crews was … interesting.

“If you ask my wife, it was nerve-racking and scary and very stressful. If you ask me, it was fun and exciting and didn’t bother me one little bit. If you ask my dog, Ralph, who kept getting up early and waiting for them to show up the next three days after they were gone, it was great.“

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fracking

Can Water Intense Fracking Happen in Arid Nevada?

A rural county has joined an environmental group in challenging an oil and gas lease sale in central Nevada that could open 270 square miles of public land to hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking. Lander County and the Center for Biological Diversity have filed formal administrative protests over the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s July 17 sale of leases in 102 parcels around Big Smokey Valley between Austin and Tonopah. Both parties say fracking involves an enormous amount of water and they’re concerned about its effect on the nation’s most arid state at a time of severe drought. Fracking occurred for the first time in Nevada in March.

Lander County Commissioner Dean Bullock said the county’s protest was filed on behalf of ranchers and farmers who are concerned that fracking could end up taking water away from them. They question how exploration companies will obtain the necessary water, he said, and why the BLM plans to allow the companies to lease land that many ranchers and farmers were interested in buying for grazing and growing alfalfa.

“The bottom line is we’re supporting ranchers and farmers of the county,” Bullock told The Associated Press. “They want us to help them out so we can get more information about what the lease sale involves.” Oil and gas developers employ hydraulic fracturing to boost production. The technique pumps water, fine sand and chemicals into wells to fracture open oil- and gas-bearing rock deposits.

The process has been controversial amid concern that fracking gone wrong could taint groundwater with hydrocarbons or fracking fluids containing toxic substances. Fracking typically requires from 2 million to 5.6 million gallons of water for each well and can lower water tables, reducing water available to communities and wildlife, said Rob Mrowka, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Fracking in other parts of this country has repeatedly shown the practice to be dangerous both for human health and the environment,” he said in a statement. “It poses an imminent threat to one of Nevada’s scarcest resources – water – as well as clean air and wildlife habitats.” His organization is calling on the BLM to cancel the lease sale as part of a shift toward safer energy sources.

BLM spokesman Christopher Rose said the protests were under review and a final decision may not be reached until close to the sale date. “It is important to understand that due to (lease reform), parcels can be deferred in whole or part up to the day of the sale,” Rose said in an email.

Rose said all parcels identified for potential sale that fell within sage grouse habitat were deferred and will not be offered as part of the sale. In addition, the lease notice identifies measures that can be taken to protect endangered species, cultural resources, migratory birds, wild horses and other land uses under the BLM’s multi-use mandate, he said.

Houston-based Noble Energy is pursuing fracking to reach oil deposits on public and private lands in portions of Elko County. Company representatives have said fracking is a proven technology to safely develop Nevada’s oil and gas.

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Los Angeles County

Los Angeles County Has Online Auction For Tax Defaulted Property

Mark J. Saladino, the Los Angeles County Treasurer and Tax Collector, announced that his office will hold its first online auction of tax-defaulted property at Bid4Assets.com. Bid4Assets is a company specializing in online real estate auctions. The online auction will be open for bidding on May 28, 2014, and close May 30, 2014. For information about the properties in the auction, visit Bid4Assets’ website at www.bid4assets.com/losangeles. A deposit in the amount of $5,000 is required in order to bid. The required deposit is due by May 21, 2014. Starting bid prices begin at $1,125 for each of the 675 tax-defaulted properties.

In an online auction of a tax-defaulted property, the intent is to collect outstanding taxes, penalties, and other costs owed to the County, and the winner of the auction is determined solely on the basis of the highest bid received for the property. Bidders are reminded that the burden is on him or her to thoroughly research and investigate any property before bidding or purchasing.

Saladino says, “We are excited to hold our first online tax-defaulted sale with Bid4Assets as it will open our sale to a much wider audience.” Bid4Assets’ CEO, Jesse Loomis says, “Moving a tax sale online is beneficial for the taxpayers of Los Angeles County as the cost is reduced for the County and a greater number of properties could potentially be placed back onto the tax rolls. I am excited to welcome LA County.”

The County of Los Angeles is one of dozens of counties across the country that uses Bid4Assets for their annual tax sales. Other counties in California include Monterey, Humboldt, Yolo, Napa, Riverside, San Francisco, Imperial, San Diego, Kern, Siskiyou, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Santa Cruz and many more.

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Iditarod

Alaska Land Auction is Underway

The Department of Natural Resources is inviting Alaskans interested in owning a piece of the Last Frontier to participate in the 2014 Annual State Land Auction. This year’s land offering includes road-accessible and remote parcels ranging from the Southeast Alaska coastline to Interior river corridors. Of the 239 parcels available, more than 60 are new to the auction this year.

Alaska residents may submit sealed bids in person, by mail, or online between 10 a.m. on May 21 and 5 p.m. on July 16. Apparent high bids will be announced on July 23. Bidders may purchase up to two parcels in this auction. Information about participating in the auction as well as other land sale programs is available at http://landsales.alaska.gov. Free brochures are available at DNR’s Public Information Centers in Anchorage and Fairbanks and the DNR Land Counter in Juneau.

An Initial Over-the-Counter (IOTC) drawing and general Over-the-Counter (OTC) sale will follow the auction. The list of IOTC parcels will be available July 30, and IOTC applications will be accepted between 10 a.m. on July 30 and 5 p.m. on September 3. OTC sales of remaining parcels will begin September 24. Check the brochure, visit us online, or call 907-269-8400 for details of purchasing land in the IOTC or OTC sales. DNR offers competitive, in-house financing for land purchases.

Anyone can subscribe to the DNR land sales email notifications via the land sales website. Or, follow the land sales program at http://facebook.com/AlaskaLand/ and http://twitter.com/AlaskaLand4Sale. For direct assistance, please email subdivision.sales@alaska.gov or call 907-269-8400 (TDD available at 907-269-8411), 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday to Friday

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Virgin River

Candidate Debates Cardboard Sandoval over Cliven Bundy Standoff

A fringe candidate for Nevada governor debated a cardboard cutout of his incumbent opponent about the Cliven Bundy standoff with federal agents in a video posted online over the weekend. Crowing roosters repeatedly interrupt the 21-minute “debate” between David Lory VanDerBeek, the Constitution Party candidate for governor, and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval – identified by the conspiracy theorist as a “Democrat Socialist” – on the federal government’s role in regulating land it owns. VanDerBeek levies some serious charges against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), accusing the lawmaker of conspiring to take away land owned by the cattle rancher to give to his own son as part of an agreement with a Chinese energy company.  “Let’s set aside everything,” VanDerBeek says to the cardboard cutout. “Let’s say, for example, Harry Reid isn’t a domestic terrorist and he wasn’t ready to slaughter men, women, and children – even though he was – to take one man’s inheritance to give it to his own family for their inheritance.” However, the candidate’s claims are based on several false premises.

Bundy and his family do not own the disputed lands, which have belonged to the federal government since before Nevada statehood, and the Chinese firm represented by Reid’s son terminated its agreement last year to buy land about 20 miles from the family’s ranch. But VanDerBeek pressed on, questioning the literal straw man about constitutional law. “Let’s set that aside,” VanDerBeek said. “Let’s just take the Constitution. The question is, where in the Constitution does the federal government authorized to regulate the land and natural resources of any given state?”

The federal government has claimed ownership of western lands since before the Constitution was ratified and gave away much of that land to encourage westward expansion. “So the question is, how can the federal government come in with any agency and say that they have a right to regulate the land and resources. Isn’t that fundamentally a reserved power of the states?” VanDerBeek asked.

The Raw Story asked a similar question last week of a history professor at the University of Nevada-Reno, who said the federal government retained ownership of any land it did not sell or give away, even after statehood.  Congress granted presidential authority in 1891 to mark off western forest reserves, which created the Department of Agriculture’s grazing fee and permit system after the turn of the century that Bundy eventually chafed under nearly 100 later.

“Oftentimes, Mr. Bundy is referred to as a tax dodger in the media, and you’re well aware of that,” VanDerBeek told the cardboard cutout. “People say, ‘Why doesn’t he just pay his taxes?’ and he’s referred to as a freeloader, and that’s the mantra put out over and over by Harry Reid and the ‘lame stream’ media – corporate whore media,” VanDerBeek said. The candidate says Bundy and his wife told him they had, in fact, paid their taxes, although federal authorities have never claimed otherwise.

“They tried to pay the county, but the county actually sent their taxes back,” VanDerBeek said, apparently conflating tax payments and grazing fees himself. “I find that relevant, because Mr. Bundy has no problem paying his taxes or being accountable to government,” VanDerBeek continues, as a rooster continues crowing off-camera. “The fundamental legal question is, what government should he be accountable to? His legal argument is that he should be accountable to his county government, not the federal government.”

VanDerBeek points out the Bundys have dozens of grandchildren, but laments that Mexican immigrants are supplementing the low U.S. birth rate but don’t carry with them a “constitutional culture.” He then praises the “Minutemen” anti-immigration militias as a dog barks angrily off-camera.

 

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zombie subdivisions

Abandoned Subdivisions Drain Resources From Counties in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Arizona

“Zombie subdivisions” — some platted but vacant land, others partially built and then abandoned — plague parts of the Intermountain West, siphoning valuable resources from struggling local governments, dragging down property values and causing blight. Millions of these undeveloped lots exist, many requiring public services in remote neighborhoods that generate little tax revenue. The unfinished developments have become the “living dead of the real estate market,” according to a report released Wednesday by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. The problem is especially prevalent in states including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Arizona — where wide-open spaces and booming economies drew new residents and developers before the recession began.

In Colorado, local planners have done a good job of avoiding the damage of failed development, but the Centennial State still has its share of distressed subdivisions, with large numbers of vacant lots in Eagle and Montrose counties, said Peter Pollock, a former city of Boulder planning director who now is a Lincoln Institute fellow. Many of the current crop of desolate developments were planned before the 2007 recession dealt the country the greatest economic blow since the Great Depression, Pollock said.

“The boom and bust real estate cycle is nothing new in the West,” he said, “but the Great Recession was a noticeable one and it left a lot of premature subdivisions.” Much of the problem results from developers planning for demand that didn’t materialize quickly enough. “Some rural counties don’t have very good planning capacity and they let the developers have at it,” said Martin Zeller, president of Conservation Partners, a Denver conservation planning firm. “The bankers were providing loose lending and (the counties) are very unprepared.”

In Teton County, Idaho, 68 percent of 10,225 parcels are undeveloped. The county, west of the posh Jackson Hole ski area in Wyoming, experienced population growth of almost 70 percent between 2000 and 2010, Pollock said. The growth fueled an exuberant real estate boom, but started subdivisions didn’t attract enough buyers, Pollock said. Teton County has tried to recover by adopting ordinances allowing it to work with developers, landowners, lenders and others to replat troubled developments — in some cases reducing the number of lots. The Lincoln Institute and its partner, and the Sonoran Institute, studied five Colorado counties: Douglas, Eagle, Garfield, Mesa and Montrose.

On Colorado’s Western Slope, about 27 percent of parcels in 2,570 Montrose County subdivisions are undeveloped. Most of the 4,232 undeveloped lots are within Montrose city limits, county planning director Steve White said. “There are definitely subdivisions where there are only one or two homes, and the rest is just weeds,” he said. About 31 percent of 19,363 lots in Eagle County are undeveloped, and in Garfield County 17 percent of 17,271 lots are undeveloped. On the Front Range, 14 percent of 59,904 are undeveloped in Douglas County. Mesa County, which includes the city of Grand Junction, experienced a oil and gas boom in the 1970s that ended with a big bust in the early 1980s, and yet only 12 percent of 52,871 lots are undeveloped today.

County regulations at the time of the oil bust called for developers to provide only a letter from a bank promising it would back infrastructure construction. The collapse of the oil industry hit the county hard, and some subdivisions went into default. Development agreements were unfulfilled in nearly 20 percent of those subdivisions.

“We had several thousand lots that didn’t have completed infrastructure that was required when they were approved,” Mesa County’ planning director Linda Dannenberger said. Some of the developments had drainage and other systems that weren’t working. “Buyers had expectations based on the contracts we had with the developers,” she said. “I did a lot of work with banks, and sometimes property owners, to try to reach solutions to get those subdivisions out of default.”

The county hammered out a new way to guarantee infrastructure improvements — such as roads, drainage, water and sewer — are funded. Now developer’s lenders are to disburse payments according to a schedule which assures the work is completed, Dannenberger said. The county also now requires inspection before developers are paid for the work. It took the county 15 years to fully address the problems caused by the 1980s bust, according to the report. “But the work paid off: During the Great Recession, the county had the lowest ratio of vacant subdivision parcels to total subdivision lots among approximately 50 counties examined in the Intermountain West.”

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