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Perot company gains pasture preservation

Two years after buying Bar BC Ranch, developer protects 507 acres.

Samantha Worthington and Angus M. Thuermer Jr
Jackson Hole News & Guide

March, 2006 - Ross Perot Jr., the Texas billionaire who bought the Mead family's Bar BC Ranch in Spring Gulch in 2004 with the hopes of preserving large portions of the agricultural property, appears to have met his goal. Perot and the Jackson Hole Land Trust last week announced his donation of a conservation easement on 507 acres of pasture land that would limit development to four homes. Each also could have a guest house.

The announcement last week placates worries that the scenic gulch, a historic and pastoral ranch setting between East and West Gros Ventre buttes, might be developed to the detriment of wildlife and scenic resources. As now planned, no more than 24 homes, and associated guest houses, would dot the 1,217 acres. Sale of the ranch two years ago by the children of Mary and Pete Mead, grandchildren of former Wyoming governor and U.S. Sen. Cliff Hansen and his wife, Martha, raised doubts whether Perot could accomplish a development that would respect the environment that surrounded it. The property listed for $110 million, and while purchase price was never disclosed, the asking price indicated a challenge to Perot to recoup his investment.

Perot and Hillwood announced plans to sell parcels on West Gros Ventre Butte with the hope of also preserving pasture land on the floor of Spring Gulch. Those plans were accomplished last week with the announcement of the donation of the conservation easement. Perot's Hillwood development company first created 20 lots on 710 acres on West Gros Ventre Butte. With preservation of the pasture, overall density amounts to one homesite per 50 acres. The conservation easement that will protect the pasture extends more than a mile along the west side of Spring Gulch Road. It lies just south of the Gros Ventre River bridge in an area rich in Jackson Hole ranching history. The Mead and Hansen families have been ranching there for four generations. Teton County's land-use regulations would have allowed Hillwood to develop the 507-acre pasture with 14 houses on 35-acre lots or about 115 houses in clustered development.

"Recognizing the unique nature of the Bar BC meadow, we decided that it would be best for the Jackson Hole community if we protected the open space of this incredible valley along Spring Gulch Road," said Fred Balda, president of Hillwood Residential. The Bar BC Ranch contains important wildlife habitat. Mule deer use the southern portion of the property to move throughout the valley in a north-south direction. In addition, Spring Creek Ð a spawning creek important to the Snake River cutthroat trout population Ð cuts across the southeast portion of the land.

"The Hillwood Bar BC conservation easement represents a significant contribution towards land protection in Jackson Hole," the land trust's executive director Laurie Andrews said. "It is an important step in the preservation of the wildlife, sweeping views and ranching along Spring Gulch Road." The land trust also recognized conservation buyers of the Bar BC meadow, John and Georgene Tozzi, whose purchase of the protected property played an important role in its conservation, Andrews said. After Hillwood decided to place the easement on the property, the Tozzis stepped forward as conservation buyers, and they will now be the developers of the four lots.

Bill Campbell, the land trust's board president, said the property is one of the most scenic open spaces in Jackson Hole. "Spring Gulch is critical to our valley, not only because of its scenic beauty and historical value, but because of its importance to wildlife," Campbell said. "We are proud to have helped preserve these important values and we thank Mr. Perot and the Tozzis for their commitment to land conservation."

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