ADOC: Ranch sale remains pending

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 13, 2007

GREENSBORO &8212; Alabama Department of Corrections officials said there is still a possibility portions or the entirety of the Farquhar State Cattle Ranch will be put up for public bid pending an acquisition decision by the Forever Wild Land Trust.

Forever Wild is currently in the process of appraising the ranch after contacting the ADOC about interest in the property due to prairie habitat special to the Black Belt region located on parts of the land. But Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner of Conservation M. Barnett Lawley, who also sits on the board of the trust, said Forever Wild is interested in purchasing only two of the four tracts appraised by the ADOC &8212; consisting of nearly 2,000 of the 3,869 acres of the ranch.

Lawley said the board will receive the first of two appraisals it needs to purchase the property at that meeting, and, if the appraisal is favorable, the board could make an offer to Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen for the property, pending a favorable report from the second appraisal.

Corbett said there is a chance another state agency will purchase the lands, halting a sale to the public. He said the Alabama Department of Pardons and Paroles is looking for land to build a detention facility, and said all other agencies will be notified should the opportunity arise.

He said no move will be made until the ADOC receives the decision by Forever Wild&8217;s board of trustees.

Staying true to its conservation charter, Lawley said any property purchased by Forever Wild will likely be utilized as a field trial area for dogs as well as a continued venue for the handicapped hunting program already in place on the ADOC property. He said the trust is interest in the tracts of land in the middle of the four areas divided up for sale by the ADOC.

Background

Gov. Bob Riley and ALDOC Commissioner Richard Allen announced their intention to the ranch and four other ALDOC properties at a July 11 press conference, stating only state lands that were a drain on taxpayers and had a previous interest expressed in their purchase would be sold.

Riley and Allen said money generated by the sale of the ranch and the four other properties listed at the press conference would go toward the more than $90 million in capital improvement projects for Alabama Department of Corrections facilities.

Riley and Allen said all property that will be sold will be appraised, advertised and sold to the highest bidder.

After conflicting figures from the ranch and the ALDOC shed doubt on the financial viability of the ranch, Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, has worked to stop the sale and find ways to increase its profitability.

Concerned with the area&8217;s economics, Howard said he has researched bringing defense department contracts to the site &8212; possibly bringing an arms manufacturing company to the area if the ranch is closed.

He said such a move hinges on maintaining some of the property.

FWLT was established in 1992 after a state constitutional amendment was passed by an 83-percent vote &8212; the largest margin of any land trust amendment in any southeastern state. The lands are managed under a multiple use management principle to ensure all resources &8212; including recreation, hunting, fishing, boating, hiking, aesthetics, soil, water, forests and minerals &8212; are protected or enhanced. The State Lands Division must write a management plan that is presented to the board for approval within one year of property purchase.