The drug smuggler’s ranch in Clark is stirring up controversy in Park County. Commissioners faced a packed room Tuesday. Several groups and ranch neighbors protested the Commissioners’ suggestion that Park County should get the ranch from the State of Wyoming.
The Beartooth Ranch in Clark once belonged to a drug smuggler from Florida, who was caught and arrested in Park County in the late nineties.
The federal government seized the ranch, and transferred it to the state of Wyoming, with restrictions. Since then, the 650 acres along the Clarks Fork River have been used by anglers, neighbors, hunters, and wildlife watchers.
In December, one Clark neighbor asked the Park County Commissioners to write a letter to the state removing some of the restrictions, so he could lease it. Park County’s Sheriff to the Commissioners the county should get the ranch.
Scott Steward said, “We did 90% of the investigation as far as to catch him out here at the ranch.”
The commissioners drafted a letter to be sent to the state. But the draft, which suggested the land be turned over to Park County, got out. Members of Trout Unlimited apparently wrote a letter to Governor Matt Mead, protesting the transfer.
The commissioners were not happy.
Commissioner Tim French said, “What a joke. That letter was a joke.”
Park County Commissioner Jake Fulkerson said, “Every ten minutes I hear it again. Every time I get over it, I hear it again.”
But representatives of GYC, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and neighbors who have been walking, hunting, and fishing on the ranch weren’t happy either. They didn’t want to lose access.
A Pheasants Forever member asked,“Is it the county commissioners’ intent to acquire the land?”
Fulkerson answered, “…we’re going to draft a letter, and you’ll see what the intent is, okay? “
Trout Unlimited Member, Tim Wade said, “We were concerned that the land would have deed restrictions taken off so that the land could be sold. It’s the state’s land, not the county’s land.”
A Greater Yellowstone Coalition board member from Clark, Ken Lichtendahl explained, “The restrictions that are in place now are all good as far as maintaining that access, maintaining the ability to fish, hunt, and maintaining that habitat for quality wildlife.”
The County Commissioners agreed to consider a suggestion that a citizen committee be formed to figure out what Park County’s citizens want from the Beartooth Ranch...
Park County Commission Chair Loren Grosskopf responded, “The idea of a committee, I think that’s a great idea. But, we’re still going to go ahead and do our letter. We need to get a letter to the governor about why he got letters from different organizations about why we did something we didn’t do.”
The commissioners pointed out the land hasn’t been farmed, or ranched in decades, and the ranch house is in disrepair. French called it “an eyesore”.
This story was produced for KULR by independent contributor Penny Preston. Contact Preston directly for use or reproduction of the story material.