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Deal blocks building at eco-ranch

August 03, 2008|Susan Gallagher | The Associated Press

HELENA, MONT. — A man who used his Silicon Valley wealth to buy a Montana ranch from actor Steven Seagal 10 years ago and then launched an ambitious environmental agenda has placed nearly all the property under easements restricting development.

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land announced Friday that about 11,000 acres of Sun Ranch, which Outside magazine rates among the nation's best eco-getaways, is under a new conservation easement purchased from ranch owner Roger Lang. That easement and an earlier agreement together restrict development on about 95% of Lang's 19,000 acres at Sun Ranch, said Adam DeFanti, a spokesman for Sun Ranch Group. The easement applies to any future owner of the ranch, which lies west of Yellowstone National Park and fronts the Madison River, a world-class fishing stream.

"I grew up loving the open spaces and fishing the clean waters of the Madison, and I feel very fortunate in life to be in a position where I can leave a beautiful stretch of land in perpetuity as it is now," Lang, 49, said in a telephone interview Friday.

The Trust for Public Land bought the easement, then sold it to the U.S. Forest Service, which is to monitor the land. Under the deal, Lang retains ownership of the ranch but gives up development rights.

Estimated market value of the easement topped $23 million, but Lang sold it for $5.5 million, according to the trust.

Asked about the gap, Lang said, "You can't take your money with you when you leave this planet. At some point, you realize there is a greater good."

The easement supported by the Montana congressional delegation was bought with $4.5 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and $1 million from Acres for America, a program administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and funded by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

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