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Wed, Sept. 18

Navajo Nation may buy Yavapai Ranch for $60M
Possible deal would sell only 17,500 acres

Antelope run north of Haystack and Jack’s tank, on the west side of the Yavapai Ranch. (Tim Wiederaenders/Courier, file)

Antelope run north of Haystack and Jack’s tank, on the west side of the Yavapai Ranch. (Tim Wiederaenders/Courier, file)

Negotiations between the owners of Yavapai Ranch and the Navajo Nation are underway for the sale of 17,544 acres in the western area of Yavapai Ranch, which encompasses more than 100,000 acres. The property lies 13 miles south of Seligman where the unpaved portion of Williamson Valley Road cuts through the ranch about 40 miles north of Prescott.

The area’s appraisal is nearly $60 million.

Ranch manager Fred Ruskin said he is in negotiations all the time with different people about various pieces of the ranch. This is just one of those “kicking the tires on the west side.”

Potential buyers might like the fact that part of the property has been approved by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors for a planned area development. Other reasons might be the Ponderosa pine that could be sold for timber, or the mineral rights that go with the sale of the land, or even the 20 wells that exist outside the boundaries of the Arizona’s Active Management Areas regulations that govern water use.

Yavapai Ranch is the largest parcel of checkerboard holdings within the boundaries of the Prescott National Forest. So a buyer could exchange the parcels for national forest land elsewhere in the state, Ruskin said. This could benefit PNF by filling in sections to make large public lands. He hopes as much land as possible can be preserved for public use.

“The west side is considered by Game and Fish to be one of the great antelope lands,” Ruskin said. “It is highly desired by Game and Fish for hunting. They have nudged me not to develop the land.”

Logging would be very limited after a fire swept through about 20 years ago, he added. And no high quality minerals have been identified except for a former lead mine.

Benjamin Bennett, a member of the Navajo Nation Council and vice chair of the Resources and Development Committee, was quick to say water is a valuable mineral. That may or may not be one of the reasons the Tribe is interested in the property.

“Obviously, we’d be looking at expanding our land base, and the other thing is, in lieu of the shutdown in a couple of years of the Navajo Generating Station. We need to start creating our own opportunities,” Bennett said.

He also mentioned as options a land exchange and commercial development. He said the nearly $60 million appraisal appears high for land that would only be used to run livestock. The Committee meets again on July 27 for discussion on the purchase.

Robin Silver, cofounder and board member of the Center for Biological Diversity, thinks the $60 million price tag is “grossly inflated” as ranchland. He also is concerned about the difficulty a buyer may have to acquire federal easements, and how any water development might affect the upper Verde River.

Follow Sue Tone on Twitter @ToneNotes. Reach her at stone@prescottaz.com or 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.

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