The Osage Nation Bluestem Ranch, LLC, met for the first time to consider budgetary matters and to discuss whether to retain John Hurd as the ranch’s manager.
The five-member LLC board is the governing body of the Nation’s newly acquired 43,000-acre ranch, which the Nation won the winning bid to purchase in January from media mogul Ted Turner. The board will function as a subsidiary of the Nation’s Tallgrass Economic Development, LLC.
Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said the Nation will close the deal with Turner in May. He did not share a specific date. The purchase price of the ranch will be released after the deal is closed.
The board elected officers as their first item of business on April 20. They elected former Osage Congresswoman Faren Anderson as chair, Jim Perrier as vice chair, Teresa Meade as treasurer and Jackie Badley as Secretary. Francis Murphy fills the fifth seat on the board.
The board is also subject to confirmation by the ON Congress today.
The board is also awaiting a Congressional vote to appropriate $2 million for operational expenses, after which the board will set up a bank account, hire legal counsel, an accountant, consider hiring Hurd and four ranch hands and mull the purchase of bison and equipment already on the property. The Congressional Commerce committee meets at 1 p.m. today to discuss budgetary needs of the Bluestem Ranch.
The board called an emergency meeting for 5 p.m. today to discuss the contract for Hurd. Hurd, who attended the board meeting said he is a full-time employee of Ted Turner Enterprises and has received an offer to work on one of Turner’s ranches in New Mexico if the Nation chooses not to hire him. Hurd lives on the ranch, as well as two other families.
Hurd, a Pawhuska native, has managed the Bluestem Ranch for Turner since 2005. Hurd won the Oklahoma Land Owner of the Year in 2011 from the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. In 2015 he won the Private Land Management Award from the Oklahoma Chapter of the Wildlife Society.
Hurd said until he has a contract in place from the Nation he is limited on what he can discuss with the board.
Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn, who handled most of the negotiation with Turner Enterprises for the land, said the future of the land and its use is entirely up to the board and no one else.
“From the outset there is no intention to tell you what to do,” Red Corn said to the board. He said he and Standing Bear were in attendance to give the board an overview of what is known about the property.
Standing Bear said the tribe is putting the land into trust and has started that application process. He said two staff members of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said the Nation’s application will be approved this year, which he said is “lightning fast.” The Osage Congress passed a resolution in support of the land-into-trust application for the ranch on April 19.
Once the ranch is made into trust land, the Nation will not have to pay ad valorem tax or property taxes on the property.
Standing Bear said if the Congress does not pass an appropriation for the Ranch in the Hun-Kah Session, which is scheduled to end today, he is considering a Special Session on May 5.
Murphy asked Standing Bear if there were any restrictions on what the board could do with the ranch. Standing Bear said, “No, there are no restrictions.”
Standing Bear and Red Corn both left shortly after the meeting began, Red Corn returning to the Congressional session and Standing Bear returning to sign Congressional legislation at his office.
Tim Tall Chief, chair of the Tallgrass LLC, said his board is the umbrella under which the Bluestem board will function.
“We’re here to help you make the Bluestem Ranch the shining star of the Osage Nation, and it’s already become that without much happening,” Tall Chief said. “We want you to be successful, we want the whole Nation to be successful. We’re not going to get into your daily operations.”
Tall Chief said one suggestion he would make is to get Hurd on contract as soon as possible because he is a full-time employee of Turner Enterprises until Nov. 1.
The board asked Hurd if he wanted to stay and he said yes. He also said if he is hired he would like to keep his four ranch hands. He also said he is proud the Nation purchased the property and that the property was one of Turner’s top five ranches.
The board asked Hurd what could he do with $2 million and Hurd responded, “I was basically told whatever you had in mind, we can do.”
Shannon Shaw Duty
Original Publish Date: 2016-04-21 00:00:00