Mike and Ramona Craddock, the private bidders, said they were disappointed but not surprised by the decision. They had offered $750,000 for the land, they said, and simply planned to hire a biologist to direct them on how best to preserve the land before opening it to the public for no profit.
Another bidder had sought to turn the 9,296 acres into a for-profit hunting ranch, among other uses.
The unanimous decision by the three-member panel, which is lead by General Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, was a victory for advocates who had sought to keep the land next to the Big Bend National Park in public hands. The National Park Service is the only agency so far to propose a plan for managing the land. No more private bids will probably be considered, Mr. Patterson said.Does this mean Patterson has capitulated? Maybe not.
Mr. Patterson also said he would open the land immediately to visitors and start working with state officials to open the range to dove and quail hunters.So where does this leave us and what happens next?
So there are still decisions that need to be made, and there is still the potential for controversy. Nonetheless, rolling back this egregious example of good ole boy cronyism sets the stage for preserving this magnificient piece of land in a manner consistent with the Conservation Fund's original intent. For that we are truly grateful that the land board yielded to its better angels.
The next step for the board is to either accept the NPS proposal, re-open the bidding process, or reject the NPS proposal and keep the land. They also must decide whether to donate the land to the agency or sell it. A lawyer for the board said the board would have to gain some proceeds from the land, since it belongs to a trust that funds public education.
Board members David Hermann and Todd Barth both said they would prefer the land stay in public hands, and hinted that they want it to be sold to the parks agency.