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Amid Lawsuit, UW, CSU Foundations Delay Ranch Sale

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(credit: AP)

(credit: AP)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – The University of Wyoming Foundation and Colorado State University Research Foundation have postponed the sale of a ranch they jointly own in southeast Wyoming until a lawsuit over the sale is resolved, the foundations announced Friday.

Unsealing of bids on the ranch had been scheduled for Nov. 13 in Cheyenne, under the oversight of two former governors of Wyoming and Colorado. Both sides in the lawsuit, the foundations and the Denver philanthropist suing them, agreed to the postponement, according to a court filing Friday.

In a joint statement, the foundations didn’t cede any legal ground but expressed concern that the lawsuit could affect their ability to market the property.

“We believe our Foundations are correct in their positions relating to the operation of the ranch and its sale under the gift agreement and that the sale is in the best interests of the Universities, their students and faculty,” the statement read.

The foundations remain “deeply grateful” for the donation of the ranch to them 15 years ago and have taken stewardship of the Y Cross very seriously, read the statement attributed to Ben Blalock, president of the UW Foundation, and Kathleen Henry, president of CSURF.

A Colorado real estate broker has been advertising the property. The foundations haven’t set a formal reserve price but are seeking at least $20 million, according to the broker.

Amy Davis, whose family owned the Y Cross before donating it to the two foundations in 1997, sued last month. Davis and her Courtenay C. and Lucy Patten Davis Foundation claim the two foundations haven’t made full use of the ranch as a setting for hands-on agriculture education as the gift agreement requires.

The lawsuit filed in Laramie County District Court in Cheyenne asks a judge to rescind the gift agreement and establish a trust to ensure that the ranch is used for agriculture education.

Davis’ attorneys include former Wyoming Attorney General Gay Woodhouse, while former Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan is representing the university foundations.

“Both sides have retained very experienced and skilled lawyers. It was through these lawyers that the parties reached an agreement that the sale of the Y Cross Ranch should be postponed to give all parties a fair and reasonable opportunity to litigate their issues surrounding this dispute, which now resides in the district court in Cheyenne,” Davis’ lead attorney, Steve Miller, said Friday.

The Y Cross sprawls over some 50,000 acres – about 80 square miles – of pastures, meadows, forests, streams and granite outcrops between Cheyenne and Laramie. The ranch has more than 800 irrigated acres that yield more than 1,000 tons of grass hay per year.

This year, the ranch has been home to about 750 cow-calf pairs, according to the lawsuit.

Foundation officials say the working ranch never proved suitable as a practical place for learning. They also say proceeds from the sale could be used to establish an endowment that would fund agriculture scholarships.

Those scholarships, they say, honor the terms of the gift agreement.

Terms of the gift allowed the ranch to be sold after 14 years. That date passed about a year ago and soon after the foundations made public their plans to begin to sell the ranch.

Some University of Wyoming faculty members have objected to the ranch sale, saying they never knew about or fully appreciated the availability of the Y Cross as a teaching site. Donal O’Toole, a veterinary science professor with a doctorate from Colorado State, has been pursuing a faculty senate resolution seeking postponement of the sale for five years.

The universities would use the hiatus to make faculty, staff and students aware of the Y Cross as Davis intended, according to the resolution.

The resolution has been scheduled to go before a faculty senate meeting Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear if the resolution would still be considered after Friday’s announcement.

- By MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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