Two World-Class Montana Ranches Become One
By Alex Lovett-Woodsum, Fay Ranches Editor
It is unusual for two adjacent world-class ranches to come to market at the same time, but that is just what happened with the West Boulder Ranch and the Burnt Leather Ranch-Steen Place, nestled side-by-side at the base of the Absaroka Mountains in McLeod, Montana. Together, they comprise three miles of the West Boulder River and are remarkable sporting and recreational properties. They are equally scenic, one-of-a-kind properties on their own. But Greg Fay, owner of Fay Ranches and listing agent for both ranches, knew that together they would make one of the finest sporting properties on earth. He hoped that one lucky family would find and fall in love with them both.
The West Boulder Ranch has been in the family of famed journalist and author Tom Brokaw for the past 30 years. The 4,128± acre ranch is one of the most beautiful and productive sporting properties out there: it boasts a private, mile-long stretch of the West Boulder River, excellent hunting for trophy elk, mule and whitetail deer, upland birds and antelope, full equestrian facilities, remarkable scenery, adjacent access to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, and more. Over the years the Brokaw family gave considerable attention to the conservation and stewardship of the magnificent ranch, and the recent decision to sell was a challenging one. It was important to them that the buyers were conservation-minded and would appreciate and care for the land as much as they did. And they needed agents who were attentive to that.
The smaller but equally beautiful neighboring Burnt Leather Ranch-Steen Place is a historic property comprised of numerous parts that formed a balanced and recreationally-diverse ranch, and the Steen Place listing included the headquarters of the ranch as well as its most valuable recreational resources—most notably, two miles of both sides of the famed West Boulder River.
“I would characterize the West Boulder as the template for the perfect trout stream. The classic riffles, pools, and runs help make an incredible dry fly fishery. The beauty of both the stream and the surrounding area always make the day a success,” said guide Lee Kinsey, who has leased the fly fishing on the Burnt Leather Ranch for the past several years on a handshake agreement.
The owners of the Burnt Leather Ranch-Steen Place were also conservation-minded in their approach to land management, placing the entire 623± acre property under a conservation easement. Thus, the perfect buyers would have to appreciate the recreational and conservation value of the land.
The hunting in the area is also world-class. Longtime West Boulder Ranch manager Doug Campbell notes, “Every year there’s the potential to harvest a 350-plus bull elk. Six years ago, we harvested a bull that scored just over 400. We also have big whitetails, antelope, and Hungarian partridge. It’s an amazing ranch for wildlife. Damn pretty, too.”
Fortunately, the right family soon came along and decided that they had to have both the West Boulder Ranch and the Burnt Leather Ranch-Steen Place. Greg Fay represented the sellers and Branif Scott, also of Fay Ranches, represented the new buyers. “It was a pleasure working with Tom and Meredith Brokaw,” said Fay. “The ranch has meant so much to their family over the past 30 years and I know it was a tough decision to sell. I’m just glad we were able to find such nice folks with young families to continue the tradition of family and land stewardship into the future.” Tom Brokaw noted that it was tough to sell a property that had been in his family and a part of so many memories for such a long time.
“Greg Fay and Branif Scott were pitch perfect in how they marketed and completed the sale of the WBR,” said Brokaw. “We left with great memories from the time of purchase to the day of sale.”
Fay and Scott were pleased to have found the right buyers to bring these two great ranches together, knowing the new owners would continue the legacy of land conservation and thoughtful management. “I’m very glad we were able to find such nice folks with young families to continue the tradition of family and land stewardship into the future,” said Fay. “It is wonderful to see these two properties joined together, and I know the new owners will love and enjoy their new ranch for generations to come.”
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