Commentary

The Land Report

The readers of The Land Report take the lyrics of "Pippin" to heart: "I've got to be where my spirit can run free, got to find my corner of the sky." The sentiment is classically American -- if by American, you mean non-urbanites who can live without ethnic cuisine and regular pilgrimages to Broadway. Of course, in the case of "Pippin," Charlemagne's son is searching for his true calling. Here, it's strictly bottom line. Wealthy people are buying up acreage in the U.S. faster than Ahmadinejad can deny gay life in Iran.



That's right, home on the range doesn't mean "Little House on the Prairie." Per the Society and Natural Resources, between 1990 and 2001, only one-quarter of those who bought parcels of 400 acres or more in 10 Montana and Wyoming counties were traditional ranchers. The national's largest private landowner is Ted Turner, whose portfolio includes 15 ranches in seven Western states, totaling some 2 million acres. The land is used, in large part, to raise bison. The ranchers survive through sales of steaks and burgers. TT helped saved the bison from extinction -- only to turn it into lunch. You can almost taste the smugness.

His brethren are found in this recreational real-estate monthly geared to affluent baby boomers -- 30,000 of the nation's largest landowners -- high rollers who want the lowdown on how to buy, sell and improve their holdings. 10,000 industry pros are thrown in for extra credit. In 2008, the edit calendar promises everything from preserving water rights to the best offshore markets. Remember what Scarlett O'Hara's father told her? Land is "the only thing that lasts," provided that nature's furies -- tornado, floods -- or man-made disasters, ala broken levees in New Orleans -- don't get there first.

In essence, LR is a Manifest Destiny primer for the well-heeled, aided by a smart, informative Web site.

Me, I crave the terra firma of Manhattan. When was the last time you saw a brushfire in Greenwich Village? Admittedly, you don't see the seasons either, certain blocks excepted, but the country is only an hour or so away. And by country I mean Woodstock, best billed as Janis Joplin meets Ralph Lauren. Real country, like the golden hues of a Vermont fall or the majesty of the Idaho wheat fields, is reserved for "Vistas," LR's beautiful six-page photo section.

And for big-time buyers, it's up for grabs -- from sea to shining sea.

The mag's ads pitch ranches, log and timber frame homes and national listings. If your idea of heaven is stalking duck, white-tailed deer and turkey, bid on Bienville Bayou in Saline, Louisiana, just $2.2 mil. Plus, the landowner's handbook at the back of the book has nifty tips on storing wood, lighting indoor fires and a dissertation on chainsaws. Though if you can spend $5 million plus on a second home or the equivalent on land, I'm guessing someone else is slicing and dicing.

Cover girl Jill Rappaport, "Today" entertainment columnist, is passionate about her spread, dubbed "Montana wilderness in Long Island." Translation: 18 acres in the Hamptons, on which sits a 7,000-square foot main residence featured in Architectural Digest. Unibomber HQ it's not. What it is: a picturesque working horse ranch where she claims not to "wear a stitch of makeup." OK, but the photos suggest she took her colorist, stylist and trainer in tow -- not that there's anything wrong with it. She also takes credit, per IMDB, for playing matchmaker to Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook. Who's sorry now? Fickle husbands come and go, but the love of a good horse, Rappaport has probably learned, is forever.

So is the joy of owning the mountains and the prairies -- and for those buckaroos in the Land Report income bracket, this pub is briefcase reading. The rest can marvel at the stunning landscapes and join the 87 million Americans who traveled to rural locations in the last three years to fish, climb and kayak. Nature is a demanding mistress. I'd be content just to sit and stare at the Glade Greek Grist Mill in West Virginia, part of the "Autumn Medley" pictorials.

Why should the rich have all the fun?


MAG STATS

Published by: Land Report, LLC
Frequency: Monthly
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