CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming ranch land values increased by 4.7 percent in 2012 with an average price of $450 per acre, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The average price for ranch land was $429 in 2011.
However, the state's prices are the lowest in the Mountain West region because of a lack of fertile crop land, said Steven Gunn, section leader of the USDA's National Agriculture Statistic Service in Denver.
Idaho leads the region with an average value of $1,210, even though it fell 8 percent between 2011 and 2012. South Dakota's skyrocketed 25.5 percent to $590 per acre and Nebraska's shot up 24.5 percent to $660 in that time period. Colorado and Utah saw no increase in their values. Montana rose 7.5 percent to $570 per acre.
Land with the potential to develop energy drives up prices in Wyoming, Gunn tells the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/19kz0lR ).
Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said agricultural value means very little to the price of land parcels in Wyoming.
"If the land were being graded on its agricultural value, the prices wouldn't be rising," Magagna said.
Scenic views and proximity to wilderness areas also helps drive land values up, Gunn said.
In the past few years there's been a rebound in the land market in parts of Wyoming, said Eric Loloff, owner of Running Horse Realty in Powell. People are buying because Wyoming has a friendly tax environment, a relatively stable state budget and its residents love their freedom, he said.
Loloff said he recently sold land in Powell for between $3,000 and $6,000 an acre.
"The Realtors I talk to are having a hard time keeping anything on the market," he said.
The high demand for scenic land makes it hard for people in the ranching and farming industry to purchase parcels that receive moisture throughout the year, said Bill Bensel, a rancher and organizer with the Powder River Basin Resource Council.
Land is selling for $7,000 to $9,000 per acre in the northeast part of the state, he said.
"It's virtually impossible for people to start getting into ranching unless they have the assets, their family passes it down or they marry into it," Bensel said.
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com