Rancher loses lease after he refused to give up opposition to quarry plan
ORTONVILLE -- A rancher who voiced opposition to plans by the Strata Corporation to develop a quarry in Big Stone County will not have the lease renewed for the land where he grazes his cattle.
Clark Mastel said he was informed Friday that his lease on a 478-acre property will not be renewed on June 1 after he refused to sign a letter presented to him by the company.
Strata Corporation of Grand Forks, N.D., intends to develop a quarry on a portion of the site.
The letter he was asked to sign states that he made a "serious mistake'' by opposing the project and that he withdraws his opposition. It also states that the company offered to work with him so that he could continue to graze the land he rents and that he apologizes for any problems he may have caused.
Mastel said he told Strata project manager Bill LaFond that he could not change what he said or how he feels about the proposed quarry. He also said the company never contacted him or offered to work with him.
"So they had the landowner basically evict me,'' said Mastel when reached while feeding his cattle on Tuesday.
Mastel said landowner Gayle Hedge told him he was letting his pride get in the way.
Mastel has lived on the site since 1977. He and his wife have raised a son and daughter there, and built up a beef cattle operation to 800-head today.
He is currently looking for new land to lease, but is concerned that he could be forced to sell his cattle and equipment.
"We built up a sizeable operation here and we're out on our ears, so to speak,'' he said.
"We have to pull up our boots and move on, I guess, and see what we can come up with.''
Mastel said the landowner agreed to his request for two months to vacate the property.
Mastel said he has no regrets. The letter had nothing in it assuring him that he would be able to keep his lease anyway, he said.
"Having them give me the ultimatum and the way they did it, they wanted me to grovel to them and beg so we could stay.'
"I never thought that being proud and standing up for what you believe is wrong, and I never will,'' said Mastel.
The letter Mastel refused to sign can be viewed at wctrib.com