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Company: No ultimatum in dispute over Big Stone Co., Minn., rancher's lease

Clark Mastel was informed Friday that his lease on a 478-acre property will not be renewed. Submitted

ORTONVILLE -- It's a "blatant misrepresentation of the facts'' to claim that Strata Corporation is kicking Clark Mastel off the land he leases for his refusal to sign a letter presented to him by the company, according to Bill LaFond, project manager and author of the letter.

LaFond said Wednesday that the letter was presented to Mastel but that there was no ultimatum.

The letter required Mastel to state he made a serious mistake by opposing the quarry project and withdraw his opposition to it. Mastel told the Tribune he could not sign it. "So they had the landowner basically evict me,'' he said.

Strata Corporation of Grand Forks, N.D., has a long-term lease agreement with Gayle Hedge, the owner of the 478-acre property on which Mastel raises beef cattle. The company intends to develop a 104-acre quarry on the site, and obtained approval Tuesday for a conditional use permit for the project from Big Stone County.

LaFond said that Mastel's open opposition to the quarry project was a concern, and he raised it with the landowner. He said they agreed that if Mastel was to remain on the property long term, the hard feelings needed to be resolved and an agreement reached that laid the foundation for a productive working relationship.

Discussions among the three parties failed to resolve the differences. LaFond said he offered to go over the letter word by word or even draft a new version at one point.

Mastel responded to the letter from Strata with his own letter stating that he would refrain from further vocalizing his objections to the project, but would not take back previous statements or apologize, according to LaFond.

"I stated that if this was going to work out on a long term basis we needed to go far beyond just Clark (Mastel) agreeing to quit bad mouthing us in the future,'' LaFond said.

"I continued to point out that Strata had no interest in trying to humiliate him or trying to make him look bad, but that without stopping his continued opposition, fighting us every single day and every step of the way and without a pledge on his part to cooperate, how on earth could it ever work out in the long term?''

The project manager charged that the dispute over the letter is part of a campaign to discredit the company by opponents of the quarry project.

The letter can be viewed at

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335