Winter 2023 Terra Firma Magazine

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WINTER 2023 • VOL. 77 NO. 1 • RLILAND.COM Building a Brand, a Ranch, a Life INSIDE THIS ISSUE WOTUS 101: A Primer and Timeline Open Fields Doctrine Lawsuit Challenges Government Land Searches 2023 National Land Conference Preview The Angler’s Angle: 3 Solid Steps to a Land Brand
Committed to the Success of Land, Ranch, and Recreational Property Professionals. Schedule a Walkthrough of our Advanced Land Toolset Today: LandBrokerMLS .com | 208.681.7709 The Co-op is Your Source for Everything Land.
Terra Firma Winter 2023 Edition REALTORS® Land Institute 430 North Michigan Avenue Chicago, Illinois 60611 1.800.441.5263 Publisher Aubrie Kobernus, mba, rce Chief Executive Officer Marketing Manager Kat Szymanski Design & Layout Halupka Studio • Cover Photo Jesse Brack / Unsplash Contributing Authors Zippy Duvall • President, American Farm Bureau Federation Amber Erickson-Hurdle Author, Speaker, Brand Expert Dan Murphy, alc • Broker/Coowner, M4 Ranch Group Russell Riggs NAR Government Affairs Liaison Josh Windham Attorney, Institute for Justice Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. Views expressed within the publication are not necessarily endorsed by the REALTORS® Land Institute and information should not be construed as recommendations for any course of action regarding financial, legal, or accounting matters. Copyright 2023. All rights reserved. Contents A Note from President Worrell 2 RLI News Briefs 6 2022 By The Numbers 7 In Memoriam: George Clift 9 Chapter News 10 ALC Achievers 14 2023 National Land Conference 16 LANDU® Education 26 2022 Education Survey Results 28 News & Views from Inside the Beltway 36 WOTUS 101 40 Farm Bill Renewal 42 My Land Story 48 22 The Angler’s Angle 44 32 Open Fields Doctrine A Day with Ray: A Hands-On Land Tutorial

A Note from the President

Dear Fellow Members,

I am beyond honored to write to you as National President of this great organization. The REALTORS® Land Institute has meant a great deal to me, and my career. I admittedly have big shoes to fill as we have been led for decades by a collection of great men and women in the industry.

While I would love to meet all of you, that unfortunately isn’t possible so I will use this first space to let you know what you should come to expect of me as President. While my wife and I own a family business in Central Illinois, I know that RLI has a variety of needs nationwide. You can count on me to be engaged and available to our great national staff, national board, committee chairs and local chapter leaders. The synergy of this organization has always amazed me, and I truly hope to expand on that.

We have a growing membership (over 2,000 at time of me writing this!) and with that comes the responsibility of needing to hear the thoughts of members quite literally from coast to coast. You can expect me to listen intently to these needs and work diligently with those who are able to assist. At the end of the day, you can be assured I will put my best into this great organization that has given me so much.

There is much to be excited about at RLI! In the year ahead we will continue to grow our brand, in the right ways with a strong moral compass and the integrity needed in this industry. Education has been and will continue to be an area of strength, which we will enhance and continue to improve upon.

We also have great chapters across the nation. My home RLI Illinois Chapter has become like an extended family to me. It’s a priority to ensure these chapters have the tools to thrive. I also am thrilled about the opportunities you’ll have to learn and connect at the National Land Conference in Denver. I hope to see you there March 5-8.

It’s with great excitement that I approach the upcoming year. RLI has long been known for its committed and engaged membership. I look forward to collaborating with members nationwide to continue that legacy. Great things are ahead of us!

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Meet the 2023 Executive Team

Luke Worrell, alc 2023 RLI President

Worrell Land Services, LLC Jacksonville, IL

Luke has been a member of RLI since 2009 and earned the prestigious ALC Designation in 2012. He has an extensive record of service to the organization, having served as Chair of both the Education and Budget and Finance committees, as Treasurer, and on the Board of Directors. Luke also has served as President of the RLI Illinois Chapter. Luke brings a wealth of industry and community leadership experience. Among his many accomplishments, he has twice served as President of the Jacksonville Area Association of REALTORS®; was 2021 Chair of the Illinois Farmland Values and Lease Trends Conference; and served a six-year term on the Morgan County Fair Board. Luke received RLI’s 2018 Rising Star Award, and the 2017 RLI ALC-to-ALC Networking Award for the largest ALC-to-ALC land transaction nationwide based on sales volume. He was a member of the APEX Producers Club in years 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Luke is the owner and managing broker of Worrell Land Services, Inc. in Jacksonville, IL.


M4 Ranch Group Lake City, CO

Dan joined RLI as a member in 2008 and earned the elite ALC designation in 2019. His record of service to RLI includes most recently Chair of the Education Committee, as well as serving on the Board of Directors. Dan is currently 2022 President of the RLI Colorado Chapter. In 2020, his Chapter awarded him the prestigious Colorado Land REALTOR® of the Year Award. Dan’s national RLI accolades include recipient of the APEX Top National Producer Award in 2017, Top Twenty National Producer Award in 2021, 2020 and 2017. He was a member of the APEX Top Producers Club in 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017 and received the 2017 National Broker of the Year Award in Recreational Land Sales. Dan is Broker/Co-owner of M4 Ranch Group.

Sam Bowers, alc 2023 President-Elect

Bowers and Burns Real Estate Company Newnan, GA

Sam is a long-time member of RLI and earned the elite ALC Designation in 2002. He brings a wealth of industry and community leadership experience to his role. Among numerous accolades in both residential and land real estate, Sam was named 2003 Georgia Land REALTOR® of the Year by the Georgia Chapter of RLI. He served as President of the Georgia chapter in 2017 and as its Treasurer in 2021. At the national level, Sam has served on RLI’s Budget and Finance and Governmental Affairs committees and on the National Land Conference Task Force. He was a member of the APEX Producers Club in 2021. Sam is a President of Bowers and Burns Real Estate in Newnan, GA.

Dean Saunders, alc, ccim 2023 RLI Immediate Past President

SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler Lakeland, FL

Dean has been a member of RLI since 1998 and earned the elite ALC Designation in 2001. His extensive record of service to RLI includes Chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee, member of the ALC Designation Committee, and on the Board of Directors. He has also served as the President of the RLI Florida Chapter and continues to be an active chapter member. As part of the RLI APEX Awards Program, he was an APEX Top Twenty Producer in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, he was the Top National Producer in 2018, 2020 and 2021 and was the 2021 National Broker of the Year in Recreational Land Sales. He has also been recognized as the Florida REALTOR® of the Year by the RLI Florida Chapter and earned #1 Sales Professional annual recognition in the Coldwell Banker Commercial affiliate network five times. Dean is the founder and managing director of SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler in Lakeland, FL. As Immediate Past President, Dean seeks to continue focus on enhancing RLI’s core strengths, offering exceptional education, and providing top-notch networking opportunities to land professionals.

Follow RLI on Social Stay on top of the latest updates: new blog posts, industry updates, partner offers and more.

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Luke Worrell, alc

RLI President

2023 Board of Directors STAFF

Worrell Land Services, Inc. Jacksonville, IL

Dan Murphy, alc

RLI Vice President

M4 Ranch Group, LLC Lake City, CO

Thomas Krajewski, alc Treasurer

National Land Realty Knoxville, TN

Joel King, alc

At-Large Director (2023–2024) Peoples Company Jonesboro, AR

Billy Rollins, alc At-Large Director (2023–2024)

LSI Companies Fort Myers, FL

Mike Garrett, alc

At-Large Director (2022–2023)

Garrett Land Brokers Cartersville, GA




National Association of REALTORS®

500 New Jersey Avenue NW Washington D.C.

Sam Bowers, alc

RLI President-Elect

Bowers and Burns

Real Estate Company Newnan, GA

Dean Saunders, alc

RLI Immediate Past President

SVN | Saunders Ralston Danzler Lakeland, FL

Bob Turner, alc

NAR Executive Committee Representative

Southern Properties Cordova, TN

Stephen Davis Education Committee Chair

Keller Williams Bluegrass Lexington, KY

Trent Lister, alc

Future Leaders Committee Chair

PureWest Christie’s Bozeman, MT

Matt Davis, alc Government Affairs Committee Chair Cushman and Wakefield San Diego, CA

Norma Nisbet, alc

ALC Designation Committee Chair

Vista Properties and Investments St. Louis, MO


Aubrie Kobernus, mba, rce REALTORS® Land Institute

430 N Michigan Ave Chicago, IL

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Meet the Staff


Kobernus, mba, rce Chief Executive Officer

312.329.8837 •

Aubrie is responsible for the overall management of the Institute. This includes working together with the Board of Directors to develop the vision, goals, objectives, and related policies for RLI. Within that framework, Kobernus organizes and directs the staff, programs, financial performance, and activities. She is designated by the National Association of REALTORS® as a REALTOR® Certified Executive (RCE). Members may contact her if they have any questions or concerns. Aubrie has been with RLI since March 2016.

Gerry Berish, cae Chapter & Membership Relations Manager

312.329.8519 •

Gerry manages the relationships between RLI National and its chapter organizations as well as serves as the main point of contact for RLI members. Members may contact him with general inquiries about RLI and member benefits or about starting or joining an RLI chapter. RLI chapter leaders and administrators are encouraged to use Gerry as their main point of contact at RLI National with any inquiries related to managing or developing their chapter and its programs. He is also the main point of contact for members working toward earning the elite ALC Designation. Gerry has been with RLI since September 2019.

Karen Calarco

Manager of Operations

312.329.8287 •

Karen handles, manages, and controls expenditures within the set budget as well as member records. Members may contact her for assistance changing their information, paying dues, and answering financial inquiries about their account. Karen has been with RLI since September 2007.

Melissa Lutz

Programming & Events Manager

312.329.8574 •

Melissa Lutz (rhymes with roots) is responsible for the overall programming and coordination of RLI’s meetings and events, including our largest annual event, the National Land Conference. Her role also works in conjunction with our Communications and Education Managers, overseeing topics and programming for RLI communications, managing the member affinity program and webinar program, and serving as staff liaison to the Future Leaders Committee. Melissa has been with RLI since October 2021.

Amanda Morrone, mshc Education Manager

312.329.8441 •

As the Education Manager, Amanda manages all matters pertaining to RLI’s LANDU® Education Program. She is responsible for scheduling courses and managing instructor relationships. She also serves as the staff liaison for the Education Committee. Members may contact her with any questions about the LANDU® Education Program. Amanda has been with RLI since February 2019.

Kat Szymanski Marketing Manager

312.329.8353 •

As Marketing Manager, Kat is responsible for all areas related to communications and marketing for the organization. She oversees the website, digital and print marketing materials, and manages the organization’s brand as well as press and social media campaigns. She also serves as the staff liaison for the Government Affairs Committee. Members may contact her with articles for publication on the RLI blog, advertising or an article contribution for Terra Firma magazine, member or Chapter news regarding awards or accomplishments, or with questions about RLI logo use policy. Kat has been with RLI since July 2022.

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RLI News Briefs

2023 RLI Leaders Inaugurated in Orlando

At NAR’s 2022 NXT: The REALTOR® Experience, November 11-13 in Orlando, RLI leaders and members met to discuss key landindustry topics and officially inaugurated the Institute’s 2023 officers. Thanks to all who attended our events and represented RLI and the land industry well at NAR Annual.

New Website and Database Makes Member Transactions Easier

The improved database and website launched in May 2022, continues to help members complete association transactions in a faster, simpler way. This includes an improved process for renewing your 2023 RLI National and Chapter membership.

If you haven’t renewed for 2023, simply login to your member dashboard by going to the Login link at the top left of the screen. Once you log in, go to Member Resources on the top menu, then select Member Dashboard. You can conveniently pay by credit card and retrieve your invoices within the dashboard.

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From left to right: Sam Bowers, ALC, 2023 President-Elect; Billy Rollins, ALC, 2023 Director At Large; Luke Worrell, ALC, 2023 President; Aubrie Kobernus, CEO; Dean Saunders, ALC, 2023 Immediate Past President.
NEWS BRIEFS 7 Terra Firma 2,040 RLI members 409 new RLI members 1,350 LANDU® students (a 63% increase from 2021) RLI by the Numbers As of November 30, 2022 36 partners (sponsors) for the 2022 National Land Conference 434 attendees at the 2022 National Land Conference 617 total ALCs 36 new Accredited Land Consultants (ALCs) AL C AL C

Land Connections Gives RLI

Member Listings More Exposure

Members have a new marketing tool to increase public views of their property listings. In September 2022, in partnership with Land Broker Co-op, RLI launched the Land Connections property search feature. Members receive free listings as a member benefit.

The search site has easy map functionality, filtered search options, and robust listing displays with photos and aerial maps.

Since the launch, over 341 searches have been initiated on RLI’s Land Connections resulting in 17,050 property impressions. Property searches are happening coast to coast for properties ranging from multi-milliondollar vineyards to hunting and ranch land. Here’s a look at what people are looking for on Land Connections.

TOP 5 STATES SEARCHED ON LAND CONNECTIONS 1. Texas 2. Iowa 3. Wyoming 4. South Carolina 5. Pennsylvania TOP PROPERTIES SEARCHED ON LAND CONNECTIONS • RANKED BY MOST POPULAR SEARCH SCAN TO VIEW PROPERTY LISTINGS ON LAND CONNECTIONS Land-Connections Great Oaks Vineyard • $14,950,000 2450 Calzada Ave, Santa Barbara, CA 1 Spur Ranch $12,835,300 • Sedan, KS 2 81+/-ac. Unrestricted Property w/ Views $299,000 • Pikeville, TN 3 Deep Run Mill Rd $175,000 • Goldvein, VA 5 521 Ernest Phann Lane $449,000 • Gainesboro, TN 4 8 Terra Firma 1 2 3 4 5

Land Education Foundation Updates

The REALTORS® Land Institute’s Land Education Foundation (LEF) provides financial scholarship grants to land professionals who seek assistance in obtaining a land-based education, including the pursuit of the elite ALC designation through RLI’s LANDU® Education Program.

In 2022, LEF granted $9,925 in scholarship money to help 19 students with their land education, including one member who is part of RLI’s Military Transition Program.



Klayton Costanzo

Corrin Dial

Dennis Hankins

Sylvia Vidaurri

Cassandra Vickers

Tyler Woody



Scholarships of up to $535 per person are available to RLI members. If you or someone you know might be interested, please download and complete the full scholarship application at


Fred Helper, ALC • Chair

Johnny Mc Allister, ALC • Vice-Chair

A. Lloyd Thomas, ALC • Secretary/Treasurer

Minor Taylor, ALC • Immediate Past Chair

Randy Hertz, ALC | Caleb McDow, ALC | Flo Sayre, ALC

Tom Smith, ALC | Bob Turner, ALC | Chuck Wingert, ALC

Aubrie Kobernus, MBA, RCE • CEO

In Memoriam: George Clift, alc

2014 RLI National President

Most everyone can count their very closest friends on one hand. George Clift’s name was counted as “close friend” on many, many hands. I know this because I had the privilege of hearing about and seeing many of his unselfish acts and contributions to others over the years.

George's family would like to thank all who donated to the Land Education Foundation in memory of George Clift. Donations can still be made online at Land-EducationFoundation

Though George’s life on this earth was much shorter than we all would have liked (or expected), I think he got more “living” out of his days here than anyone I know. George had two speeds–“On” / ”Off”. Mostly “On”, his boundless energy was most always directed outward to meet someone new or mentor or help someone in need–family member, friend, work associate, acquaintance, or maybe someone he’d just met on the street. Those who knew him no doubt, remember and miss his special qualities–“lived” his beliefs, family values, confidence. He was a family man, sounding board, mentor, always available, never judgmental, always positive, treated everyone as an equal, and always willing to give more than he asked for.

George is one of the primary reasons I am in the agriculture management and real estate business today. He and I started Legacy Ag Group, LLC as partners in 2003. In the years since, we’ve been involved in a variety of real estate transactions covering a wide geography–mostly documented by a “handshake”. I think I speak for many when I say, “George, you’ve not been gone long, but we sure miss you”.

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Chapter News



The RLI Colorado Chapter held a successful Ranch tour in beautiful Steamboat Springs in June. There were sixty attendees throughout the two-day tour. Thanks to the sponsors and to all those that attended.

The Chapter’s September Marketing and Education class held in Grand Junction was well attended. Election of Officers for 2023 took place. Bill Davis, ALC will be the 2023 President of the Chapter. Congratulations Bill and to the others elected to serve!

Congratulations to Chapter member, Dan Murphy, ALC, who was elected as 2023 Vice President for National REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI).

The January 2023 meeting will take place on January 19 and 20 at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 3203 Quebec Street, Denver. Check the Chapter’s website for information regarding hotel room reservations, Thursday’s marketing and Friday’s education sessions and register to attend.



The RLI GA Chapter is in full swing with live LANDU® courses and scheduled networking events at the end of 2022 and into 2023. The RLI Georgia Chapter presented multiple LANDU® courses in 2022. The following courses are scheduled for 2023: Land 101: Fundamentals of Land Brokerage (2nd quarter 2023) and Transitional Land (3rd quarter 2023). Locations TBA. GA Chapter RLI LANDU® courses will be posted on the GA Chapter website

The GA Chapter hosted the Southeastern RLI Chapters Conference in Helen, GA. The 2-day conference offered a basics course on Land Assets focused on the southeastern region the first day, and a panel of speakers providing insight from legislative issues to industrial land needs on the second day. Multiple networking opportunities were scheduled throughout the 2-day multistate event.


RLI Illinois Chapter held their annual meeting in September at Baxter’s Grille in Bloomington, IL. During the annual meeting, the chapter members enjoyed dinner and networking with fellow land professionals. The annual meeting is also when new officers are sworn in, and the Land Broker of the Year Award is presented.

This year’s Land Broker of the Year was John Leezer, ALC. John is currently serving on the board as our most recent Past President. Chapter members provide nominations for this award annually.

In December, RLI Illinois Chapter hosted their annual Managing Brokers Course in Sherman, IL. The event was in person this year! The group was excited to welcome Norm Willoughby back to teach. The course provdied CE credits for 2023.

Iowa •

The RLI Iowa Chapter held a successful Ethics Update class with the Iowa Association of REALTORS® on September 28. The Chapter also held its annual leadership installation and welcomed a new leadership team consisting of President, David Whitaker, ALC, President-Elect, Rachelle Heller, ALC, and Vice President, Otto Nobis.

The RLI Iowa Chapter held Land Investment Analysis class earlier this month in Nevada, IA. Their annual ASFMRA/RLI Joint Spring Seminar and Annual Dinner will be held on March 29, in Ankeny, IA. More information on RLI Iowa and future education offerings can be found on their website.


The RLI Missouri Chapter has been busy in 2022. Through the support of generous sponsors, the Chapter held its second LANDU® course on August 10 and 11, Agricultural Land Brokerage & Marketing, with participants from multiple states in attendance.

The Chapter held a Build Your Business Session August 9 with Joe Alley, Missouri State Forrester, talking to the group about Timber Management. The Chapter was fortunate to have another session on October 11 with Aubrie Kobernus, RLI CEO, and Gerry Berish, RLI Member and Chapter Relations Manager, talking to the group about how RLI membership and your ALC designation can set you apart in a shifting market.

Listing/Buyer Marketing sessions were held in June, September and November.

The RLI Missouri Chapter also held their Annual Meeting and dinner on September 8 with guest speakers from Farm Credit Services, and a program update from USDA/FSA.

The Missouri Chapter is excited, and honored, with the Chapter growth in 2022 and is looking forward to additional engagement and growth in 2023.

RLI Colorado members at Ranch and Land Tour in June 2022. RLI Colorado Chapter RLI Iowa Chapter Leadership Team, Otto Nobis, Rachelle Heller, ALC, David Whitaker, ALC, Andrew Zellmer, and Traci Schermerhorn. RLI Iowa Chapter
RLI Missouri Chapter
RLI Missouri Chapter hosts Agricultural Land Brokerage & Marketing course.
RLI Illinois Chapter 10 Terra Firma
John Leezer, ALC receives the RLI Illinois Chapter Land Broker of the Year Award from Ray Brownfield, ALC.

Oklahoma •

In September, the Chapter hosted another successful LANDU® class. The Real Estate Mapping Technologies and Techniques course was instructed by the CEO and founder of MapRight, Steve Roberson. The Oklahoma Real Estate Academy graciously provided their Tulsa office to our group for the venue. Students gained a great understanding of navigational instruments that are available to them and built on skills they need to effectively locate and market tracts of land. As always, learning the course material wasn’t the only thing going on during these two days. There were lots of laughs shared, friendships built upon, and networking between the land specialists that were present. Thank you to the sponsors for this event: FirsTitle, Regent Bank, American Heritage Bank, Oklahoma AgCredit, and Modern Abstract & Title.

The Chapter has flourished during 2022 successfully hosting five events, welcoming over 100 attendees from across 6 states, and gaining 20 new members!

Pacific Northwest

The RLI Pacific Northwest Chapter has made great strides this past year. The new Chapter Administrator kept the Chapter on track with monthly Zoom meetings, helped to host a Chapter-wide meeting on Zoom, and brought the members all together with classes.

Land 101 was hosted in April in Coeur D Alene, Idaho, with Joel King as instructor. Storms prevented Joel from getting out of Dallas to arrive on location, so last-minute modifications and hustling made a Zoom meeting possible for the class. (Thank you, Amanda, for making this work!) The class had 27 students and most stayed on the extra day for the Marketing Sessions.

The Recreational Land course was held in Redmond, Oregon, the last week of September with Raborn Taylor as instructor. There were 28 attendees. The Chapter hosted an off-site dinner and social followed by a Cowboy Auction at the home of one of the members. Yes, it felt like it was in an African Safari! Wonderful food, friends and best of all, it was great to get to know others in a social setting instead of the professional world. Several new people may join RLI as a result of this course and the student interactions. As one said, “I had no idea there was so much knowledge in this room! I am overwhelmed by the knowledge and the graciousness of the RLI members to help me market my properties!”

The members ARE some of the Best of the Best in the business!

Tennessee •

The RLI Tennessee Chapter has had a very busy fall season! The chapter hosted three classes in Knoxville, Memphis, and Chattanooga. Recreational Land with Raborn Taylor, ALC, CCIM; Site Selection with Ben Crosby, ALC, CCIM; and Subdivision Land Development with Bobby Mink. Each class was well attended, and there was even a small handful of individuals who managed to make it to all 4 Tennessee Chapter 2022 classes! The chapter would like to give a very special thank you to their title sponsor Todd Henon Properties. Todd Henon, ALC is not only a sponsor but has also been on the Chapter Board of Directors for 4 years.

Upper Midwest

The RLI Upper Midwest Chapter is now composed of members in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The chapter offered two national RLI courses: Recreational Land Real Estate (March 2022) and Transitional Land Real Estate (July 2022).

Both courses were approved for 16 hours of CE in MN, ND, and SD. Both courses had great instructors: Joel King and Justin Osborn, respectively.

The July course preceded the Chapter’s annual conference which included an additional 3.75 hours of CE. The course and conference were held at Running Aces/ Grandstay Hotel. The welcome reception Sunday evening included fantastic food from Donatelli’s and harness racing. Talking and betting were as fast and furious as the horses! Great fun; great course; great conference that included networking, a marketing session, CE, delicious lunches, and afternoon treats from Donatelli’s, additional Dutch treat meal Monday evening at Mallards. Attendees included RLI members from MN, ND, SD, TX, OR, IL, CO, and Iowa.

The Chapter’s board is now working on plans for 2023! Time flies when everyone is having fun.



The RLI Wyoming Chapter hosted a ranch tour of the River Ranch and the Warm River Ranch in Riverton & Dubois, Wyoming on July 28-29 of this year. A spring ranch tour for May or June is in the works so watch for announcements - nominations are always welcome. The Chapter is also planning new education options for 2023 including a Land 101 course. Most importantly, the Chapter has also added a new AE, Venus Escallier. Welcome to the team!

RLI Oklahoma Chapter hosts Real Estate Mapping Technologies and Techniques course. RLI Oklahoma Chapter RLI Upper Midwest Chapter enjoying harness racing. RLI Upper Midwest Chapter RLI Pacific Northwest Chapter member hosts Chapter members at their home for an off-site dinner and Cowboy Auction. RLI Pacific Northwest Chapter
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that are part of the APEX Awards are neighborhood players, building and bringing communities together. I feel very fortunate to be an active participant in RLI and The Land Report’s APEX Awards since its inception; winning the National Top Producer one year to ‘thank you for playing’ the next year. No matter what our individual

“Support shown by The Land Report for RLI through the years has been tremendous! Sponsoring the APEX Awards is a perfect example of the strategic alliance between two extremely important partners for land

and appreciate the hard work and stunning accomplishments of what are considered ‘True Land Professionals.’

Set your goals, define your markets, encourage success, make an impact, and be a part of APEX ”

— Dan Murphy, ALC, M4 Ranch Group

professionals. The Land Report continues to be ambitious and create both value and insight for every land professional in the business.”

— Dan Ward, ALC, Legendary Land Co.

Where Landowners Get Their News provides breaking news, priceless information, and unique insight into America’s land for existing and potential landowners and investors. profiles dedicated landowners, identifies investment opportunities, explains ways to improve and conserve land, provides legislation updates, and highlights the best gear, equipment and services for landowners.


Browse the Land Report Portfolio –Premier properties curated by the Land Report editors:

• Ranchland

• Farmland

• Sporting Properties

• Timberland

• Estates


Breaking news and the important topics and opportunities facing landowners including:

• Conservation Funding

• Record Land Sales

• Upcoming Land Auctions • Market Analysis

• Legislation and Judicial Decisions Affecting Landowners


Over 21,000 subscribers receive our top headlines directly in their inbox - Do you?


The Land Report archive features 17 years that highlight the leading landowners, prominent landmarks, and the Land Report 100, an annual ranking of America’s largest landowners.


Congratulations to Our New Accredited Land Consultants! ALC

ccredited Land Consultants (ALCs) are the most experienced, most accomplished and highest-performing land real estate experts in the nation. Conferred exclusively by the REALTORS® Land Institute, and the only land-specific designation backed by the National Association of REALTORS®, the ALC is the gold standard of achievement in the land sales profession.

The individuals highlighted below completed their ALC designations from June 2022 to November 2022.

Craig Baronio, alc Whitetail Properties Real Estate, LLC Milesburg, PA

Zebulun Griffin, alc

SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler Lakeland, FL

Adam Knewtson, alc Hertz Farm Management, Inc. Janesville, MN

Shana Morgan, alc C3 Real Estate Solutions Greeley, CO

James Cassels, alc National Land Realty McAlester, OK

JC Hearn, alc HomeLand Properties Inc. Huntsville, TX

Sean Maloy, alc Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms Realty Leesburg, NC

Chad Pangle, alc Whitetail Properties Real Estate Strasburg, VA

Tyler Davis, alc

SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler Lakeland, FL

Ron Kirby, alc United Country/ Heartland Realty & Auction, LLC Bowling Green, KY

Doug Moore, alc Moore Real Estate, Inc. Lillington, NC

Brent Pennington, alc

JPAR Real Estate Gunter, TX

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4 Steps to Become a Prestigious Accredited Land Consultant

Complete the Education Requirements

Applicants must complete six LANDU® courses, for a total of 104 contact hours, which are divided into three categories. Once the education requirements are met, applicants must pass a comprehensive exam which covers the three required courses.

Meet the Volume Production Requirements for Land Sales

Applicants must complete a minimum of $10M in land transactions within the five years before their application, or complete 25 separate land transactions. A transaction is considered a land transaction if the value of the land, including improvements that are agricultural in nature, account for at least 51% of the total sale of the transaction. Agricultural improvements include, but are not limited to, barns, livestock operations, equine facilities, etc.

Compile a Portfolio

Applicants must compile a portfolio documenting the completion of the education, experience and volume requirements.

Submit the Application

Applicants must submit their portfolio to the REALTORS® Land Institute Designation Committee and Board of Directors for final review and approval.


Ready to start your path to becoming an Accredited Land Consultant?

Visit for more information.

Brent Reneau, alc

Whitetail Properties Real Estate Pittsfield, IL

Joseph Sangimino, alc

Whitetail Properties Real Estate Kalispell, MT

Tobias (Toby) Stutzman, alc

United Country Stutzman Realty & Auction LLC

Ulysses, KS

Bruce Renfrew, alc

California Outdoor Properties Vacaville, CA

Trent Saunders, alc SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler Lakeland, FL

Cody Weeks, alc

37 North Realty Group

West Plains, MO

J.W. Ross, alc

United CountryAltaTerra Realty and Auction LLC Paris, TX

Doug Sidell, alc

Helen Adams Realty Cornelius, NC

Dan Whitney, alc

The Land Source Mission, KS

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MARCH 5-8, 2023

The Westin in Westminster, CO

Just 15 minutes outside of Denver!

Enjoy majestic views of the Rockies while you connect face-to-face with the best in the land business. NLC is the ultimate destination for land brokers and agents who want to collaborate, exchange knowledge, and make deals. If you’re serious about being in the land business, NLC23 is the premier event for you.

Get the full schedule at

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NLC23 Event Highlights

First Time Attendees/New Member Welcome Reception

• Sunday, March 5 • 4:30-5:30 p.m. MT

We are excited to welcome our NLC First Time Attendees and newest RLI Members to the National Land Conference. You don’t want to miss this fun and engaging opening reception! Hosted by the Future Leaders Committee and RLI Leadership. Join us to meet other first-time attendees and new RLI members, get your specific questions answered and get a better understanding of how to make the most of your first NLC!

Welcome Reception

• Sunday, March 5 • 5:30-7:00 p.m. MT

Make new connections and meet up with friends while you enjoy cocktails and appetizers. The Welcome Reception is our official kick-off to NLC23 and will be held at the at the Westminster Westin.

Let’s Make Deal$ • Monday, March 6 • 2:30 to 5:00 pm MT

Have a tough property to sell? Have a buyer looking for a unique piece of land? Let's Make Deal$ is the place to make deals happen! Pitch your property and see properties presented by your fellow land professionals.

The RLI Colorado Chapter is excited to host the event and help attendees close even more deals this year! They say their proven process for successful deals comes down to three things: simple presentation formats that bullet-point key details, moderators who are experienced brokers in the property type they are presenting, and post-presentation conversations. Submit a property in January 2023 and let Colorado RLI help you make a deal.

Howdy Partner Happy Hour

• Monday, March 6 • 5:00 to 6:00 pm MT

Join us in the Expo Hall for appetizers and drinks at the Howdy Partner Happy Hour where you can mix and mingle with fellow attendees and our 2023 RLI Partners. It’s a chance to thank them for making NLC possible, and to showcase trending land technologies and services that can help you run a more profitable business.

Cowboy Auction • Monday, March 6 • 6:00 to 7:15 pm MT

Get ready to pony up and lasso in some great items at this year's Cowboy Auction sponsored by United Country Real Estate! This fun filled event in the Westin Ballroom will be brimming with energy and laughter. Place your bid on exclusive items like hunting trips, autographed memorabilia, vacation packages, and unique items. Auctioneers are sure to drive excitement and bids throughout the event.

Donated items are what make this auction a success. All auction proceeds benefit the Land Education Foundation (LEF) which provides financial scholarship grants for assistance in land-based education opportunities, including the pursuit of the elite ALC Designation through RLl's LANDU® Education Program. To donate an item, contact Amanda Morrone at

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RLI APEX Production Awards Dinner


MARCH 7, 6-8:30 P.M. MT

Recognizing Industry Excellence

This elegant evening is a highlight of the National Land Conference as we recognize the highest performing land professionals in the country for their accomplishments. Those who apply to the APEX Awards Program will have their ticket included in their application fee and do not need to purchase an additional ticket. Anyone who is not personally applying to the program and wishes to attend the dinner must purchase their own dinner ticket.


Applications Are Now Open. Top APEX award winners receive special recognition in nationwide publications in addition to being recognized at NLC. The REALTORS® Land Institute and The Land Report partner to ensure you receive maximum exposure for this prestigious award. For details, visit

Sponsored by The Land Report
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This Year’s NLC Speakers

Get ready for a wealth of insights, ideas and expertise from our top-tier lineup of guest speakers who will share their secrets to success on a wide range of timely industry topics.

More speakers will be announced soon. For more details, visit



Amber Erickson-Hurdle

Author, Speaker, Brand Expert

Topic: Positioning Your Land Brand for Success in a PostPandemic World



Dr. Lawrence Yun Chief Economist, National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

Topic: Recession or Not in 2023? What does it mean for real estate, both commercial and residential and most importantly for the land market?


Chris Baumann CashRent

Topic: Land Leases: A Turnkey Profit for Landowners and Agents

Dave Conroy NAR’s Director of Emerging Technology

Topic: Are Land Agents Crypto Ready?

Kendall Burgemeister, Law of the Rockies Dave Linsmeyer, Southwest Consulting Joe Michaletz and Mike O'Toole, Discipline Advisors Kasey Mock, Mock Ranches - Campfire Chat

Kevin McCarty McCarty Land & Water Valuation, Inc

Topic: The Impact of Location and Market Conditions on the Valuation of Conservation Easements

Platinum Gold Thank you to our 2023 Partners Thank you to our attendees, partners and speakers who make this event a huge success!
Russell Riggs,
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Kaiser, LandGate |
Director, NAR / RLI Legislative Liaison
Renew your Membership Dues can be paid by logging in at and paying the open invoice on your account. Thank you for continuing to be a valued member of the REALTORS® Land Institute. Stay competitive, connected, and confident. Keep your RLI membership benefits—including Terra Firma magazine—by renewing your annual dues. 20 Terra Firma


OVER THE YEARS, I'VE FISHED A LOT. I skipped 37 days of my junior year in high school to go fishing. Yep, the attendance principal loved me. So, while I'm no Bassmaster Angler of the Year, I've learned a thing or two about fishing over the years. Here is what I learned in high school alone:

• When I wanted to catch catfish, I left chicken livers out all night, or perhaps shad I had previously caught, to get them good and stinky. Then I traversed through a cow pasture to get to murky creek water, preferably after a decent rain.

• If I wanted to catch bass, I carefully selected my lures, set my alarm for the middle of the night, and went to the large pond where I liked to go night fishing because I found more fish at 3 a.m. than I did during the day.

• If I wanted to catch a red snapper, I took a boat ride out to the ocean's deeper waters, used squid as bait, and kept a steady stance in rough waters while praying the wind would cooperate.

• I would never anticipate catching a snapper in a creek with chicken liver. So, just like I had to know what type of fish I wanted to catch, what kind of bait I needed to catch them, and what body of water they were swimming in, you must be clear on who your ideal customers are, what it takes to "lure" them in as customers, as well as where they are hanging out.

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What Type of Fish Are You Trying to Catch?

Let's start the process by understanding what type of "fish" you are trying to catch by developing your ideal customer profile. This process is not a guessing game. There are tangible, actionable ways to clarify this for your brand.

First, select your five favorite customers you enjoy working with, who spend a lot of money with you, refer you to their friends, and maybe even do repeat business with you. Then, identify what they have in common. Next, explain from a big-picture view who your ideal customers are collectively and what motivates them. Where do they live? What is their annual household income? What inspires them? What do they believe about life? What turns them off? What do they value? Go as deep as you can to explore the characteristics that are consistent across all of your favorite customers.

Louise Ainsworth with Kantar, a worldwide data analytics and brand consulting firm, says, "Having timely insight into how people are thinking, feeling, and behaving has never been more critical. Consumer markets are incredibly volatile right now, with people's habits and lifestyles being reshaped by record levels of inflation, lingering pandemic trends, and anxiety too about the shifting economic situation and war in Ukraine."

If you don't know what is driving your ideal customer's behavior, how can you understand what to grab from the ol' tackle box to get them to bite?

“...just like I had to know what type of fish I wanted to catch, what kind of bait I needed to catch them, and what body of water they were swimming in, you must be clear on who your ideal customers are, what it takes to “lure” them in as customers, as well as where they are hanging out.”

What Type of Lure Do You Need?

Once you establish identifying characteristics, go even deeper. Clarify what generation they belong to so you can understand what communication channels, cultural references, and tone to use. This enables you to understand what motivates your ideal customer versus what irritates them. You gain insight into how to emotionally connect with them based on their known life experiences and values.

Study other brands your ideal customer follows. It’s a fun hack that gives you instant access to visual elements, sales copy, social media strategy, campaign examples, and more that your ideal customer will likely respond to favorably.

For example, let’s say your ideal customer is a man who is no longer paying for college but has yet to start paying for weddings and grandchildren. So, he can finally spend a little money on his dreams, which include purchasing recreational property to hunt, fish, and play on with his adult children and their families one day.

Based on this information, we can assume that he is an older Gen Xer, so we know he likely grew up a latchkey kid, was among the first generation to experience divorce at scale, watched the Challenger blow up on national television, saw Enron deceive the country, and is a part of the MTV generation. Based on his life experiences, he now believes that the only person looking out for him is himself. Gen X is skeptical.

He often carries a Yeti product, which emphasizes the value of being "built for the wild," long-lasting quality, and celebrating hard work. (Just quickly scroll through their Instagram feed for proof.)

Now we know what lures to use. Emotionally driven by family and the outdoors, he makes decisions logically and responsibly. He values hard work and things that last. He needs social proof like testimonials, awards, proof of niche experience, and the like to offer his trust.

See? Even with just that limited information, you can leverage that data to inform your brand strategy that impacts your marketing materials, your call to action on your sales page, your copy, content, social media marketing, and even the tone and energy of your showings.

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In What Waters Do You Need to Fish?

Now that we know your ideal customer and what objective and subjective motivations influence their purchasing decisions, we need to find out where to market to them or "fish" for them.

Based on the information gathered from your research, we can start to look for where your ideal customer hangs out online, what podcasts or traditional media they consume, what organizations or associations they belong to, what conferences or local events they attend, and more.

This exercise is critical when creating your omnichannel marketing strategy and allocating marketing and advertising spend. These top-of-funnel decisions are crucial to pulling through your consistent brand messaging until you earn their trust to become your customer. Consumers are no longer willing to swim over to your waters. Instead, they want to engage with brands on their terms in their worlds. Brands that lean into meeting their prospects where they are also offer a better customer experience overall.

To be clear, Walmart and Rolex do not advertise in the same outlets. They are certainly not fishing for the same type of fish, so they won't be fishing in the same waters! So be equally clear on where you need to fish, too.

What Gets Measured Gets Done… and Improved Upon

Raise your hand if you roll your eyes when a youth sports league doesn't keep score. Are you annoyed because it lacks the competitive spirit for which sports are fundamentally known? Or does it ultimately come down to the fact that if you are not keeping score, you don't know if you are winning?

With that in mind, please be equally annoyed whenever you fail to update the scoreboard attached to your marketing strategy. Decide on the KPIs you will measure to determine what success looks like in your marketing and sales efforts. While this can get fancy and complex, start with what you can and will measure. Keep it simple. Examples include: sales growth, number of leads generated, lifetime value (LTV) of a customer, cost of customer acquisition (COCA), website or landing page conversion rate (meaning what did it cost you to "lure" a customer from their social media channel to your website to gain their email address or phone number), website traffic, social media reach and engagement, email marketing delivery, open and click through rates, and beyond.

Just like you would count the number of fish you ended up putting on ice or weigh your trophy fish, measuring your success will help you further refine the process of selecting the best lures and the best bodies of water that work for "catching" your ideal customers.

It also is essential to understand what needs fixing. If you are not getting desired results, cut bait, review these three steps, drop your specific lures in a different body of water and try again.

Understanding what works for your brand and your ideal customer takes time and testing. Tracking helps you make informed decisions and turns your losses into lessons that move you forward and increase your marketing ROI.

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Fishing Should Be Fun

Some people prefer the lazy day experience of throwing out a line for a catfish in a small stream, then patiently waiting for a bite. Others like the active and more complicated experience of trout fishing in a quickly moving river. Now your firm can find what type of "fishing" experience comes with ease and fun for you. And just like many hire a guide when the fishing experience gets a little more complicated, remember you can also outsource things like SEO, social media, or even the entire marketing process, so long as you know who you are fishing for. The one thing you can never outsource, though, is your vision, nor can you allow any outside vendor to ignore your culture that ultimately impacts your customer experience.

So, grab your fishing pole, decide what type of fish you want to catch, select the lures you want to try to catch them with, and then go to the body of water they are swimming in. Measure what works and what does not, and then keep refining your strategy until you are fishing like the pros!

Amber Erickson-Hurdle is recognized among the top 10 branding professionals in the world, according to Global Gurus. She teaches the combined value of business brands, personal brands, and employer brands to increase market share and profitability, reduce turnover, and amplify satisfaction among customers and employees alike.

Amber will bring her passion for branding to the 2023 National Land Conference as our Opening Keynote Speaker. Register to join us for Amber’s talk and more March 5–8 in Denver, CO:

“Consumers are no longer willing to swim over to your waters. Instead, they want to engage with brands on their terms in their worlds.”
1. Identify your ideal catch or customer 2. Understand what will lure them in (what they value) 3. Find out where to market to your customers 4. Determine what success looks like and measure 5. If needed, refine your strategy RECAP
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The author in her element.

LANDU® Education Reaches 63% More Professionals in 2022

Awell-trained and informed force of land brokers and agents means a more professional industry which results in better outcomes for the consumer.

In 2022, RLI National hosted 20 LANDU® virtual instructor-led training (VILT) courses and LANDU® Education Week in Greensboro, NC. The RLI Chapters hosted 28 LANDU® courses. Overall, the education outreach extended to over 1,350 students. That’s a 63% increase from 2021’s outreach of 850 students.

If you are interested in hosting a LANDU® course in your area for your chapter, please contact RLI Education Manager Amanda Morrone at or 312.329.8411 for more information.

New LANDU® Education Instructor

Congratulations to Jeramy Stephens, ALC for being approved as a new LANDU® instructor. He is now approved to teach the Transitional Land Real Estate Course and Land 101: Fundamentals of Land Brokerage course.

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Call for LANDU® Instructors

RLI is looking for instructors to teach Land Real Estate Site Selection and Transitional Land Real Estate courses in the virtual instructor-led training (VILT) format.

Be a part of the team that makes the best in the business the best in the business! RLI’s LANDU® Instructors embody the networking, camaraderie, and expertise that ensure our membership thrives. LANDU® Instructors are more than teachers, they are mentors, leaders, and experienced experts in their field looking to give back to the organization and the industry.

LANDU® Instructors are ambassadors for the REALTORS® Land Institute, LANDU® Education Program, and the overall land real estate industry. They are experts in their field, dedicating time and energy to help others become the best of the best.

“Being on the RLI faculty is a great opportunity to be seen as an industry expert, provides networking opportunities with other land agents, and offers me a chance to expand my knowledge base by interacting with program participants. I invite you to join us as I believe you, too, will share the same rewarding experiences.”

What it means to be a LANDU® instructor

“After seven years as an active RLI member, I saw the way my business thrived as a result of my professional connections with RLI contacts across the country. When I was asked to consider being an instructor, I immediately knew that it was a way for me to give back to both the organization and my peers. It is fun and enjoyable being be in front of students who choose to be there.”

We Want YOU to Be a LANDU® Instructor!

LANDU® Education Week Coming to Fort Worth, Texas in June 2023

LANDU® Education Week offers land professionals the opportunity to network with their peers and greatly enhance their expertise by taking all six courses needed to earn the Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation in one place, at one time. The event will be held at the Greater Fort Worth Association of REALTORS® June 1–9.

Last year’s LANDU® Education Week sold out within a few days. If you want to be sure to have a spot, sign up quickly once registration details are released in Spring 2023.

Are you ready to become a LANDU® Instructor?

Eligibility application criteria to serve as an instructor has been established as meeting the following general minimum requirements:

1. Be an active land or commercial real estate agent who currently holds the ALC Designation or another NAR Commercial affiliate designation as a member in good standing of their respective organization; OR be considered a subject matter expert on a particular topic who is involved with land or commercial real estate in some professional capacity (i.e. technology, lawyer, accountant, construction, developer, etc.) but does not hold an active real estate license.

2. Have experience in instructing or lecturing adult professionals, whether at a college, a professional program, or as a panel member or speaker at a symposium, seminar, lecture, or convention.

3. Be proficient in the use of technological presentation tools such as webinar platforms (Zoom) and Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel, Word, etc.

Have questions or want to learn more? Interested applicants may contact Amanda Morrone, Education Manager, at or (312) 329-8441 with questions or complete the LANDU® instructor interest form online to receive more information.

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education truly separates us from the pack and that to me is what it’s all about.”

Results of the 2022 Education Survey are in!

This fall, RLI conducted a survey on LANDU® Education to measure the value and delivery of the LANDU® course’s content and assess our member’s educational needs. We sent the survey to members who attended courses (virtual, LANDU® Education Week, RLI Chapters) between 2020-2022.

128 members responded.

The results will help us focus on the areas of improvement within our next phase of course updates. Also, thank you to the RLI Education Committee for their input on the survey questions and time contacting past students to complete the survey. Here are key things LANDU® students told us about their education experience.

We asked for feedback to get better—you delivered.
“I would highly recommend the LANDU® Courses to anyone wanting to increase their knowledge and business.”
“By comparison to classes offered by the local Realtor associations I think the RLI classes are superior.”
you for helping us get better at what we do for our clients.” “[It gives you] a greater understanding of the diversity of properties and how to look at a parcel to see future value for higher and better uses.” 46% A WHOLE LOT 32% MOST 15% SOME 7% NOT MUCH How Much of the Course Content is Applicable to Daily Work? 34% RLI STATE CHAPTER (in-person) 27% LANDU EDUCATION WEEK (in-person) 34% VILT - Virtual Instructor Led Training 5% INDEPENDENT STUDY What Were Your Preferred Course Formats? TOP TAKEAWAYS FROM ATTENDEES 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 Land 101: Fundamentals of Real Estate Land Investment Analysis Transitional Land Real Estate Agricultural Land Brokerage & Marketing Recreational Land Real Estate Land Real Estate Site Selection Subdivision Development Tax Deferred 1031 Exchanges Timberland Real Estate Real Estate Mapping Technologies & Techniques Valuation and Transactions of Energy and Environmental Assets RESPONSES Most Popular Courses

“The Land Investment Analysis course is the best preparation for real estate investing and brokering with practical application of investing, yield rates, and site investigations.”

“Both Land 101 and Subdivision Development broadened my knowledge in the Land Sales field. Very few details about land sales are discussed in the general real estate coursework required for agents.”

“The mapping systems that were offered have greatly benefitted my business. Being able to outline and find property details in an instant truly gives me an upper hand out in the field.”

“Learning the detailed steps involved in having land subdivided, and the multiple entities involved, is invaluable knowledge for any agent desiring to market land.”

0 20 40 60 80 100 RESPONSES Agriculture Appraisals Auctions Commercial Transitional Farm Management Ranch Recreation Residential Timber Broker Management Investor/Developer
LANDU Students by Specialty

A Day with Ray A Hands-On Land Tutorial

Awarm fall day, blue skies dotted with an occasional cloud, acres of corn and soybeans ready for harvest, shiny silos and white-washed farmhouses breaking up the horizon. It gave us an instant idyllic impression of life on an American farm. Our day touring Illinois farmland with long-time RLI member and 2012 RLI National President, Ray Brownfield, ALC was about much more.

In October, Ray invited the six of us on RLI’s staff to “tour the land,” an invitation we all quickly accepted. The goal was to literally walk where our members do every day — on the land — to get a richer understanding of what it takes to list and sell property, specifically farmland. So, the six of us piled into trucks with Ray and his colleague Jason Lestina, ALC and set out to explore rural northeastern Illinois.

Cropland Listing 101

The day began with on-location training on the complicated process of listing cropland. Ray chose a property that while recently sold, had been on the market for nearly a year. A novice glimpse across the fields left us curious. Flat farmland is good, right?

Ray, as a seasoned pro, knew immediately that drainage issues were going to be a primary problem in moving the property. The need for improvements to the tillable acreage was further complicated by an owner who overestimated the value of his land when first deciding to list. A variety of factors determine the price of a farm: soil ratings, topography, drainage, tillable acreage, production history, water rights, structures on the property, area comps. The seller was fortunate to have the guidance of an Accredited Land Consultant like Ray with years of experience in lands sales as well as ag financing and farming.

After months of improvements to raise the land quality, including an expensive project to install drainage tile, the owner hit a stroke of luck: A high-performing, high-demand farmland market met with his revised and more realistic price expectations. A buyer was found, and the farm was sold.

On the combine from left to right: John Hildenbrand, Ray Brownfield, Amanda Morrone, Gerry Berish, Melissa Lutz, Karen Calarco, Rob Warmbir, Kat Szymanski, Jason Lestina, and Aubrie Kobernus at top.
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Pictured: Gerry Berish, Karen Calarco, Melissa Lutz, Kat Szymanski, Cade Feke, Amanda Morrone, Ray Brownfield, and Jason Lestina.

“The day we all spent together was almost perfect and was an excellent opportunity for everyone to gain some knowledge of the highly technological facets of farming in the Midwest and the costs to do so. Fortunately, it was not a rainy day and it was a chance to hold this show and tell meeting on my family farm where I was born and raised, and show everyone the 1942 Farmall tractor I learned to drive when nine years old. Now an antique just like me.”

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To Market

Our next stop took us to Blair Grain where local harvests are aggregated in towering grain silos, much of it ultimately destined for Asia as feed. Our guide, Cade Feke, got us up to speed on the vernacular of yield, crop moisture, FDA and USDA inspections, commodity futures, pricing.

It was a quick tutorial in all that goes into getting a crop successfully to market. There’s a lot to consider. In fact, our guide recently completed a college degree in agriculture. Today’s professionals need expertise in biology, conservation, chemistry, economics, marketing, and business.

Long before a crop gets to market, farmers try to account for the cost of production, yield expectations, risk tolerance, the ideal moisture for crop storage, and the timing of delivery to get the best prices for their products. Making it in agriculture today takes a sophisticated understanding of not only how to successfully grow crops, but the marketing plan necessary to sustain a profitable business.

Harvest Day on Ray’s Centennial Farm

Our final stop was what we’d all been anticipating since Ray’s invitation—an afternoon on his family farm.

The Hapenney-Brownfield Farm, located near Thawville, Illinois, is recognized by the Illinois Department of Agriculture as a Centennial Farm, a property with over 100 years of family ownership. It’s an honor shared by several farms neighboring Ray’s. The pride Ray feels for his family’s legacy is apparent both in his warm welcome to guests, as well as his care for the land. It’s a beautifully maintained property with pristine white fencing, well-cared for barns, thriving acres of corn and soybeans, a tidy farmhouse, and even a restored cherry-red 1940s era McCormick Farmall tractor.

While the day was partly about being together and enjoying the land, it wasn’t long before our theoretical lesson in agriculture became hands-on. For years, Ray has partnered with neighbors John and Marcia Hildenbrand to manage the crops on his land. Our visit was perfectly timed for the corn harvest and John was more than willing to continue our crop education while each of us rode with him in the harvesting combine.

If you’ve never been on a combine (none of our staff had), it can be intimidating. First, there’s the size. This one was nearly 30ft tall. It’s several steps up until you make it to the spacious cab (which probably could have fit all 6 of us). Then there’s its power and complexity. A typical combine has almost 17,000 parts, that’s about 11,000 more than an average car*. The headers, cutters, augers, conveyors, blades and more do several jobs at once: they reap/cut, thresh, separate, and clean the grain in one process. Finally, there’s the expense. Modern day combines can range from $300K to $600K or more. It’s a significant investment for anyone that wants entry into crop farming.

By the end of the day, John had Aubrie driving the combine herself (we were farming pros at this point). Once Aubrie’s “yield” and the rest of the day’s harvest were moved from combine to grain truck then finally loaded onto a semi-trailer, the product was off to the local grain storage facility.

While our perfect autumn day was filled with adventure, smiles, and laughs, we knew daily physical labor and a high level of expertise goes into running a successful farm. The process of buying and selling farmland is equally complex.

Ray gave us a gift as he let us explore the land and experience the joys of farm life for a day. We came with open minds, ready to learn more about what RLI members do every day. We left with both a better understanding of the challenges of land brokerage, and the nuances of the agriculture business. And, most of all, we walked away with a renewed appreciation for the hard work that is the cornerstone of the quintessential American farm.


Kat Szymanski serves as RLI’s Marketing Manager. She joined RLI in July 2022. Ray Brownfield walks the RLI staff through a farm listing on the listed property.
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Pictured: Ray Brownfield, Melissa Lutz, Karen Calarco, Amanda Morrone, Gerry Berish, Aubrie Kobernus.
Rural Housing, Financial Crimes, Conservation & More 36 Terra Firma

The REALTORS® Land Institute continues to serve as The Voice of Land for its members and the land real estate industry, and this is especially important for several issues in Washington, DC, as 2022 comes to a close. RLI has access to NAR’s team of lobbyists, researchers, and legislative/ regulatory analysts who are tracking legislative and regulatory developments and influence issues of critical importance to our industry.


The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed in 2022 originally included nearly a dozen tax increase provisions which would have had a major negative impact on real estate and/or NAR members had they been enacted. NAR’s advocacy was successful in removing these by educating Members of Congress on the unhealthy economic consequences of these proposals. The proposed changes, which were all left out of the final bill, included limitations on 1031 like-kind exchanges; increases in the top capital gains tax rate; a proposal to tax capital gains at death; taxation of carried interests as ordinary income; an expansion of the 3.8% net investment income tax; limits to the 20% qualified business income deduction and increases to the estate tax.

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NAR’s Advocacy was successful in educating Congress on the negative impacts on real estate of over a dozen proposed tax increase provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Rural Housing

The FY 2022 Omnibus bill provided $30 billion in loan authority for the Single-Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, including $1.25 billion in direct single-family housing loans to provide home loan assistance to low-income rural families. Rural Development housing programs provide affordable housing to over 130,000 rural homeowners and more than 250,000 rental units.

Financial Crimes

The FY 2022 Omnibus bill provided $161 million for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to boost efforts to combat terrorist financing and money laundering. It also included $195 million for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence to protect the integrity of the financial system. NAR is working with FinCEN to discuss the impact of money laundering and financial crimes within the real estate sector, and submitted a comment in response to a regulatory notice regarding anti-money laundering regulations in real estate.

Conservation Incentives

The Inflation Reduction Act provided financial and technical assistance for private landowners to maintain and improve existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities, such as $1.3 billion for conservation and technical assistance through the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Flood Insurance

The NFIP avoided lapsing through multiple extensions in 2022, ensuring that 40,000 home sales per month continued to close on time. The FY 2022 Omnibus bill included significant funding for communities to respond to and mitigate the impacts of future disasters along with $276 million for flood-mapping.


The FY 2022 Omnibus bill included more than $550 million to expand rural broadband services, which will support highquality broadband infrastructure across multiple U.S. states, territories, and tribal lands.

Rent Control

NAR’s policy opposes rent control, and the national organization supports its state and local associations through grants and programs to assist them in campaign efforts on this issue across the nation. In 2022, with NAR’s support and an Issues Mobilization Grant from NAR, the Ohio REALTORS® successfully passed legislation that prohibits local governments across the state from capping or setting residential rental rates.

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$ 5.4 Billion in Land Sold $ 3.3 Billion in Ranch Sales $ 5 Billion in Recreational Sales LEARN MORE ABOUT AMERICA’S LEADER IN LAND SALES 816.255.9551 | | In a changing market, work with the company that has over 95 years of excellence and expertise as the nation’s leader of land sales. United Country’s industry-leading team of real estate specialists and auctioneers provide unparalleled marketing and resources. *2021 Companywide Sales MORE LAND WE SELL $ 8 Billion in Farms Sold

WOTUS 101:

A Primer and Timeline of the “Waters of the U.S.”



The question of which waters are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act (CWA) has confused permittees, property owners, states, federal agencies, and courts since the 1972 amendment to the CWA first gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) authority to regulate “navigable” waters. “Navigable” waters are further defined in the statute as “the waters of the United States,” or WOTUS. But the statute does not specifically define WOTUS, instead giving EPA and the Corps the responsibility to develop this definition through a rulemaking process.



Over several decades, the Agencies have sought to steadily expand the definition of “waters of the United States” through regulations and guidance documents. The Supreme Court has had to intervene twice to curb the Agencies’ overreach and reinforce the limits that Congress placed on their regulatory authority under the CWA.

A central tenet of the CWA is cooperative federalism – the federal government and states must work together. Any waters not regulated by the federal government are regulated by the states and local municipalities. On multiple occasions, the Supreme Court has said that both the CWA and U.S. Constitution limits the federal government’s role over the use of public and private land near bodies of water.

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In 2015, under the Obama Administration, EPA and the Corps finalized a new rule that defined WOTUS broadly to include nearly all waters on the landscape, and even areas that ordinarily are dry land. This rule was immediately halted due to numerous legal and technical questions and never went into effect in much of the country. Numerous courts also deemed the rule unlawful.



When President Trump came into office, one of his first Executive Orders was to rescind the Obama regulation and direct the EPA and the USACE to develop a new WOTUS definition. In response, the agencies worked to revise the definition of WOTUS in a way that was both easily understood by permittees on the ground and legally defensible. After extensive public comment periods and stakeholder input, the agencies published and finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) in 2020.

The NWPR was a more streamlined rule that provided landowners, farmers, and small businesses the clarity they need to operate with confidence and comply with the CWA. It included four clear categories of jurisdictional waters. The NWPR regulated the nation’s navigable waters and the core tributary systems that provide perennial or intermittent flow into them. The rule took effect nationwide and regulated stakeholders relied on and implemented the definitions and terms since mid-2020.

2020 to Today

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION In 2020, President Biden was elected and undertook a similar process as President Trump to rescind the NWPR and move forward with a proposed WOTUS definitional rule of his own. This rule was announced on Dec. 30, 2022 and will be final once it is published in the Federal Register.

In contrast with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (“NWPR”), which provided WAC members long-overdue certainty in describing what features are or are not WOTUS, President Biden’s WOTUS Rule codifies a return to unpredictable case-by-case determinations of jurisdiction by agency staff, thereby subjecting WAC members and landowners nationwide to considerable confusion about what features on their lands may be jurisdictional. This confusion deprives regulated stakeholders of what the CWA requires and makes it impossible for the private sector to make informed decisions about the operation, logistics, and finances of their businesses.

Stakeholders have consistently urged the Agencies to define “waters of the United States” in a way that: gives appropriate weight to the explicit statutory policy to recognize, preserve, and protect the States’ traditional and primary authority over land and water use; adheres to the full Supreme Court precedent on the definition of WOTUS under the CWA; gives effect to the term “navigable” in the statutory text; draws clear lines between federal and state or tribal jurisdiction so

that regulators and regulated entities can easily identify what features are subject to federal CWA jurisdiction; and accounts for science, but recognizes that the statutory text ultimately dictates jurisdiction.

With this latest rulemaking the Agencies are back to their old ways of testing the outer limits of their authority. It is important for small businesses, farmers and regulators to have a consistent, clear regulation — complex rules create uncertainty and confusion which disproportionately affect small businesses because they have less resources to assist them with compliance. Complex rules also needlessly hinder efforts to improve infrastructure resilience, property development and job growth. Maintaining a workable WOTUS definition is vital for continued economic growth in the U.S., while protecting water resources. Maintaining that balance is all the more important during this time of economic recovery.

Riggs is RLI’s Advocacy Liaison for the National Association of REALTORS® and Director of Environmental and Sustainability Policy for NAR. He holds a bachelor’s in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University, a master’s in public policy from Tufts University, and a master’s in public administration from New York University.

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Farm Bill Renewal is Critical to Nation’s Food Supply, Nutrition, and Rural Communities

One piece of legislation has had as profound an impact on America as thousands of other bills combined, yet few people are familiar with it. I’m referring to the farm bill, which ensures a safe and abundant food supply, helps feed the hungry, invigorates rural communities and helps farmers take care of the environment. We could more accurately call it a food and farm bill because whether you come from a rural community, a city or a suburb, this bill matters for you and your family.

For a long time, we have noticed a trend that fewer and fewer people understand the food system or have exposure to agriculture, but 2023 may present the biggest challenge yet. We’ll have fewer members of Congress who even represent rural districts, along with a huge class of new members. So, it is going to take everyone in agriculture stepping up to help new members and urban lawmakers understand the significance of the farm bill.

Farm Bill Meets Today’s Challenges

The farm bill has had a broad, visible impact across our country. Family farms have continued to feed and fuel our country from one generation to the next because of USDA’s numerous risk management tools and programs. More families can put dinner on the table thanks to nutrition assistance programs. Our natural resources are being enriched through voluntary conservation programs. Rural communities are getting back in the game thanks to broadband grants and new business loans authorized by the farm bill. Soon it will be time to refresh and renew this nearly 100-year-old law, and it’s just as relevant today thanks to how we have adapted and modernized this bill to keep up with agricultural innovation and the needs of the modern farmer and rancher.

Just as agriculture changes and adapts to meet the needs of the time, so does the farm bill. Every five years or so, Congress passes a new farm bill to meet the challenges of an ever-changing landscape and ensure that critical programs continue to work for farmers and ranchers, families on a budget, and rural communities working to stay competitive.

Priority Recommendations

At the American Farm Bureau, renewing the farm bill is our top priority, and we recently announced more than 60 recommendations for the 2023 bill. These priorities represent months of work and collaboration across our organization from our grassroots members, state Farm Bureau leaders and staff from across the country. The AFBF board of directors unanimously approved the priorities, and we’ll be looking to Farm Bureau delegates at the 104th American Farm Bureau Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in January to provide final direction in shaping our policy.

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Food Supply and National Security

Among our top priorities going into 2023 is ensuring appropriate farm bill funding. This funding is an investment for all Americans, and there’s no question as we look at recent global events from the pandemic to the war on Ukraine, that protecting our nation’s food supply is vital to our national security. Agriculture does not take this national investment lightly either. Farm bill programs are marketoriented, thanks to reforms we have achieved with lawmakers over the last decade. The proof is in the spending: The fact that the 2018 farm bill farm programs have paid out less than projected is evidence of the responsible approach taken.


Another priority for us is to maintain a unified farm bill, and that means keeping nutrition programs and farm programs together. Why is that so important? Because it makes the most sense for a single bill to support the people who produce the food and the people who need assistance to access safe and nutritious food for their families. Few people have not been touched by tough times in one form or another over the last couple years. From rising inflation to natural disasters, many need support to hang on for the next season. The farm bill is that lifeline for many Americans through the nutrition assistance programs and for farmers and ranchers through risk management programs that are really part of our national security strategy by helping to secure our food supply.

Risk Management

The importance of maintaining risk management tools in the farm bill cannot be overstated. Federal crop insurance and commodity programs are critical for farmers and ranchers. No one buys insurance for the good times, and when you buy that insurance, you truly hope that policy will remain safely tucked away. But when the storms come, federal risk management programs are sometimes all that stand between farms and foreclosure.

Innovation and the Environment

The farm bill is also critical as we work together to build a bright future for agriculture. The farm bill is the largest source of funding for critical research that our country needs to fuel the innovation that will help us feed a growing population while taking care of our natural resources. Application must go hand in hand with innovation and that requires strong technical support from USDA helping farmers apply new technologies. But we’ve seen a disheartening trend when it comes to staffing at USDA to fulfill its mission. That’s why the 2023 farm bill must ensure adequate USDA staffing and resources to provide technical assistance.

This is just a sampling of the priorities that will be driving our advocacy at Farm Bureau around the farm bill in the coming months. I invite you to learn more on our website at, where you can dive into all 60 of our recommendations and check out market impact analysis related to farm bill programs.

Above Politics

The farm bill is a win-win for America. Securing our food supply while ensuring food security. Both are fundamental to the health and security of our country. That’s the overarching message and how we’ll overcome the deep partisan divide in our country today. The farm bill has a long tradition of inspiring lawmakers to rise above politics to achieve a common goal. We urge the 118th Congress, when seated, to carry on that tradition.

It’s incumbent upon all of us in agriculture to make sure elected leaders understand just how consequential the food and farm bill is. We must get this 2023 farm bill right, and it will take all of us working together to ensure that our nation’s investment in our farms and food supply remains secure.

Zippy Duvall is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation and a third-generation farmer from Georgia. He and his son operate a beef cow herd, raise broiler chickens and grow their own hay, all while continuing to restore the farmland that has been in the family for more than 90 years.
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“The farm bill is a win-win for America. Securing our food supply while ensuring food security is fundamental to the health and security of our country.”

Lawsuit Challenges Open Fields Doctrine:

An interview with Institute for Justice Attorney Josh Windham

Should the government be allowed to search private land without a warrant?
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Arecent case in Tennessee has reopened a discussion on warrantless surveillance on private land. The case has prompted RLI and NAR to participate in an amicus brief on behalf of the landowners. RLI CEO, Aubrie Kobernus, interviews attorney Josh Windham to understand the issue and its impact on landowners.

What is the Open Fields Doctrine and how does it impact landowners?

Simply put, the Open Fields Doctrine says that private land gets zero protection from warrantless searches under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The only exception is the tiny ring of land around your home called the “curtilage.” Other than that tiny ring—which extends only a few hundred feet out from your home at most—private land is entirely unprotected from warrantless searches.

The Open Fields Doctrine dates back to a terrible U.S. Supreme Court decision called Hester v. United States (1924). The question in Hester was whether police violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered a private farm without a warrant to see if they could catch somebody selling alcohol during Prohibition. To jog your memory, the Fourth Amendment protects “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches.” Hester held that, because private land is not specifically listed in that language, it gets no protection.

By “no protection,” I mean no protection. You could put up No Trespassing signs, locked gates, and fencing. You could cultivate your land, farming every acre or neatly landscaping it. You could use the land for private purposes, like camping with family, going on walks with your kids, or spending time alone in nature. None of these things would matter. The Open Fields Doctrine would allow government officials to enter, to wander around as they pleased, and to spy on you to see if they can catch you doing something wrong. All without your consent or a warrant.

Why is the Institute for Justice (IJ) concerned about the Open Fields Doctrine?

At its core, the Open Fields Doctrine allows government officials to treat your private land like public property. That’s outrageous.

In a case called United States v. Dunn (1987), for example, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment did not apply when police went to a private farm, jumped over a perimeter fence, walked over a half-mile into the farm, jumped over another fence, and then shined a flashlight into a barn window—three nights in a row. In a more recent case, United States v. Vankesteren (2009), the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Fourth Amendment did not apply when officials installed a surveillance camera on a private farm, explaining that “just as one would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a national forest,” the farm owner had no right to expect privacy on his own land.

In a way, I think these cases speak for themselves. If government officials can trespass on your land, jump your fences and snoop around, and place surveillance cameras on your property to spy on you, what can’t they do?

Another way to think about this is that the whole point of having private property is that you get to say who enters and on what terms. It’s not open to the public—and that includes the government’s sneaking boots and prying eyes. The Open Fields Doctrine turns that idea on its head.

Some argue the Open Fields Doctrine is necessary to catch poachers and to protect wildlife. What do you think?

I think this argument conflates “necessary” with “easier.” It’s of course true that if you give the government unlimited power to invade private land, it will be easier to enforce wildlife laws (and all other laws). But the Fourth Amendment wasn’t adopted to make life easier to law enforcement officers. It was adopted to make us “secure” in our property. The Open Fields Doctrine makes that impossible.

I’ve heard some say that wildlife laws are special because people can violate them deep within private lands. I just don’t buy it. Consider: There are all sorts of laws that you can violate in the privacy of your home—making drugs, committing cybercrimes, etc. But nobody thinks police should be allowed to burst into people’s homes without a warrant just because those crimes are hard to detect. Instead, our legal system requires police to establish probable cause, get a warrant from a judge, and then enter the home through a constitutional process. It’s hard to see why we should treat private land any differently.

Moreover, as I mention below, several states have rejected the Open Fields Doctrine under their own state constitutions, and I’m not aware of any evidence that wildlife law enforcement is any less effective in these states that in the rest of the country. And that’s hardly surprising, because rejecting the Doctrine doesn’t mean officials can’t enforce wildlife laws on private land. It just means they must follow a constitutional process by either getting consent to enter or a warrant based on probable cause. That’s not too much to ask.

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Since the Open Fields Doctrine is a federal rule, does it always apply at the state level?

The short answer is that federal officials only have to follow the Fourth Amendment, but state officials also have to follow their own state constitutions, which can provide more protection for private land. The following states’ supreme courts have held that their state constitutions reject the Open Fields Doctrine: Mississippi, Montana, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Vermont. So, officials in these states must get consent or a warrant to enter private land. But federal officials can still rely on the Open Fields Doctrine—at least until the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Hester.

IJ recently helped landowners Terry Rainwaters and Hunter Hollingsworth secure a major constitutional victory over the Open Fields Doctrine in Tennessee. Tell us about that case and about the trial court’s decision.

Right! Terry Rainwaters and Hunters Hollingsworth own farms in rural Tennessee. Their properties are posted with No Trespassing signs and have locked gates at the entrances to keep out intruders. But for years, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers have entered their properties and conducted warrantless “patrols” to search for potential hunting violations. And, in 2017, the officers even installed cameras in their trees to spy on them.

We filed a lawsuit back in 2020 asking Tennessee courts to hold that these warrantless intrusions violated Article I, Section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution. That provision, unlike the Fourth Amendment, protects “possessions” from warrantless searches. Our argument is simple: You can “possess” land by using it or taking steps to mark it as private. So, it deserves constitutional protection.

Earlier this year, a special three-judge trial court panel agreed with us. It held that warrantless “patrols” of private, posted farmland violate Article I, Section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution, and that state wildlife officers therefore need to get consent or a warrant before they can snoop around for violations.

Tennessee has filed an appeal from the trial court’s decision. The REALTORS® Land Institute and the National Association of REALTORS® are filing an amicus brief in the Tennessee Court of Appeals to defend the landowners’ victory. Can you explain the stakes of this appeal and why it was important for RLI and NAR to get involved?

The stakes of the appeal are huge. The trial court’s decision was a major victory for property rights that protects millions of Tennessee landowners from abuse. The Court of Appeals’ decision could undermine these important protections. RLI and NAR are uniquely positioned to speak to the value of private land, how people use that land for private purposes, and why it’s dangerous for the government to have unfettered power to intrude on that land. We’re delighted to have RLI’s and NAR’s support in defending the trial court’s important decision.

What’s the best possible outcome of the Tennessee case?

The best immediate outcome is that the Court of Appeals affirms the trial court’s decision and continues to recognize that the Tennessee Constitution rejects the Open Fields Doctrine. We’re confident that the trial court got it right and we’re optimistic about our chances on appeal. Should we lose, though, the next best outcome would be an appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court and a decision from the state’s highest court rejecting the Open Fields Doctrine once and for all.

Is there anything else people should know about the issues we’ve discussed?

Just one more point. It’s easy see opponents of the Open Fields Doctrine as anti-law enforcement. But that’s not how I see it. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. So, if you think, as I do, that the Fourth Amendment really ought to protect private land, then it’s not a “pro-law enforcement” position to say that police should be able to invade private land without following the Constitution. Put another way, opposing the Open Fields Doctrine isn’t anti-law enforcement—it’s pro-Constitution.

Josh Windham is an attorney at the Institute for Justice, a national non-profit law firm that defends property rights, including the right to be free from warrantless searches. Josh currently represents landowners Terry Rainwaters and Hunter Hollingsworth in a lawsuit challenging Tennessee game wardens’ warrantless surveillance of their land. He also represents two private hunting clubs in a similar lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania game wardens’ warrantless surveillance of their land.

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Building a Ranch, a Brand, a Life

Iwas asked to write a story about our family ranch, family brand, and the history of how that came to be, and how the ranch and brand built a life and a thriving business throughout the west today. Being asked to write your family history is a real honor, and I had no idea until I started this tale.

As many of you know, building a family brand and growing that into a productive establishment in today's world is not an easy task. It takes history, generations of commitment, and dedication. It honestly takes great and real determination. Our story is quite different in some ways, and in others a very common tale. See, our story started a long, long way from the mountain valleys of the San Juans.

We have been blessed with having an addicted historian in our family, tracing our family lineage from Europe to New America. From the earliest settlers hitting the shores of the new world to today, our family has always had the drive to be a part of the western pilgrimage. Our family was awarded one of the very first land grants in the Republic of Texas. Texas is where this Colorado Story of the Starlight Mountain Ranch and M4 Ranch Group begins. The Texas part and its relation to what is NOW Colorado took shape in 1838. Many greats ago, my uncle Mirabeau B. Lamar became the second president of the Republic of Texas, inaugurated after Sam Houston on December 10, 1838. For M4 and the Murphy family, this is a bit of real pride. At that time, the northern boundaries of the Republic of Texas reach far north of current boundaries, including all of New Mexico and what is today's Western Colorado.

Mirabeau worked long and hard to keep the northern boundaries of the Republic of Texas. Over time and with accumulated debt, these boundaries became what is now Colorado and New Mexico. At M4 Ranch Group, this story is often repeated. It is not uncommon to hear, "we have been trying to help buy it back ever since".

Our family continued the drive west, eventually leading us to the alpine valleys of the Rocky Mountains. We found our home in one of the west’s highest valleys of the San Juans, nestled just south of Gunnison,

Colorado, on the banks of the Powderhorn Creek. The ranch sits in a mountain valley backed fenceline to fenceline with over 62,000 acres of what became the Powderhorn Wilderness Area. Here on Starlight Mountain Ranch was born the Rocking M4 Ranch brand. Named after the four family members, the brand was born in the depth of a Gunnison, Colorado winter. Here, where -25 degree nights are common, our history as Texas Cowboys transformed to Mountain Men.

In the decades that passed, the valleys have become a bit tighter, the neighbors a bit closer, the wildlife more plentiful, and the streams are as full of trout as they ever were. These legacy ranches have now become highly sought after, not only for the raw beauty, but for the lifestyle they still provide. The yesteryear ranches where families fought to eke out an existence while experiencing a wholesome life. Like so many others, our family eventually sold the ranch to the encroaching demand, the change in time. Older principal members needed a simpler life where those -25 degree nights were spent with more time by the fire than out feeding livestock.

While our family ranch has remained a special place, now under a conservation easement protecting this natural asset for other families, we have passed on the legacy of the family brand for generations. The ranch brand lives on still today, still seen on the belts of rodeo participants and on the hind quarter or front shoulder of well-bred livestock. The M4 Ranch brand is still a part of the mountain west. To this day, grandfathers hand down a handmade Rocking M4 belt buckle to grandsons on their 18th birthday.

While ranches and families change, people age and grow in new directions, the legacy of the western lifestyle, that drive to be a part of the mountain west, lives on. M4 Ranch Group grew into a spectacular place representing and selling some of the finest ranches in the west. At M4 Ranch Group, our ranching and outfitting history has led us to a new position in the west. That dedicated history is growing into a new opportunity, an opportunity to serve those searching for the passion and pride the west has to offer.

Our story is like so many families; their generational history from West Texas to the Northern plains of Montana is one of tenacity, a spirit of commitment and dedication carried on for generations.

That hard-fought, proud western heritage lives on generationally, creating some of America's greatest assets.

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