CLARK, Wyo. - Stewart Allen Bost had a dream, he told his drug ring buddies while smuggling more than three tons of cocaine into south Florida in 1986. He wanted to own a ranch in Wyoming.
So after retiring from the drug trade,
he bought a secluded riverfront spread here, then guarded it and
his privacy zealously for years. He even blocked a public road
across the ranch.
But that reclusive strategy
finally drew attention and ultimately led to his arrest last
summer. Now Bost's dream - about to be confiscated by Uncle Sam -
may be a dream come true for fans of the
"It is rather amusing the way he got
caught," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Clark. "But it
seems rather fitting that part of the benefit to society is access
to that piece of country."
Everyone knows drug
busts usually lead to prison terms and fines. But often the more
longstanding and practical payoffs come in the form of land and
other assets the government can seize if they were purchased with
illegal drug proceeds.
"More often than not the
forfeited property goes to auction, but we also look for ways to
bring it back into the community in a positive way, so it can do
some good," said James Herzog of the U.S. Marshal's
Federal drug laws allow the government
to confiscate the assets of drug runners mainly as a tool to
recover a sliver of the billions of tax dollars expended in the
so-called war on drugs. But assets typically turn out to be boats,
airplanes, guns, cars or opulent housing of little direct use to
Fortunately for hunters, river
rafters and wildlife-watchers in Wyoming, Bost had different
tastes. In 1988, he paid $1.3 million for the Beartooth Ranch - 657
acres fronting the Clark Fork of the Yellowstone River. The Clark
Fork is a blue-ribbon trout fishery that hosts bald and golden
eagles, peregrine falcons and ospreys. Moose, deer and elk are
Bost immediately deeded the ranch to
Allen Stewart, an alias, and enjoyed his solitude downstream from
Yellowstone National Park. A year later, in 1989, he was indicted
by a Florida grand jury on drug charges, but authorities couldn't
find him. Bost's exposure came when he closed a public thoroughfare
by fencing a road where a 1960s easement fell short. Signs pointing
the way to nearby public fishing holes went missing. An outhouse at
a public parking lot disappeared. Soon land managers keeping watch
over nearby federal acreage found the public portion of the road
through Bost's ranch gated and padlocked.
seeing this kind of thing more and more as people who are not used
to the idea of public land buy some acres and want everything to
themselves," said Ron McKnight, a fisheries supervisor with the
Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "In that way, this case wasn't
all that unusual."
This time, there was a way to
undo it. Bost's penchant for fences and his applications for
federal grazing permits under two different names had aroused the
suspicions of a BLM ranger, David Stimson, who learned the
reclusive rancher was a wanted man.
finally arrested last summer in Wyoming and in December was
sentenced to six years in prison, of which he will probably serve
four, and fined $250,000. Now the feds are about to become owner of
Bost's condominiums in Aspen, Colo., and his lots in the Florida
Keys. And the Beartooth Ranch.
General Janet Reno will ultimately decide whether the government
will auction the ranch, as it does with most seized assets, or
instead maintain it for the public. Federal ownership could open a
new recreation corridor that might absorb some of the visitors now
overwhelming nearby Yellowstone Park.
federal officials do unload the prime property, though, they
promise to first ensure more sweeping public access for hikers,
construct a public boat ramp and give fishermen the permanent right
to follow the river clear through the ranch. Local land managers
and the Nature Conservancy are working out the
"We had someone who was locking the
public out," fishing supervisor McKnight said. "Now we're in a
position to make sure the public always has access there. It
wouldn't have been possible any other way."
Meanwhile, the coffee-shop talk has it that
Bost, who always paid cash for everything, buried a lot of it on
the Beartooth Ranch. He's reported to have bought PVC pipe with
more end caps than an ordinary rancher could ever
writes in Cody, Wyoming.