You’ll recall the hullabaloo caused by the raid on Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, which precipitated the arrest and conviction of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs on charges of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault. Women in long prairie-style pastel dresses with whole hoards of children and babies were loaded on buses by child welfare officials after reports of underage marriages came through.
While the 2008 raid and investigation cast a spotlight on the YFZ Ranch and the small West Texas town just south of San Angelo, it did more to uncover the foreign lifestyle the fundamentalist Mormon followers had on the 1,600-acre property, including the several log homes surrounding the 3-story temple on the compound, which housed many families (some of which were allegedly polygamist, though that is yet to be confirmed). It also cast a glaring light on the shortcomings of the state child protective services, but that’s a whole different subject entirely.
Still, we’ll have to see what will actually happen to the ranch, as some YFZ residents (a pilot who frequently flies over the site estimates between 10 and 80 followers still remain) have made efforts to pay the ranch’s lofty outstanding tax bills.
What we’re wondering is, if the state is successful in its attempts to seize the ranch, what will it become? I think it would be an interesting investment for anyone who wants to start a camp or commune, maybe even a self-sustaining farm. One thing is for sure: Thanks to the shale gas and domestic drilling boom, there’s a shortage of available housing in West Texas, and these units could be an interesting addition to the mix. Texas Monthly writer Katy Vine has a few ideas:
After the property has been vacated, law enforcement will begin taking inventory and the compound will be sold. This raises the question, Who will buy it? Oil-field companies needing housing? A group needing a religious retreat facility? Some in town have imagined a boy’s home or some other nonprofit purchasing the land—situations that would prove problematic for the local school district, which has grown to depend on the ranch’s taxes for 5 to 10 percent of its budget. A few, noting the original watchtower and the community-living structures, have even proposed a minimum-security prison. That would be one way to circumvent a marketing challenge.