Sweetwater County sees interest in Red Desert lands

GREEN RIVER — Buyers continue to show their interest in purchasing parcels of land in the Red Desert, despite the area being devoid of utilities or means to access properties. 

Jim Zimmerman, the code enforcement specialist for Sweetwater County’s Land Use Department, said he continues to receive a steady stream of calls from people looking at land listings online, as well as people who purchased land. 

The calls have gotten so common that Zimmerman’s first question to callers is the same. 

“I ask, did you already buy or are you looking to buy,” he said. 

Several land listings can be seen through various property sale websites and apps. Some listings advertise 80 acres of land for as little as $249 an acre. Others showcase stunning views of mountain ranges taken from the prairie. Descriptions refer to land parcels as being in the “Majestic Red Desert” and suggest possible uses as grazing land, a hunting camp, or an investment to hold on to. 

“The government can keep printing money but cannot make more land,” a description on Landwatch.com reads. 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in Red Desert land has grown, as have calls requesting information about the area to the Land Use Department. Zimmerman believes it’s due to people wanting to get away from the problems they’re having with urban life and build a home far from those problems, as well as people seeing an opportunity in cheap land.

However, the challenges related to developing lands in the Red Desert are numerous and very difficult to overcome. The lands are nearly impossible to reach without trespassing on lands owned by other people. Few roads service the area and construction to county specifications is costly in itself, without factoring in the cost of seeking easements from other land owners to cross their land. 

Some tracts are divided without consideration of the geography of the area, with some sections featuring severe slopes that would be impossible to build on. 

Beyond those considerations, utilities in the area are also nonexistent, with potential developers needing to find ways around not having access to electricity, natural gas, water or sewer services.

The county published a guide detailing the challenges to development for potential buyers of Red Desert property on its website, but that hasn’t curbed the number of people calling about large swaths of land available in the Southeast portion of Sweetwater County.