Wyoming Sells Land Within Park to Feds
Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead announced the purchase and permanent protection of a 640-acre parcel of Wyoming School Trust Land located within Grand Teton National Park.
Ownership of the land was transferred to the National Park Service today and was made possible through a public-private partnership involving the Department of the Interior, Grand Teton National Park Foundation and National Park Foundation. The $46 million purchase price, half of which came through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, was split equally between the Department of the Interior and the non-federal partners.
“Today we’re celebrating the foresight and generosity of many partners who stepped forward to protect these incredible lands within Grand Teton National Park for future generations,” said Secretary Jewell. “This important area is no longer vulnerable to development, thanks to Governor Mead, the support of many donors through the National Park Foundation and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, and the highly successful Land and Water Conservation Fund.”
The property was one of two remaining tracts of school trust lands that were granted to Wyoming by the Federal Government upon statehood in 1890, and later included within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park when it was established by Congress in 1950.
“The Antelope Flats parcel sits within Grand Teton National Park. Its sale provides Wyoming a greater return on the land and allows the people of Wyoming and visitors from elsewhere greater opportunities to enjoy the wonders of the Park,” said Governor Mead. “I thank the donors, Secretary Jewell, the Wyoming Legislature, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the National Park Service for their efforts.”
The lands acquired today by the National Park Service are integral to the park and are highly valued for their scenic and resource values, providing key habitat for wildlife such as elk, bison, pronghorn, moose, deer, grizzly bears, wolves, and sage grouse.
“This is a great victory for the park and all those who love it,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “The acquisition of Antelope Flats accomplishes a longstanding goal of the National Park Service by ensuring that this land will forever provide habitat for antelope, elk, moose, wolves, and grizzly bears as well as preserving the outstanding vistas of the Tetons for future visitors to enjoy.”
In 2015, Grand Teton National Park ranked among the top five National Parks in the nation in regards to economic output. Last year, visitors to the park spent an estimated $560 million in local gateway communities. The ripple effects of that spending had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of over $728 million and supported 8,862 jobs.
Wyoming has a constitutional obligation to earn income from its state school lands, even those within Grand Teton National Park, which left them vulnerable to sale at auction and potential commercial development. Under Wyoming state law, the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners was authorized to put the parcels up for public auction if they were not conveyed by December 31, 2016.
Efforts by the Department of the Interior to acquire the property have been ongoing for many years. Under the terms of an agreement reached in 2010 between the Department of the Interior and the State of Wyoming, the Federal Government purchased the 86-acre Snake River parcel in 2012.
With the Antelope Flats parcel acquisition now complete, the Kelly/Gros Ventre parcel is the last Wyoming school trust land remaining within Grand Teton National Park.