Representing an important step for Grand Teton National Park, its philanthropic partners, and the State of Wyoming, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead have announced an agreement to allow for the purchase and permanent protection of two State school land parcels located within the park.
“The agreement announced today is a true win-win for the State of Wyoming and for the National Park Service as it invests in the future of Wyoming’s school children and will protect in perpetuity these world-class natural treasures that belong to all Americans,” said Jewell. “I am not alone in the belief that commercial development of these lands is inconsistent with the natural values of the area, and we are absolutely committed to working with Congress and those who have generously stepped forward to ensure the long-term protection of important wildlife habitat and breathtaking vistas.”
Wyoming has a constitutional obligation to earn income from its state school lands, even those within Grand Teton National Park, leaving them vulnerable to potential commercial development. Under agreements previously reached in 2010 and 2014, the National Park Service had a deadline of January 5, 2016, to complete a land exchange with Wyoming for the Antelope Flats and Kelly parcels. Under Wyoming state law, the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners is authorized to put the parcels up for public, competitive auction if they are not conveyed by December 31, 2016.
The agreement signed by Secretary Jewell earlier this month paves the way for the permanent protection of these parcels by extending from January 5, 2016, to December 31, 2016, the ability of the National Park Service to purchase these lands using federal and private resources.
Under the agreement, Wyoming would receive $46 million, which was set by appraisal, for the 640-acre Antelope Flats land. The land acquisition is the Department of the Interior’s highest priority for the National Park Service, and the Department is working with Congress to appropriate the requested funding in Fiscal Year 2017 for the project. The Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the National Park Foundation committed to raising the remaining $23 million, and recently announced $5 million in private commitments toward that goal.
A total of $16 million in Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funding has previously been used to buy two of the four State in-holdings within Grand Teton National Park.
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