From Staff Reports
The National Park Service announced last week that it has purchased the second of four parcels of Wyoming school trust lands within Grand Teton National Park, paying $16 million for 86 acres.
The Snake River Parcel was bought with funds made available from congressional appropriations in fiscal years 2011-13, according to a statement released by the agency.
As fund become available, the Park Service plans to buy two additional parcels of land within the park that are still owned by Wyoming
“This second purchase makes a significant step toward ensuring that state-owned lands within the park’s boundary become entirely part of Grand Teton National Park,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
When Wyoming became a state in 1890, the federal government granted the state numerous sections of land to be held in trust to be used for its public schools. Approximately 1,366 acres of school trust lands were subsequently included within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park when the park was enlarged to its present-day size in 1950.
The state of Wyoming also held title to 40 acres of subsurface mineral rights within the park. Because of their location inside Grand Teton, the state could not fully realize the economic value of these lands, as required by its constitution.
State and federal officials have spent years working toward a deal that would see the state lands sold to the federal government.
“I am pleased that we reached this stage in exchanging all of the state parcels inside Grand Teton National Park. The best outcome for all involved is for this land to be part of the national park,” said Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.
“I appreciate the work of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Director Jon Jarvis in finalizing this second sale, and I look forward to working with them to complete the final transactions,” Mead said.
Terms for the purchase of state school lands within Grand Teton National Park were set forth in a 2010 agreement between the Department of the Interior and the state of Wyoming. This agreement specified the order in which state parcels would be acquired, and the timeframes for doing so. In April 2011, the first purchase was made with the State receiving $2,000 for a 40-acre parcel of subsurface mineral rights.
Under the terms of the 2010 agreement, the next transaction will include the Antelope Flats Parcel, a 640-acre section appraised at $45 million. The deadline for its acquisition is January 5, 2014. With that purchase, the Park Service will retain a binding option to acquire the fourth and final parcel: 640 acres with an appraised value of $46 million located along the Gros Ventre Road adjacent to the eastern park boundary.
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