Some views are meant to be preserved

It looks like a breathtaking Western painting that might be hanging in a museum in Denver, or Cody or Jackson, but it’s actually a photograph of the real thing taken by the National Park Service: one of America’s most magnificent legacies: Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming, just south of Yellowstone National Park.

Wyoming Sells its 640-Acre Grand Teton Parcel to National Park Service for $46 Million

Grand Teton National Park.   Photo: U.S. National Park Service

It’s a deal that they have been trying to get done for many years, according to the U.S. Department of Interior and the State of Wyoming. On Monday, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead commended the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Park Service (NPS), and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation as they finalized the purchase of the 640-acre Antelope Flats parcel of Wyoming state school trust land within Grand Teton National Park.

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.

The NPS purchased the parcel for $46 million. Of that, $23 million came from the federal government and $23 million from private donations through the Grand Teton National Park Foundation. That money will go to the Common School Trust Fund to support Wyoming schools.

Wyoming Sells a 640-Acre Grand Teton Parcel to National Park Service for $46 Million

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead

“This is the best outcome for this land,” Governor Mead said. “The parcel was generating no revenue for Wyoming schools which raised the possibility of it being sold at public auction. That option was unacceptable to me. This tract will now be available for the public in perpetuity.”

“I thank Secretary Sally Jewell, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and every private donor that contributed to make this day a reality. I also want to thank the Legislature, Treasurer Gordon and Auditor Cloud for their support, and Bridget Hill and her staff.”

“It is extremely pleasing that all the continued years of hard work and effort regarding this parcel have been rewarded today,” said Bridget Hill, Director of the Office of State Lands and Investments. “This sale represents a huge win for Wyoming’s schools and education funding.  As an added benefit, not only were we able to fulfill the Board’s fiduciary obligation to generate revenue from the state school trust lands both now and into the future, but at the same time we were able to help preserve the long-term beauty of one of our state’s real treasures, the Grand Teton National Park.”

The income generated on the Common School Trust Fund account varies, however it is anticipated that funds from this sale will generate more than $1 million annually for public education. The funds are also available for the Board of Land Commissioners to acquire land assets held by the federal government.

In its press release, the U.S. Department of Interior said that its half of the $46 million purchase price came through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and that the total price 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 Interior Secretary Jewell.

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.

“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.”

Wyoming Sells a 640-Acre Grand Teton Parcel to the National Park Service for $46 Million

State of Wyoming national parks: Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

In 2015, Grand Teton National Park ranked among the top five National Parks in the nation in regards to economic output, the DOI said in its press release. According to the DOI, in 2015 visitors to the park spent an estimated $560 million in local gateway communities, with a cumulative benefit to the local economy of over $728 million and supported 8,862 jobs, the agency calculates.

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, according to the DOI.

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