The state of Wyoming announced today it is selling a 640-acre parcel of Wyoming School Trust Land to the National Park Service.
According to a Department of the Interior press release, the deal comes in at $46 million. Half the money came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, while the other half was supplied by the Interior, along with the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and National Park Foundation.
We previously reported the Interior and Wyoming were close reaching a deal after decades of discussion. If the sale had not gone through, the Antelope Flats parcel could have gone up for bid, prompting worries of private development inside national parklands. Wyoming Governor Matt Mead spoke eloquently of the proposed deal, citing his grandfather’s opposition to the creation of Grand Teton as a state senator—a move, Mead acknowledged, put him on the wrong side of history, to his later relief and joy. From the press release:
“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.
The Interior previously purchased an 86-acre parcel along the Snake River in 2012. Currently, only one parcel of Wyoming school trust land remains in Grand Teton National Park, bordering the Gros Ventre River. In our previous story, we reported the Interior hoped to acquire the Antelope parcel to buy more time for the Gros Ventre purchase.