State Lands: Public-Private effort secures high-stakes land in Grand Teton National Park
On December 12, the National Park Service purchased 640 acres within Grand Teton National Park from the State of Wyoming. The Antelope Flats purchase was made possible by the successful completion of an eight-month fundraising campaign by Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the National Park Foundation that raised $23 million in private funds. These funds were matched by $23 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The newly protected land preserves critical wildlife habitat, migration routes, and viewsheds, prevents private development within the park boundary, and helps to complete the original vision of the park. The proceeds of the $46 million sale will benefit Wyoming public school children.
ImportanceBack To Top
The Antelope Flats Parcel provides vital habitat for many species of wildlife.This tract of land lies in the path of a primary migration route for pronghorn, bison, and for the largest elk herd in the world. It is also adjacent to the most productive sage grouse lek in the region and provides important breeding, nesting, and brood-rearing habitat for many birds. A former wolf den is near the parcel, and it contained the pack’s rendezvous site that was utilized by both pups and adults for an entire summer. Pronghorn are also common there, as are badger, coyotes, fox, and dozens of bird species.
The Antelope Flats Parcel has 360-degree, unobstructed views of the Jackson Hole valley.The Tetons’ Cathedral Group is to the west— which includes the Grand, Mount Owen, and Teewinot at the heart of the range, the iconic historic site known as Mormon Row and the prominent Blacktail Butte area are directly south, and the Gros Ventre Mountains are due east.
School Trust LandsBack To Top
The state school trust consists of land assets and funds generated from the land assets. By state constitutional mandate, the assets must generate income for the beneficiaries—Wyoming’s public schools. The trust lands are used commercially, producing income from leases for development such as wind turbines, oil and gas, livestock grazing, timber harvesting, or land sales to fund public education throughout the state. Wyoming’s state school trust is very large, totaling 3.5 million surface acres and 3.9 million mineral acres.
HistoryBack To Top
In the West, when a territory chose statehood, the federal government deeded land to the new state. This land was bound in a state trust to be leased or used to generate income for public education, state government, and other public needs.
In order to deed school trust lands uniformly, the federal government generally gave states two square miles per every 36 miles of land. A square mile is called a section. A township makes up 36 sections, or 36 square miles. States received two sections in each township as part of the land trust mandated to serve the public beneficiaries in perpetuity.
The two school sections in Grand Teton National Park illustrate this distribution of two land sections per township. Wyoming became a state in 1890. At this time, the school lands were deeded throughout Wyoming, and the state’s school trust formed. Grand Teton National Park was created in 1929 and the boundaries were finalized by 1950. Since the state school trust lands fell within the new boundaries, they became inholdings within the park.
Celebrating Antelope FlatsBack To Top
Permanently protecting the 640-acre Antelope Flats parcel was a tremendous achievement that required collaboration and support from many individuals, organizations, and agencies. At our celebration in August 2017, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, Former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and Grand Teton National Park Foundation President Leslie Mattson shared their stories, reflections, and thanks to the people that made the preservation of this critical habitat possible.