We are pleased to share yesterday’s agreement between the State of Wyoming and the U.S. Department of the Interior to conserve state school lands within Grand Teton National Park. In the agreement announced by Governor Mead and Secretary Jewell, the State of Wyoming will provide the National Park Service until December 31, 2016 to acquire the two remaining state school sections, known as the Antelope Flats Parcel and the Kelly Parcel.
The land is part of a school trust for K-12 public education. The State of Wyoming has a constitutional obligation to earn income for the benefit of Wyoming’s public school system, making these inholdings subject to potential development. The Antelope Flats property consists of 640 acres in the heart of Grand Teton National Park and features outstanding scenic, recreational, and wildlife values. The goal is to secure funding for the Antelope Flats Parcel this year, with the hope of identifying funds for the purchase of the Kelly Parcel in the future.
“We share a common interest in protecting both of these parcels and having them be part of Grand Teton National Park and never developed,” Jewell said. “You think about mansions or condos or parking lots — it doesn’t make any of us feel very good.”
The agreement Secretary Jewell signed also gives the federal government until the end of the year to buy a second — and last remaining — school trust parcel in Grand Teton National Park near Kelly for $46 million. Jewell hoped the Antelope Flats acquisition would “inspire support for the Kelly parcel.”
Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the DC-based National Park Foundation have launched a $23 million private fundraising campaign to help the National Park Service purchase the Antelope Flats tract. The NPS is working to secure the other half of the purchase price, $23 million, from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. We have raised $5.1 million toward the purchase of the Antelope Flats Parcel to date.
Mead emphasized the need to complete these transactions soon. “These are things we can’t say we’re going to get done in five years, because we don’t know who will be here in five years,” the governor said. “But I know right now, right here,” Mead said to Secretary Jewell, “you want to do it, I want to do it, we can do it, we should do it, and ladies and gentlemen, we will do it.”