Filling in the Gaps at Grand Teton: 1,280 Reasons to Celebrate

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image13313232

No matter how many times I venture into Grand Teton National Park, I am awestruck by the majestic peaks, extraordinary wildlife, and skies that extend for miles. While builders continue to develop land around the park for commercial uses and trophy homes, the land inside the park remains a sanctuary for millions of visitors, as well as iconic wildlife species such as moose, bison, and pronghorn.

At least, most of the land is.

The little-known fact is that 1,280 acres within park boundaries have been under serious threat of development, despite being surrounded by national park land and looking for all intents and purposes as though they are part of the park. The state of Wyoming owns these select parcels (sometimes referred to as “inholdings”), and state officials decided in 2009 to sell the land over a period of several years to raise revenue for schools.

Completing Grand Teton by acquiring these lands and adding them to the park has been a major priority for NPCA since the state first announced its plans to sell the land. Last year, NPCA helped broker the transfer of 86 acres to the Park Service, purchased with federal funding from a pot of money known as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is specifically intended to help conserve threatened lands like these. This week we are celebrating another important victory, having gained the support of the Wyoming Legislature to allow negotiations with the federal government to move forward to preserve the remaining 1,280 acres of state lands in Grand Teton in exchange for a package of lands and minerals elsewhere in the state.

These scenic parcels are enjoyed by millions of park visitors each year, and contain portions of the “path of the pronghorn,” a migration route that these majestic animals have followed to wintering grounds for millennia. The loss of this land to development would dramatically alter the park and harm native wildlife.

NPCA’s members have played a major role supporting this victory, which we expect to see finalized in 2016. Protecting all the land within Grand Teton National Park will provide an enduring legacy for all who cherish it.

You can help support this critical exchange by sending a note of support to the leaders who helped make it possible—public advocacy is crucial to ensuring that this historic deal is completed. 

About the Author

Senior Program Manager, Grand Teton Field Office