Gov: No ‘for sale’ sign
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 27, 2010
After a meeting with federal officials this week, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said “we put together a transaction,” that would see the government buy state land in Grand Teton National Park.
Freudenthal made the comments during a news conference Wednesday after a meeting Tuesday with Tom Strickland, U.S. Interior Department assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis.
The state owns two mile-by-mile school sections in Grand Teton, plus smaller pieces equaling about 1,360 acres.
Wyoming is obligated to manage the land to generate money to benefit schools but has not developed or sold it in deference to conservation values of the park. However, a lack of action on the part of the federal government toward purchasing the property led Freudenthal earlier this year to say he might put up a “for sale” sign. That opened the possibility the land might be developed by the highest bidder.
Department of the Interior officials apparently felt Freudenthal’s spurs as they suggested he would receive three alternative proposals for purchase or exchange of the property to benefit Wyoming schools, the governor said during a trip to Jackson earlier this months. Now, Freudenthal says he has a proposal stemming from his latest meeting with the high-ranking officials.
“I would say that I view the meeting as generally positive and certainly positive enough that I don’t feel obligated to go put up a for sale sign,” he said in an interview transcript released by his spokeswoman. He did not say whether a pending deal would include all of the state property in Grand Teton, or just a portion.
“Essentially, we put together a transaction that would, hopefully, have a fairly substantial down payment on the front end and then a payout period over time for the federal government to purchase it,” the governor said.
“Now we are looking at some funding options, including maybe the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is a federal fund, and some other sources,” he said.
Freudenthal talked in mid August about a possible contract-for-deed purchase that would allow the government to buy the land over a period using money from the fund. The Land and Water Conservation fund was set up to use money from mineral development to pay for conservation initiatives.
State law requires the school trust land to be managed for maximum return for schools. But the property in Grand Teton is being leased for grazing, generating a meager amount compared to the value of the property, which is estimated at more than $100 million. Once a transaction is completed with the federal government, the state can invest its money and generate more income without having property inside the park being developed.
Wyoming got the school sections from the federal government at statehood with the stipulation they be used to fund education.