Sen. Malcolm Wallop was in Jackson to conduct hearings on “Alternatives for the Protection of Jackson Hole’s Pastoral Lands” in August 1981. There were 28 pillars of our community who spoke over two days, including elected officials, environmentalists, national park and U.S. Forest Service representatives and ranchers.
The following are excerpts from what some of our local folks had to say:
“This is my own personal testimony from my own personal experience living in Jackson Hole since 1927,” Mardy Murie said. “I have seen history in the making, and I have both been pleased and displeased by some of the things I have experienced. I think we’re faced here with the fact that there is a saturation point. Those of us who have lived here all of these years and enjoyed the beauty have sounded pretty selfish when we say nobody else should come. Everybody wants to live in Jackson Hole.
“There is a physical, a geographical, a topographical, and geological set of facts that make it impossible from my point of view. I feel we have reached a saturation point in Jackson Hole. I don’t think we can have much more population, much more development, without destroying the thing that is a national treasure, the place that people come to for rest and inspiration and which can last forever if it is properly cared for.”
Bob Shervin, the mayor of Jackson at the time, said the following.
“I believe that our local ranchers and local property owners are capable of doing their own business with their lands. I think that private property is very important to the economy of our valley,” Shervin said. “I think that in so many cases through the past years that federal government has been a very poor bed partner and I won’t dwell on it any. I’m sure that you’ll probably hear plenty about that in the future. As far as exchanging lands, I was born and raised here in this valley and I’ll be damned if I want to share or trade any part of mine for Rock Springs or Kemmerer.”
Rod Lucas shared the following thoughts: “I’m a lifelong rancher, and I own and operate the ranch my father homesteaded soon after he came here in 1896. There is nothing I want more than to continue ranching it as long as I can, then turn it over to my children, who wish to do the same with it.
“Cattle ranching is falling prey to development and we have lost much open space. Open space is a necessity to ranching, the two go hand in hand. There are plenty of incentives for development. Landowners here are in an especially vulnerable spot because developers are banging on our doors offering 10 times the agricultural value of our lands.
“I have three proposals which would greatly help to keep ranching and green space in Jackson Hole: First, that it be made possible to trade development rights on open space lands for tax credits. These credits would be used to offset federal estate, gift and income taxes until consumed, and be based on fair market value of such rights.
“Second, make it possible to trade development right of our ranch lands for federal lands, such as the BLM lands of equal appraised values. Third, that the Grand Teton National Park be induced to allow some spring and fall grazing on lands from the Gros Ventre River and east of Mormon Row to the Triangle X Ranch and on the Buffalo River bottom lands, that it also grant it perpetuity and existing grazing permits within its boundary.”
Teton County Commissioner Max May offered his opinion as well.
“First, I would like to state that I think that we could alleviate a lot of these problems by getting better cooperation from the Forest Service to the ranching community. The Forest Service is raising fees and taking rights of the ranchers away from them to the point where they are today inclined to subdivide. So naturally we are going to have this type of thing occur in our real valuable ranch land around here.
“I also feel that through the cooperation of the BLM for the lands on the Snake River, they started that land involvement thing, and through that they have created a lot of dissatisfaction. There should be no more federal acquisition of ground in Teton County. We need the tax rolls and we also need the cooperation of the federal government to keep this where it is now.”
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Jack Stark also offered his opinion, saying: “Since 1950, all private land has been acquired on a willing buyer/willing seller basis, with the exception of four parcels totaling 11.55 acres which were acquired by eminent domain proceedings.
“The national park has had a strong interest for some time in encouraging various forms of protection of the lands surrounding the park and we have an interest in cooperating certainly with Teton County, the state of Wyoming, the BLM, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, as well as other private and public organizations in any efforts that we might be able to assist in.
“We are especially concerned about the Buffalo Valley, which serves as the east entrance to the park, and strongly support the announced intention of the Forest Service to acquire easements in this general area.”