Luxury subdivisions, glamping compounds, conservation easements and sales to federal land managers were among the proposals that filtered in to a Wyoming agency that’s investigating future scenarios for more than 7 square miles of state trust land in Teton County.
As of last week, 29 ideas had been submitted to the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments, which was required to go about the solicitation process in anticipation of a Teton County-specific study the Wyoming Legislature demanded. The ideas submitted by an early October deadline ran the gamut, according to Jason Crowder, the state lands office’s deputy director.
“There are commercial and recreational opportunities identified,” Crowder told the Jackson Hole Daily. “A lot of partnership opportunities with the Forest Service and [Grand] Teton National Park. A couple landscaping uses.”
At least one of the ideas was a joke: “The tunnel,” Crowder said.
That proposal, submitted by a person who went by “MOLE,” was to develop an elaborate tunnel system that would do away with the days of hazardous Teton Pass avalanches and Snake River Canyon road closures.
“The system would be toll roads for the state with continued long-term profits,” MOLE wrote to Crowder.
Many of the development proposals that came in were very serious, and much time was invested in compiling them.
That’s a fair characterization of the glamping proposal submitted by Jamie Schmidt, whose Montana-based business, Under Canvas, pitched adding 90 luxury tents to the 637-acre school trust parcel seated along the northern flank of Munger Mountain.
School trust lands were deeded at statehood, and they’re monetized to fund the Equality State’s schools. There are 4,655 acres in Teton County, spread among 18 parcels, including high-profile locations like Crystal and East Gros Ventre buttes, a square mile along the Village Road and a section that hugs Grand Teton National Park near Kelly.
Although Teton County land values are sky high, Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments today derives relatively little income from trust lands in Teton County. That frustration spurred the process, set in motion by state legislators from outside the area.
Cattle grazing, landscaping company leases and a gravel pit are current uses on the parcel adjacent to Highway 390 just south of Teton Village.
But Shooting Star owner John Resor had a different vision for the land, according to the proposal he sent the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments. A hypothetical community he proposed, dubbed the Jenson Canyon Development, would pepper the fallow land with luxury home sites.
“The School Section is ideal for a high-end residential development that complements the Shooting Star development located just one mile to the north,” Resor’s proposal says. “A proactive and thoughtful approach to developing a high-end project and understanding and having access to a high net worth buyer pool can significantly increase value and mitigate market and operating risk.”
John Resor wasn’t the only member of his family to submit a proposal. Turner Resor, along with Barbara Hauge, pitched the state the idea of a land exchange in which the Snake River Ranch would acquire 23 acres of hard-to-access riparian grounds within the northeasternmost corner of the Munger Mountain trust parcel — the same section that drew the attention of the glamping businessman. An equal-sized chunk of the Snake River Ranch higher up on Munger would then be turned over to the state.
“This boundary adjustment would enhance the trust’s land,” Resor and Hauge wrote, “while connecting the two parts of our ranch.”
Another of Jackson Hole’s other large landowning families was also keen to acquire Teton County trust land. Kelly Lockhart, who manages the Lockhart Cattle Company, proposed purchasing 23.6 acres of trust land that abuts Bureau of Land Management property in South Park. The parcel, which is not publicly accessible by road, is currently grazed by Lockhart cattle and would be used for the family’s livestock herd and “habitat conservation,” according to the proposal.
The intent of the other major thread of proposals was land conservation.
The Jackson Hole Land Trust did submit a specific proposal, and interim co-director Liz Long wrote the Wyoming Office of State Lands identifying three parcels that were of considerable organizational interest: the Munger Mountain section, Highway 390 and a 357-acre parcel on East Gros Ventre Butte. Those trust lands are at the “highest risk of development,” she wrote.
Another conservation-oriented letter to the state espoused selling off much of Teton County’s trust land to the federal government. That was the joint idea of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Snake River Fund, Wyoming Outdoor Council and Greater Yellowstone Coalition. The groups’ letter supported selling parcels near Game Creek, Munger Mountain, Crystal Butte, Flat Creek, Indian Paintbrush and alongside Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Trust lands near Kelly and along the Snake River should be conveyed to Grand Teton National Park, they wrote.
Keeping open, public lands in public hands was not the purpose of the Levy, Coleman and Brodie law firm’s proposal. Representing an unidentified adjacent landowner, the Jackson Hole attorneys offered $10 million for a 30.4-acre state trust parcel near the west bank of the Snake River adjacent to the Teal Trace subdivision. The offer was reduced to $8 million if a single-family home and vehicle access were not guaranteed.
All the proposals are just ideas for the time being, and they’re being pulled into a report Crowder and colleagues were required to generate for the State Board of Land Commissioners, the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee, and the Select Committee on Capital Financing and Investments. Crowder is scheduled to present the report to the Financing and Investments Committee at 8 a.m. Nov. 16. The virtual meeting will be broadcast at WyoLeg.gov. Democratic Teton County Rep. Andy Schwartz and Sen. Mike Gierau are a part of that committee.
This story has been updated to show that the Jackson Hole Land Trust did submit specific proposals for the state trust lands. — Ed.