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Wyo. threatens to sell park land

Grand Teton tract called underused

Wyoming is seeking royalties from land now used for grazing in Grand Teton National Park. Wyoming is seeking royalties from land now used for grazing in Grand Teton National Park. (Mead Gruver/ Associated Press)
By Mead Gruver
Associated Press / July 5, 2010

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MOOSE, Wyo. — For sale: Two square miles of Grand Teton National Park.

Majestic views of the Teton Range. Prime location for luxury resort, home development. Pristine habitat for moose, elk, wolves, grizzlies. Price: $125 million. Call: Governor Dave Freudenthal.

Wyoming is trying to force the Interior Department to trade land, minerals, or mineral royalties for 1,366 acres it owns within the majestic park. If federal officials don’t agree to a deal — soon — Freudenthal threatens to put a For Sale sign on the property.

Wyoming has owned the land since statehood in 1890, when the federal government set aside land in new Western states to be mined, logged, or leased to raise money for public education. Wyoming kept its so-called “school sections’’ after Grand Teton National Park was established in 1950.

The state has tried for a decade to negotiate some kind of trade. Saying that his patience is running out, Freudenthal, a Democrat, sent an ultimatum recently to park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott.

Wyoming gets just $3,000 a year from the land by leasing it for cattle grazing. Sold with the proceeds invested at 3 percent, the land easily could bring in $3.75 million a year. The state’s constitution requires officials to manage state lands for maximum profit. Their oaths of office require them to act.

“If it’s to recreate on, or if it’s a new ski lodge, highest and best use,’’ said Susan Child, deputy director of the state lands office. “It’s obviously not grazing.’’

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