Wyoming board puts brakes on plan to sell Grand Teton land

By Rob Hotakainen | 12/07/2023 04:21 PM EST

The state’s Board of Land Commissioners tabled a controversial recommendation to sell state land inside the national park at a public auction for no less than $80 million.

Clouds rise above the mountains of the Teton Range at Grand Teton National Park.

Clouds rise above the mountains of the Teton Range at Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Aug. 15, 2022. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Faced with near-unanimous public opposition, the Wyoming State Board of Land Commissioners voted Thursday to delay a decision on a proposed sale of 640 acres of pristine trust land inside the border of Grand Teton National Park.

The five-member board, chaired by Republican Gov. Mark Gordon, tabled a recommendation from the Office of State Lands and Investments to sell the land at a public auction for no less than $80 million to aid the state’s public schools.

“I think we just need more time to work on this,” said Megan Degenfelder, the state’s superintendent of public instruction and one of the board members who voted to delay action until the fall of 2024.


She recommended that the state begin negotiations with the Interior Department in an attempt to exchange other federal land in the state for the highly coveted parcel, which is close to Jackson Hole, a popular vacation destination.

Thousands of state residents had urged the board to either block or delay the sale, with many hoping that the land — known as the Kelly Parcel — would be preserved and ultimately sold to the National Park Service.

“I want you to know that I have listened to your concerns and share them,” Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray, another board member, said in a statement before the vote.

Jenifer Scoggin, the director of the Office of State Lands and Investments, last week recommended selling the land in a public auction by Jan. 30, 2024.

Under her plan, the state would not have accepted a bid of less than $80 million, or $125,000 an acre. The price tag would have been $18 million higher than the parcel’s appraised value.

The Kelly Parcel is one of four plots of school trust lands owned by Wyoming since the time of its statehood, before the creation of the park. NPS has already bought the other three parcels.

Under an agreement with the state approved in 2010, NPS could have also bought the parcel for $46 million, provided that the sale was finalized by 2015. But state officials said they decided to propose the auction, placing it on their “disposal list,” after the deal fell through due to a lack of federal funding.

“Protecting public lands is something that unites us, and we’re pleased that the board heard the voices of the thousands of Wyomingites and people from across the U.S. who spoke up for preserving the Kelly Parcel,” said Dave Sollitt, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.