Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Legislature wrangles with feds over Teton park land

Wyoming legislators preliminarily agreed Tuesday night to adjust a bill that would facilitate a sale of state lands in Grand Teton National Park to the federal government. Both sides have been haggling about the price of the lands and the terms of the deal. The federal government wants to pay a lower price based on a recent appraisal. The appraisal took into account an easement and knocked down the value of the land. The goal is for the federal government to obtain the state-owned School Trust Land parcels, which total 2 square miles and are broken up into two lots within the national park. Theoretically the land could be developed. The state is obligated to maximize the value of the land to fund education. Orchestrating a land deal has been a goal of officials from Teton County at past legislative sessions. The bill sets the minimum price Wyoming would accept at $92 million. But that’s more than the land has ever been valued and is contrary to a recent appraisal that put that value at $85 million. The downgraded price results from an easement on a parcel located northeast of Kelly. In recent years the state has discussed trading Bureau of Land Management property for the parcels in Grand Teton. The legislation leaves the land swap option open. The federal government has nailed down some money for the transaction. A budget recently released for the Land and Water Conservation Fund includes $22.5 million to purchase the parcel located about a mile west of Shadow Mountain. The federal government also has agreed to commit another $7 million toward the deal, state officials said Tuesday evening...more

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