With the passage of HB 162 earlier this year, state lawmakers directed the Office of State Lands and Investments to “maximize” the value of state trust lands in Teton County – and in Teton County only.
State trust lands were gifted to states by the federal government upon statehood to help fund schools and other public institutions. Teton County’s state trust lands comprise 18 parcels on nearly 4,000 acres, including prized swaths of open space near Kelly, the Village Road, and Fall Creek Road by Munger Mountain. Conservation partners have called for the Kelly parcel to be transferred to the National Park Service, while a luxury subdivision (i.e. another Shooting Star) and a seasonal glamping operation are proposed for the others, respectively. (Update: John Resor has since withdrawn his subdivision proposal in favor of a conservation option). All told, the state received 30 letters of interest for 13 parcels.
State trust lands are exempted from our planning and zoning regulations – which could mean an easy path to development that piecemeals our wildlife habitat and exacerbates our affordable housing crisis.
With our partners at the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and the Snake River Fund, we expressed our support for helping state lands optimize revenue without destroying their current conservation and economic value. We called for proposals to be considered in line with our Comprehensive Plan and identified “conservation-friendly” leasing options, including leases that maintain historic grazing access, provide for recreational trails, grant exclusive guiding and touring rights to local ecotourism businesses, and conservation leasing. These would provide a durable, if smaller, stream of revenue, without threatening the current contributions of state trust lands via support of the local economy. Moreover, this kind of management would prevent cascading costs to state and local taxpayers from development gone wrong
The Board of County Commissioners has requested to review the development proposals, but the decision will ultimately be made by the State Board of Land Commissions following a series of public meetings.
UPDATE: we also wrote a letter of support for two parcels (one of which is state trust lands) to be transferred to the Bridger-Teton National Forest.Read the full letter