On August 11 the State Board of Land Commissioners gathered in Teton County for a public meeting, site visits, and an evening banquet to discuss the future of the school state trust lands in Teton County.
Last week, the State Board of Land Commissioners gathered in Teton County for a public meeting, site visits, and an evening banquet to discuss the future of the school state trust lands in Teton County. The goal of these meetings was to learn from community members, local elected representatives, and interested organizations as the board evaluates revenue-generating proposals.
Teton County state–owned lands total 4,655 acres, spread among 18 parcels ranging between 40-640 acres. Last year, the Wyoming Legislature approved a bill that required the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI) to study development and revenue-generating scenarios for the state-owned lands in Teton County. The board consists of five individuals, including Gov. Mark Gordon, who have the final say on what becomes of these important public lands.
By the deadline of the solicitation process in October 2020, 29 proposals were submitted, ranging from a glamping compound to maintaining existing uses like landscaping and grazing, conservation easements, commercial and recreational opportunities, an extension of the luxury subdivision Shooting Star, and sales to federal land managers – both the Forest Service and Grand Teton National Park. See all of the proposals on the OSLI website, including the Alliance’s partner letter discussing conservation partnerships and values.
The public meeting last week had good representation from a wide range of community members – residents, ranchers, business owners, county commissioners and state representatives, conservation NGO’s – all finding common ground around the desire to see the state trust lands preserved for community and natural benefits. There was large community consensus that these public lands are not only community assets but also international gems that provide scenic viewscapes, wildlife habitat, public land sporting and recreational access, and space for local businesses.
After listening to public comment, the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments board expressed the difficult situation they are in: according to the Wyoming Constitution they must maximize funding for Wyoming schools so they will be reviewing all options for revenue. The State Board of Land Commissioners did seem aware of local issues related to affordable housing, transportation, and development pressures, and wondered whether these public lands could play a role in the solution. Overall, we are encouraged by the discussion and we hope they do right for the land and community of Teton County and consider creative conservation options and partnerships such as conservation leasing, sale to public lands agencies, and existing low-impact uses. No parcel can be sold without a competitive public auction, unless approved by the Wyoming Legislature. The Alliance will be supporting our partners and watching as the process unfolds.