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Grand Teton For Sale
This June 24, 2010 photo shows Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs standing on land the state of Wyoming owns inside Grand Teton National Park. (AP Photo)

CHEYENNE — A deal is developing in which the federal government would buy more than 2 square miles of state land inside Grand Teton National Park and prevent the land from being sold at auction.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal responded favorably Friday to a proposal outlined by Assistant Interior Secretary Tom Strickland in which the federal government would buy the land from the state in increments spanning no more than 10 years.

The proposal is “thoughtfully designed,” and state and Interior officials should get to work immediately on a formal agreement, the governor wrote back to Strickland.

“In principle, I think we're pretty close,” Freudenthal said by phone.

Wyoming has owned the land since statehood, but Grand Teton was established without the small handful of parcels ever formally becoming part of the park.

For years, Wyoming has been eager to get the federal government to buy the land or swap it for federal land or mineral interests. Right now, the state leases the land for cattle grazing.

That brings in little revenue compared with what the state could earn by selling the land and investing the proceeds.

Wyoming's constitution requires state land to be managed to generate maximum revenue for public schools, making the long-standing impasse all the more a sore spot for state officials.

The situation climaxed earlier this year with Freudenthal and other top Wyoming officials threatening to auction off the land if negotiations didn't resume.

Interior officials seemed to get the message. Both sides soon agreed to get a new appraisal for the lands, which came in at $107 million.

On Thursday, Strickland wrote Freudenthal with a “statement of principles” that calls for both sides to agree to the $107 million price tag and establish a process for the federal government to buy pieces of land as funding becomes available.

A $22 million purchase would begin the process within a couple years.

“We have made great progress on a set of principles and a process for moving forward and look forward to continuing to work with Gov. Freudenthal,” Strickland said through an Interior spokeswoman.

On Wyoming's side, any deal would need approval by the state Board of Land Commissioners, made up of Freudenthal and the other four statewide elected officials.

Freudenthal said he would like to have a proposal ready for the board to consider Dec. 9, the last meeting before Freudenthal and two other board members leave office.

Wyoming still needs to approve the $107 million appraisal, he said, and should make certain that the best pieces of land aren't the first parcels sold.

He struck an optimistic tone overall.

“There's nothing more than the usual stuff of parties trying to work out a transaction that is going to be executed over time, to make sure that it's fair to both sides,” the governor said.

The land consists mainly of a pair of square-mile sections in the middle of the park and along its eastern boundary. A few smaller pieces of state land also would be sold.

CHEYENNE — A deal is developing in which the federal government would buy more than 2 square miles of state land inside Grand Teton National Park and prevent the land from being sold at auction.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal responded favorably Friday to a proposal outlined by Assistant Interior Secretary Tom Strickland in which the federal government would buy the land from the state in increments spanning no more than 10 years.

The proposal is "thoughtfully designed" and state and Interior officials should get to work immediately on a formal agreement, the governor wrote back to Strickland.

"In principle, I think we're pretty close," Freudenthal said by phone.

Wyoming has owned the land since statehood but Grand Teton was established without the small handful of parcels ever formally becoming part of the park.

For years, Wyoming has been eager to get the federal government to buy the land or swap it for federal land or mineral interests. Right now, the state leases the land for cattle grazing.

That brings in little revenue compared with what the state could earn by selling the land and investing the proceeds.

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Wyoming's constitution requires state land to be managed to generate maximum revenue for public schools, making the long-standing impasse all the more a sore spot for state officials.

The situation climaxed earlier this year with Freudenthal and other top Wyoming officials threatening to auction off the land if negotiations didn't resume.

Interior officials seemed to get the message. Both sides soon agreed to get a new appraisal for the lands, which came in at $107 million.

On Thursday, Strickland wrote Freudenthal with a "statement of principles" that calls for both sides to agree to the $107 million price tag and establish a process for the federal government to buy pieces of land as funding becomes available.

A $22 million purchase would begin the process within a couple years.

"We have made great progress on a set of principles and a process for moving forward and look forward to continuing to work with Gov. Freudenthal," Strickland said through an Interior spokeswoman.

On Wyoming's side, any deal would need approval by the state Board of Land Commissioners, made up of Freudenthal and the other four statewide elected officials.

Freudenthal said he would like to have a proposal ready for the board to consider Dec. 9, the last meeting before Freudenthal and two other board members leave office.

Wyoming still needs to approve the $107 million appraisal, he said, and should make certain that the best pieces of land aren't the first parcels sold.

He struck an optimistic tone overall.

"There's nothing more than the usual stuff of parties trying to work out a transaction that is going to be executed over time, to make sure that it's fair to both sides," the governor said.

The land consists mainly of a pair of square-mile sections in the middle of the park and along its eastern boundary. A few smaller pieces of state land also would be sold.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
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