Our Statement on State Trust Lands

Jackson Hole Land Trust Public Statement on Teton County State Trust Land Development Proposals

August 21, 2020

The Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) seeks to be a strategic conservation partner in proposals focused on state trust lands in Teton County.  The JHLT is committed to providing expertise, resources, and tools necessary to create community and conservation-based solutions that protect acreage of state trust lands, thereby furthering our mission of protecting and stewarding the treasured landscapes of Northwest Wyoming

When Wyoming became a state in 1890, the federal government granted the state 4.2 million acres to be held in state trust to produce income to support public schools and other public institutions (such as the state hospital). The Wyoming Constitution and statutes require the State Board of Land Commissioners (the top five statewide elected officials) to manage trust assets for two purposes: long-term growth in value and optimum, sustainable revenue production. Currently, revenue from state lands is raised through surface leasing, mineral leasing, land transactions, and royalties and fees.

During the 2020 budget session of the sixty-fifth legislature of the state of Wyoming, Enrolled Act Number 83 was presented by the House of Representatives and passed through the state legislature. According to the bill, this is an “AN ACT relating to state lands; requiring the office of state lands and investments to solicit proposals for the development of identified school and state trust lands in Teton county; requiring the office to review proposals and make recommendations as specified; requiring reports; providing an appropriation; and providing for an effective date.”

The recently passed Enrolled Act No. 83 requires the Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI) to seek proposals on opportunities for development of state trust lands in Teton County that would maximize the value of any of the parcels to the greatest extent possible. According to the OSLI website, any person may submit a proposal to the OSLI for consideration by the deadline for submission on October 2, 2020. There are 4,655 acres of state trust land dispersed over 18 different parcels, ranging from 20-acre to 640-acre lots, in Teton County. While each of these parcels is potentially vulnerable to a development proposal submitted to the Office of State Lands, some have hurdles – such as access issues and topographical constraints – that could potentially deter development at this time.

The JHLT has been a part of the conversation regarding the future of the state-owned school parcels in Teton County for several decades. In 1998, as part of the State Lands Pilot Project, the JHLT purchased a conservation easement on 19 acres owned by the Office of State Lands & Investment which border Grand Teton National Park in Teton County. The JHLT also contributed to the Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s 2016 campaign to purchase the Antelope Flats parcel and incorporate it into Grand Teton National Park. With the recently passed legislation requiring the Office of State Lands to solicit proposals that will generate income from state trust parcels, the JHLT has been in contact with OSLI to better understand the state’s priorities and processes, is in touch with our elected officials to discuss the potential for local involvement, and has been working to identify potential project partners with whom to work on community and conservation-minded solutions. Many of the Teton County state-owned parcels hold significant conservation and cultural values and some are surrounded by or are close to other JHLT conservation properties.

Knowing that the state’s priority is to maximize revenue and create a consistent income stream from these parcels where possible, the goal of the JHLT is to be a conservation partner in project proposals submitted to and accepted by the OSLI on parcels that hold agricultural, wildlife, and community open space values. As in former proposals submitted to the state in which the JHLT was a partner, we are committed to providing expertise, resources, and tools to create community and conservation-based solutions that protect acreage of state trust lands that fall in line with our mission of protecting and stewarding the treasured landscapes of Northwest Wyoming.

If you would like more information about how to join in the effort to create or support a conservation-based proposal for state trust land parcels, please reach out to [email protected] or [email protected].

For a map of the state trust parcels in Teton County and more information on the OSLI proposal process, visit: https://lands.wyo.gov/teton-proposals.

Photo by David Stubbs of Snake River Ranch, a JHLT-protected property adjacent to the state trust lands parcel on highway 390.