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State board approves Grand Teton land deal

- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The State Board of Land Commissioners has endorsed a proposal that would transfer ownership of 1,280 acres of state school trust land in Grand Teton National Park to the federal government.

The board voted 4-1 Thursday to accept federal land and mineral rights elsewhere in Wyoming in exchange for the land.

The agreement still needs legislative approval.

The new agreement was necessary because the federal government couldn't meet a Jan. 5 deadline to buy one of the sections for $45 million as specified in a previous agreement.

The land board is made up of the five statewide elected officials, including Gov. Matt Mead.

"We believe this meets our duty as stewards of these lands and our fiduciary responsibilities," Mead said in a statement to the Jackson Hole News & Guide (http://bit.ly/1eynXrC ).

Sharon Mader, Grand Teton program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, called the vote a "very responsible decision."

"In a time when there are so many conservation conflicts, this represents an important example of decision-makers on the state and federal level sitting down and coming to agreements that fairly benefit the American people and citizens of Wyoming," she said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill was the only board member to oppose the proposal.

"The federal government defaulted Jan. 5 on their agreement," she said. "I'm comfortable with them remaining Wyoming lands."

State officials long have wanted to be rid of the land. The state brings in hardly any revenue from leasing the properties for grazing - about $1,600 a year - compared with the millions of dollars the parcels might be worth if ever sold on the open market. Virtually every part of the state lands in pricey Jackson Hole offer stunning views of the Teton Range.

In 2010, Gov. Dave Freudenthal and other state officials threatened to auction the land if the federal government didn't reach an agreement with Wyoming to acquire the properties.

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Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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