NPS pays $16M in 2nd phase of Teton land deal
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The National Park Service on Friday completed the second phase of its purchase of what is supposed to eventually total just over two square miles of state land inside Grand Teton National Park.
Recent federal budget uncertainty — the so-called "fiscal cliff" of steep spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect at the beginning of the year — coincided with questions about whether the purchase of 86 acres of state land in the park would go ahead as planned.
For months, Interior Department and Wyoming officials expressed uncertainty that the federal government would make money available for the latest installment on the land deal, which by the time all four phases are completed in 2015 will total $107 million.
Then on Friday, the Park Service announced that Interior had bought the 86 acres for $16 million as planned. The second-phase purchase had been scheduled to close no later than Jan. 5.
"This second purchase makes a significant step toward ensuring that state-owned lands within the park's boundary become entirely part of Grand Teton National Park," Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a release.
Like most Western states, Wyoming uses its state land to generate revenue for public education, primarily through mining, logging, farming or grazing leases. The Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments has brought in a relatively small amount, about $1,600 a year, by leasing its Grand Teton land for cattle grazing.
Even conservatively investing the proceeds from selling the 1,366 acres of state school trust lands inside the park would bring in far more revenue, state officials have said.
Proceeds from the latest phase of the sale will go into the Wyoming Permanent Land Fund, which can be used to buy other land for the state, state officials said Friday.
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