The Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI) announced the potential auction of the 640-acre Kelly Parcel at the eastern edge of Grand Teton National Park. If the auction occurs, Wyoming would be the first state in US history to sell state trust land inside a national park on the open market.
Currently, the Kelly Parcel generates less than $3,000 per year through grazing leases and permits. A 2022 appraisal valued the land at $62 million — likely the minimum asking price at auction — giving the state a chance to generate substantially more funds to benefit Wyoming public schools.
While an obvious solution would be to sell the parcel to the National Park Service, the two entities have proved incapable of crafting a deal. But not for lack of trying. Between 2012 and 2015, the Department of the Interior paid $63 million for three other parcels near Grand Teton National Park belonging to the state. Under the same purchase agreement, a $46 million purchase price for the Kelly Parcel was agreed to. However, that deal never closed.
In 2021, legislation designed to give the National Park Service yet another chance to acquire the parcel failed. Running out of options, the OSLI settled on a public auction — a decision that’s causing an uproar.
The National Elk Refuge
The Kelly Parcel borders the Bridger-Teton National Forest as well as the National Elk Refuge. Established in 1912, the refuge protects critical habitat for bison, wolves, bighorn sheep, cutthroat trout, and one of the largest elk herds in the nation. Approximately 1,000 head utilize the parcel each winter and spring.
The Path of the Pronghorn, the longest wildlife migration corridor in the Lower 48 according to The Conservation Fund, also crosses the parcel. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department notes that the acreage also serves as habitat for 87 “Species of Great Conservation Need.”
The Kelly Parcel offers public access to the Gros Ventre River. Under private ownership, such access would in all likelihood cease. According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, habitat loss and fragmentation of the land would also impact hunters.
A public comment period is open until December 1. The Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners will announce its decision on December 7.