US national park faces sale

Governor of Wyoming threatens to sell chunk of Grand Teton unless White House boosts state’s education budget

Chris McGreal
The Guardian

Some might call it blackmail. The governor of Wyoming calls it desperation.

Governor Dave Freudenthal is threatening to sell off a chunk of one of America’s most beautiful national parks unless the Obama administration comes up with more money to pay for education in the financially beleaguered state.

He says he will auction land valued at $125m (£80m) in the Grand Teton national park, one of the country’s most stunning wildernesses. Part of the park was donated by John Rockefeller Jr.

Other parts belong to the state government including two parcels of land of about 550 hectares (1,360 acres) designated as school trust lands to be “managed for maximum profit” to generate funds for education in Wyoming.

At present Wyoming raises only about $3,000 a year from the land by leasing it to a cattle rancher. Officials have menacingly suggested that the property might make a nice site for a ski lodge.

Freudenthal recently wrote to the interior department asking the federal government to trade the park land for mineral royalties. “If the federal government won’t dance with us, we will go look for another partner,” said Freudenthal. “The purpose is to force the federal government to come to the table.”

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