JACKSON — Looking to boost income from Wyoming-owned property in Jackson Hole at the behest of state lawmakers, land managers plan to solicit development proposals for three parcels in 2022.
The tracts of land — which raise revenue for Wyoming’s school trust — are located just south of Teton Village, on East Gros Ventre Butte directly above Jackson, and on the northern flank of Munger Mountain along Fall Creek Road.
Apart from a Teton County-specific process directed by lawmakers, the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments was already looking to find new suitors and to increase its income from the 640-acre parcel near Teton Village.
“We would offer these lots … in a competitive nature where other people besides the existing users can come in and place bids and do their activities on it,” Jason Crowder, the office’s deputy director, told the State Board of Land Commissioners during a meeting Thursday.
The lots, 3 to 5 acres in size, are clustered near the already-disturbed southeast corner of the state land.
“As we introduce new users, we feel like we would grow with the neighborhood … moving into higher-end type uses, and allowing the market to dictate that for us,” Crowder said.
Currently, there’s a hodgepodge of uses on the Teton Village trust parcel: It’s grazed by Snake River Ranch cattle, landscaping companies stockpile supplies there and the Wyoming Balloon Company launches from the flat pastureland. Altogether, the uses bring in north of $45,000 a year.
The Office of State Lands and Investments intends to find new users for the parcel abutting Highway 390 internally, Crowder said.
But more formal requests for proposals will be issued for school trust parcels on the butte above Jackson and along Fall Creek Road, Crowder said.
None of the state’s other 15 school parcels in Teton County is on track to be offered to market, at least at this time.
“That’s only because we’re going off of information that the study provided to us,” Crowder said in an interview.
The study, completed last fall, was required by a bill that made it through the Wyoming Legislature’s 2020 session. The impetus was lawmakers’ frustration that the state hasn’t been getting a good return on its 4,655 acres in Teton County, where land values are sky high.
Trust lands were deeded at statehood, and here, like everywhere, they are designated to raise funds for public schools.
Ahead of its study, the Office of State Lands and Investments issued a call for informal ideas last year, generating about 30 proposals.
Ideas submitted ranged from boundary adjustments to trail easements to land transactions with the federal government.
Just this week, Crowder was in talks with Grand Teton National Park about next steps for the federal government’s desire to acquire a 640-acre trust parcel northeast of Kelly, which is not developable because of a scenic easement that adjoins the Gros Ventre Road.
State lands staffers have stayed in talks with some of the developers who pitched ideas, such as the Montana-based business Under Canvas, which proposed adding 90 luxury tents for a “glamping” operation on the Munger Mountain parcel.
But those types of business opportunities will not be offered outright, thus the impending requests for proposals.
The thrust of other proposals that have trickled into the state was conservation. Teton County commissioners last fall asked for the opportunity to vet any physical development being considered on the 18 trust parcels in the county, which are exempted from planning and zoning regulations. Generally, commissioners told the state they would like to see land uses stay the same on trust tracts, which are mostly undeveloped and open.
The State Board of Land Commissioners — which has final say over all state trust lands — has not shown an interest in permanent conservation easements. Currently only one trust parcel in the entire state has been perpetually preserved through an easement: a 20-acre tract located east of Teton Village that’s bisected by the Snake River and borders Grand Teton National Park.
On the other hand, there is interest in more-temporary conservation leases. Gov. Mark Gordon, who chairs the state land board, was keen on the idea.
“I think it could be a huge contribution to trust land management in the West,” Gordon said.
No decisions were made at the Thursday meeting, which provided the board with an update of where things sit on the push to get more of a return from trust lands in Teton County.