Today, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) introduced bipartisan legislation that could help resolve the ongoing issue of how to finance state-owned school parcels inside Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) in a fiscally responsible manner. Paying for the $107 million parcels is at issue since the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF ), where the money for the sale to the state was proposed to come from, may not receive funding adequate to complete the deal reached between the State of Wyoming and the federal government.
"In the current fiscal climate, there is little enthusiasm in Washington to provide the funding necessary to complete the purchase of state land within Grand Teton National Park. Given the mountain of debt under which our nation is suffocating, that is understandable. However, smart solutions to the Grand Teton National Park parcel dilemma exist, without relying on more money being added to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. My legislation would reboot FLTFA, which is a balanced and innovative tool capable of making sense of patchworks of public land without leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill, and without adding to the surplus of federally-owned property. It has proved itself to be a successful program in the past for Wyoming, and it can help us move forward with a much-needed solution for the state land parcels." Lummis said.
"With this revenue from this important legislation and at no cost to the taxpayer, FLTFA can expand recreational access for hunting, fishing and hiking, while benefiting farmers and ranchers and reducing the federal deficit. FLTFA could provide some of the funding needed for critical inholdings in Grand Teton National Park and other treasured places in Wyoming." Luke Lynch, Wyoming Director, The Conservation Fund
"FLTFA reauthorization will provide another important tool to help working family ranches and farms through its balanced "land for land" approach. We appreciate Representative Lummis' leadership in introducing this bill that will benefit all land management -- federal, state and private." Pam Dewell, Executive Director, Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust
"We applaud Representative Lummis for introducing this important bill for the West. FLTFA reauthorization will provide opportunities for hunting access and other recreation, as well as conserve and enhance natural habitats that will ensure the future of elk and other wildlife." Blake Henning, Vice President of Lands and Conservation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
History of the parcels:
The state-owned parcels are approximately a square-mile within Grand Teton National Park. Unaffiliated with the Park, the parcels are leased to cattle ranchers to generate revenue for schools.
Governor Matt Mead and the Wyoming State Legislature have approved the park land sale; however the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) may not receive funding adequate to complete the deal reached between the State of Wyoming and the federal government. LWCF was the proposed method of funding for the sale, with phased payments between 2012 and 2015, totaling $107 million.
Land Transaction and Facilitation Act:
In July of 2000, Congress enacted the Federal Land Transaction and Facilitation Act (FLTFA). FLTFA authorizes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to sell public lands identified for disposal through the land use planning process prior to July 2000 and to retain the proceeds from the sales in a special account set up in the Treasury, to be available without further appropriation. The program is self-funded and does not rely on taxpayer money. FLTFA has been used to buy scattered federal lands that surround areas that are not federally held. FLTFA was initially authorized through July 2010, and extended once through July 25, 2011.
Since enactment of FLTFA in 2000, the BLM has sold just under 27,000 acres of surplus lands and acquired approximately 18,000 acres of lands with high resource values.
Because the authority to sell and purchase lands under FLTFA sunset on July 25, 2011, H.R. 3365 would extend the program's authorization through 2018 and expand the pool of eligible lands to be sold to include any lands identified for disposal as of the date of enactment of H.R. 3365.
Furthermore, if the law is not reauthorized, proceeds from BLM land sales will not be available for future acquisitions but instead will be available for appropriation under the LWCF.