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Controversial Kelly Parcel Auction Tabled as State Looks for Suitable Trade

State officials in Wyoming decided to table a vote to auction off a square mile plot of land known as the Kelly Parcel until next year, leaving many to wonder what will happen to the land. 

While the fear is that Wyoming’s Office of State Lands and Investments will ultimately decide to sell it to a private buyer, the consensus at last week’s board meeting was the Kelly Parcel should become part of Grand Teton National Park

Megan Defenfelder, the head of Wyoming’s Department of Education, proposed the idea during the meeting and the four other board members, including the state governor, secretary of state, auditor, and treasurer, all agreed. 

“Our state is the place that we love because of beautiful wide open spaces such as the Kelly Parcel,” Defenfelder said, adding, “To me, there’s absolutely no question that the parcel . . . is of incredible value and really the crown jewel of Wyoming.”   

What complicates the issue is under Wyoming law, the parcel is up for disposal — meaning it needs to be sold — to generate money for state public schools. While it’s valued at $62 million, it currently only brings in some $2,900 annually in grazing fees. 

Also, critics of the privatization of the Kelly Parcel argue that it should be used for conservation. Experts say the 640-acre plot surrounded by Grand Teton is a crucial pathway for migrating animals like elk, pronghorn, and other wildlife. 

To address the board’s fiduciary responsibilities, Defenfelder said the state should enter negotiations with the Department of Interior, which oversees the National Park Service, to swap the Kelly Parcel for another federal parcel within the state’s borders. 

“The federal government has made it very clear that they’re interested in acquiring Kelly Parcel as part of the national park and we’ve heard from many constituents as was outlined in that presentation that they wish for the same,” she said. 

Defenfelder explained that by pushing the vote a year, they could negotiate a deal to “truly maximize value for our beneficiaries.” She argued the plot could be traded for an area ideal for oil and gas development. 

The issue has been the subject of debate since 2021 when the Kelly Parcel was added to the state’s list of disposable land. In the two years since it’s gone through multiple public hearings and public commenting periods. 

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