Sunday, January 8, 2012

National Parks: Part II

I am not much of historian and think sometimes that I should write a letter to Richard Lyman Bushman for his advice to the novice historian. Much of the history I learn feels distant and disconnected from my personal life. Recently, I made an interesting personal connection while watching to the history of  Grand Teton National Park on the Ken Burn's National Park Series

Yellowstone was the first U.S. National Park, established in 1872. If you are a fan of national parks then it's a good thing that Wyoming was not yet a state, otherwise Yellowstone could easily have been a state park, like Yosemite started out or not a park at all. Years after becoming a park more and more people took notice of the beautiful jagged mountains south of Yellowstone, and in 1908 the Teton mountains themselves were made a national forest.

I have vivid memories of sitting in the front room of my grandparent's house or out by my grandpa's extensive garden watching cars go up the highway, a road that if one continues to drive 45 minutes east will wind along a beautiful reservoir and by taking the right forks in the road will land one in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park.

While sitting in my grandparent front room or by the garden I have listened to numerous stories told by my grandpa. Grandpa, being a farmer, talks and thinks of land the same way most people talk and think about the weather, which means daily. (Don't worry the weather is also a common topic of conversation, especially for a dry farmer). Many times these discussions elicit not-so-friendly comments about how certain neighbors, the government and oddly, the Rockefellers are affecting local land prices. Growing up and even now I have not been involved or much interested in real estate nor the factors that change prices. I always thought my grandpa's statement a little odd, but after watching this National Parks series, I realize grandpa's statement may not be off the mark.

According to the NPS:
  • The original Grand Teton National Park, set aside by an act of Congress in 1929, include only the Teton Range and six glacial lakes at the base of the mountains.
  • The Jackson Hole National Monument, decreed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt through presidential proclamation in 1943, combined Teton National Forest acreage, other federal properties including Jackson Lake and a generous 35,000-acre donation by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The Rockefeller lands continued to be privately held until December 16, 1949 when impasse for addition to the national park was resolved.
  • On September 14, 1950, the original 1929 Park and the 1943 National Monument (including Rockefeller’s donation) were united into a “new” Grand Teton National Park, creating present-day boundaries
After congress set aside the original 1929 land including only the Teton Range and six glacial lakes at the base of the mountains, John D. Rockefeller Jr. who thought the park should be bigger with an unobstructed view from the valley, was quietly buying up land in Teton Valley. He hoped to add it to the park. But Wyoming's was a state by now and an intense state-federal battle began.  President Roosevelt sought to expand the park despite local resistance. Eventually, a compromise was reached to bring more land under protection and gave us the Grand Teton National Park we know today.  But it also resulted in Wyoming being the first "state" (OK so it wasn't a state yet) to have a National Park (Yellowstone) and the only one that by law will never have another one created. As part of the  Teton's compromise the Federal Government agreed to never again use the Antiquities Act (the act used to create National Parks) to protect land inside Wyoming.

Apparently some of the Rockefeller's posterity must be meddling again in the local real estate, and grandpa's stories are more than just the reveries of a retired farmer.

Here are some pics to show it is a real pretty place, is it any wonder rich people would want to move there and drive up land prices:)


mike and chenoa said...

I believe the Rockefellers owned (and are still part owner of) most of Conant Valley. That may also be what your grandpa was talking about.

Jake said...

My family also tells stories of the Rockefellers and their land grabs... I have a distant cousin who used to clean one of their houses. They are apparently rather rough with employees and quick to accuse them of theft; they haven't won any popularity contests with the locals.