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Rockefeller Family Turns Over More than 1,100 Acres to Grand Teton National Park


A winter day's sunrise over the Tetons. NPS Photo by K. Finch

After negotiating a paperwork gauntlet, a tract of more than 1,100 acres has been transferred by the Rockefeller family to Grand Teton National Park.

While the idea was kindled back in May 2001, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, valued at $160 million, didn't officially become part of the park until this past Tuesday, November 6. Long a private inholding located within the southwest corner of the park on the eastern shore of Phelps Lake, the land since the 1930s had served as a private retreat for the Rockefeller family. Over the years the Rockefeller had donated roughly 2,000 acres of the so-called JY Ranch to the park; this latest transfer is the last piece of the ranch.

While the preserve's trail system is now open to the public, its education center will not open until next spring.

The JY Ranch was part of approximately 35,000 acres of valley lands purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. during the late 1920s and early 1930s for the purpose of protecting and enlarging Grand Teton National Park. In those days the purchase of the ranch itself cost Mr. Rockefeller $90,000.

The JY Ranch was originally purchased in 1906 by Lewis Joy and is considered to be the first true dude ranch in Jackson Hole. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased the ranch in 1932, intending to include it in a sizeable land donation to the park. Over the years, however, it became a treasured family retreat and remained private property. Laurance inherited the JY from his father, and in the 1990s arranged for the transfer of a significant portion of the ranch—some 2000 acres—to Grand Teton.

One of the requirements for the transfer set by Laurance Rockefeller was that the existing seven miles of roads within the JY boundaries, its existing log buildings and its utilities be removed so as to restore the area’s natural landscape. Park officials say that approximately half of the structures were donated to Grand Teton for reuse as employee housing and related facilities; the other buildings were relocated to a new family property outside the park. A portion of this work had begun before Mr. Rockefeller passed away at the age of 94 on July 11, 2004.

With the seasonal closure of the Moose-Wilson Road to vehicles on November 1, visitors may only access the Preserve grounds by hiking or biking on the Moose-Wilson Road to reach the Preserve’s entrance gate and parking area located approximately 1.75 miles north of the Granite Canyon trailhead and about .5 mile south of the Death Canyon turnoff. Those who bicycle in, can lock their bikes to the racks located in the parking lot before setting out to hike the eight miles of established trails to reach Phelps Lake and the surrounding Teton Range. Visitors are encouraged to stay on the designated hiking trails; and bikes are not allowed on the Preserve’s trails.

For some more insight into this transfer and the beauty of the land, check out this story that Tony Perrottet wrote for Smithsonian Magazine earlier this year.


Beamis and I often have very fundamental disagreements in the past; however, I can't agree more with the sentiment that we need to be consistent in our ethics. I think the discussion on the other thread that I linked to says quite well why I think so. Conservation at all costs is not actually pragmatic at all. And, if we wonder why there is so much resistance in the West to environmentalism, looking at the history of misdeeds tells us why we are in some of the unreasonable fights we are in now.

Think of everything going on in Grand Teton and the immediate area - with the National Elk Refuge, with cattle grazing (ironically alongside bison with brucellosis), with CWD coming soon, and think of why those problems seem unsolvable. There's a lot of history of mistrust.

In any event, for the most part, Jackson Hole as it is now is mostly a happy accident, not a process of establishment I can celebrate. And, again, if anyone can actually convince me that I'm wrong to link ends and means so tightly, I'll be happy to stand corrected.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Lepanto and Rick Smith----you label me as over the top and "great entertainment value" and then tell me I'm overly pessimistic (because it must be hard for me to get up in the morning with such a dismal view of my imperial masters in DC) yet have nothing beyond personal attacks to offer in rebuttal to my observations.

All I can say is I hope your guy wins and you'll be able to force everyone else to bend to the will of the new more "progressive" majority.

As for Grand Teton N.P. I've read the history and know quite well that it was the same members of the power elite, that most readers of this site love to regularly bash, in this case a baron of BIG OIL, who used his incredible wealth and connections to swindle and cheat small landowners out of their land, just as was done in Shenandoah, the Great Smokies and other so called "national treasures" for the "common good".

It seems that you have no quarrel with practices and ethics you would otherwise condemn as long as they are used for causes and purposes you agree with and support. This is the very essence of mob rule.

Long live democracy!

Long live the oligarchy!

Last time I checked, this article was about Grand Teton, not the economic policy....

I find Beamis to be very optimistic, particularly when he resists giving into the fear propaganda surrounding global warming and other world environmental "crises". Beamis is optimistic that change is around the corner. His assessment of the two candidates isn't pessimistic; it's accurate. Socialism is "state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society". Certainly both candidates, having voted to nationalize our banking industry, are somewhat socialistic. And please review the economics of fascism before you dismiss Beamis. You'll find "the nationalization of all businesses which have been formed into corporations" among other descriptors that I find particularly apt with both candidates.

Look at what happened in Italy during the Great Depression and World War II:

In 1929, Italy was hit hard by the Great Depression. The Italian economy, having just emerged from a period of monetary stabilization, was not ready for this shock. Prices fell and production slowed. Unemployment rose from 300,787 in 1929 to 1,018,953 in 1933. Trying to handle the crisis, the Fascist government nationalized the holdings of large banks which had accrued significant industrial securities. The government also issued new securities to provide a source of credit for the banks and began enlisting the help of various cartels (consorzi) that had been created by Italian business leaders since 1922. The government offered recognition and support to these organizations in exchange for promises that they would manipulate prices in accordance with government priorities. A number of mixed entities were formed, called instituti or enti nazionali, whose purpose it was to bring together representatives of the government and of the major businesses. These representatives discussed economic policy and manipulated prices and wages so as to satisfy both the wishes of the government and the wishes of business. The government considered this arrangement to be a success, and Italian Fascists soon began to pride themselves on this outcome, saying they had survived the Great Depression without infringing on private property.

Sound familiar?

Bravo Mr Mcdonald you have once again put your anarchy stamp on yet another story here at Traveler. This discussion centers on the thoughtful and forward thinking of the Rockefellers who have done some amazing things in this country for national parks including making Acadia National Park even possible, since most of the park is their land--no doubt swindled as you might say from misinformed and bullied landowners who had no idea what their oceanside land was worth and got pillaged in the sale. Perhaps th efamily did nothing more than suggest that they would do nothing to hurt the land and indeed protect it from future generations who might want to profit from it--but I digress. You've mananged to once again spark a political debate within an issue that has nothing to do with poltics but conservation. I'm not sure anarchists and conservation go what is your point???? I agree with the grounded folk here in this thread...praise any conservation effort made by any group, because like it or not it's a step in a positive direction. Even if it's not a popular one, it is a step that encourages many more steps. I think you should try your optimist suit might be a much better fit.

Sorry, Bemis, but I don't buy your bleak assessment of the world or the US. Nor do I agree with your characterization of the two candidates as a socialist and a fascist. Your unremitting pessimism is hard to read. For you, apparently, the glass is neither half full nor half empty; it's empty. It must be hard to get up every morning.

Rick Smith

Jeepers, Beamis, there's not much grey area in your conception of the world, is there? So, our immorality exceeds all other's, and this comic book version of history you would install in place of any kind of real understanding of how things are, and how they work?

Beamis, i do try to give your stuff the benefit of the doubt. Sure, nothing exceeds like excess. It can have great entertainment value. But this rant in response to the preservation of the Grand Tetons? This gives a new meaning to 'over the top.'

It's time, Beamis: Get The Hook.

The key quote for me in this entire string is "no matter how the land was acquired, Grand Teton is one of this nations premier national park areas."

That in a nutshell is the world we live in today. The ends justify the means. The last century was almost exclusively centered on this concept, whether it concerned acquiring territory "for the common good" through stealth, deception and brute force or if it meant deporting, concentrating or ethnically cleansing whole populations of people.

This twisted concept of social justice also goes to the very heart of the phony election we're about to have on Tuesday between a socialist and a fascist. Democracy has always been about grabbing as much as you can for as long as you can when power temporarily swings into the hands of YOUR mob. The Founding Fathers greatly feared this type of tyranny where the government and the power elite forge an efficient system of organized plunder.

Today people are simply voting for a proxy that will take from one group to give to another.

I still like H.L. Mencken's take on this the best when he said that "Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." Almost 100 years later his observation couldn't be more true than it is today.

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