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Antelope Flats

The Teton Range is seen from across the Antelope Flats parcel. The National Park Service bought the land from Wyoming for $46 million.

The Grand Teton National Park Foundation has met a crucial milestone in its effort to raise $23 million to protect 640 acres within the park.

The halfway point.

The foundation, along with the National Park Foundation, has collected $11.5 million to prevent the square mile of state land from being sold for potential development. Now, the groups have until the end of the year to raise the other half.

“I would say that it’s rather exciting around here,” said Leslie Mattson, president of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation. “Certainly this is a serious deadline, and we are working very hard with our partner, the National Park Foundation, to be able to raise the funds and close the real estate transaction before Dec. 31.

“It is our highest priority project.”

The land has been part of Wyoming’s school trust since 1890, and the state is required by law to earn income from trust assets, according to the foundation.

Last month, the State Board of Land Commissioners approved a deal to sell the $46 million parcel of state-owned land to the federal government, the Associated Press reported. Under an agreement between the state and the U.S. Interior Department, half of the $46 million would come from a federal conservation fund, while the other half would need to be raised from private sources.

The land is a parcel of the Antelope Flats, an important piece of property within the park. It’s a migration area for a variety of species and a prime scenic location.

That’s why there is high pressure to raise the money.

“If we’re unsuccessful, what could happen is what has generally happened to state lands. It could be sold at auction, and it could be subdivided into 35-acre properties,” Mattson said. “There could be 18 35-acre residences out there. That would be devastating to the wildlife and certainly the scenic vistas. That’s why we’ve made (raising funds) such a high priority.”

The National Park Foundation, the Jackson Hole Land Trust and the Knobloch Family Foundation each made donations of $1 million to help reach the halfway mark. According to the foundation, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has also made the purchase a top priority. “I’m confident,” Mattson said. “But $11.5 million in three and a half months is a lot of work. People love Grand Teton National Park. People care deeply about the wildlife in the park and the wildlife corridors. There are so many positive things lined up. “We’re hopeful, but (raising all this money) certainly isn’t magic.”

Follow reporter Brendan Meyer on Twitter @Brendan_Meyer13

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