Local Artists Create Ornaments for the Official White House Holiday Tree

November 30, 2007

First Lady Laura Bush invited Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, among other national park units, to provide special ornaments for this year’s official White House Christmas tree. The 2007 White House tree is the centerpiece of elaborate decorations that pay tribute to the beauty and individual character of national parks while celebrating the theme of “Holiday in the National Parks.” In response to Mrs. Bush’s request, Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott selected two acclaimed local artists—Jim Wilcox and Greg McHuron—to paint specialty ornaments for the White House tree.

“It is an amazing honor for the National Park Service to be selected as the theme for the White House holiday decorations by the President and Mrs. Bush,” said National Park Service Director Mary Bomar. “Each ornament on the magnificent 18-foot Fraser fir was designed by an artist selected by the park. These ornaments tell the stories of our parks, just as our parks tell the stories of our nation,” said Bomar.

The “Holiday in the National Parks” ornament artists joined Mrs. Bush at the White House in Washington, D.C. for a special reception as she unveiled the tree to begin the holiday season on Wednesday, November 28. The tree, located in the Blue Room, displays artistic ornaments representing the country’s 391 National Park Service sites.

As part of the official invitation to participate in this year’s national parks theme, each park was allowed to select an artist to paint or decorate a large gold ball ornament about the size of a grapefruit. Any medium that did not alter the size and shape of the ornament was allowed, and the subject was to be the most recognizable feature representing the individual park. These original works of art will become part of the White House permanent ornament collection.

Jim Wilcox painted an ornament depicting Grand Teton National Park’s iconic scenery. Wilcox, namesake and founder of the Wilcox Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming, is a well-known painter of dramatic landscapes that often focus on the beauty and tranquility of the Teton Range and the park. Once a high school art teacher, Wilcox decided to pursue his craft full time following a successful show of his paintings at Jackson Lake Lodge. Working in oils and acrylics, Wilcox uses light to create different moods as he strives to capture the Teton scenes that first inspired him. Wilcox has received numerous awards for his art over the years.

Greg McHuron created an ornament portraying the charismatic wildlife found in the park and parkway. McHuron, a plein-air artist who works outdoors in oils and watercolors, moved to Jackson in 1973 to be close to the subjects that inspire his art; he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Art in 1968 and has been painting full time since 1975. McHuron’s work has been displayed in numerous major shows and purchased for prestigious collections, including the National Museum of Wildlife Art. McHuron has received many awards and been featured in trade magazines such as Art of the West Magazine, Wildlife Art News, and Southwest Art Magazine. His work is on view at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center and National Museum of Wildlife Art. A spectacular 13-piece wildlife mural painted by McHuron can be seen at the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center on North Cache in Jackson, Wyoming.


Grand Teton National Park Acquires Inholding Property

November 19, 2007

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott announced today that the National Park Service (NPS) recently completed the acquisition of a key inholding property located on the Moose-Wilson Road, approximately five miles south of park headquarters. This acquisition was made possible through funding provided under the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) of 2000. The 1.4-acre tract was identified as a top priority for acquisition, in part because it lies within an area that provides important habitat for a diversity of wildlife species.

Formerly known as the Hartgrave property, this land parcel originally consisted of approximately 4.4 acres. The property became available for purchase in 1995; however, the NPS was unable to acquire it at that time due to a lack of available federal funds. Gerald T. Halpin bought the property in order to protect it from potential development until the NPS could obtain funds for acquisition. In October of 2005, the NPS obtained Land and Water Conservation Funds to purchase approximately three acres of the Hartgrave property, leaving 1.4 acres in private ownership. FLTFA funds allowed the NPS to purchase the remaining privately-held acreage.

FLTFA offers land management agencies in the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture a “vehicle” by which private lands within areas administered by these agencies can be purchased from willing sellers. FLTFA funds are generated through the sale of public lands that are administered by the Bureau of Land Management and identified for disposal in land use plans. FLTFA provides a more efficient, streamlined process for land sales, and consequently benefits the nation’s public lands; it also helps to promote consolidation of ownership of public and private lands in a manner that allows for better overall resource management and protection. This federal authority for land transactions is scheduled to expire in July of 2010 unless extended by Congress.


Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Opens to the Public

November 6, 2007

Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott announced today that the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve has been conveyed to the National Park Service and is now part of Grand Teton National Park. The Preserve—valued at approximately $160 million—is a remarkably generous gift from Laurance S. Rockefeller to the citizens of the United States and the world. Mr. Rockefeller intended for the Preserve to serve as a catalyst to inspire appreciation and reverence for the beauty and diversity of the natural world, and also foster individual responsibility for conservation stewardship. While exploring the Preserve, visitors will have the opportunity to seek solitude and contemplation while finding new ways to strengthen their connection with nature. The Preserve’s trail system is now open for public access; however, the Preserve Center (building) will not open to the public until the summer of 2008.

Located in the southwestern corner of Grand Teton National Park on the shore of Phelps Lake, the 1,106-acre Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve is one of the most pristine, scenic, and wildlife-rich areas of the park. Formerly known as the JY Ranch, the property 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.

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.

Mr. Rockefeller announced his intention to gift the remaining JY lands to the park in a ceremony held at the ranch on May 26, 2001. In remarks made during the event, he expressed his desire for the Preserve to become a place of physical and spiritual renewal, and he stated his hope that the property would serve as a model for achieving balance between preservation and public use. He further declared that it would demonstrate how citizens—working in partnership with their government—can achieve important goals. On behalf of the American people, Vice President Dick Cheney and Department of the Interior Secretary Gale Norton committed that the U.S. Government would honor the specific wishes and vision of Mr. Rockefeller.

In preparation for transfer of the gift—and at the direction of Mr. Rockefeller—all roads, buildings, utilities and other structures were removed in order to restore the area’s natural landscape and re-establish natural systems. Approximately half of the structures were donated to Grand Teton for reuse as employee housing and related facilities; the remaining 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.

The Preserve has adopted the values of "Leave No Trace." Visitors will be required to pack out all trash, and be respectful of wildlife, to minimize impacts to the natural environment. No restroom facilities will be available for use during the fall and winter months; however, these facilities will be available during the summer months.

Although leashed pets are allowed in the company of hikers and bikers on the Moose-Wilson Road, pets are not allowed on the Preserve’s trail system, just as they are not allowed on any other trails within Grand Teton National Park.

Trail maps of the Preserve will be available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose.