Grand Teton National Park Turns Eighty

February 23, 2009
On February 26, 1929, President Calvin Coolidge signed into law the legislation that created Grand Teton National Park; the 96,000-acre federal reserve included just the Teton Range and six glacial lakes at the base of the rugged peaks — a park that was only one-third of its present-day size. Thursday will mark the 80th anniversary of this world-renowned and beloved national park located in northwestern Wyoming.

The history of Grand Teton’s establishment as a national park involved significant controversy, a bit of intrigue, and skilled political maneuvering. The Teton landscape first received government protection in 1897 when Congress created the Teton Forest Reserve out of land not otherwise included in Yellowstone National Park. Charles Walcott, head of the U.S. Geological Survey, suggested in 1898 that the Teton Range be set aside in what he coined a “Teton National Park.” It took until 1917, however, before members of congress began floating bills to make a larger sanctuary by expanding Yellowstone National Park in order to preserve northern portions of Jackson Hole and the Teton Range. In 1918, Wyoming Congressman Frank Mondell introduced a bill to extend Yellowstone’s southern boundary, but it failed passage by the Senate. Ten years elapsed before Wyoming Senator John Kendrick successfully sponsored a bill to establish a separate area called Grand Teton National Park. When Congress finally approved the 1929 legislation for a national park, the wheels were already in motion to preserve additional lands throughout Jackson Hole.

Beginning in 1928, and for several years following, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. quietly purchased approximately 35,000 acres of valley lands with the intention of donating them to the federal government to expand the boundary of the newly created Grand Teton park. Local and statewide reluctance for park enlargement created a stalemate that prevented Rockefeller from finalizing his philanthropic plan. After holding the land for 15 years, Rockefeller became discouraged and wrote President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, threatening to sell the land to "…any satisfactory buyers" if the federal government would not accept his gift. Rockefeller spent over $1.4 million to purchase Jackson Hole lands in his campaign to donate these holdings to the federal government.

Rockefeller's letter prompted Roosevelt to use presidential proclamation to establish a 221,000-acre Jackson Hole National Monument, effectively overriding Congress’ deadlock on the issue. The March 15, 1943 proclamation combined Rockefeller's acreage with Jackson Lake, Teton National Forest lands and other federal properties. Creation of the monument was so unpopular with Congress that they voted to abolish it — forcing President Roosevelt to counter with a pocket veto. Then the State of Wyoming sued the National Park Service to overturn the proclamation, but that lawsuit failed in the courts. As a last resort to show their disapproval, Congress withheld operational funds for the monument. After World War II, sentiment against the park and its enlargement eased somewhat, and President Harry S. Truman eventually signed a bill on September 14, 1950 that merged the original 1929 park with the 1943 monument.

Establishment of the 1929 Grand Teton National Park proved to be a mere wave in an ocean of controversy that lasted decades. In opposition to the concept, local residents fought and defeated three attempts to federalize land in Jackson Hole. Today, most people agree that creating the national park was an insightful and valuable step toward preserving much of Jackson Hole from development and building a vibrant local and regional economy.

Recruiting for Wildlife Brigade Internships

Wildlife Brigade Ranger Manages "Bear Jam"

February 12, 2009
For the second consecutive year, Grand Teton National Park is partnering with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) to offer a unique opportunity for undergraduate students, graduate students, or recent alumnae who are interested in wildlife biology, interpretation and/or park management. The park and GYC are recruiting to fill two internship positions designed to provide a safe wildlife-viewing experience for visitors and wildlife along park roads, in developed areas, and on popular trails. Individuals selected for these paid, full-time summer positions will gain significant knowledge related to animal behavior, bear management, and natural history, as well as park and recreation management.

Interns will become members of Grand Teton National Park’s Wildlife Brigade — an interdisciplinary team responsible for promoting ethical wildlife viewing practices. The brigade assists with traffic and people management during roadside wildlife jams, performs patrols in developed areas to look for unsecured food and other bear attractants, educates visitors about bear safety at trailheads and on popular trails, and provides interpretive education for park visitors about wildlife and other park resources.

The 12-week internships will take place from May through September when wildlife-human conflicts are most common. Interns will work closely with National Park Service staff while managing situations where people are in close proximity to bears, moose, and other large mammals. Monetary compensation for the two internships is $12 per hour; volunteer uniforms are provided and park housing is available for a nominal cost. Interns must posses a valid driver’s license. A personal background check may be required before being employed.

Applications are due by March 11, 2009. Interested candidates should submit a cover letter addressing an interest in the internship and relevant experience, and a resume outlining experience and education — including contact information for three references (at least one previous work supervisor). Students may use this to satisfy academic requirements such as a senior thesis or required internship. Email applications with a subject line of “Grand Teton Internship” to

For further information about this opportunity, please contact Amy McNamara, GYC's national parks program director, at 406.586.1593.

Natural Resource Stewardship Awards Given to Mary Gibson Scott & Sue Consolo Murphy

Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott
S & RM Chief Sue Consolo Murphy
February 10, 2009
National Park Service Intermountain Region Director Mike Snyder recently presented awards for natural resource stewardship to
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott and Chief of Science and Resources Management Sue Consolo Murphy. The recognition awards acknowledge excellence in the areas of conservation leadership and resource management, and salute individual accomplishments in natural resource preservation by National Park Service employees throughout the Intermountain Region.

Superintendent Scott was recognized with the Superintendent of the Year Award for Natural Resource Stewardship. Scott’s achievements include: development of a strategic plan to guide partnership efforts in securing monetary support for wildlife and climate change research, and for programs designed to protect park wildlife; initiation and support of an interagency project to designate a wildlife migration corridor to protect pronghorn antelope; service for two years as the chair of the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee—a regional committee consisting of superintendents, supervisors and managers from two national parks, six national forests, and three national wildlife refuges; securing approval and funding for research on the potential adverse effects to wildlife from construction of a new multi-use pathway in the park; acquiring funding for permanent staff positions to research and monitor non-native plant infestations and increased grizzly bear presence in Grand Teton; and the establishment of strong relationships with park partners—notably the Rockefeller Associates and the Jackson Hole Airport Board—which led to consistent and long-term protection of park resources. Scott has regularly and consistently made resource protection a high priority and an overarching goal in managing new, and/or ongoing, park programs and projects.

Science and Resource Management Chief Consolo Murphy was presented with the Director’s Award for Natural Resource Management. Initiatives leading to her selection for this award include: development of interagency, multi-partner projects for monitoring complex geological interactions between the Yellowstone volcanism and Greater Yellowstone Area fault systems; creation of a comprehensive mapping project of Grand Teton’s trail system to assess conditions and impacts by horse and user-created trails; development of a data base to track research in climate change; contributions to the cooperative Greater Yellowstone Science and Learning Center with online reference products for researchers and educational institutions; oversight of research leading to the designation of the nation’s first wildlife migration corridor to protect pronghorn antelope; and guidance and fund-raising efforts to support wolf research and monitoring, as well as other wildlife research programs. Consolo Murphy is universally recognized by her peers as a consummate professional, supportive mentor, and ardent advocate for resource stewardship.

In acknowledging the individual accomplishments of Scott and Consolo Murphy, Regional Director Snyder stated, “These Park Service professionals are extremely committed to making science-based decisions and creating adaptive and cooperative approaches to resource management. They have made great contributions not only to the National Park Service, but also to the preservation of natural resources within Grand Teton National Park. They each provide a superb example for others to follow.”

Scott and Consolo Murphy will each receive an eagle sculpture plaque, along with their award certificates.

Temp Closure of Hwy 89 for Extrication of Coca-Cola Semi

February 7, 2009
A large tractor-trailer truck veered off the road and into deep snow along Highway 89 just south of Gros Ventre Junction at 11:40 p.m. Thursday night, February 5, in Grand Teton National Park. The semi truck, hauling Coca-Cola products, became high centered and stuck in more than two feet of snow after it left the roadway and traveled down an embankment and about 100 feet into nearby sagebrush. Attempts to extricate the 93-ton vehicle from the snowpack, using two heavy-duty tow trucks, resulted in minor disruptions to traffic and some temporary closures of Highway 89 during Friday afternoon, February 6, and Saturday morning, February 7.

The driver of the semi truck apparently lost control of his vehicle just before midnight on Thursday when the right front tire drifted into a ridge of snow along the southbound lane of Highway 89. The driver was unable to steer his vehicle back onto the pavement, and the truck plunged down the roadside embankment into a deeper snowpack, where it came to rest—upright. The driver was uninjured, but the semi was completely stuck with its tires buried in snow up to the wheel-well cowlings. A Wyoming Highway patrolman responded to the accident scene on Thursday night and interviewed the driver at that time.

Due to the significant weight of the semi truck, conventional towing equipment proved to be inadequate to pull it back onto the road late Thursday night. Therefore, a heavy-duty tow truck from Snake River Towing Service of Idaho Falls, Idaho was summoned Friday morning, and together with a heavy-duty tow truck from Flat Creek Towing of Jackson,Wyoming, a second attempt was made on Friday afternoon to pull the tractor-trailer out of the snowbank. This effort was also unsuccessful, and by late Friday afternoon, a crew from the local Coca-Cola distribution warehouse began to unload the truck’s cargo in order to lighten its weight for a third extrication attempt; the cargo reportedly consisted of several thousand cases of Coke products.

By reducing the tractor-trailer’s cargo load, the two heavy-duty tow trucks were able to carefully and incrementally pull the rig up the embankment and back onto Highway 89 at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday. The semi truck was then driven to Jackson with no further delay.