Forest Service buys easement to discourage development
JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - The Bridger-Teton National Forest has paid $6.57 million to ranchers to prevent development in Buffalo Valley.
Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton said preventing development in the area near Teton Pass is a top priority for the forest.
''The viewshed is just awesome,'' she said Tuesday.
The easement covers 105 acres along U.S. 26-287. Forest officials say that, at $62,590 per acre, the price of the easement is below the appraised value of the land itself.
Although purchased with public funds, the easement will remain privately owned and closed to public access.
''I think the public gains a lot of value in having the easement there because it won't be developed,'' Hamilton said.
Moreover, the area includes moose winter range and bald eagle habitat and is an elk migration corridor, according to forest officials.
Funding for the easement included $3.5 million Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., helped secure in 2001.
At the time, the Forest Service planned to team up with the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance to buy the conservation easement. But that would have required splitting up the easement.
Tom Ellison, land adjustment officer for the Forest Service, said that would have made the easement difficult to manage.
Thomas helped secure another $2.8 million for the easement earlier this year. Ellison said the Land Trust agreed to drop its option to buy the easement and allow the Forest Service to buy it.
Other funds came from the state Department of Transportation's scenic byways program.
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