Rockefeller's Interest Grows


John D. Rockefeller, Jr. became involved in the Jackson Hole Plan after a visit to Teton country in 1924 and again in 1926. These visits highlighted not only spectacular Teton scenery, but also shabby developments littering the roadway from Menor's Ferry to Moran and along Jenny Lake's south and east shores. Yellowstone Superintendent Albright seized an opportunity to explain to Rockefeller the essence of the Noble cabin meeting and the hope of protecting and preserving "this sublime valley" from unsightly commercial development. Rockefeller decided to purchase offending private properties with the intention of donating these lands for National Park designation. He created the Snake River Land Company as a purchasing agent to mask his association and keep land prices affordable, since landowners would have undoubtedly inflated their asking prices had they known of his involvement.

The Snake River Land Company launched an ambitious campaign to buy more than 35,000 acres for approximately $1.4 million. What seemed like a simple and straightforward plan became 20 years of bitter debate, nearly tearing apart the Jackson Hole community. Intense hostility surrounded land acquisitions; attempts by Rockefeller to gift these properties to the National Park Service met resistance. Economic hardships suffered by ranchers during the 1920s helped ease some land acquisitions. Many ranchers were actually relieved to sell and get out of business during a time of economic difficulty. In 1925, ranchers circulated a petition in support of the private buyout countering anti-park opinions in Jackson Hole. Ninety-seven ranchers endorsed the petition's statement, "that this region will find its highest use as a playground…The destiny of Jackson's Hole is as a playground, typical of the west, for the education and enjoyment of the Nation, as a whole." Perhaps this quote has more credibility as a tacit admission that ranching in northern Jackson Hole was difficult, if not impossible, than it has as a genuine altruistic gesture by the ranchers.

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