A Valley in Discord


Because allegations were made that the Snake River Land Company used illegal tactics during the purchase of properties, a Senate Subcommittee convened hearings in 1933 to investigate. When the hearings concluded, it was clear that claims about unfair business dealings by the Snake River Land Company and the National Park Service were groundless and both were exonerated. In 1934, Wyoming Senator Robert Carey introduced a bill in the Senate once again to expand park boundaries. One compromise of this bill dealt with reimbursement to Teton County for lost tax revenues. This bill and another drafted in 1935 failed. The tax issue and objections to including Jackson Lake because of dam and reservoir degradation fueled anti-park sentiments anew. During 1937 and 1938, the National Park Service prepared a document outlining the history of park extension and defending the importance of park status upon tourism. Again, anti-park sentiments flared and the expansion issue grew politically hotter. A group of locals calling themselves the Jackson Hole Committee vehemently opposed the park plan and encouraged the Wyoming delegation and Congress to do so as well. The park dream remained bruised and battered as controversy over enlargement continued into the 1940s.

After purchasing 35,000 acres and holding the land for 15 years, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. became discouraged and impatient with the stalemate surrounding acceptance of his gift. In an historic letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he wrote that if the federal government did not want the gift of land or could not "arrange to accept it on the general terms long discussed…it will be my thought to make some other disposition of it or to sell it in the market to any satisfactory buyers." This threat persuaded FDR to use his presidential power to proclaim 221,000 acres as the Jackson Hole National Monument on March 15, 1943. Robert Righter believes that Rockefeller threatened to sell in order to provoke governmental action. This bold action by Roosevelt provided a chance to circumvent obstacles created by Congress and the Wyoming delegation.

Local backlash immediately followed as park opponents criticized the monument for being a blatant violation of states' rights. They also believed the monument would destroy the local economy and county tax base. Hoping to force a confrontation, armed and defiant ranchers trailed 500 cattle across newly created monument land. The Park Service ignored this stunt but the drive focused national attention on the monument. Controversy grew more vocal and bitter, causing Wyoming Congressman Frank Barrett to introduce a bill abolishing the Jackson Hole National Monument; it passed both House and Senate. President Roosevelt exercised a pocket veto, killing the bill. The state of Wyoming responded to the veto by filing suit against the National Park Service to overturn the proclamation. The suit failed in the court system but the acrimonious local rift continued. The proclamation directed transfer of acreage from the Teton National Forest to the National Park Service. Since forest service administrators opposed the monument, the transition between jurisdictions provoked several vindictive deeds; one vengeful act involved gutting the Jackson Lake Ranger Station before turning it over to park staff. Local park supporters often faced hostilities and boycotts of their businesses throughout these turbulent years.

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