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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Rockefeller Gift

Air Date: Week of

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The Rockefeller family has donated their 11-hundred acre Wyoming ranch to Grand Teton National Park. They also took the unusual step of providing an endowment to cover its future management costs. Jackie Yamanaka reports from Grand Teton National Park.


CURWOOD: A little more than 50 years ago, John D. Rockefeller gave 33,000 acres of his own land in northwestern Wyoming to the federal government. That parcel later became the heart of what is now called Grand Teton National Park. Now, John's son Lawrance has turned over his 1,100-acre dude ranch, the J-Y, to the park. Vice President Dick Cheney and Interior Secretary Gail Norton accepted the gift on behalf of the Bush administration, and as Jackie Yamanaka of Yellowstone Public Radio reports, the gift comes with an unusual attachment.

YAMANAKA: Phelps Lake sparkles in the shadow of Mount Albright, just one peak in the Teton Range. For three quarters of a century, this view has been taken in only by the Rockefeller family and its guests. Soon it will be open to the public. Lawrance Rockefeller says the gift honors his father's vision that people can live in harmony with nature.

ROCKEFELLER: The plan developed for the future of the J-Y seeks to achieve delicate balance between conservation of nature and public access and use. In too many places in the national parks, overcrowding and overuse are progressively destroying the very values people seek in coming to our parks.

YAMANAKA: For years the national parks have had a shortage of cash to address its current responsibilities. It struggles with crumbling roads, run-down buildings, and leaking sewer systems. So to help the park, Rockefeller says the family will take the unusual step of providing several million dollars to transition the private ranch to public ownership, and to assist with its future maintenance and operation. Vice President Dick Cheney and Interior Secretary Gail Norton attended the event where the land gift was officially presented.

(Singing and guitar: "Mother Earth follow on you. Lay your body down...")

YAMANAKA: Before the announcement ceremony, nearly 80 protesters gathered at the park's headquarters in Moose. Mac Blewer of Lander praises the Rockefeller family for its environmental vision and its gift of land to Grand Teton National Park. But he's critical of the Bush administration's environmental record.

Mac Blewer: We are gravely concerned that the Bush administration is using today as a greenwashing photo opportunity to veil the administration's anti-environmental policies.

YAMANAKA: One area of concern is the President's recently announced energy plan, which calls for more oil and gas drilling on public lands. Interior Secretary Gail Norton doesn't rule out exploration outside of Grand Teton and neighboring Yellowstone National Parks.

NORTON: Wherever that happens, it has to be in an area where you have a thorough planning process. And you very carefully determine those areas that are the least sensitive and yet still have a lot of energy resources.

YAMANAKA: For years there have been attempts to drill in national forest and other public lands near the parks. Conservationists say instead of talk about such development, the administration should take some real action to also protect the wild lands around the parks. For now, the only land ensured protection from oil and gas development is Grand Teton National Park and this new addition. For Living on Earth, I'm Jackie Yamanaka, Grand Teton National Park.

CURWOOD: Coming up: How plants psych out humans. First, this page from the animal notebook with Maggie Villiger.

(Music up and under: Allison Dean, "Technology Note Theme")



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