Skip to Main Content

Controversy Through Growth [1943-1950s]

1943 - 1950s:
Grand Teton National Park, 1941
Expansion of Grand Teton National Park:

In 1943 Grand Teton National Park (founded in 1929) in Wyoming became embroiled in a controversy over President Roosevelt's declaration of a new national monument nearby in the valley named Jackson Hole.

The national monument and the controversy around it have their origins in the 1920s. In that decade, the wealthy philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. visited the Tetons, accompanied by Horace Albright. Albright knew that Rockefeller was interested in conservation and delicately pointed out areas in which Rockefeller could help in enlarging the forthcoming national park. Soon Rockefeller began acquiring land for the park. In hopes of avoiding local scrutiny of the project, he used a purchasing agent called the Snake River Land Company to buy the properties.

Photo: Grand Teton National Park, 1941

Snake River Land Company building
The intent behind the Snake River Land Company:

Within a few years, the Snake River Land Company had procured more than 35,000 acres. However, word of Rockefeller's involvement and true purpose leaked out, and over the course of the 1930s the planned addition to Grand Teton National Park became mired in political battles.

In 1942, with no further progress in sight, Rockefeller sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes threatening to sell off the property owned by the Snake River Land Company if the government would not accept his gift. The letter had the desired effect of prodding the government to action.

Photo: Snake River Land Company building

Grand Tetons, as viewed from Jackson Hole
Establishing a monument:

On March 15, 1943, President Roosevelt took the audacious step of establishing the Jackson Hole National Monument using the Antiquities Act. The monument would encompass more than 221,000 acres, including the property from Rockefeller.

The proclamation stirred up strong opposition in Wyoming from those who believed it was an abuse of federal power that would hurt the local economy by reducing the amount of taxable land. Many in the Forest Service were upset since much of the land for the monument would be transferred from the Teton National Forest. In May 1943, a group of ranchers drove 500 cattle across monument land in protest, seemingly unaware that they already had a right to do so. A Wyoming congressman put forth a bill to abolish the monument; the bill passed in Congress but was vetoed by the president.

Photo: Grand Tetons, as viewed from Jackson Hole

Grand Tetons
A legislative change:

The local opposition to the NPS began to fade with the end of World War II. In 1950 Grand Teton National Park was expanded to include the land from the Jackson Hole monument. In compromise, existing grazing rights did not change, and Teton County received reimbursement for lost tax revenue. Most remarkably, the agreement denied future presidents the power to proclaim monuments in Wyoming without the approval of Congress. After this controversy, the Antiquities Act was rarely used again to create national monuments by presidential proclamation.

Photo: Grand Tetons

Soldiers during the Korean War
Culture and the political climate:

Though World War II ended in 1945, the United States would not stay out of war for long. In 1950, the Korean War broke out between North and South Korea. The Korean peninsula had been divided at the end of World War II, with the Soviet Union controlling the North and the United States the South. When North Korea invaded South Korea, the United States believed this invasion to be initiated by its new rival in an attempt to spread communism. The U.S. retaliated in the hope of preventing the establishment of a communist state that encompassed the entire Korean Peninsula.

Photo: Soldiers during the Korean War



'Activity' icon

Political Battles