The largest grazing-lease holder in Grand Teton National Park plans to give up his 2,000-acre lease. Brad Mead, co-owner of the Mead-Hansen Ranch and a fourth-generation Jackson Hole rancher, says his ranch will stop grazing on public land by the end of the year.
Mead acknowledged that his ranch needed a "dramatic change in operation," and said that ranching in Jackson Hole had become an "anachronism." He did not challenge the claims made by two conservation groups, the Western Watershed Project and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, that his recent sale of part of the 1,300-acre Mead-Hansen ranch would automatically invalidate his lease.
When Grand Teton National Park was created in 1950, the park allowed established leaseholders to continue grazing until the sale of their private lands or until the death of designated heirs. But after the sudden death of Mead-Hansen Ranch heiress Mary Mead in a 1997 horseback-riding accident, legislation sponsored by Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., allowed the ranch to hold onto its park lease.
Environmental and conservation groups have long opposed cattle grazing in the park, contending that grazing stresses native wildlife and plant life, erodes watersheds, and places an unnecessary burden on the park budget. Grand Teton National Park earns about $8,000 per year in grazing fees, but pays $50,000 a year to maintain grazing infrastructure. There are six leaseholders remaining in Grand Teton National Park.