It’s NOT the economy, stupid!


1916-cody-road.jpgIt’s time to finally acknowledge that the National Park Service charter does not guarantee the economic health of entrepreneurs. No national park owes anyone a living – including administrators and rangers.

A note in the Casper Star Tribune, “Shut Out Of Yellowstone” bemoans the potential detrimental economic impact of the possible closing of the east entrance to Yellowstone during winter.

Decisions about the operation of the national parks should be enterprise neutral. But the last eight years has seen more response to “business” concerns than we’ve seen since the Northern Pacific jammed Yellowstone down the congressional throat in the late 19th century.

Ever since William Cody teamed up with the railroads the town has used Yellowstone as a draw – and that’s O.K. However, one business in Cody, Wyoming plans to sue Yellowstone National Park because their business has been hurt by the east entrance policies.

In the meantime, though, one local business owner is preparing to take his concerns to court. Jon Sowerwine, owner of High Country Adventures, the only snowcoach operator from the east gate, says this winter’s business has been exceptionally slow due to the continual discussion of avalanche dangers and the concern for public safety on Sylvan Pass. He plans to file a lawsuit in the next couple of weeks against the Park Service based on decisions officials have made this year.

“Their actions are deliberately against us,” he said. “This has definitely been our worst year.”

mud-slide-sylvan-rescue-nps-jim-pasco.jpgSylvan pass is prone to mudslides and avalanches. The discussions about it being open should be limited to that. Period. End of story. (NPS photos by Al Nash and Jim Pasco.)heavy-eqpt-sylvan-pass-nps-al-nash.jpg

The merchants of Cody, West Yellowstone, Jackson, and Gardiner have long taken advantage of their geographical location to profit from the proximity of Yellowstone National Park – that’s fine. However, Yellowstone owes no one a living.

sylvan-snowblower-nps-al-nash.jpgThe economic well being of ranchers has nothing to do with wolf reintroduction. The economic well being of snowmobile tours has nothing to do with winter access. The economic well being of snow coach operators has nothing to do with winter access. It’s time for the National Park Service to acknowledge this and move on.

Perhaps, if park administrators can make the leap from economic entitlement to environmental entitlement, a sane operating policy for Yellowstone can emerge.

As it now stands, John Sacklin and Suzanne Lewis are busy trying to keep Xanterra, Delaware North, and all the gateway community businesses profitable. This is a poor way to run a park.


decal-cody-road.jpgBurlington Northern brochure & decal from the ‘Robert Goss Collection.’ See “Making Concessions in Yellowstone.”

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