Long before the arrival of Europeans, native peoples referred to Yellowstone as the “land of yellow rock waters” for the distinctive stone forged by volcanic blasts and the boiling waters of the largest geothermal system in the world. By 1872, Congress had dedicated Yellowstone as the nation’s—and the world’s—first national park. Yellowstone thus predates the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and the Department of Interior—and of course the Park Service itself. The Congress of the day may have specified Yellowstone Park as a “pleasuring-ground,” but a century and a half of protection has created something far more valuable than a spot to snap pictures. In the words of the Park Service, as a “mountain wildland, home to grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk, the park is the core of one of the last, nearly intact, natural ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone.”
This is precisely what is at stake now for Yellowstone as the National Park Service approaches its centennial. The challenge rests not with the Park Service itself, which has earmarked more than $2 million for worthy restoration projects, but in two related outside threats.
Above: Fish and Wildlife Service is making its second attempt in a decade to delist the Yellowstone grizzly as an endangered species. Doing so would would remove a major obstacle in the path of a proposed gold mine just 30 miles north of the Yellowstone Park boundary. Photo: R. Bear Stands Last, courtesy of the GOAL Tribal Coalition