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Natural Resources & Energy

Yellowstone National Park marks its 150th anniversary by noting past challenges and embracing new ones

black and white photo. Men stand around sign "National Park Service. Yellowstone National Park. Canyon Ranger Station. Information Service Fee Complaints Here" Log cabin in the background
Yellowstone National Park
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Ranger Station personnel at Canyon Photographer unknown; 1922

It has been 150 years since Yellowstone National Park became the first national park in the country.

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said the park didn't have a very good track record of resource conservation in the beginning.

"Our government policies are generally to rid the park of predators and we did that. We did it en masse. We extirpated wolves, we extirpated cougars, we decreased the population of bears," he said. "And we basically tinkered with the ecosystem and took it completely out of balance really unknowingly at that point in time."

Sholly said only in the last 50 to 60 years has the park worked to put the ecosystem back together but there's still a lot of work to do due to climate change and other challenges.

Sholly added that they are also partnering with Native Americans to better recognize their significant ancestral and modern connections to the park.

"We've also not always gotten the stories right here in Yellowstone and so we are focused on really making sure we're telling these stories right as stewards of these parks," said Sholly. "And so we're working with tribal nations to ask questions around what are we getting right? What are we getting wrong?"

Multiple tribal nations will be present throughout the summer at Old Faithful. This is the start of the Yellowstone Tribal Heritage Center project. Tribes are also coordinating a large teepee village in the park near the Roosevelt Arch in August, where tribal members will interact with visitors directly.

The park will host and participate in a wide range of activities to commemorate the 150th. This includes the 15th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem hosted by Montana State University and the Wyoming Governor's Hospitality and Tourism Conference.

At this point, there are no large events planned due to the coronavirus.

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