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Yellowstone Shutdown

What Does Federal Shutdown Mean for Yellowstone?

Both sides appear to be going to the mattresses, as a government stalemate leading to a federal shutdown could impact Yellowstone National Park through a scheduled closing date.

We are in the rump of the Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park summer tourism season: most of the services within Yellowstone have shut down for the year, with open facilities centered in the Old Faithful and Mammoth areas. But with all roads closed within Yellowstone and Grand Teton (except for Cooke City and Silver Gate residents needing access via the Lamar Valley), it’s a quiet time in the park. Visitors to the Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hotel — the only hotels open in the park — or the four open campground were told to make alternative arrangements before leaving by tomorrow morning. The shutdown has also meant the temporary closure of the Mammoth General Store — open for most of the year — and it sounds like Xanterra will pare down operations in the Old Faithful area once the final guest has departed.

While October isn’t the busiest month in Yellowstone, there are enough visitors — between 130,000 and 140,000, according to National Park Service officials — to make an economic impact on local businesses. For hotels, the short-term gain from housing visitors booted from the park will probably be more than offset by any long-term losses of tourists. Any revenue from October can mean the difference between an iffy year and a decent year for many of these small-business owners. We don’t feel too sorry for the giants who run Yellowstone concessions; we feel sorry for the mom and pops in West Yellowstone, in Gardiner, in Cody, who will feel the loss of tourism revenues this month.

Realistically speaking: if the shutdown doesn’t end in a week or so, it will be the end of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton fall seasons.

And will we see a short-term solution? Unlikely. The House of Representatives, which initiated the shutdown, has voted to fund the National Park Service while continuing the rest of the government shutdown; the Senate has rejected this approach. At the time of this writing the two sides were still in a stalemate that has no end game. And with both sides bracing for a budget battle that could last for weeks, we could see the closure bleeding into the beginning of the winter season. Of course, the shutdown could have been worse: it could have occurred in the middle of July.

Image by the National Parks Conservation Association, via flickr.com.

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