After several months on the job, Superintendent Cam Sholly has issued a list of major Yellowstone strategic priorities designed to guide Park planning both in the short term and in the long term.
The list of major Yellowstone strategic priorities is a mix of specific proposals and more abstract aspirations. Some of the priorities are already being addressed, like the plan to expand housing options for season workers. Others will certainly be controversial, like dealing with the effects of climate change at a time when the national government denies climate change even exists. And others will be extensively debated, such as the desire to improve the visitor experience without impacting existing Yellowstone resources.
Still, for those who worried what would happen when Dan Wenk was replaced as superintendent, this list of major strategic priorities should be reassuring. Many of the core priorities, especially the emphasis on the ecosystem and improved visitor experience, continue initiatives originally developed and nurtured by Wenk.
Here is the list of major strategic priorities as released by Yellowstone officials:
- Focus on the Core: Success in this priority is central to Yellowstone’s future and revolves around improving the working and living conditions of the Yellowstone team, how the park manages its financial resources, and how it works toward the best administrative and operational framework. An example of a specific action under this priority includes the development of a 5-year plan to substantially improve employee housing within the park. The multi-million-dollar plan will work to improve existing housing, eliminate and replace 75 trailers currently used for seasonal employees, and will explore new housing partnership opportunities with gateway communities and partners.
- Strengthen the Ecosystem and Heritage Resources: This priority focuses on understanding and responding to the effects of climate change, promoting large landscape and wildlife conservation efforts, and protecting and improving the condition of Yellowstone’s vast cultural and historic resources. Specific actions under this priority are being developed in a range of key areas including: a bison management strategy that stabilizes and potentially expands the quarantine program; working with states to protect and facilitate important wildlife migration corridors; and expanding efforts to combat the impacts of non-native species like lake trout in Yellowstone Lake.
- Deliver a World Class Visitor Experience: This priority aims to provide clarity and direction around how the park will handle increased visitation in upcoming years – with special focus on visitor impacts on resources, staffing and infrastructure, visitor experience, and gateway communities. Importantly, the park is moving out of the data gathering phase and beginning to determine the appropriate short and long-term actions necessary to protect resources, mitigate impacts of congestion, and improve educational, recreational, and other visitor enjoyment opportunities. This priority also focuses heavily on improving public safety and resource protection.
- Invest in Infrastructure: The park’s maintenance backlog exceeds half a billion and is likely much higher. Actions within this priority include: developing a more cogent deferred maintenance reduction plan, improving the quality of data and prioritization processes, and taking better advantage of current and future funding to improve asset conditions and protect investments.
- Build Coalitions and Partnerships: Yellowstone’s success is predicated on strong partnerships and coalitions. The park will continue to build and align priorities with many partners including Yellowstone Forever and our incredibly generous philanthropic community, with tribes, elected officials, environmental and conservation groups, concessioners, and communities, states, and other federal cooperators.
“It’s important that our priorities and actions are clear, not only to the NPS team here in Yellowstone, but to ensure our partners and the public understand our direction in these very important areas,” Sholly said via press release.
Image by Jacob W. Frank, courtesy National Park Service.