This Land Of Fire And Ice Needs To Be Preserved

• The Yellowstone National Park was conceived by explorers that gathered around a campfire between two pristine rivers in the year 1870 with the towering cliffs of the Madison Plateau behind them. They discussed what they had seen during their exploration and realized that this land of fire, ice and wild animals needed to be preserved. Thus the idea of Yellowstone National Park was born.

• President Theodore Roosevelt signed the order creating Yellowstone National Park, the first National Park in the world.

• During the early years of the park, the United States was involved with fighting the Native Americans during the Indian Wars but Yellowstone was a safe haven for the tourist as the Native Americans shunned the area because of the hot springs, mud pots and especially the geysers.

The explorers were real and their achievement was in helping to save Yellowstone from private development. They rallied around a park bill in Washington in late 1871 and early 1872 that drew upon the precedent of the Yosemite Act of 1864, which reserved Yosemite Valley from settlement and entrusted it to the care of the state of California. There were problems associated with this bill, but the wonders of Yellowstone shown through photos, paintings and sketches caught the imagination of Congress. Thanks to the explorers continued reports and further artistic renderings, the United States Congress established Yellowstone National Park in 1872. On March 1, 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law.

The second park superintendent Philetus W. Norris who served between 1877-1882 added greatly to the geographical knowledge of the park and much of the primitive road system he laid out remains as the Grand Loop Road. He was also responsible for the last falsehood on the list, that the Native Americans shunned the park. The Native American has lasting claims on Yellowstone and is part of the park management program today.

The last item I wish to address at this writing is the reintroduction of the grey wolf to Yellowstone. At this juncture I would like to say there are cases to be made on both sides of this issue, but I am of a mind to accept the trophic cascade effect reported by the New York Times and supported by different park rangers and workers who have witnessed the results of the reintroduction of the grey wolf to Yellowstone.

From 1995 to 1997, 41 wild wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were released in Yellowstone National Park causing some unexpected results. The wolves were responsible for thinning out the elk herds, and the deer herds, and one particular wolf pack has become quite proficient in helping to manage the bison herd. But what wasn’t expected was the effect the wolves have made on the geography of Yellowstone.

The elk began avoiding certain areas of the park where they were more vulnerable as prey, mainly the valleys and gorges. Immediately these areas began to regenerate, in some areas the heights of the trees quintupled in just 6 short years. The sides of valleys became forests of aspen, willow, and cottonwood. With the reforestation of the valleys came more song birds and migratory birds. The beaver population began to increase as beavers eat trees. Beavers build dams on the rivers and provide habitats for otters, muskrats, ducks, fish and a host of other wildlife. The wolves also killed coyotes which increased the rabbit and the mice populations, which meant more hawks, more weasels, more fox, more badgers. The ravens and bald eagles came down to feed on the carrion the wolves left behind, bears also fed on the carrion and interesting behaviors resulted there. Instead of less food for the bear there was an abundance of food, so much so that grizzlies were found sharing a meal which is unheard of in other wilderness areas. Not only was their meat supply more abundant, the berries which grew on the shrubs became more abundant.

But what is even more amazing is that since the wolves have been re-introduced to Yellowstone the rivers have become more fixed in their heading, soil erosion has lessened due to the re-growth of vegetation along the banks of the rivers. The banks of the rivers have collapsed less, the channels have narrowed, more pools have formed, again meaning more habitats for the animals.

I hope that the wonders of Yellowstone continue to astound us, the beauty beckon to us, that we visit and revisit this unique land where waterfalls are still being discovered. Where the largest pure bison herd in North American can be viewed. Where the wolf has re-found its place in the eco-system and is off the endangered species list.

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