(YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK) Spanning 2.1 million acres of natural beauty, Yellowstone National Park is one of America’s most beautiful landmarks.
“It’s just absolutely gorgeous here, it’s a privilege to be here,” says Betsy Desroche as she described her first visit to the first National Park.
Hearing the roar of the waterfall in the Grand Canyon, and watching the river flow through the deep carved rock, Desroche can hardly believe her eyes.
“The way everything is getting so commercialized nowadays, you know, it is good to get back to nature and keep things in their true form.”
Yellowstone is the nation’s first official Park and one of our original national treasures.
“In Yellowstone was the first national park created 1872 and it really sparked that idea of the National Park System and the National Park Service, that we are celebrating our centennial celebration this year,” explains Amy Bartlett, spokeswoman for Yellowstone.
Fast forward 44 years to 1916 and the National Park Service is born, giving Americans a place to explore and wildlife a place to roam.
“The National Park Service, just such a privilege that, you know, we get to visit them,” explains Desroche.
“The bison are now around 5000 this past summer,” says Bartlett. This number is up from the early 1900s, when “poachers and the U.S. Army that originally managed the Park had poached bison to just a couple dozen.”
But bison isn’t the only species that has reclaimed the area. “Grizzly bears were not protected. In 1975, there were only 130 around. Grizzly bears now are around 700 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” Bartlett explains.
Wolves are another example of the shift in views of predators and prey.
“Wolves have been reintroduced and they were wiped out completely actually, in Yellowstone because of poaching,” states Bartlett.
As she explains, Yellowstone has learned a lot in the last 100 years, and researchers now “know that a healthy ecosystem has to have both predators and prey.”
Despite existing for more than 100 years, Yellowstone still sparks a sense of adventure in people from all walks of life.
“I’ve always wanted to come out west. This was my grandfather’s favorite place to visit,” says Desroche. “I never got to meet him.”
The Park connects visitors to the will landscape that will continue for the next 100 years and beyond.
“When they see their first bison or the first time they see old faithful erupt, you can catch on to that enthusiasm and remember what drew you to Yellowstone in the first place,” explains Bartlett.
The park ranger has been working at the Park for more than 20 years and said “I fell in love with Yellowstone and wanted to protect it and keep it for the enjoyment for the people.”
Yellowstone is not just a hot bed of thermal activity either, with iconic landmarks like Old Faithful, millions of visitors come to the Park every year.
In 2015 alone, 4.1 million visits were tallied for the park and those visitors brought more than binoculars and brochures with them.
In fact, more than $638.6 million was brought into local economies, including 7,737 local jobs. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy from all National Park visits was $32 billion.
With over half the world’s thermal features and almost 300 waterfalls, “I mean, it’s just a unique place that you don’t find anywhere else,” reminds Bartlett.
But, without the protection of the National Park designation, this unique landscape could look very different.
“It could be tapped for hydrothermal energy or animals poached to extinction,” Bartlett stresses. “People don’t think about setting aside tracks of land, or special things like that.”
A lot has changed for Yellowstone over the last century, but one thing will never change.
“I think we are going to continue learning,” states Bartlett. “This place could be very different if it was not protected.”
For the last 100 years, and hundreds of years to come.