YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – President Trump is now backing a plan to pay for $12 billion of badly needed infrastructure improvements at national parks.
Imagine you’re driving through Yellowstone National Park in, say five years. You very likely won’t see crumbling roads — but, there’s an even higher priority for park managers.
“We’ve got some housing that’s just abysmal. It’s an embarrassment. We’ve got employees — especially some of our seasonal employees — who live in trailers. Trailers with mold, trailers that need to be replaced,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly explained.
“Visitors rarely ever see the park employee housing, so how does that help them? Well, managers tell us that a happy staff, living in safe and comfortable housing, really does make a difference for park visitors.
“A huge part of our success in recruiting good talent is having good housing options,” Sholly pointed out.
“The third priority then will be assessing all of those 1,500 structures within Yellowstone National Park,” added Park spokeswoman Morgan Warthin.
Some other priorities in Yellowstone National Park include boardwalks and trails, bathrooms and campgrounds.
“If left unchecked there will be impacts in our outdoor economy. There will be impacts to our gateway communities,” US Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) told MTN News.
“Public health and safety, employee health and safety and, and, and visitor access are all the priorities, added Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of the Interior Scott J. Cameron
So how is visitor access defined in Yellowstone? “Improved, safe roads that include lots of pullouts,” Warthin said.
“The historic investment that we will be making in maintenance by literally creating a funding stream for maintenance from our public leases, we believe will more than meet the maintenance needs of our national parks,” Vice President Mike Pence said during a recent visit.
Vice President Pence is talking about using money from oil and gas leases on public lands to fund park repairs — but the proposal is not doing well in Congress.
US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AS) — who’s chair of the Interior Appropriations Committee — says that money is already spoken for.
So, while hopes are high, the outcome for new park funding is far from certain.
Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke first proposed using the gas and oil lease money for park infrastructure back in February of 2018, but the measure remains unapproved.
-John Sherer reporting for MTN News