New Yellowstone Country group created to inspire Greater Yellowstone residents

People want to be proud to live in such great country, but they need to be inspired-

It’s a sad day when a small economic activity can such as running cattle on the range can trump wild buffalo, elk, trout, grizzly bears, and can continue to dominate and desecrate the Yellowstone country’s great mountains, rivers, and valleys, and people who love the call of the outdoors usually can’t seem to get together to defend what they cherish.

There is a reason for it — the Hollywood myth that made cowpersons into some kind of icon, when their real goal is to make the West, and Yellowstone as well just as tame as a pasture in the middle of Indiana.

As a Yellowstone Park naturalist and later bear education ranger, young Michael Leach saw how visitors, including local people, would come alive when he helped them open their eyes, ears, hands and hearts to the absolutely unique country they were in.

Seeing the change that usually came over local people when they were given just a little information, Leach left the park service in October of 07 and founded the Yellowstone Country Guardians.

The organization offers education and involvement for communities that in and near the Yellowstone Country. The idea is that people will naturally work to live in harmony with the land and wildlife if they are exposed to the alternative view that has inspired many local people and residents around the world for over a hundred years.

They organize events and opportunities for all ages to participate and so gain a better appreciation and understanding of the great country that surrounds them. For example, they teach young people how to fly cast and as the same time explain the details about the river, its fish and wildlife, geography, and the successes of the past as well as the past and future threats and harm.

– – – – –
While they haven’t said this, I think support of an organization like this may be the only way to break the grip of the destructive mythology of the livestock industry, which devalues and destroys the uniqueness of the country, and fills the minds of too many with a hostility to the great outdoors and those who are trying to conserve it. Ralph Maughan



, ,



  1. Elizabeth Avatar

    Up until last year, we had only seen bison, wolves, elk, pronghorn antelope and coyotes in zoos. I admit I was a bit disappointed at each stop because it seems everyone we talked to, had a wolf sighting – and we had none.
    We had our picture taken in front of a huge resting elk, still I was disappointed. I saw lots of bison – bulls, cows and calves – even got some nice photos – still disappointed.
    Finally on our last day in Yellowstone, we were heading out through Lamar Valley. The previous day I had photogaphed a bison carcass in the river. However, when I looked at that carcass that morning, it was on the shore and something gray was hanging around it. I grabbed my camer and zoomed in as best I could. Sure enough I saw them – three wolves – probably from the Druid Peak Pack – two grays and a black one, taking turns feeding on the rotting carcass. Was I ever excited! I must have shot a good 30-40 pics. Was going to try and get closer but we were upwind from them and I did not want to ruin it for everyone else. My spirits were totally lifted after that sighting!
    I love wolves and always will. They are a symbol of loyalty, strength, courage, family, and a wild spirit that cannot be tamed. I also read all I can get my hands on regarding Yellowstone wolves and try to stay current on what is going on and how I can help to protect them and their offspring for future generations, and those yet to come. I see wolves being in this world – because they are a vital link in Yellowstones ecosysytem, and without them, there will be a missing link.
    In closing, I will be doing whatever I can to ensure that wolves in Yellowstone and other parts of the lower 48 and Alaska, that these beautiful creatures get to live and carry on their lives – just as they should be able to – in a wild area set aside for them by Theodore Roosevelt – who first recognized the importance of setting aside wild places for animals to live freely, and also for future generations to enjoy.
    Thank you for setting up this blog and website.
    Elizabeth Chvilicek

  2. Ter Avatar

    What a great way to try and form a sense of community, a sense of place, and a sense of belonging for the people who live around Yellowstone. I have never heard of this group before, but I really like their message.

  3. Ken Cole Avatar

    I know one of the people on the board and she is someone in whom I trust to stand up for the right things. I hope this becomes an effective organization that helps to bring about real change for this region.

    I also hope they can supplant GYC which has gone off track over the years.

  4. Salle Avatar

    I’m glad to see a group with this set of programs and intentions arise. I know w couple of the board members also and feel that they have a good base to work toward their goals in a manner that promotes community among all the stakeholders – the US citizenry.

    Good luck, I wish this organization great success.

    I am interested in participating in this, the first group I’ve wanted to join in a long time.

  5. Wolfy Avatar

    And the tame pastures of Indiana, where the woodland bison, wolves, and elk roamed, are now turning into strip malls, industrial parks, and tract housing. The pioneer spirit,
    turned sodbuster then to mega-farmer, has turned to suburbia and industrial blight in the east. The cowboy “culture” is also morphing into something else. Hopefully, something better than in the east. The myth of the cowboy needs to fade away. My hats off to the Guardians; may they flourish and usher in a new, more understanding Yellowstone community.

  6. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    I am all for a dedicated group of people with a vision working for a wild greater Yellowstone. But gosh darn it, do they have to form another small conservation group?

    Part of our problem, it seems to me, is splintering off into a myriad of small organizations, competing over donors and grants. How can we all come together?

  7. JB Avatar

    “How can we all come together?”

    Quit the GYC and join this group. 🙂

  8. Salle Avatar


    Good answer. Although, I do know that the ED of GYC has departed and the organization has Mr. Reese, one of the original founders of GYC, as the interim ED. This is good news since I think he might be able to redirect that battleship and steer it away from the cliff it was heading toward…

    I think that many small groups are a better solution to the GYC debacle that it became. It might have been good to be “big” some time ago but I think that “big” isn’t “where it’s at” these days. Even though funds may not be large sums, small organizations are better at sticking with their mission and working more like a grassroots sort of group. They seem to be effective and I am willing to parcel out my donations to several groups for that reason.

    Large groups often err toward “group-think” and that never turns out well. Do large corporations that have recently been deemed “too big to fail” come to mind?

  9. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    “Group think ” was quite a problem with the govt of Yellowstone Park. This trait permeated down to the lowest grades of permanent employees. It was compounded by a govt. heirarchal chain of command that lacked the militaries checks and balances. Group think infected people who I considered originally having focused beliefs in what the Park stood for. Going from decisions based on this core conviction to ones following whatever new form of megalomanic supt. they had, they became lemmings justifying whatever policy he or she promoted. Even the “environmental purist” employees who fooled themselves into thinking they still maintained this as their standard of decision making became warped when it came time for application.

    Noxious weed control is an example in point. The Supt. endorsed it with a fever only because a lot of money came into Yellowstone’s budget (yes he probably fooled himself a bit to). Plus, a lot of it was soft money, money that could be disquised for other uses. The fever trickled down from above and one would think there would be some good come out of it.

    But of course every division and supervisor knew what these funds were REALLY for, keeping jobs and buying vehicles that would be used for other purposes, so corruption of ethics and alterated Park ‘good” came out of group think. It got so enthusiastic my supervisor was telling all of us back country rangers to pull thistles wherever we patrolled. Deep down he knew what the real game was but he couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge he and the administration were using the same justification for what the Park was all about to defile a purist ethic.

    Logic goes out the window when it comes to group think. There were thistles from the highest mountains to the lowest stream flood plains. But the “high standard” careerest back country supervisors, would go to all those administrative meetings and come out of them with warped applications for the ground. The boys above had to have some sort of do good propaganda reports and photos for those fooling themselves at regional levels….. and the back country supervisors were their flunkies.

    One could almost laugh at what one saw except it would have been a sick laugh . SCA crews were packed in to thistle patches along the trails and these students would cut and bag up thistles for packing to the front country. Fellow rangers duties changed over night to ones they knew was a duty of futility. Fortunately I was too far back in to have weed whacking SCA crews assigned to me. But the orders were to do the same whacking wherever I patrolled. I was suppose to meet the boat in the SE arm of Yellowstone Lake with all those bags of trophy thistles. I asked, “what about all those thistles on the Trident and miles away from any trail”? ” and what about all those same thistles growing up again next year …and then again every year for as long as we have the same climate. “Get as many as you can” was the answer.

    It was all a joke but when I finally got the supervisor back there and had him whack a few weeds he was not long in departing. The program still went on, however. It was just he didn’t look at me when we had our group meetings and he was giving the orders of operation as dictated from above.

    The real destruction of people in these kinds of group think was so insidious, creeping into the souls of employees the longer they stayed there. The “good ones” it made numb or bitter, and the “bad ones” it made aggressive and destructive.

    Group think, I think, comes out of dysfunctional application of evolutions extended family needs. Families build and become vital with emotions, but to have modern humans trying to apply these deep emotions to artifical families (govt, private corp……or larger non profit organizations) just doesn’t work long term.

    Evolutions extended families of interactive recognition 300 individuals will win out eventually. But, oh, all the environmental destruction that takes place in the mean time.

    The affects on most of the govt. employees I was surrounded by was very sad to see.

  10. monty Avatar

    Wolfy,you said a mouthful, every acre of remaining wild land is up for grabs by the Phillistines who want to turn this country, and the world, into a “vast urbanized human feedlot with all of the amendities of an industrial hog farm”. When will the majority ackowledge that quality should trump quantity & stop trying to breed & consume & exhaust our way into a better life.

  11. Barb Avatar

    Thanks, Ralph! I am so grateful for this website! I’ve been a wolf advocate for about 10 years now and I will NEVER stop advocating for these incredibly intelligent, magnificent, but terribly persecuted animals.

    Thanks, Ralph, for also letting us know about the article on Mustangs in National Geographic. I’ve personally written to N.G. magazine many times over the past several years asking them to do an article on the plight of wild horses in the West. Anyway, I wrote a letter to the editor yesterday in hopes they will publish it. I did as best as I could but I’d bet that one of you more informed “science” types could have written it better — so please — feel free to write!

    The population really needs to be educated on how detrimental cattle have been to our entire Western ecosystem and its native predatory animals and on feral or wild horses.

  12. Barb Avatar


    I think that most ranchers (except the very wealthy like Ted Turner) will be run out of business and large residential and commercial developers will be buying up what is left of the west; for example, Richmond American homes will be buying vast acreage up to build subdivisions (that look like they belong in the midwest), etc. They’ve already bought up vast acreage along E-470 (that was farmland) from the tech center to the Denver Intl Airport….


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan