Sequester to keep some Yellowstone entrances closed almost until June

Wyoming National Parks sequestered along with the rest in the U.S.-

There are many stories and possible stories about the sequester’s across-the-board cuts.

Like the rest of federal discretionary spending, the National Park System (NPS) has to deal with the cuts.  NPS has to deal with $113-million in instant budget reduction. This is especially difficult because funding for NPS has already declined by 13% over the last decade.  The sequester cuts are 5%, but since they apply to the entire federal budget year, which is half over, on the ground, about 11% needs  to be cut for the rest of the fiscal year.

The cuts will be noticed by more people at the “flagship” national parks like Yellowstone. However, a “large number” of smaller national parks will be closed for the entire 6 months remaining in the now-sequestered budget.

At Yellowstone, the West Entrance opening will be delayed a week until April 26, but the south, east and northeast entrances, which gather a lot more snow, will fall back 2-3 weeks. This is the second to third week in May. Beartooth Pass into Cooke City will stay closed until mid-June!

Republicans from Wyoming are chastising the President for not making the “hard cuts,” or “thoughtful cuts,” and instead going after Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks.  Of course, the sequester is by law across-the-board. That means crude, just as it was meant to be — both crude and stupid, without much discretion. That was so action in Congress and the White House  would be produced instead of enduring crude cuts. Most politicians in Washington surely know this, but it might be an effective argument for the folks back home who might tend to think they were singled out — say they that were singled out.

Wyoming state government is talking about using state funds to help clear the Yellowstone entrance roads because the loss of local tourist revenue will outweigh the required federal sequester budget savings.

~The Jackson Hole Daily has a story on Wyoming debating about funding Park snow removal. States mull plow plan to open park on time. By Rebecca Walsh

~In Grand Teton National Park, cuts will result in keeping three major facilities closed the rest of the year: Jenny Lake, Flagg Ranch, and the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve.




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  1. Larry Avatar

    The only downsides I see to the delayed road openings is that it will enbolden the various state delegations and they will blame the current administration even though it clearly is the work of Congress. The other downside is any loss of employees of NPS. The upside I see is anytime a wilderness area can be “sequestered” from people it is that bit of time that nature has to rejuvenate its self. Not often are natural areas given a rest from people invasions. Sometimes we see fire closures and now a little breather from the sequester. I think the natural environment in YNP and maybe others would benefit from whatever rest that can be had. Sure hope the personnel doesn’t take a hit. We are over invading our parks as it is.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      Yes there could be an up side to this, especially if it helps local interests which are often hostile to the concept of national parks see their importance. There are no doubt many other sequester and national parks stories out there that need to be told for us to understand what is happening.

      The cuts to snowplowing will not be the only cuts in the Park operations. The President has far too many other things happening to take much notice of this, so the actual decisions of what is to be cut, changed, maintained, etc., will depend on the local Park superintendents and their immediate superiors. If they are clever, they could improve the political situation of the Parks and protect the resources. Of course, some will not be clever or even well motivated.

    2. don Avatar

      Obama and some Democrats initiated and pushed the sequester as their strategy.

      1. JB Avatar

        True. And they bet that making across-the-board cuts, many of which Republicans don’t like (e.g., military cuts) that the Rs would be motivated to come to the table and compromise. Oops. Then again, the stubborn refusal of Republicans to compromise could simply be a tactic to put pressure back on the administration (letting the President know that he doesn’t hold ALL of the cards). So while they play politics, the economy will suffer.

  2. Mike Avatar

    Obama doesn’t need to notice it. He just needed to hire someone who actually cares about it.

    Also, as Larry says, Yellowstone feels trampled upon in the same way Yosemite Valley does.

  3. Nancy Avatar

    To be clear, Wyoming is not in a budget crisis. Compared to the federal government’s negotiations over a “fiscal cliff,” Wyoming is in a good position. The state has no debt, and proposed 8 percent cuts could whittle away about $74.5 million from a $1.6 billion budget for 2014. The state also has a $1.7 billion rainy day account, and roughly $5.45 billion in the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund

    Montana budget surplus $268M above estimates. Associated Press – Fri, Sep 14, 2012 2:25 PM EDT

    The funds appear to be there. Interesting look at what’s involved, in the article below:

    Would snow coaches still run if the roads were not opened on schedule? Cross country tours?

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      There’s a poll on that page to vote for your favorite outdoor activity in Yellowstone. Wildlife watching is in the lead at 52% of the votes. 🙂

      1. savebears Avatar

        Ida, you have hiking, fishing, geyser gazing and camping, there are really not many choices. I think it would be silly to say, that people don’t go to Yellowstone to watch wildlife, it is pretty much impossible to not watch wildlife in Yellowstone.

        1. Ida Lupine Avatar
          Ida Lupine

          I know – but it just seems to underscore how important it really is. And Wyoming seems to be scrambling at the thought of losing any tourism.

          1. savebears Avatar

            I have never seen a survey in the last 25 years, that wildlife watching was not at the top of the list.

            Wyoming is once again, fighting over the East Entrance, which has been a point of contention, long before the sequester came along, it seems to be an every year event.

    2. Mike Avatar

      Wyoming actually takes more from the government than it gives.

    3. TC Avatar

      This is a bit misleading. Ask WGFD, or UW, or WYDOT, or the Department of Health, or employess of the state or university if we’re in a budget crisis, and I think you’d get a much different answer – many have seen no raises in 4 years (with none in the foreseeable future), sizable cuts in staffing and operational funding, and increases in workloads, with more to come. Further, most of the funds sequestered (couldn’t help myself) away in the rainy day fund and mineral trust fund are inviolate and not available for many uses – generally income earned from these funds only is available to the state general fund, and even there with restrictions. Among said uses that seem unlikely (constitutionally and politically) would be coming to the aid of the federal government in opening access to or operating national parks – it’s not the Wyoming way, unless some well-connected constituency group could make a case for economic benefit (and probably their own benefit, although that’s another story).

      Wyoming has no debt because we’re not allowed to have any debt in excess of 1% of state asset valuation – in essence a balanced budget is mandated by our constitution and we actually adhere to this principle, unlike many other states. Somtimes it hurts to do so. The years of wine and roses are behind us, unless natural gas and other energy prices take a substantial jump.

  4. CodyCoyote Avatar

    It’s worth injecting some historical perspective into this issue of ( in my local instance ) having Yellowstone keep its gates closed to general admission for 2-3 weeks on each end of the summer season. When you take 4 weeks away from a ~ 24 week season , it is a significant hit on the dollar flow. My town of Cody is freaking out that both the East Entrance ( Sylvan pass) and the snowed-in segment leading to the Northeast Entrance over Cooke Pass will not be plowed open till Memorial Day.

    Here’s the perspective part. Congress has long underfunded the National Park system , especially evident in Yellowstone. All admission fees etc went bac to the US Treasurt general fund, then it was up to Congress to appropriate back t the National park Service from that pool. Except they didn’t do a very good job of that …for decades, actually . Thus in the case of yellowstone, much maintenance, repairs, and replacement of infrastructure got deferred or neglected. Looking for a scapegoat? Blame Reagan and pretty much everyone hence till about 2002. That is when the very conservative Republican Senator from Wyoming, Craig Thomas, rammed a bill thru Congress to assure that 60 percent of Yellowstone’s gate receipts actually came back to the Park it was remitted from , for operations funding. The net effect was a pretty good increase in working funds for Yellowstone. [ I cannot address how it played out for other Parks ].

    Imagine that , an old school Conservative Republican who used the tools of taxes fees and budgetting to accomplish a public service and meet a public need. tehre’s a lesson in here, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and all you other GOP blathering bullies toeing an kmaginary ‘ Cut Spending At All Costs ‘ line as the only politically correct way to solve the budget deficit (non)crisis.

    Yes, there was a time when conservatives actually employed the tools of the federal government with their principled fiscalr estraint to achieve stuff. These neo-Conservatives, Faux COnservatives, and the Tea Party rabble are letting the brass ring of their ideology in their nose lead them over one cliff after another on the tax-fee-budget-achieve process. They are Deconstructors of the federal government , not constructive at all.

    The Yellowstone gates being sequestered shut is a sterling example of this. The Park Service will save thousands of dollars, but the states and surrounding communities and travel industry will lose millions because of it. Does…Not…Pencil…Out.

    This is why blind across the board budget slashing with a cleaver or axe is a very bad idea. Can anyone recall when the GOP last had a good idea ?

    Yes, the whole idea of the Sequester actually lriginated inside the Obama White House. It was a parallel tack to Mutually Assured Destruction as applied to nuclear weapons. the Sequester was in fact the Nuclear Option . And the boneheaded GOP and their Tea Party brats actually applied it. They are actually BENEATH to esteem of a North Korean dictators who only threaten a nuclear broadside for ideological posturing. The Republicans went ahead and did it.

    Or as I call it…The Big Stupid. We Americans are not Number One at much these days as we were just a few short years ago. But by gosh when it comes to political leadership and running a country , we lead the world in Stupid at the moment.

    1. Craig Avatar

      If they increased the price to enter another 20.00, 25.00 would that cover it? I’d pay, who cares 20-25 bucks no big deal.
      As long as it got the park to get by and function in normal operational Certainty.
      I mean really I would pay that just to help. I put money into the Grizzly-wolf complex every year just to see the poor animals we put in there.
      But Obama is doing nothing, never has to help out. But if you want to donate 500,000 you could tell him about it. You voted for him enjoy it!!!!!!!

  5. CodyCoyote Avatar

    P.S. to Above post. I forgot the critical point that even though yellowstone recieved a bit of a stimulus in funding from the Craig Thomas – National Park funding adjustment bill 10 years ago, it is still well behind the amount needed to get Yellowstone’s infrastructure modernized. The Park Service had already cut the skin, fat, and a great deal of muscle from its operating budgets. the current Sequester mandate goes into the bone…

    I am not excusing Yellowstone’s administration and some of their skewed budgetting priorities in recent years. The onus still belongs with Congress to restore the Parks, and that takes money . Yellowstone takes in enough money to meet its needs and stay ahead of the game, if only Congress would let it.

    What I’m saying is Yellowstone got sequestered back during the Reagan administration , and had only been partially un-sequestered in the past decade, till now. Back to the Red Zone we go….

  6. CodyCoyote Avatar

    I should also Footnote my opinions above by saying a few words about the State of Wyoming stepping up to assist Yellowstone in the Spring plowing.

    Wyoming collects millions of dollars in taxes from Yellowstone for its state coffers already . The north half of the Park is in the Park County Wyoming tax boundary ( my own county ), and the south half is in Teton County ( Jackson Hole ). Yellowstone employees and residents who live at Mammoth headquarters yearround actually vote in the Wapiti Wyoming school district. Yellowstone is taxed by Wyoming to the extent possible… Sales Tax is 4 percent, there are fuel taxes (?) ,excise taxes, etc etc. My own Park County gleans $ 400,000 per year in Lodging Tax which can only be spent on travel marketing ( not infrastructure ) , and Yellowstone has no say or representation on how any of these taxes collected by Wyoming are spent. Didn’t we fight our Revolutionary War over that no taxation without representation thing ?

    Wyoming already has several forms of Mutual Aid agreements with Yellowstone for things like law enforcement, firefighting, Haz-Mat, public safety , medical emergencies. I’ve seen Wyoming Game & Fish biologists inside Yellowstone netting Yellowstone Cutthroat trout to be used to restock streams outside the Park

    Having said all that , it is not only logical that Wyoming step up to help, but maybe only fair that they do so …in any budget year circumstance.

    Up till now, it’s been a One Way Street for Wyoming…collecting taxes from Yellowstone, but not feeling any great compulsion to give much back in return. Till now.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      Thanks for putting it into perspective CC 🙂

    2. savebears Avatar


      I am not surprised, there are not many instances I remember in the last 20+ years of states and feds really working together all that good.

  7. Leslie Avatar

    Apparently, the Cody Chamber of Commerce sent a request letter around to businesses and organizations asking them to donate $100 for the plowing of the East gate.

    As far as I’m concerned,the whole thing is richly desired by Cody. Living here for the past 8 years, I hear a lot of bad mouthing of the federal government; I hear a lot of crying about the Park and its decisions relative to snowmobiles or wolves or whatever. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Personally I see no reason for Mead to step in and plow, as it sets a bad precedent. Let the town lose a few million in revenue. Maybe Barasso can donate some of his campaign millions from his Texas donors. You’d think this would get Wyomingites to vote smarter, but I doubt it.

    The republicans think the public are stupid and have no memory. It was only a year ago that both the dems and repubs agreed on the sequester plan only as a goad–the ‘F’ you get if you don’t turn in your homework. Now the Republicans say it was Obama’s plan all along. Who is believing all this posturing and rhetoric?

    1. Larry Avatar

      Good points Leslie. I think we are in for a tough four years. We have a president running things under an umbrella (democrat) that is the only hope for any wise actions for the environment. Unfortunately he has never “Played in the dirt” and from what I’ve heard from Jewell I think her play time was a little too yuppy to grasp deep environmental concepts. Both I think are going to envision a well behind every sagebrush. A democrat is no guarantee for pro environment policies. Without someone running Interior that has the fire-in-belly kind of advocacy for environmental caretaker we are going to continue to go backwards. We don’t have anyone in the policy making levels that “Think like a mountain”. Never wanted to be wrong about something as much as this statement.

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        Yes, I agree. My fears also.

  8. john Avatar

    whole lot of blame to go around as far as congress and that president we have. So if your trying to lay all this on the republicans, you have your head in the sand and your thumb up your ass… I am a republican,,,I despise welfare entitlements/ie food stamps, obama phones similar waste, and I also hate welfare ranching and hazing of the bison and the intolerance of both the bison and the wolves. I don’t like logging or the like, so to lump people shows total ignorance imo. just not cut and dried as you would like it to be.

    1. Larry Avatar

      I agree with you John, traditionaly, for the most part, (and so on) we have seen democrats stand up for the environment. Now they are weak kneed and can’t stand up to the energy sources that rape and pilage the soil, the very foundation to a pristine environment. There are many social issues that I support in the R party but the environment trumps my vote every time. I feel it is just too important. I also believe it is a litmus test for personal character. If the candidate can have concern for something as insignificant as the horned lark that person will want to do the right thing for people. I would vote in a heartbeat for an R if the platform was positive for environment issues. Now I vote for D not because I anticipate great strides for saving our wild places, I vote for D because it’s the lesser of 2 evils. It has never been so evident that the dems have sold out as it has been with the Obama adinistration. He can’t connect the dots any better than an R because he doesn’t get it. The glove just doesn’t fit on him plus he’s uncomfortable with even trying to put it on. Sounds like I would vote for you John as a R if you run!

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        I agree. But it’s the uniformed public that allows it. Now he’ll put up a few solar and windfarms, give a thumbs down on Keystone XL, and the public we hold him up as an environmental hero. But yet we’ll still be exporting fossil fuels.

  9. Leslie Avatar

    I watched the Jewell confirmation hearings. Every time she got into a tough spot with questions, her handlers had her answer “Senator, we are blessed with a lot of natural resources”. I came away not knowing what she wanted to do except ‘all of the above’ when it came to ‘resources’. Everything was looked at in terms of ‘how can this benefit us’ and mostly as energy.

    You are right Larry, and I found it so sad after watching her. Jewell is in the category of user that Jack Turner calls ‘fun hogs’. Not that that in itself is bad, but it isn’t the entire story nor offer true protection for habitat and wildlife.

    One last note on those hearings: although John you note correctly there is a lot of blame to go around, every single one of the Repubs, except Lamar Alexander, was on the complete wrong side of the fence when it came to environmental protection–Utah, ID, Nevada, you name it. And although all the senators were respectful at the very least, Barasso was aggressive, accusative, and downright mean. An embarrassment to WY.

    1. Louise Kane Avatar

      Leslie are they posted somewhere? sounds disappointing

  10. DavePA Avatar

    I always thought if the republicans dropped the religious right and anti environment nonsense they would win every election. The effects of the sequestor are nothing compared to what would happen if you balanced the budget through spending cuts alone, you need a balanced approach, which means my taxes go up.. But that really is the only solution, plus everyone has to pay some taxes, including the 47%… Dav

    1. Larry Avatar

      Dave says: I always thought if the republicans dropped the religious right and anti environment nonsense they would win every election.

      Such an obviously true statement and I can only say it must be a genetic defect that they can’t see it. But I think it has more to do with money. Environmental support cuts into the bottom line (cattle, oil, mining) and money trumps all. You’ve got to have that inner core of compulsion to do the right thing regardless of consequences of personal loss. Maybe more in the dem party have that principle? I don’t know. Some how there is that difference. I know how much fun it would be to roar up a pristine ridge on an ATV and do donuts in a meadow but I wouldn’t do it for anything even if no one would ever know who did it. Some time the time comes that we have to know we don’t live in a vacuum.

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        You’ve got to have that inner core of compulsion to do the right thing regardless of consequences of personal loss.

        The Dems used to; I don’t think they do anymore. Or not as many as once did. They are all beholden to special interests now, R or D, and I can’t stand any of them. It’s like nobody uses their head anymore to think independently, just follow the party line. I don’t even understand what’s happening with the Sierra Club and Greenpeace anymore. 🙁

        1. Larry Avatar

          I agree with that. Wonder if you are into Aldo Leopold Foundation and Green Fire, young, vibrant and hopeful with good business model(education).

          1. Ida Lupine Avatar
            Ida Lupine

            I am not familiar with them – but I will look into it. Thanks! 🙂

      2. JB Avatar

        You’re right, Larry. Here in Ohio we’ve elected a Tea Party favorite who made fracking his top priority. Instead of seeing regulation as a way of defending populations from unsafe business practices, our governor thinks regulation just gets in the way of business. Here’s what lack of meaningful regulation gets you…

        Ohio revokes drilling license of company caught dumping fracking fluid in the sewer


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.

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Ralph Maughan