Monday, December 21, 2009

Looking Back Two Decades On Managing The Greater Yellowstone Ecoystem

Twenty years ago, a controversy erupted over a mere term and a concept that now, in hindsight, makes all of the resistance and wasted time marshaled by politicians to stop it, seem rather silly. And yet, it marked a turning point in the region that includes America's mother of national parks, as the cut-and-run era of industrial forestry, thoughtless mining, and public-land livestock grazing sometimes conducted at the expense of other values, were coming to a close. In 1989, a year after the Yellowstone forest fires, and six years after the Greater Yellowstone Coalition was founded by conservationists meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, two ideas were advanced. The first was somewhat rhetorical: To get the multiple federal agencies -- National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers, and state agencies -- to use a common reference point. Indeed, there was a time when “Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” based on the recognition of common, interconnected topographical features instead of feudal bureaucratic jurisdictions, was a foreign concept met with resistance. Today, there are still graybeards retired from the Forest Service who refuse to utter the word “ecosystem” and will at best invoke the term Greater Yellowstone “Area.” Why? Because they view it as a rhetorical usurpation of turf and agency mandate. Which leads to the second “controversy,” one inflamed by some congressional delegations to feed the nonsense of there being “a war fought by Washington, D.C. on the West.” more

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