Celebrating Yellowstone National Park: Episode I

Welcome, we are celebrating Yellowstone National Park, and have three episodes in store for you to enjoy! This first is the creation of the park, the second will focus on what happened next, and the third will be an indigenous perspective and 11,000 year history.

Yellowstone became a national park on March 1, 1872. When President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law, it protected more than 2 million acres of mountain wilderness, extraordinary collection of geysers and incredible landscapes. The Yellowstone Act of 1872 designated the region as a public “pleasuring-ground,” which would be preserved “from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within.”

The key to Yellowstone’s future as a national park was the 1871 exploration under the direction of the government geologist Ferdinand Hayden. Hayden brought along William Jackson, a pioneering photographer, and Thomas Moran, a brilliant landscape artist, to make a visual record of the expedition. Their images provided the first visual proof of Yellowstone’s wonders and caught the attention of the U.S. Congress.

Also with us today is historian and author Robert Righter talks about the controversy establishing Grand Teton National Park. “We can have conservation and we can have development. Well, sometimes that's possible, but sometimes it's not.”

After teaching a few years in California he accepted a position at the University of Wyoming, where he taught and researched for many years. He became fascinated with the people of Jackson Hole and the fight to establish Grand Teton Park. He eventually published Crucible for Conservation and Peaks, Politics and Passion: Grand Teton National Park Comes of Age. His most recent book is The Grand Teton Reader (2021), a collection of writings on the mountains and Jackson Hole.

As we celebrate Yellowstone’s anniversary, check out more interesting facts about our iconic national park.

7 Things You Didn't Know About Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone Park Established

The Lost History of Yellowstone

As always leave a review if you enjoyed these stories and follow us on Instagram or visit the webpage of the Wyoming Humanities!

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Emy diGrappa (00:01):

Welcome to Winds of Change. I am your host, Emy diGrappa. Winds of Change is centered on the people, places, history and stories of Wyoming. We talk about identity, community, land, and the winds of change and what it means to thrive in our state. How does someone identify with wide open spaces and big personalities in small towns? Listen to folks from across our state share their connection to Wyoming and home, brought to you by Wyoming Humanities.


Today we are talking with Chloe and Lucas and our historian Jeremy Johnston and we are celebrating 150 years of Yellowstone National Park. And this I realized after we started talking about it, is going to be a several part series because there's so many things to talk about when you talk about Yellowstone. You're talking about culture, you're talking about indigenous people, the history of wildlife and wild lands and the ecosystem. And just how this came about is going to be what we're talking about today in this first episode. And before we get started, I have a trivia question.

Lucas Fralick (01:34):

I love trivia.

Emy diGrappa (01:36):

Okay, good. But not for Jeremy. He already knows. So what year was Yellowstone created?

Lucas Fralick (01:45):

The park?

Emy diGrappa (01:45):

Yellowstone National Park.

Chloe Flagg (01:46):

It was 150 ago.

Lucas Fralick (01:49):


Emy diGrappa (01:51):

Ding. One for Lucas. Okay. And which president signed the Yellowstone Park Protection Act?

Lucas Fralick (02:00):

I know this one too. Ulysses S. Grant. It's just a guess, a very good one.

Emy diGrappa (02:05):


Lucas Fralick (02:06):

1872, it lines up.

Emy diGrappa (02:08):

Right. A lot of people might say Roosevelt, and that's why I asked that question because a lot of people say Roosevelt.

Lucas Fralick (02:15):

It's tricky and really good for quiz nights at places where adult beverages are flowing. It always throw people off. It's an easy point if you know it.

Emy diGrappa (02:28):

So here's my last one. And this is going to be the hardest one. And I'm afraid that Chloe is not going to win.

Chloe Flagg (02:34):

I'm not in a position to win.

Emy diGrappa (02:39):


Lucas Fralick (02:40):

No. Just make this one worth three points.

Chloe Flagg (02:40):


Emy diGrappa (02:41):

Okay, this is three points. Okay. So what expedition did they use the findings from to create Yellowstone National Park?

Chloe Flagg (02:55):

Lucas is laughing at me.

Lucas Fralick (02:57):

No. No, no. I'm really laughing because it starts as an H. His name is on a tip of my tongue and it's going to be one of those things that I'll beat myself over afterwards.

Emy diGrappa (03:09):

So it was essentially the government used findings from Ferdinand Hayden's 1871 Expedition.

Chloe Flagg (03:21):

There you go.

Emy diGrappa (03:21):

There you go. So we should keep score because I'm going to be asking more trivia as we go through this celebration of Yellowstone National Park.

Chloe Flagg (03:29):

Well, thank you for the heads up. I'll be sure and have Google ready next time.

Emy diGrappa (03:34):

Have Google ready? Yeah.

Lucas Fralick (03:36):

What are the prizes? That's the big question.

Emy diGrappa (03:40):

The prizes are that you get to come and stay at my house where I live, just moments away from Yellowstone National Park.

Chloe Flagg (03:51):

Okay, that's pretty good.

Lucas Fralick (03:52):

That's a good prize. Yeah.

Emy diGrappa (03:54):

Yeah. And Lucas can do all the bird watching he wants. Chloe can just hang out in the hot tub.

Chloe Flagg (04:03):

Yep, yep. Emy knows me.

Emy diGrappa (04:08):

Now we want to hear from Jeremy. What was the culture and the history that surrounded the creation of Yellowstone National Park?

Jeremy Johnston (04:16):

Yeah, that's a really good question, Emy. And I think a lot of people just assume March 1st, 1872 is a magical date when President Grant signed the bill creating Yellowstone National Park. And then all of a sudden we have this wonderful wilderness area that's been a set aside for the public use. And this story behind the creation of Yellowstone is really pretty complex. And there were a number of events that very well could have set Yellowstone on a very different course. And it could have been a very developed resort, similar to what you would see around Niagara Falls today. But Yellowstone was one of the last areas of the American West to really come to the attention of the United States government. Of course, for thousands of years, indigenous people were familiar with the area, traveled through their extensively used its resources.


The fur traders came in the 1820s, 1830s. They were very familiar with the scenic wonders, the Yellowstone National Park. And then beginning in the late 1850s, early 1860s, a number of miners started coming into the area and were prospecting around the Yellowstone ecosystem. Probably one individual who did more than anyone to try and publicize Yellowstone National Park was the trader Jim Bridger. When he ever, whenever he was on a government expedition, he frequently told his sponsors about this wonderful area. Unfortunately, Jim Bridger came from that culture of the fur trade where they like to tell tall tales around the campfire. And so although he would tell them exactly what was in Yellowstone National Park, he provided embellishments such as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was so deep that whenever he camped in the area right before he'd go to sleep, he'd yell, "Wake up" into the canyon and early in the next morning, his echo would come back and wake him up like a natural alarm clock.


And unfortunately people said, "Yeah, Bridger's making this up. He's exaggerating what is in this area." But anyway, as the miners came into Montana and Idaho, many of them were interested in diversifying their economies, trying to avoid the usual boom and bust that most mining communities went through. And so a number of expeditions came in through Montana. Some of these were private parties just wanting to see what was in the area. One, the Washburn Expedition, was sponsored by a territory of Montana, just to document what was in the region. And as they became more familiar with the Yellowstone, they began reporting this to other individuals. And finally, lo and behold, Ferdinand Hayden led a government sponsored expedition through Yellowstone National Park and finally brought national attention to all the scenic wonders within the current boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.


But there's another side to this as well, because another very interested party in developing Yellowstone was the Northern Pacific Railroad, then being funded by Jay Cooke. And Jay Cooke sponsored the famed artists, landscape artists Thomas Moran, to join the Langford Expedition to produce the amazing landscape paintings that really entice people to support the creation of a national part. Of course, these were complemented by Langford's scientific reports and the photographs of William Henry Jackson. And so, Congress decided we needed to set this area aside.


Now, here's where it really gets interesting, because at the time, the United States government's land policy was to give everything away. All federal land should be transferred to private citizens or to the state governments, which the US government had previously done with the creation of Yosemite. Yosemite started out as a state park and then eventually became a national part. But it was given to the State of California. The dynamic with Yellowstone national part is the scenic wonders were then located in the Wyoming territory, but the access to the region was located in Montana.


And there was no way that the people of Wyoming, who were living in the southern part of the state along the Union Pacific Railroad corridor could take advantage of this and manage the park. There's no way the territory of Wyoming could have ran this as a state park. So the compromise was to create a national park and its purpose was defined as for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. So really, it was its location and issues with the territorial governments that led to this creation of a national park, which is held as a significant achievement when it comes to protection of scenery in the West, federal land management, and of course the expansion of the federal government here in the Western territories.


One thing also to keep in mind, Congress was very good at creating the park, but they were terrible in providing any funds to manage the park. They really didn't pass any rules and regulations about what people could do in the National Park. There was no set rules as to who could claim tracks of land for concessions within the park. And so very quickly, this place, our first national park, becomes a destination for many people who wanted to develop it.


And keep in mind, this wasn't exactly the first national part. Back in 1832, President Jackson created the Hot Springs Reserve in Arkansas and that area, basically businessmen, entrepreneurs came in and ignored the federal restrictions and basically developed the area to their liking. And it was likely the same thing was going to happen to Yellowstone because after the creation of Yellowstone National Park, you need to keep in mind, the tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad that's being funded by Jay Cooke is creeping through Montana, coming closer to that park. And they were very eager to get their hands on this park, monopolize the concessions, build all sorts of resorts that would cater to their railroad passengers. So Yellowstone very well could have had a very different direction and would've looked very different today if the railroad and the settlers of Montana and Wyoming had, had complete control over that area.

Emy diGrappa (11:27):

So I have a question.

Jeremy Johnston (11:29):


Emy diGrappa (11:29):

Because it was the first national park and because this had never been done before, what did people think about preserving 2.2 million acres or however large it is? That's kind of unusual really, when you think about it.

Jeremy Johnston (11:46):

Yes, it was a fast track. And actually, when Congress set this aside, they had no idea what exactly they were saving. Thankfully, Langford drew the boundaries and he drew the boundaries as one big giant square. Those were the original boundaries. So there was no natural divides that you see, for example, on the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park today, or up on the northwest corner there, northeast corner. It was just one big giant square.


And one thing Langford also had to demonstrate to Congress is that basically, these lands were worthless with the exception of the scenic value. So they had to demonstrate that there wasn't a lot of timber resources that could be used in the park. There wasn't any indication of mineral deposits, such as gold, silver, copper that could be developed. They basically had to demonstrate that this was land that no one else would really want to claim to develop. It's only value was in its scenic wonders. And of course, at the time, America being a country that was settled by very different Europeans representing different races, different cultures, had an identity crisis. They didn't have the ancient wonders of Europe. And so one thing they wanted to do is really tout the vast, amazing scenic wonders in the American West because that's what set America apart from the rest of the world.

Emy diGrappa (13:23):

That's really a good way to explain that because it just makes you think about the why, why people do what they do. Why is that important? And futuristically, looking at Yellowstone National Park right now, it's tremendous is there, the ecosystem that is there. And it has about five million visitors a year right now. So it is truly a national treasure.


But in our next conversation, we are going to be talking about one, how we're loving it to death because-

Jeremy Johnston (14:01):

Too much.

Emy diGrappa (14:02):

Too much. Yeah, too much. And two, who were the people that got displaced? And those were the Native American people that got displaced when they created a national park, and no longer had access to the wildlife and in their own indigenous ways that there was suddenly this boundary that they couldn't cross anymore.

Chloe Flagg (14:27):

It's so fascinating, when Jeremy was talking about how they had to prove to Congress that this wasn't a resourceful place. It's like, talk to an indigenous person. It's an incredibly different story. So yeah, I think it'll be really exciting to explore those other perspectives.

Emy diGrappa (14:50):

And we're going to talk about wildlife too, because the introduction of the wolf, the grizzly bear population that we have now is tremendous. But I was looking at some old photos during the '60s and '70s where there was a dump in Yellowstone where people put trash and tourists would go to watch the grizzly bears feed off of trash and they became very habituated to people's food. Really dangerous.

Jeremy Johnston (15:23):

And actually, when we think about what may have happened with Yellowstone, and we can talk about this in our future episode, we're very fortunate that there's any wildlife left in Yellowstone National Park. And just a teaser, one family that lived up in Paradise Valley, the Butler family, and it was reported in one season alone, they harvested over 2,000 animals for meat, pelts, you name it. So you think about one family going into the park region killing off 2,000 animals, and there were others. There were others doing the same thing. We were very fortunate that we have any wildlife in the park today.

Chloe Flagg (16:12):

Oh my gosh, I'm going to learn so much. I've already learned so much. I can't wait for the next one. Oh my gosh.

Lucas Fralick (16:20):

Yeah, same here. It's going to be very exciting.

Emy diGrappa (16:23):

Yeah, it's exciting to learn about how things come, how they are today and what do we appreciate about it. And that's why the historical viewpoint is so important, where we were, where we've been and where we are now. So the next episode is what's happening now with our national park from the beginning that Jeremy explained to us to where we've traveled along this road to the introduction of the wolves. Even just the bison population and the bear population. So I'm looking forward to talking to you about all these different aspects that affect us and are about Yellowstone National Park.

Lucas Fralick (17:09):

I have a geology question I wanted to ask.

Emy diGrappa (17:12):

Ask it. Ask it right now.

Lucas Fralick (17:14):

I'm going to ask it right now. So Hayden was a geologist, right? Yeah, so that's what my understanding is too. Do we know how advanced the science of geology was when they got to Yellowstone and started seeing the geysers and the pools of acid and other things? Did they know what they were seeing? Did they understand some of the forces going on, or was it just chalked up as a miracle of nature or something? You know what I mean? Did they have a firm grasp?

Jeremy Johnston (17:47):

Yeah, that's a great question, Lucas. And I know geology has certainly come a long way since Hayden and his group came through. But you can tell just like today, when you have geologists coming into the Yellowstone ecosystem, they're just blown away by the natural features, the rock formations and the ability to study geysers. And the idea of even having this hot spot where our plate is coming across this big magma core that's threatening to punch through the earth here. They were just overwhelmed, certainly by the vast geothermal areas. But I would say probably the main difference, this was probably motivation and I'm sure it really shaped the practices of what they were collecting, is just going out there and getting samples to see is this a rock or is it a valuable mineral resource?

Emy diGrappa (18:45):

I was just thinking, how did people know what they were saving? That is really a good question, Lucas. Was that so advanced? Because you have the geysers and the hot water system that's in Yellowstone, the sulfur and everything. It's so interesting to know how people knew that, that was important. Oh, hang on, sorry.

Chloe Flagg (19:10):

I thought Chloe was getting ready to sing.

Jeremy Johnston (19:17):

I should have been ready. Dang it.

Lucas Fralick (19:18):

It was finally your time, was here.

Jeremy Johnston (19:20):

I thought that was going to be the concluding theme.

Lucas Fralick (19:25):

Honestly, that would've really worked.

Jeremy Johnston (19:27):

[inaudible 00:19:27] For the podcast.

Emy diGrappa (19:29):

I know. I'm going to edit that out, don't worry. Oh my gosh.

Lucas Fralick (19:33):

I don't know, it keeps it natural.

Emy diGrappa (19:38):

Yeah, it's a good thing they can't see me running to the phone in my sweats. Right?

Lucas Fralick (19:45):

See, you said that, not me. No one would've known, but you said it.

Emy diGrappa (19:49):

But you said it. Well-

Lucas Fralick (19:53):

It's in the final cut now.

Emy diGrappa (19:53):

Well, you know what? You and Jeremy look great, and Chloe and I are wearing our pajamas.

Jeremy Johnston (20:00):

Yeah, you're only seeing the top part of Lucas and I though.

Lucas Fralick (20:05):

True. You have no idea what else is going on?

Emy diGrappa (20:11):

You have no idea what's going on.

Chloe Flagg (20:11):

I met with Troy this morning and he was just wearing a t-shirt, which he never just wears. He always has a button up, always has a nice shirt on. And he was just like, "Man, I'm just so glad that you're wearing a t-shirt too." And I was like, "Do I ever not wear a t-shirt? I'm pretty sure this all I ever wear." So I've set the bar pretty low for the whole group. So you're welcome.

Emy diGrappa (20:35):

Okay. Yeah. I love when-

Jeremy Johnston (20:41):

My worst podcast filming experience, this individual reached out to me to interview me about some subject, I think it's Buffalo Bill's Wild West and he had the phone and he was wandering around his house. And at the same time he's asking me these questions and I'm trying to explain, come up with an answer. He was throwing snacks at his dog. And so I'm trying to talk and this guy is throwing snacks and I had to really restrain myself because I was almost at the point, I was kind of trying to jump out at the dog treats there.

Chloe Flagg (21:25):

Oh my God.

Lucas Fralick (21:28):

Well, good news is none of us are throwing food around. But this is good to know.

Emy diGrappa (21:35):

That is so funny. Okay, I'm not going to cut any of this out. Okay? Especially Chloe setting the bar for the Wyoming Humanities. That's good Chloe.

Chloe Flagg (21:46):

You guys, you're really welcome.

Lucas Fralick (21:46):

I disagree.

Chloe Flagg (21:47):

I set it low so that everyone else just looks topnotch all the time. You're welcome.

Lucas Fralick (21:54):

You have a good sense of style. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Emy diGrappa (22:00):

Chloe, I think you should put on one of your necklaces with your t-shirt next time.

Chloe Flagg (22:04):

Okay, all right. Okay, I'll be ready.

Emy diGrappa (22:06):

Yeah. Yeah, be ready. Just have a nice necklace on with your t-shirt.

Lucas Fralick (22:10):

It's a good thing podcasting's a visual medium or we would really be in trouble with this conversation.

Chloe Flagg (22:23):

I know. Jeez louise.

Emy diGrappa (22:23):

You mean an audio medium?

Lucas Fralick (22:25):

Yeah. Yeah, that's the joke's. Of course it's an audio medium.

Emy diGrappa (22:35):

Okay, that went right over my head. I just thought you kind of misspoke, but oh well. Okay, you guys just go on with your day.


So I thought we would listen to Robert Righter, and he is a well known historian researcher and he has written seven books. The one that I'm going to refer to, and he's going to talk about in his narrative, is the formation of Grand Teton National Park. And what he says is that with the unimaginable beauty of the Grand Tetons, it's difficult today to imagine that it would be anything but a national park. But in actuality, for over 50 years, the question of National Park status remained unsettled as a myriad of public and private interests fought for control of Jackson Hole and the Tetons.

Robert Righter (23:36):

I grew up in California. Born in Stockton, raised in Burlingame, which is in the Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area. I moved to Laramie area in 1973, left the university in 1988. But we liked Wyoming so much that I got involved with the Jackson Hole and we bought land and eventually built a cabin in 1990. I think the story is a big one. I think it's, in a way, a story of the West. We're moving from the 19th century to the 20th century. When this controversy first started, I think we're more or less of a pioneer state. And by that, I mean a state where individual freedom was dominant, where there was very little in the way of authority, you could do what you want. The government was responsible for assigning land, but they weren't really much in control of it.


So you're moving from kind of pioneer society to a more structural society in which land zoning becomes a factor. And that's what we see in the National Park, in Grand Teton Park. In the big change, there's all the little changes and they're really controversies, and that's where you get into Grand Teton National Park. It is a story, I like to use the term now, this term has come into use in the last few years it seems like to me, but overreach by the federal government. And I think Grand Teton and the controversy between the local people and the state people and the federal government is what we would call overreach today by the federal government and trying to establish a national park in an area that didn't necessarily feel that they needed a national park. Saw it as their land and they should determine what to do with it.


Now having said that, Grand Teton was obviously a beautiful place and one that should be somewhat protected, at least the mountains. Fortunately, the mountains could protect themselves. We didn't find any gold or silver or anything greatly valuable up there. So otherwise, there would've probably been, well we're not going to destroy them, but we're going develop them in one way or another. Instead of climbing the mountains, helicopters could be coming up there to take miners up and back and so forth. Fortunately, we haven't found anything yet and we never will develop anything, that's clear. But yeah, it could have been. That's a factor. And we did have a lot of miners out here, mainly working the Snake River to try to find some gold, but pretty unsuccessful. But if they'd have found anything in the mountains, yes, we would've had roads up there as much as possible, but mainly helicopters coming back and down constantly. They could have done that in 1872, certainly.


But nobody knew much what was out here. And the lines of Yellowstone National Park, the original lines, now have been changed in the 1920s to make more geographical sense, the crest of the mountains and so forth as dividing lines. But in those days, they just drew these straight lines across vast amounts of country with no knowledge really of what was there. So the southern line was just drawn across there and mainly I think probably determined by, in a way, the Army said, "Okay." But not even the Army was there in 1872 on a permanent basis. So they didn't really know what was out here. And a few people had seen the Tetons, but the mountains didn't seem to have the attraction that the strange and wondrous hot pools and geysers had. So that was the chief attraction. There were a lot of mountains out here, but these were truly spectacular.


But they didn't necessarily want to, didn't think to try to enlarge that line to the Tetons until about 1916, '17, we did try to extend the Yellowstone National Park to include the Teton Range. That didn't happen for very strange reasons. The main reason it didn't happen is some sheep growers over in Idaho objected. And this tells you that there was no great reverence for national parks or land at that time if you could exploit it. And if your senator or your representative said, "Hey, this land could be used by sheepherders", well stop the whole process, which was strange. It was a different world in which individual rights and individual reason for exploitation was dominant over anything that had to do with aesthetics. If we didn't have a ski industry, we wouldn't have many people around here in the winter time because it's cold and it's harsh.


And I think the Indians found that going south or elsewhere was a better choice than staying in Jackson Hole in the wintertime. So we never did really have a permanent, to my knowledge, a permanent Indian population here. So there have been general controversies, but not much. But they did come to hunt here for elk as everybody else. This has always been great elk country, and Indians as well as white people started harvesting elk before the turn in the century, actually. In the summer they would come out, not for a few days, but usually for at least a week, at least a couple weeks, sometimes all summer and they grew to love the park too. The reality for a dude rancher, they didn't want development, they didn't want a lot of roads and they didn't want any sort of industry. They didn't want homesteaders, they didn't want any farming.


They wanted open space, they wanted what they got. They didn't want any change in Jackson Hole. So the people came out here and they just loved it. Jackson Hole, the land itself rather than the mountains, I'm talking about, the flat land, was a argument over land zoning. Who's going to get it? Who's going to control it? And there were individual homesteaders, but there were also these agencies that the State of Wyoming would've liked to have had some of it or not all of it. A lot of the controversy was really whether the land west of the Snake River, how it should be controlled. And a lot of people thought the land east of the Snake River should remain private land and be developed and maybe controlled by the state to degree or even maybe the county, Teton County. But there's just a lot of interests.


And I think this is true. I've always said, I lived in Dallas for a long time and I said, "I don't care what you do to Dallas, you can destroy the place. But you mess with a blade of grass in Grand Teton or the Jackson Hole and you get my attention." And why is that? It's a beautiful land. We all know that. And so a lot of people wanted it. So that's part of the controversy, in a way. Well, it would be, and in my book, the Grand Teton National Park, in the Crucible for Conservation, I posed this problem, "What if we didn't get the park?" And I talk about how the road from Jackson to Jenny Lake would just be strewn with motels and private property. And the very, very wealthy that are now living in Jackson Hole would be living in the park probably each with their five or 10 or 20 acres, so forth.


And the roads, I describe the road, the fast road going from Jackson Hole up to the Moran area, as just a road with all this tourist stuff and Indian trinket stores and that sort of thing. It just would've been probably... The mountains will still be there. The mountains will still be there. But part of the beauty of Grand Teton is that the fact that the land is not developed, the flat land is not developed. In fact, I think that's the reason in a way, the flat land, one of the reasons why we are so famous is that I've seen beautiful mountains elsewhere. There's a lot of them. But none of them have, they almost all have foothills before you get the mountains. The Tetons, you just had this flat land and then it just goes up. I call it actually, a right angle land. By that I mean the flatness of the valley, and then the mountains just are so precipitous and you can drive so close to them and it's just overwhelming.


And as you know, there continues to be pressure on the national parks for some kind of development. One of the best examples is helicopter use over Grand Teton Park. That still continues to be a problem. We thought we'd solved it 20 years ago, but we haven't. It's back. There's always developers, there's people that want to make money off the national parks and they say, "We're absolutely innocent. We're going to give people who no longer can hike in the park a chance to see the mountains closer." They have their arguments. But the park service has got to hold back on these efforts. There's some people that would put a tram up to the top of the Grand Teton National Park. And it doesn't sound realistic, but they could do it.


So we always have these controversies in the parks, and administration always has a tough job because there's people, particularly the politicians, who are sometimes beholden to developers of some sort. And some of those developers may be in the national parks and put pressure through the congressional delegation. And that's really one of the stories of Grand Teton National Park, is the Wyoming delegation, generally. Well meaning as they may be, were for development and do what we can for economic development. That's been often a controversy. And when you say, who was for and who was against, I would say that one of the interests that were against the National Park was the Wyoming delegation, our two senators and our one representative who often sided with positions that were anti what the park wanted. And they're very influential.


And usually, the position is we can have them both. We can have conservation and we can have development. Well, sometimes that's possible, but sometimes it's not. And it's kind of a subtle thing. In other words, we had cattle grazing in the park under the forest service and then when the park service took it over, those leases were continued. And the park service never really wanted cattle grazing in the National Park. But a lot of people, probably the majority people, certainly in Wyoming said, "That's our tradition. That's how we make a living, is cattle grazing. And so why are you stopping?" Well the reason they fought it is because there's just X amount of grass and it's either going to go to cattle or it's going to go to wildlife. And the park service was more for the wildlife. And people don't kind of realize that because they say, "Well it's a matter of cattle grazing." Well, you got to think of that there's only that amount of grass and it can be overly grazed. And it was during a number of years until cattle grazing was finally phased out of Grand Teton Park.


That's kind of typical of the development versus, what's a matter with cattle grazing? That's such an innocent activity and it's so a much in tradition. But from certain standpoints, it was controversial many years. And what's a matter with having a little, to get into a major controversy, what's a matter with having a little air strip in Grand Teton Park? And that's the way it started, a tiny little airstrip with little planes, little a Cessna. But then eventually it grew and it grows and it keeps on growing. And it is definitely, and it shouldn't be here, there's no question about it, but it is and we're going to live with it. And those are the kind of compromises that national parks have always made.


So there's not very much land that's impacted, but hundreds of miles of space is being impacted by the noise. Yesterday, a couple of days ago, we had some jets, the military jets flew through here. I don't know why, but they made incredible amount of racket destroy. We couldn't talk in the household and we worked very hard with the airport, and the airport board and Grand Teton have worked very hard to lessen the impact of the airport. But it's still there because the noise generally from the jets and so forth has decreased individual. But the number has increased. We've got a controversy now between the landowners to the south of the airport, where the runway generally takes off and the airport and the FAA. That's another controversy. And I think we're always going to have a controversy over the airport because airplanes, like it or not, they're convenient, they're wonderful.


The park, as we know it today, was established in 1950. The original park was established and this was the mountains only in 1929. The big controversy was to come after 1929, as because I say, the mountains could take care of themselves, but the flat land was going to be impacted. So 1950, and I have to say that we know today that we're getting more and more isolated in terms of conservative and liberal points of view, but it was very much there in 1950. But fortunately, we had a few people, particularly the Rockefellers and other interests that could come in and work out a compromise. Something we seem to have lost the ability to do today was compromise, and our park is a compromise in a way.


The airport is really a good example, but the cattle was a controversy. How we deal with the elk was a controversy. What I'm saying is that we seem to have lost the ability to compromise and understand each other and get together and talk about it. That compromise was there in 1950 and we wouldn't have the park if we couldn't seem to compromise. There will still have to be conservation organizations and we'll still have to be willing to stand up and fight for what we want and for what, in my view, the conservation or the beauty of Grand Teton is worth fighting for. So we'll have to continue to do that.

Emy diGrappa (41:23):

Thank you for listening. I'm executive producer Emy diGrappa. Winds of Change is brought to you by Wyoming Humanities, our co-hosts, and all the people who generously share their stories and their time. For more information, go to thinkwy.org. Subscribe and never miss a show.