Lummis votes to shut down government

By Jim Stanford on October 1, 2013

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Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., opted to close national parks rather than implement the health care law passed by Congress and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks are being barricaded today, and all public access closed, thanks in part to Wyoming’s lone congressional representative, Cynthia Lummis.

Lummis is part of an extreme faction of the Republican Party seeking to hold the federal government hostage over implementation of the 2009 health care law. She voted repeatedly this weekend and last night to send a budget bill to the Senate that was dead on arrival.

Without funding, all federal agencies, including the National Park Service, were forced to close.

On her website, Lummis said she did so to protect Americans from “the onslaught of Obamacare.”

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott held a conference call this morning to outline the closure in her jurisdiction, which includes the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway connecting Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

Aside from Highway 26/89/191 between Jackson and Moran, all of Grand Teton park is closed to visitor access and recreational activities, Scott said. Visitors may not even stop at scenic turnouts along the highway.

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Posted under Economy, Environment, Politics, Republican Party

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‘effective’ population now 60,000

By Jim Stanford on August 30, 2013

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Crowd at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. During the peak of summer, Teton County draws 24,000 visitors per day. Total annual visitation is closer to 1 million people, rather than the 3 million often touted.

A few months ago, Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk raised eyebrows when, at a joint meeting of town and county leaders, he said the park does not have 3 million visitors per year, as often touted. Rather, Wenk said, the park attracts more like 1.5 million people, some of whom visit multiple times.

A study released by the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance this month further calls into question the widely held notion that Teton County hosts 3 million — sometimes stretched to 4 million — visitors per year.

The study gives a snapshot of the county’s “effective population,” or the total number of people found here at a given time. The tally combines permanent residents, second home owners, seasonal workers, commuters and tourists.

At the peak of summer (July 15), that total is more than 60,000. In winter (Feb. 15), the effective population is 40,000, and even in the shoulder seasons (April and November) the tally is 30,000.

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Posted under County Government, Economy, Politics, Town Government

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looking back on 1988 Yellowstone fires

By Jim Stanford on August 25, 2013

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A bull elk surveys a burned area.

Twenty-five years ago this week, the Yellowstone fires hit their peak. Nearly 800,000 acres, or 36 percent of the park, burned that summer in a series of blazes, some caused by humans and others by storms. Winds of up to 80 mph fanned the flames, creating a conflagration beyond control.

Aug. 20, 1988, was dubbed “Black Saturday,” when the fires doubled in size, consuming more acres than all other fires in the park’s history combined.

Last year, when the Little Horsethief Fire burned up the back of Snow King and east Jackson was under an evacuation advisory, residents got a taste of fear. But watching those flames lick at the ridge above Cache Creek pales in comparison to firsthand accounts of the Yellowstone blazes.

The late Theo Meiners landed on one of the firefighting support crews in the summer of 1988 and kept a journal of his experiences. Focus Productions published excerpts in Jackson Hole Skier magazine that winter and has re-posted them for the 25th anniversary. The short essay is worth a read.

Of the Mink Creek Fire in the Teton Wilderness, Meiners wrote:

By mid-July winds had whipped this conflagration into gargantuan proportions; a column of smoke rose to over 30,000 feet, visible from Salt Lake City. The Black Rock Ranger Station became a base camp city of 1,200 firefighters. There was every kind of helicopter imaginable. Cargo planes and bombers were everywhere. The FAA even sent out flight controllers. This was war.

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Hunger Games: Yellowstone set

By Jim Stanford on April 1, 2013

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U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis and Sen. John Barrasso said the games will provide an entertaining way of determining federal funding.

Unwilling to budge on spending cuts, Wyoming’s congressional delegation announced today a new plan to turn Yellowstone National Park into a dystopic battleground in which public land managers will fight to the death for funding.

Grand Teton superintendent Mary Gibson Scott and YNP chief Dan Wenk will compete in Hunger Games: Yellowstone, along with Scott Guenther, head of the Jenny Lake rangers, National Elk Refuge manager Steve Kallin and Cheryl Probert, acting Bridger-Teton National Forest supervisor.

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis held a lavish bash at Four Seasons to announce the contest, attended by hundreds of oil and gas industry executives. Lummis hailed the plan as necessary belt tightening in a time of economic austerity.

“Instead of blindly filling desks, these bureaucrats will expose themselves to feel what wretches feel, and show the heavens more just,” she said.

Sen. John Barrasso said Yellowstone’s 3,500 square miles will serve as the perfect venue for the competition. Flesh-hungry grizzly bears and wolves will add extra drama as land managers engage one another in an atavistic struggle, against a backdrop of steaming geysers and bubbling mud pots. Barrasso has signed a deal with Fox News to broadcast the contest.

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Posted under Environment, Humor, Politics, Republican Party

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film screening benefits American Rivers

By Jim Stanford on March 26, 2013

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From its beginnings as a trickle of snowmelt off Two Ocean Pass to the thunderous cataracts of its Grand Canyon and sinuous meandering through the plains of Montana, the Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states.

A new film by Hunter Weeks follows a 30-day journey by drift boat down the river to its confluence with the Missouri at Fort Buford, N.D. Where the Yellowstone Goes chronicles the people and landscapes the party encounters while floating and fishing this majestic waterway.

Weeks will show the film and take questions Wednesday night in a benefit for American Rivers at the Pink Garter Theater. Tickets are $10, available online or at Jack Dennis Sports and Teton Mountain Lodge. Showtime is 7 p.m.

I’ve always thought of the Yellowstone as one of the uppermost headwaters of the Mississippi. Along those lines, I’d someday like to make a journey from Atlantic Creek all the way to New Orleans.

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