Unwelcome in Yellowstone?….

 

bisonriver

I, like so many Americans, love Yellowstone, this country’s and the world’s, very first National Park. I applaud Tim Reid, the Chief Ranger there. He has his hands full under increasing pressure brought about by important issues like wildlife protection, invasive species, and a growing threat from grazing and drilling and mining just outside the park’s borders.

But if what I hear is correct, Ranger Reid is about to embark on a policy of discrimination in Yellowstone that is unnecessary and unethical. I have heard it claimed that the park is about to tell us that we are “unwelcome” in Yellowstone. That very soon, if you declare yourself a “searcher for Forrest Fenn’s treasure” you will be a persona non grata inside the gates of YNP. It appears that we have made ourselves unpopular because we come to the park to search and some have found themselves needing aid. Others have broken laws. Therefore we are all “unwelcome”. This sounds quite a bit like profiling.

Congress established the National Park Service in 1916 in part due to a recognition that the American people “wanted places to go that were undisturbed and natural and which offered a retreat from the rigors and stresses of everyday life.” It became the Park Service’s responsibility to insure that Yellowstone and other National Parks offered that retreat.
In 2013 over 3,188,000 visitors came to Yellowstone to relax and enjoy the greatest National Park in the world. That same year rangers responded to about 700 emergency medical calls from tourists. These emergencies included bison gorings, auto accidents, hot water scaldings, near drownings, falls, scrapes, heart attacks, fights, poisonings and on and on. Yet the park has not decided that tourists are “unwelcome” because 700 out of 3 million needed aid.

According to bestplaces.net violent crime in YNP is rated 3 out of 10, where 10 is extremely violent. The national average for violent crime in the USA is 4. So the violent crime rate in Yellowstone is just a bit less than normal. The violent crime types committed by tourists in YNP include murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Yet, once again, no one is suggesting that tourists are “unwelcome”.

According to the parks own statistics, during the 32 year period from 1980 to 2011 there were 32 human injuries caused by bears in the Yellowstone backcountry. Yet I hear no movement suggesting that grizzly bears are “unwelcome” in the park.

The number one animal in the park resulting in human injury is not the bear, but rather the bison. While stopped in a line of cars on the loop road waiting for a herd of bison to cross I watched in amazement as a woman confidently stepped out of her vehicle, approached the herd and posed next to a large bull for a selfie photo. The bull waggled his big head at her and then lowered his horns to about goring height which caused the onlookers to yell at her to “stay away” and “get out of there”. Yet, I hear no outcries that bison should be declared “unwelcome” in the park or that visitors unaware of the dangers of wild animals as big as their cars should be “unwelcome”.

Providing a place for the retreat from the rigors and stresses of everyday life is precisely the purpose of our National Parks. Searchers for Forrest’s treasure come there to take advantage of the escape offered by these lands. We come looking for places where warm waters halt and where Brown might live and to find a blaze. None of this is illegal. It’s not even unethical or irreverent. While there we hike the trails, admire the wildlife, learn about the history, the geology and the botany contained in this ranger protected paradise. We bring our families and our friends. We eat at restaurants, stay in motels and purchase books and souvenirs. Yet, the Chief Ranger wants to tell us we are “unwelcome” in his National Park. Could this be possible?

Well Ranger Reid, the park is MY park. Congress and your boss say so. It belongs to every American. Not just those who don’t search for dreams. On this blog right now, some 6 thousand people every day come looking for ideas to help them search for their dream, placed somewhere in the Rocky Mountains by Forrest Fenn. Many believe it is nowhere near Yellowstone National Park. A few hope it is. Some of those who do decide to look in your park will come and break laws already established and vividly posted. By far, most of us will not. Some will take chances and get into trouble and need the help of rangers to get out of their jam. Most will not.

You have no right to suggest that “searchers” are unwelcome in our own park Ranger Reid.

Perhaps soon the rangers will find it more expedient to simply collect money from us and ban everyone from their park, but in the mean time to declare that a single group of visitors to the park are unwelcome because they “search” would be despicable and discriminatory…the same as discrimination based on politics, religion, race or gender and I hope it is not your intent to make such a declaration.

There is no evidence that searchers break more rules, cause more problems or require more resources than any others who visit the park. So get a grip Ranger Reid. Your park is already laced with rules enough that everyone must follow, not just searchers.

There are already regulations in the park to prevent digging, boating, collecting qualifying artifacts and using a metal detector. Forrest’s high regard for Yellowstone and all beautiful and wild lands suggests to all of us that in order to find the chest we must respect the land and wildlife as he has, no matter where he has hidden it. But to hear that Ranger Reid wants to “unwelcome” a group of visitors simply because they plan to use the park as the retreat it was intended for and to pursue a dream…is irresponsible, and I hope only a rumor.

In the meantime I would like to suggest that if you, dear searchers, are heading to Yellowstone to search please be aware of the rules that are there for everyone and for goodness sake don’t spit or take the name of Smokey the Bear in vain.

dal-