CODY, Wyo. - After investing in a fleet of 40 new snowmobiles, Bob Coe was counting on a busy winter at Pahaska Tepee, the lodge he runs just outside Yellowstone National Park. At least 80 percent of the lodge's 25 rooms were reserved for the Christmas weekend.
Then the federal budget battle
turned to chaos and the national park shut
On Jan. 4, Coe led a protest that included
around 75 local residents, many of whom saw the park closure as the
latest salvo in what has come to be known as the Clinton
administration's War on the West. One protester carried a placard
that read: "They can spend $ on wolves - why can't they spend it on
The closure of nearly all the national
parks in the country during the federal shutdown was little
consolation. The administration, protesters said, had come to view
the parks and businesses dependent on them as pawns in the budget
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and
others are taking advantage of the shutdown to "slowly choke the
life out of the winter tourism business," said Coe. "Babbitt
definitely hates the West. This all plays into it." Exhibit A in
his argument was Babbitt's apparent snubbing of an attempt by the
governors of Wyoming and Montana to reopen Yellowstone and Grand
Teton national parks just before the busy Christmas weekend. By
contrast, Babbitt's Interior Department had earlier approved a
similar plan by the governor of Arizona, Babbitt's home state, to
reopen Grand Canyon National Park.
spokesman Michael Gauldin said that while Arizona officials had
accepted all responsibility for accidents in the reopened Grand
Canyon National Park, Wyoming officials did not satisfactorily
address the liability question.
conspiracy here," Gauldin added. "Nobody's out to get the business
people who depend on the parks. We want the parks open as much as
anyone else, but it's not something we're going to do at any cost."
Either way, closure of the parks during the
prime holiday season took a high toll on local businesses. Coe
estimates his lost revenues at $70,000. TW Recreational Services
Inc., which runs lodges and restaurants in Yellowstone, put its
losses at $750,000. Gene Bryan, director of the Wyoming Division of
Tourism, figured the total loss to Wyoming businesses at more than
$100,000 per day. Just prior to the park closure, the chamber had
spent $40,000 promoting winter visits to Cody and
Besides closing Yellowstone, federal
land managers invoked the shutdown to cancel public meetings on
managing the boom in winter tourism in the Yellowstone
writes in Cody, Wyoming.