When Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Mike Finley started to feel the budget pinch this summer, he made sure everyone knew about it.
Finley closed a popular
campground and two museums in Yellowstone, and threatened to
shorten the park season by as much as two months. "We can no longer
do more with less," he said flatly.
take long for local businesses and Wyoming's congressional
delegation to accuse the superintendent of poor planning and
grandstanding. "This dramatic move is designed only to evoke public
discontent," wrote Sens. Al Simpson and Craig Thomas and Rep.
Barbara Cubin, all Republicans, in a letter to Interior Secretary
Mike Morey, a researcher for the
Wyoming Chamber of Commerce, said the campground closing alone cost
the region about $1 million in lost business.
July, Cubin prompted the House Resources Committee to review the
park's books. While the results of the review are not yet public,
it was enough to prompt both Cubin and Thomas to schedule visits of
their own to Yellowstone later this summer.
Finley insists that he tried to minimize impacts on visitors by
cutting long-term projects and siphoning money into campgrounds and
visitors' centers. He says he resorted to closures only after
cutting all road maintenance, slashing science, reducing seasonal
staff, and leaving some permanent positions
Simpson and Thomas have introduced
legislation that would increase Yellowstone's funding by $4
million, but Finley says it's not enough. Don Striker,
Yellowstone's budget officer, says they would need roughly $8
million to $13 million more each year to run the park
Washington think, "Yellowstone's got $19 million, how could they be
having problems?" " says Striker. He hopes that the review will
offer Congress a look at the complexities and shortfalls of parks
funding. "We're not out here whining just to make a political