The National Park Service and The Grand Tetons — Patchwork Partnership

I can’t believe how fast ten days have flown by here. To say I have been busy is a complete understatement — I wake up at 5:30 nearly every day to work ten to twelve hours at the corral, mostly doing manual labor (cleaning horse poop, feeding out hay, cleaning more poop). I’ve never been one to say no to a party but I’ve been finding myself doing that more and more often, preferring to fall asleep at 9:30 rather than do anything after work. I love that it’s the best fitness regime I’ve ever had and the fact that I’m getting paid to play with horses, but I do wish I had more energy to take advantage of the park.

IMG_0042 Living in a national park has been educational already. Since it’s federally regulated land, seemingly small crimes in other states, such as smoking marijuana, are still felonies here. NPS officers have jurisdiction over the Jackson Lake Lodge, which means they can patrol the employee village as they like. They also hold the lodge amenities to a certain set of rules, like that no one can have a TV in their room, or that we have to safeguard all our hay from foraging elk.

Undoubtedly, NPS has done a fantastic job preserving the park. From what I can understand, people who return to the Tetons see little change to the landscape, which is wonderful considering how stunning the views are. But the park itself has an interesting history compared to others. Originally the park consisted only of the Teton range and the lake at its base. Homesteaders owned the majority of the surrounding land, from Moran to Jackson. Many residents were opposed to its creation or expansion because it meant the government would just take away their property and enact new rules. So instead, John D. Rockefeller decided to take action. He set up the Snake River Land Trust and began buying up the properties surrounding the mountains. By the time he gifted it to the government he had accumulated over 300,000 acres of land to add to the park. At first, FDR, the president at the time, deemed it the Jackson Hole National Monument before that was dissolved and the land added to the park.

Each of these transitions were hotly contested by members of the community. After the creation of the Monument, cattle ranchers actually drove their stock across the land in protest. As part of the deal for turning the land into the park, the government grandfathered in some private properties as well as grazing areas. There are still two private grazing areas in the park, shared by domestic cattle and wild bison.

The history is much more complicated than this but I could go one for pages about the nitpicky details. Rather, it’s just interesting to reflect on how we can look at a beautiful place like the Tetons without considering the strife it created. NPS has continued to take contested actions in the park up to this day, such as reintroducing wolves in 1995. For obvious reasons, cattle ranchers were livid about this decision. Today, the park is considering vaccinating the wolves for Parvo, and the final decision has yet to be determined. Interestingly, many paths at Colter Bay, another GTLC property, have been closed due to new wolf dens. The cohabitation of tourists and wildlife continues to adapt all the time.

This post might seem a little dry, so next time I’ll talk about the corrals and all the fun horses I get to play with! Until then, bon appetit and safe travels (still trying to get over the fact that I won’t have the chance to cook for the next four months).IMG_0041

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