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150 Years of Yellowstone

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

Signed in to law by President Ulysses S. Grant, America's first national park was set aside to preserve and protect the scenery, cultural heritage, wildlife, geologic and ecological systems, and processes in their natural condition for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Yellowstone serves as the core of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the last and largest nearly intact natural ecosystems on the planet. Yellowstone has the most active, diverse, and intact collections of combined geothermal features with over 10,000 hydrothermal sites and half the world's active geysers. The park is also rich in cultural and historical resources with 25 sites, landmarks, and districts on the National Register of Historic Places.

Based on the park’s location at the convergence of the Great Plains, Great Basin, and Columbia Plateau, 27 Native American Tribes have historic and modern connections to the land and its resources. For over 10,000 years before Yellowstone became a national park, it was a place where Native Americans lived, hunted, fished, gathered plants, quarried obsidian, and used thermal waters for religious and medicinal purposes.

Park managers have learned many lessons during Yellowstone's 150 years. In the early 1900s, the government killed nearly all predators in the park, and the bison population was hunted to less than two dozen. Later that century, the fires of 1988 burned more than one-third of the park, and the introduction of nonnative lake trout decimated native Yellowstone cutthroat populations. Through modern resource management efforts involving bison, grizzly bears, native fish, gray wolves, wildland fire, and others, Yellowstone's ecosystem is the healthiest it has been in over a century.

Today, Yellowstone is facing new challenges. Employee housing, workforce development, historic preservation, effects of climate change, transboundary wildlife management, increasing visitation, and deteriorating infrastructure are issues impacting Yellowstone's workforce, resources, visitors, and gateway communities. To tackle these challenges, Yellowstone has set five major strategic priorities, each supporting the overarching National Park Service mission and each critical to Yellowstone's success. The priorities are: 1) Focus on the Core (workforce); 2) Strengthen the Yellowstone Ecosystem and Heritage Resources; 3) Deliver a World-Class Visitor Experience; 4) Invest in Infrastructure, and 5) Build Coalitions and Partnerships. Within each of these strategic priority areas is a wide range of actions designed to achieve success. Learn more about Yellowstone's recent successes and challenges, along with priorities and actions park managers intend to pursue in the future, in our State of the Park report.

Yellowstone is bigger than its boundary. Each of our partners plays a vital role in making decisions that protect Yellowstone for future generations and improve the positive conservation, environmental, economic, and social impacts the park provides this region and the country. As stewards of this inspiring place, it is an opportunity for us to reflect on the lessons of the past and strengthen Yellowstone for the future by making decisions that protect the health of the park for centuries to come.

During March-August this year, the park and its partners will provide opportunities to reflect on 150 years of protecting Yellowstone National Park, highlight successes in the ecosystem, and open dialogue on the lessons learned from yesterday, the challenges of today, and a vision for tomorrow. We will focus on the stewards of Yellowstone, conservation and historic preservation, visitor experience, infrastructure, Tribal Nations, and partner engagement via social media, a bimonthly virtual video series featuring various subject matter experts, and a range of both virtual and in-person activities. Of particular importance to Yellowstone during the commemoration is to be reflective, intentional, inclusive, and impactful.

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