Yellowstone National Park is giving high priority to upgrading employee housing. That is proving a good strategy, writes Shawn Regan of PERC in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. It is essential for keeping quality employees who are often alone or nearly alone in isolated parts of the 2.2 million-acre park.
When he became Yellowstone’s superintendent in 2018, Cam Sholly (photo above) made better housing a “core” focus, and now it is showing results.
“’I realize some people may not look at this as an exciting topic, like talking about grizzlies or wolves or bison, but people who work in this park are the most important resources,’ [Sholly] told Mountain Journal in 2019. ‘If we can’t attract and retain the very best talent, our resources and visitors in this park will be in jeopardy.’”
The writer toured the park to see maintenance issues several years ago. The housing Regan saw included decrepit trailers with rodents and mold and dilapidated cabins.
“In a world where flashy projects are often rewarded with political backing and glowing headlines, it’s commendable that Yellowstone’s leadership has focused on more fundamental, if mundane, maintenance priorities. It’s no secret that, in addition to a lack of funding from Congress, the National Park Service’s multi-billion-dollar maintenance backlog is the result of incentives that reward investments in new projects while neglecting routine upkeep. Sholly’s efforts stand in stark contrast to this trend.”
And, as Regan points out, that maintenance backlog has reached $11 billion, typical of federal neglect of public land maintenance. However, Congress recently passed a law that will require half the receipts from oil and gas on public lands to go for federal-land maintenance, with up to $9.5 billion over 5 years a possibility.
Image of Cameron H. Sholly, Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, by Yellowstone NPS. is in the public domain.