Apr 29, 2016

Latest issue of National Geographic all about Yellowstone

An iconic magazine is celebrating an iconic national park.

National Geographic devoted its entire May edition to Yellowstone National Park.

“Yellowstone is more than just a park. It’s a place where, more than 140 years ago, people began to negotiate a peace treaty with the wild,” writes David Quammen, the principal author of the issue.

Through powerful photographs, stories, videos and interactive online features, National Geographic offers readers an in-depth look at America’s first national park.

National Park Service employee Matt Nagel reads the newly released Yellowstone edition of National Geographic. Photo courtesy National Park Service
The May 2016 edition, “Yellowstone: America’s Wild Idea,” hit newsstands this week and it's been a hot commodity in Cody. The special issue is part of the publication's year-long series celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Yellowstone staff worked with National Geographic for more than two years to create the edition, said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk in a Wednesday news release.

“Our goal was to illuminate how special this place is and the incredible challenges it faces today. Everyone who cares about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and its future should read this issue,” Wenk said.

National Geographic explored many of the complex issues surrounding Yellowstone: animal management, land use, tourism, wildlife restoration and animal migration.

Locals flipping through the edition may recognize Nic Patrick of Cody, who was mauled by a grizzly bear on the South Fork in 2013. In addition to a two-page photo of Patrick, National Geographic also features an online video of Patrick describing the attack.

To capture images for the special edition, six photographers spent 18 months in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“Yellowstone, the first national park, was not founded for all the right reasons, and it was not very well thought out at the time. It has been a slow process of discovery — what could Yellowstone be, and what should Yellowstone be?” writer David Quammen told the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

Quammen of Bozeman, Montana, an award-winning author and journalist, is the only writer of the Yellowstone edition. It’s the first time in National Geographic’s 128-year history that one writer served as the single author of an entire edition, according to the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

In an interview with the foundation last week, Quammen said he’d like readers “to take away a better understanding of the national parks idea and how it has evolved.”

He referenced the famous quote by Wallace Stegner: “National parks are the best idea we ever had.”

“But a point I tried to make in this issue was that it hasn't always been a great idea; it has become great,” Quammen told the foundation. “Yellowstone, the first national park, was not founded for all the right reasons, and it was not very well thought out at the time. It has been a slow process of discovery — what could Yellowstone be, and what should Yellowstone be?”

Quammen is no stranger to Yellowstone. He has lived in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for 30 years.

The ecosystem encompasses Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park as well as forests, wildlife refuges and private lands, totaling over 22.6 million acres, according to the National Park Service.

For Quammen, the most memorable experience he had covering Yellowstone for this edition was flying over the Thorofare region — a place he had never really seen. He flew over it in a low-flying airplane, then spent eight days in the Thorofare on horseback.

“Those were two of the most wonderful experiences I had, and two of the most enlightening experiences I had because the Thorofare is a legendary corner of the ecosystem — the most remote area in the lower 48 states,” Quammen told the foundation.

The special Yellowstone issue is available where magazines are sold and online through the Yellowstone Association.

City of Cody gets pushback on idea to sell open space

City of Cody officials didn’t need a survey to learn what the public thought of selling a park to raise money.

As part of the city’s efforts to bolster its shrinking budget, Cody officials recently held a hearing on whether they should consider selling off a 2.53-acre patch of open space along Sheridan Avenue.

The answer voiced by the public was a resounding no.

Roughly three dozen people objected in writing and about half that number spoke against the idea at a packed April 5 council meeting.

One common complaint was that the short-term gains from the sale weren’t worth the long-term costs of losing the open space in Holm View Subdivision.

“What’s our legacy going to be? (That) we balanced a budget or we kept it for the kids?” asked subdivision resident George Niemann.

Cody leaders explored the idea of selling off the open space shown in the background, inside the Holm View Subdivision.
Cody officials said they weren’t excited about the idea of selling off the grassy space, but were trying to explore all their options in tight times.

“I don’t want to sell the park; I just want to keep the community stable,” said Councilman Donny Anderson.

Anderson said in a follow-up interview that proposing a possible sale was, in part, a reaction to citizens who have criticized the city for spending too much on recreation.

“To me, these are eye-openers for folks; it’s a way to get them involved,” he said, saying he was pleased with the turnout and the civility at the meeting.

Cody City Administrator Barry Cook said at the meeting that, with sales tax collections and other revenues on the decline, “the governing body is looking closely at all expenses to determine where savings can be achieved.” Their efforts include recently eliminating two city positions and reducing two others from full to part time.

The net cost of maintaining the grassy space each year is around $7,350, according to city figures. Meanwhile, an appraisal concluded the land might be worth around $324,000.

Cook said there are other city parks that Holm View residents can use, including nearby softball fields and an elementary school playground.

However, many of those who spoke during the public hearing talked about how much the open space is enjoyed. It’s a popular place for youth soccer and several residents said the park was one of the reasons they moved to the roughly 80-lot neighborhood.

Lael Beachler, a podiatrist who lives in the subdivision, said losing a park is “the last thing we need” in a time when people are getting less exercise.

“Taking this park away, it sends a terrible, terrible message, not only to our children but to parents,” Beachler said. “Basically, it’s telling us money over health.”

A few residents felt it wasn’t right for the city to sell off the public land.

“The fact of the matter is, this whole thing’s (the possible sale) come up because one of your neighbors up there continually pounds us ... that we have too many parks, we have too much recreation,’” said Cody Councilman Stan Wolz.

Like the City of Powell and other municipalities, the City of Cody requires developers to set aside 10 percent of a subdivision’s land for public use (or pay the city an equivalent value). That’s how the city got the open space in Holm View, with the developers handing over the property and dedicating it the public’s use.

“I guess we feel that we held up our end of the bargain,” said Roy Holm, who helped engineer the subdivision. “And now we’d like to have the city hold up their end of the bargain.”

Cody City Attorney Scott Kolpitcke said the property could be legally sold if the city revised its ordinances, but a couple opponents of the idea said it would remain wrong on principle.

“The city basically took the land from my family with an implicit promise to provide open space and a park. And now, 20 years later, after Holm View has built the surrounding infrastructure and improved the value of the land, the city wants to condemn it and pocket the proceeds from the sale,” said Gloria Hedderman of Powell. She helped develop the subdivision, which sits on land her grandparents once owned.

“Right is right and wrong is wrong and your financial situation in no way makes it right,” Hedderman said.

By the end of hearing, a couple city leaders indicated they didn’t plan to further explore a sale of the lot.

“After hearing what I’m hearing, and feeling what I’m feeling, I don’t anticipate that,” said Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown.

At the end of the hearing, Mayor Nancy Tia Brown said she doesn't expect that the city will continue to pursue a sale of the open space.

Several council members said they wished more people would attend and offer input at the city’s budget meetings, which usually draw no little or no public interest. A few complained about specific citizens that they felt have voiced inaccurate or off-base criticism of the city over the years, sometimes calling them out by name.

“The fact of the matter is, this whole thing’s (the possible sale) come up because one of your neighbors up there continually pounds us ... that we have too many parks, we have too much recreation,’” said Cody Councilman Stan Wolz, apparently referring to conservative activist and Holm View resident Vince Vanata.

Although Vanata has criticized some of the city’s spending on parks and recreation — namely, the hundreds of thousands of dollars it spends to support the recreation center — he actually was among those who opposed the sale of the open space in Holm View. Vanata, who was unable to attend the meeting, said in an interview that his views were misconstrued by the councilmembers who spoke about him.

Councilman Anderson had brought up Vanata’s criticism at the meeting, too; Anderson also named another critic of the city as having “a very very uneducated opinion about our budget.”

With the large audience, Anderson took the opportunity to make a pitch for passing an additional 1 cent of sales tax to boost local governments.

“At this point, if we want to maintain the status quo, we need to take that penny and kick it in the pot so we can maintain what we have now,” he said.

The open space lies off of Sheridan Avenue.

Apr 28, 2016

Yellowstone bison to be featured on new stamp

The National Park Service’s centennial is being celebrated with a series of new stamps — and Yellowstone is among the parks being featured.

A preview of the new stamp — which features a photograph of two bison silhouetted in Yellowstone National Park’s winter morning sun — was released Monday. It's one of 16 U.S. Postal Service Forever Stamps to be released in June to mark the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

The image was captured by Art Wolfe of Seattle, who described it as, “perfectly backlit bison standing on a small rise in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley.”

Lamar Valley bison adorn a forthcoming stamp. Image courtesy U.S. Postal Service

“Rising at dawn and braving the minus 30-degree temperature, I was able to catch the first rays of the morning sun,” Wolfe said in a news release from the Park Service. “The bitter cold of a long winter’s night had left the animals encased in a mantle of thick frost. I had scouted the area the day before and had seen the herd of bison.”

The bison had bedded down there all night and were then standing and trying to shake off the cold as the sun came over the horizon, he recalled of the moment he captured in February 2000.

“These are the serendipitous moments I wait for as a photographer,” Wolfe said. “I shot this in the days of film, so I didn't know until I got back to Seattle and had the film processed if I had been successful or not.”

A uniquely designed stamp pane containing all 16 stamp images will be previewed later this week.
The first-day-of-issue ceremony for the national parks forever stamps pane is June 2 at New York City’s Javits Center as part of World Stamp Show-NY 2016. The event is the world’s largest stamp show and it takes place only once per decade.

In addition to the ceremony in New York, other dedications will also be held in or near each of the National Parks depicted on the stamps.

Apr 26, 2016

County narrowly misses out on state dollars for dispatch equipment

Had Park County waited a few more months to replace some of the equipment in its dispatch center, it might have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.

County commissioners and staff expressed frustration last week that — after buying $593,616 worth of equipment in December — the state of Wyoming is now offering grants to cover 50 percent of the purchases.

City of Cody officials are also unhappy, as they rely on the county’s dispatching system and have to cover half of the nearly $600,000 bill.

“We’re feeling a little bit left out of the picture — especially since we did everything we were supposed to do and spent the money,” said Park County Chief Information Officer Mike Conners.

Park County Sheriff's Office Communications Officer Michelle Horn monitors first responder and incident status from the county's dispatch hub. File photo courtesy Park County Sheriff's Office
The county submitted a grant application last week, asking the state to reimburse half of its costs. However, that request appears dead on arrival; the grant money is meant only for entities who still have to replace their dispatch console systems.

“It’s not for entities that have already done that; there won’t be any reimbursement,” said Public Safety Communications Commission (PSCC) Chairman Mark Harshman of Casper.

The PSCC oversees WyoLink — the statewide radio communications network — and its members persuaded the Legislature to set aside $680,000 for console system upgrades in the recent budget session. The consoles help direct radio traffic for agencies like police and firefighters and connects them to other Wyoming agencies through WyoLink.

Harshman said the state grants were intended “to help those counties that could not afford it” — such as Niobrara and Crook counties. But he said the recently approved money will likely end up going to everyone who waited to upgrade.

“It’s certainly not an ideal situation,” Harshman said. “Because all of the other entities in the state funded those replacements at significant cost to themselves and didn’t wait.”

Only five of 33 entities have not yet upgraded their dispatching consoles; they're all likely to get some state help.

Of the 33 cities and counties on WyoLink’s system, 28 of them — including Park County and the City of Powell — have already replaced their consoles.

The five stragglers are the Riverton and Sheridan police departments and Crook, Niobrara and Teton counties. While they now stand to get some help from the state, Harshman said they took a risk by sticking with their aging consoles. For example, he said Niobrara County has been having trouble with its console and can’t find replacement parts.

“It’s a huge gamble on their part and it paid off,” Harshman said.

Making it more of a gamble, the going consensus had been that the state wasn’t going to offer any help. In fact, there have been rumblings that the state might actually start charging cities and counties a fee for being part of WyoLink.

When Park County commissioners spoke with local lawmakers this winter, “it was like, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me. We might get rid of the entire WyoLink project; don’t go asking for extra money,’” said Commissioner Loren Grosskopf.

Conners, the county’s CIO, said he and the City of Cody officials searched for grants before buying the $593,000 worth of dispatch equipment last year.

“They (the city) are thinking now we made a big mistake by not waiting to do this,” Conners said, but “we all came to the same conclusion (that) there’s going to be no money available.”

“We all came to the same conclusion (that) there’s going to be no money available,” said Park County Chief Information Officer Mike Conners.

Harshman noted cities and counties have known for years that they would have to upgrade their dispatching equipment by this summer.

The City of Powell was one of the first communities to join WyoLink and it generally made the required upgrades between 2007 and 2008.

The city’s roughly $739,000 communications overhaul — which included not just a new console but also radios and a new tower — was paid for with grants from various state and federal agencies.

With the looming possibility that the state may now be cutting back on its help, Powell Information Technology Manager Zack Thorington is thankful that the city has received multiple upgrades in recent years.

“Right now, we’re fortunately on the latest stuff,” Thorington said. “We lucked out.”

Harshman said Park County is the only entity to have complained about missing out on the new grant funding; he also said the county was the last entity to upgrade its consoles before the state help became available.

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