The new superintendent of Yellowstone National Park said Tuesday he won’t consider capping the number of visitors to the nation’s first national park, which is on pace to attract more than 4 million visitors for the fourth consecutive year.
“Any thoughts on a visitation cap in Yellowstone is not occurring,” Cam Sholly told Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. “That would not be something that I would entertain.”
Former Superintendent Dan Wenk said in August that dealing with the increasing number of visitors would be a top issue for Sholly, calling visitor management “sort of the emerging issue that’s going to determine the long-term future of Yellowstone.”
Sholly said Tuesday that having more visitors is good, but it’s also important to protect and preserve the wildlife, scenic vistas and iconic thermal features in the 3,400-square-mile (8,900 square-kilometer) park, which was founded in 1872.
He said he would consider testing a shuttle system to reduce traffic between the most-used entrance at West Yellowstone and Old Faithful.
The park conducted a visitor experience and traffic survey in 2016 and this summer gathered information on how people travel through the park and their level of satisfaction at major attractions and in congested areas. That information will help managers improve the visitor experience, officials said.
Sholly is in his first week as park superintendent and is meeting with political leaders and residents of gateway communities to hear their perspectives on the park and its issues including bison management and deferred maintenance.
“I’m committed to getting bison on a larger landscape,” Sholly said. “I don’t want to hold hundreds of bison for years in an enclosed space.”
Bison are being captured as they leave Yellowstone to be tested for exposure to brucellosis, a disease that can cause cattle to abort. Animals that test positive are sent to slaughter while those that test negative are quarantined for additional testing with plans to relocate them to Indian reservations.
Sholly also wants to start addressing the nearly $500 million in deferred maintenance in Yellowstone, including repairs to roads and bridges, while helping gateway communities as they face the pressure of a 40-percent increase in the number of visitors over the past decade.
Sholly’s father, Dan, was the chief ranger at Yellowstone from 1985-1998.
Bullock said he would work with Sholly and asked that the park do more to inform visitors about the state parks available in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
Source: The Associated Press