Yellowstone Hopes Sun Will Help Save It $30K a Day

Decision to delay snowplowing not going over well in sequester aftermath
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2013 7:45 AM CDT
Yellowstone Hopes Sun Will Save It $30K a Day
This image provided by the National Park Service shows workers searching a snow-blocked Sylvan Pass inside Yellowstone National Park May 11, 2011 in Montana.   (AP Photo/National Park Service)

How the sequester will hit Yellowstone in general is clear: The park needs to ax $1.8 million from what it anticipated would be a $35 million budget. The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal take a look at the specific fallout: Park superintendent Dan Wenk's plan is to reduce seasonal workers, put permanent hiring on freeze, push back the opening of most entrances by as much as two weeks (squashing 50,000 guests; cutting two weeks from the end of the 20-week season would mean losing 267,000 visitors), and delay the snowplows from March 4 to March 18.

That last one is particularly rankling: The sequester went into effect just three days before the annual plowing effort was to begin. Yellowstone's plows typically remove as much as 10 feet of snow from 300 roads, and the hope, explains the Post, is that the sun will "melt and soften the snow," making it simpler to clear and saving the park $30,000 per day, for up to $250,000 in savings. This means the Montana-Wyoming Beartooth Highway, which the National Park Service typically plows half of, won't be passable until June; Cooke City, which lies on a stretch of highway just outside a northwest entrance, won't see the eight-mile section cleared until late May. "We have 90 days to make a living," says a whitewater rafting tour guide. "If people get the impression they can’t get into the park, they just won’t come." Wyoming's governor was asked to effectively bail out the federal government and pay for plowing; he announced Friday that the state would do the work but wouldn't "backfill federal dollars lost through sequestration"—leaving local communities scrambling to raise the necessary funds. (Read more Yellowstone National Park stories.)

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