This Week in NWF History: The First National Park
Since 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has worked to conserve the nation’s wildlife and wild places. As part of our 80th anniversary celebration, we are recognizing important moments in our history that continue to make an impact today.
Yellowstone National Park is America’s first National Park. Located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, it is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including large mammals such as grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. When Yellowstone National Park was established in March 1872, the aim was to preserve the geysers and hot springs, not necessarily to protect wide-ranging wildlife that were not well understood at the time.Yellowstone sits on a large volcanic field that, millions of years ago, had some of the world’s largest known eruptions, and now has the Earth’s largest concentration of geysers, including Old Faithful, and some of the world’s most extraordinary hot springs. Yellowstone is best known for its mammals, having the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states, with 67 different species.
Yellowstone encompasses many different kinds of wildlife habitat, including:
- Alpine tundra: Dry, rocky, and treeless areas near the tops of mountains. Alpine tundra has low growing plants and a few mammals, such as mountain goats and pika.
- Mountain meadows: Lush, spongy oases of sedges, wildflowers, and shrubs at elevations from about 6,000 to above 11,000 feet. Because of heavy winter snows, mountain meadows often remain moist throughout the year. Elk, pronghorn, and mule deer frequent this habitat.
- Sage-steppe grasslands: Treeless areas of grasses, shrubs and herbaceous plants such as wildflowers, with low moisture and seasonal extremes in temperature, in which bison can be found.
The National Wildlife Federation is currently working in and around Yellowstone to restore our “national mammal,” the wild bison. NWF has been a leader in negotiating with ranchers who own grazing rights on national forest lands to set up “conflict free zones” around Yellowstone where bison can graze without coming in conflict with livestock.NWF also collaborates with Native American tribes to establish bison herds on tribal lands. In partnership with the tribes, other conservation organizations and the State of Montana, Yellowstone bison have been used to establish herds on both the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Indian Reservations.
Last month, Yellowstone National Park recently released an Environmental Assessment for a new quarantine option that would place buffalo on the Fort Peck Reservation in Northeastern Montana. This could lead to a great rebirth of wild bison on tribal lands.