Tuesday, March 26, 2013

If anyone sees Sen. Barrasso shoveling snow off of the Yellowstone roads, I want a photo

Snow plowing at the east entrance to Yellowstone near Sylvan Pass in spring 2011. National Park Service photo.
Instead of urging its Republican Congressional delegation to remedy the federal budget sequestration, Wyoming's leaders have discovered an opportunity to brand road plowing in Yellowstone with a conservative "Code of the West" stamp.

First of all, just what is the "Code of the West?"

It's a list of 10 precepts invented by author and retired Wall Street investor James P. Owen. He now lives in Austin, Texas, and founded the Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) foundation. His book credits include Cowboy Ethics (2004 and Cowboy Values (2008). Owen ccoined the phrase “Cowboy Ethics” and wrote his book distilling the unwritten Code of the West into “Ten Principles to Live By.” In 2010, the State of Wyoming adopted the Ten Principles of Cowboy Ethics as its official state code.

To sum up, the state code admonishes residents and lawmakers to live courageously, take pride in their work, finish what they start, do what's necessary, be tough but fair, keep promises, ride for the brand, talk less and say more, remember that some things aren't for sale, and know where to draw the line.

You got that? Somehow, this translates into using state equipment driven by my fellow state employees to plow snow-clogged roads in Yellowstone, roads that were set to open late because of $1.8 million in sequestration budget cuts. These are the same budget cuts that Wyoming's Congressional delegation has proudly trumpeted as necessary and good for the country.

Nobody has seen Sen./Dr. John Barrasso out in Yellowstone shoveling snow off the road to Old Faithful. We should put him to work during his two-week spring break.

Here's the recent press release from the Wyoming Office of Tourism:
Thanks to a collaborative effort between state, federal and private entities, Wyoming ensures America’s National Treasure will open on time

(Cheyenne, Wyoming, March 21, 2013) – Wyoming has set an example of how to deal with federal budget cuts by putting into action the “Code of the West.” Simply put, this “Code” consists of behaviors and rules that center around hospitality, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land.

As Yellowstone National Park struggled with the nearly $1.8 million budget cut due to sequestration and ways they could alleviate the impact on visitors and gateway communities, they chose to delay plowing roads this spring; which in turn would have delayed the opening of the East Gate from Cody and the South Gate from Jackson by two weeks.

“The delays would not have been good for our local or state economy,” said Scott Balyo, executive director of the Cody Chamber of Commerce, “Almost immediately upon hearing that the East Gate would not open on time we began working with local and state partners to find a solution.”

Governor Matt Mead along with mayors and private businesses in the gateway communities of Cody and Jackson met to discuss possible solutions. Collectively they agreed that the potential revenue loss from a delay would have real financial consequences, especially on small business owners.

Governor Matt Mead led the discussion by saying, “We value our national parks as the true assets they are, not only to Wyoming’s economy, but to the nation’s economy. Yellowstone is internationally recognized and by delaying the opening we not only lose the opportunity to generate millions in revenue but we lose the opportunity to host visitors who might be experiencing this natural wonder for the first time.”

Gateway communities in particular are an integral component of the national parks system and rely heavily on the traffic generated from their national and international draw. In addition to providing a supporting role, these communities provide air service, lodging, restaurants, outfitter and guide services and other activities that enhance and enrich the national park experience.

Jeff Golightly, executive director with the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce reiterated, “Jackson Hole as a community takes stewardship of our national parks very seriously.  The idea that our nation’s first national park would not open on time for the world to enjoy was something we felt compelled to avoid. The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board and the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce felt it was our responsibility to protect our local tourism economy so we backed the plan right away by committing one time funds.”

Governor Mead offered equipment and personnel to assist with plowing efforts while the gateway communities pooled their resources, began fundraising and came up with money to fund the operation.  Wyoming’s entrances to Yellowstone National Park will open as previously scheduled. The East Gate from Cody will open on May 3, 2013 and the South Gate from Jackson will open on May 10, 2013.

Superintendent Dan Wenk agreed to start plowing from inside the park while Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) crews make their way from the east and south gates to complete the snowplowing operations.  WYDOT plows will be donning a large banner that reads “Yellowstone or Bust” based around a summer road trip campaign that the Wyoming Office of Tourism is currently rolling out.

Diane Shober, Director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism attests, “Wyoming represents the iconic cowboy and not just because we’re a Western state, but because cowboys stand for something, they are entrepreneurs and they live by the simple basic values that lie at the heart of the cowboy way. This is what the “Wyoming, Forever West” brand is all about.” As the Wyoming Office of Tourism gets ready to launch their national summer campaign, the goal remains to promote Wyoming as a vacation destination to domestic and international visitors while increasing revenue for stakeholders and the state of Wyoming.

·         Yellowstone National Park (YNP) received 3.4 million visitors in 2012. Source: National Park Service reports
·         Traffic through the East Gate in the first two weeks of May in 2012 totaled 11,500 people in 4,200 cars. The estimated local economic impact for Cody is $2 million for that time period.
·         At the South Gate in Jackson, 17,553 visitors passed through during the entire month of May generating an estimated $2.3 million.
·         Tourism is Wyoming’s second leading industry. In 2012 travelers generated $3.1 billion in direct expenditures to the State of Wyoming.  Source: 2012 Economic Impact Report
·         Xanterra Parks & Resorts of Yellowstone will open all lodging and visitor services as scheduled
·         East Gate from Cody opens May 3, 2012
·         South Gate from Jackson opens May 10, 2012
Yellowstone is saved. Tourism is saved. Thanks, "Code of the West."

No telling yet how many park rangers will be furloughed or how many park restrooms won't be cleaned or how many other services will be curtailed due to the cuts. In Cheyenne, some 410 National Guard and 700 Warren AFB personnel have received notices about one-day-a-week furloughs. That's a 20 percent cut in their pay. That's 20 percent less dough that won't contribute to the Wyoming economy (OK -- some of it goes to Fort Collins and Denver).

BTW, my favorite month to travel Yellowstone is May. Nothing quite like navigating the East Gate road to Lake Yellowstone flanked by 10-foot walls of freshly-plowed snow. No traffic. No bear jams.

If anyone sees Sen. Barrasso, snow shovel in hand, out on the road near Fishing Bridge, take a photo. I'd love to post it.

No comments: