There is a place where wolves and bears spend time together. It is a land that still holds in its heart wildness. It is a large protected landscape, where rivers flow strong and thermal features boil and bubble to the surface and geysers send their scalding fury skyward. This is a land of grizzlies, wolves, bighorn sheep and bison. It is a place overrun by tourism in the heat of summer and a vast wilderness surveyed in the stark cold of a December morning. It is managed by humans and its history, not surprisingly, is pockmarked by some very serious collective failings.
But in these days before we begin the Trump Administration, it is perhaps important to remember what good people, with character and foresight can give to a nation, to the world. Yellowstone was and remains that vision, that gift; and if you have ever had the privilege to spend a cold winter day in the heart of the Lamar Valley watching wolves race across the open landscape or skiing through the heart of the geyser basin, then you understand the majesty, the guttural joy that land, wildlife and wilderness can bring to the soul.
Yellowstone this time of year is marked by short days and often bitter cold nights. Snow can be deep in places, windswept in others. The heat of the geysers and thermal features creates an open air sauna for wildlife, and keeps the ice at bay along portions of rivers, streams and lakes. Bison sway their heads back and forth in the deep snow, digging down like a steam shovel to find precious grasses for survival. Trumpeter swans lend their grace to the silent lands of winter and radiate the beauty that is all things wild.
The New Year will bring a new President, one that has never tasted wildness. Likely never hiked or camped or skied in this place called Yellowstone. His ideas, his morals do not seem to seek out good or shared inheritance, rather they are pulled like gravity towards self-fulfillment, delusion and enrichment. He has none of the strength or confidence of the wolf, none of the wisdom of the bear. He has not learned the patience or mutual enrichment of the White bark or Lodge pole pines. He could never understand the courage of the men who decided that this land was not designed for profit, but rather preserved for the wealth its wildness would give to generations to come.
National Parks remain for many our greatest idea. They were created in an era when wealth meant privilege and a park like Yellowstone, while still very hard to access, was open to any and all. Like Yosemite, which was created a few years earlier, they indeed did all come. Men and woman, young and old, fewer of color, but they did come and today are coming in record numbers.
Today with this President and this congress, ideas like our National Parks are viewed with disdain; somehow to many of these men and sadly woman, the power and money of big oil, Koch Brothers, and pipeline kings are transforming our landscapes, our air and waters. The sanctity of our National Parks are being eroded as never before by the very greed, that the men who sat by a campfire more than 146 years ago tossed aside, because they knew it was wrong. They saw in America, a chance to get it right and break free from the very European model that so many had fled. Because of such moral bearings, we now have parks from coast to coast that are shared by all Americans and the peoples of the world.
Yet in the incoming Administration, such moral bearings appear lost with each new cabinet choice, by the fractured nature of our country and bombastic social and contrived media that bears no semblance to truth. Our National Parks in such a battlefield have no medics and we, citizens of America, are the only foot soldiers.
They will come for oil or gold or water. They will look to shoot our bears or desecrate the parks’ borders with mines, gun ranges, or refineries. These concepts are designed not just to break up the land, but more importantly- Our spirit.
In the raw morning that is winter in Yellowstone, we are witness to the magic that is our National Parks, to their strength for our nation and the wisdom they impart to those who care to listen. If you ask me we could double or triple the size of Yellowstone, that much more to share with future generations. That much more safe room for grizzlies, wolves and swans to live and thrive, that much more for people to learn and explore and share with animals that leave in us simply wonder.
But first we must confront the disease, the blight on the horizon. To do this, we must channel the energy that comes from the heart of 2.2 million acres of rare, protected lands, where the bones of bison mix with fiery waters and the primordial muds that define beauty and spirit in perfect balance. That energy source is the fuel for our souls in these times of uncertainty and danger for our lands and wildlife.
It can and will make us warriors!
When they come, for they will come for our lands, we will be ready to fight. In their retreat we will understand the power of land, of animals and wildness to prevail over of the iniquity of greed and the barren promise of money.
But it will take courage, the courage taught by time spent in the heart of wild nature and the spirit of those who came before us, who made sure these lands were to be protected for all generations, not to be exploited by one.