Time for Bifurcation

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 12:34:11 06/08/20

In Reply to: Yellowstone Institute(Forever) posted by Jerry

I have been rolling this development around in my mind for several days now. I did some research on the evolution of cooperating association and Friends entities for the national parks. Both were created at Congress, but the cooperating associations came first; and the fundamental purpose was visitor education, with the primary concept being that an educated public would be more apt to become stewards of the resource, protecting it for future generations. I have been a beneficiary of both types of organizations over the years. The Rocky Mountain Nature Association supplied my film and the processing thereof for the decade that I was doing photography for Rocky Mountain National Park as a volunteer (V-I-P program). When I wore the uniform at Mammoth, the Yellowstone Association supplied the funding for the array of IT gear and video gear we needed for the electronic field trip program. The Friends organizations at RMNP and YELL both came up with the big bucks needed for major undertakings. My angst has been that all along these Friends organizations have been letting Congress and the taxpayers off the hook, as our national parks suffer repeated attacks on their public funding.

While I was pretty much ambivalent about the YA and YF merger, I now see that their missions were and still remain totally different. One is visitor education, and the other is the funding of large projects which some people consider "discretionary", and I see that as a governmental cop out. YA and YAI fell victim to that age old process whereby mergers and acquisitions always result in winners and losers. The winner tends to swallow the loser. That's how I wound up living in Montana, close to Yellowstone. My organization in corporate America got "swallowed" by a smaller, but apparently more powerful division in our corporation. My peers and I were losers, and our missions were grossly underappreciated. I left to go live the dream.

I very much favor a resurrection of YA and YAI as a separate entity from YF, solely focused on visitor education. Let YF do what they do best (provided they stick to their knitting). There are major corporate and foundation donors that will support them over time.

Even if the proposed bifurcation (which many, many Yellowstone fans are suggesting) happens, the Institute is going to have some profound problems for the immediate future, thanks to COVID-19. That was in the cards, regardless, just like the bullets that have hit the seasonal NPS staff, Delaware North, and Xanterra, not to mention numerous businesses in the gateway communities. I do believe that YAI could pull off some creative coups, particularly if they partnered with the YELL Interpretive Division. Unfortunately, those two have had a love/hate relationship for quite a while. They need to recognize they both have skin in the game, and if they don't leverage their mutual strengths jointly, they will both suffer.


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