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March 26, 2013 7:40 am

EDITORIAL: Sequester sidelined

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Local efforts commendable in wake of federal failures

Local residents and businesses successfully managed a way around the federal sequester and snow blocking Yellowstone’s East Entrance.

When March 1 federal budget cuts known as the sequester prompted the National Park Service to delay opening Yellowstone entrances, a local fundraising effort quickly began.

Raising $100,000 ensures state snowplows will open the east gate the first weekend of May, as long as the weather cooperates. Generating the funds in a matter of days proves how many people and businesses value Yellowstone and the visitors who pass through its gates.

Donations to the campaign ranged from $10 to $10,000, said Scott Balyo, Cody Country Chamber of Commerce director.

The local fundraising success certainly is worth celebrating, and we believe it will pay off. Last year during the first two weeks in May, the East Entrance saw 11,500 people in 4,200 cars.

To mark the unique snowplowing effort this year, WYDOT plows will don large banners reading “Yellowstone or Bust,” based on a campaign by the Wyoming Office of Tourism.

The efforts by Cody, as well as Jackson Hole’s fundraising to open the South Entrance, garnered national media attention as locals worked to avert delays brought on by federal cuts.

“We’re showing how a community and a state can band together. It’s the old cowboy way: We’ll open the gate if you can’t,” said Jeff Golightly, Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce executive director, in a Washington Post article.

While we’re thankful locals proved they could get the job done, we also hope it doesn’t set a precedent. Yellowstone is a federally managed park, belonging to every American. Funding Yellowstone, and ensuring it opens on time, remains a national responsibility, not a local one.

Federal lawmakers must work together toward reasonable budget cuts. The sequester itself is a result of Republicans’ and Democrats’ failure to agree on a more common-sense approach to reducing the federal deficit.

Among the major donors to the local fundraising effort was the Park County Commission, committing $10,000 in public funds. As Commissioner Bucky Hall noted, the early opening is important to local residents, who enjoy visiting the park before the peak of the season.

Whether you donated to the campaign or not, you’re invested in it simply by living in Park County.

Take the opportunity to see Yellowstone in May, before tourists flock to the park. Last year alone, 3.4 million visitors entered the park.

Economically speaking, we’re glad those tourists continue to come in droves. Still, there’s nothing quite like being in Yellowstone before the busy summer season takes off. Springtime brings quiet moments, awakening wildlife and serene scenes as ice melts and new growth begins.

So we encourage Park County residents to mark off the calendar and plan to enjoy Yellowstone in early May. This year, you’ve earned it.

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