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EDITORIAL: Yellowstone welcoming more guests — but USFS wasting cash on ‘branding’

Thumbs up to the news that Yellowstone National Park had its second-best visitation year ever.

America’s first — and some feel best — national park welcomed more than 3.5 million guests in 2014. The total was only about 126,000 short of the all-time record set in 2010.

We predict a new record may be set this year. Gas prices are at the lowest point motorists have seen in years. That should fuel some folks’ plans to see the fabled park.

In addition, the partial government shutdown in 2013 reminded people of the wonders that are available within our nation’s borders. The fumbles and stumbles of the federal government shuttered our national parks, monuments and memorials — and people did not care for that at all.

The response last year was a reminder that Americans and our visitors from other lands want to see the majestic places that have been set aside in perpetuity. Millions more people will flock to the parks this year.

The National Park Service will waive entrance fees during nine fee-free days throughout the year, including Monday, Jan. 19, Feb. 14-16, April 18-19, Aug. 25, Sept. 26 and Nov. 11.

Those of us so close to the splendors of Yellowstone should not fail to take advantage of it, either. See you in the park.

Thumbs down to Sandra Ehman’s resignation from the Powell Hospital District board so soon after being elected to it. 

Ehman, who was appointed to the board in July, was elected for the first time in November. She resigned last week without ever serving in her elected post, saying she and her husband decided to spend the winter in the South.

Ehman had a responsibility to the hospital and to the voters who elected her. If her plans were that tenuous, she should not have asked to be appointed, or run for election, to the board. 

As a Hospital District board member, Ehman also served on the Powell Valley Healthcare board. Both organizations are in need of strong, dedicated leaders as they continue to work to overcome problems of the past and position Powell Valley Healthcare for the future. We hope whoever replaces her will take the job more seriously. 

Thumbs down to the U.S. Forest Service’s proposal to spend up to $10 million on a public relations campaign.

The USFS wanted to “brand itself as a public agency that cares about people and nature,” according to an Associated Press report. So the folks in charge held a few meetings and decided to waste, er, spend, $10 million on a five-year campaign.

Thankfully, the idea was squelched before more money and time was wasted, er, spent on it. However, far too much money has been invested in such efforts.

The USFS awarded a $526,799 no-bid contract to Metropolitan Group of Portland, Ore., for a branding campaign titled “Valuing People and Place” in Forest Service regions covering Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, southern Idaho, Utah and Nevada.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the parent agency of the USFS, awarded more than 3,000 contracts during this period. This was the only no-bid one.

Since 2011, according to, the Forest Service has paid Metropolitan Group $3.6 million, mostly for the Valuing People and Place campaign. The USFS now says it will seek other ways to let people know about it and its programs.

We have some suggestions: Properly manage and maintain the forests and public land under USFS control. Don’t close so many roads and trails to motorized vehicles because of a lack of maintenance.

Protect the fish and wildlife entrusted to the agency. Prepare for and fight wildfires and restore ecosystems. Plan for and offer timber sales. Add more recreation programs and employees and lift the three-year wage freeze.

Those steps will create the brand the Forest Service was seeking to promote.

Thumbs up to an improved method to track sex offenders in Wyoming.

The state Division of Criminal Investigation has launched a new version of its online sex offender registry. The new software system, OffenderWatch, gives residents more information to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from such predators.

Through OffenderWatch, you can search a name, a city or a general area to see who is out there and what their criminal history is. It even adds the option of sending people an email alert if an offender moves into their area.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office is assisting in this effort, and we applaud Sheriff Scott Steward for doing so. To track offenders and to learn more, go to the sheriff’s office website,, and click on a link in the upper right labeled Sex Offender Registry.”

Knowledge can provide a sense of security. We’re glad this system is in place.

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