When a Montana congressman attempted to claim that his state was “home” to Yellowstone National Park, U.S. Sen. and fourth-generation Wyomingite Cynthia Lummis wasn’t about to let …
When a Montana congressman attempted to claim that his state was “home” to Yellowstone National Park, U.S. Sen. and fourth-generation Wyomingite Cynthia Lummis wasn’t about to let it slide.
U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., started the row with a video message shared on Twitter.
“When you think of national parks, there’s a reason you think of Montana,” Rosendale declared. The Congressional Western Caucus, which published the video Wednesday, added that Rosendale “represents Yellowstone National Park.”
However, Lummis quickly “fixed” Rosendale’s message in a tweet of her own, altering it to say, “When you think of national parks, there’s a reason you think of Wyoming.”
She also clarified that Rosendale represents “a tiny part of” Yellowstone.
Roughly 96% of the park’s 2.22 million acres is located in Wyoming, with 3% in Montana and 1% in Idaho. While Rosendale represents the sliver of the park that lies in Montana, no one lives there; the hundreds of Park Service and concessionaire employees who live in Yellowstone year-round are Wyomingites, who vote in Park or Teton county elections and are represented by Lummis.
Reporter Bradley Warren covered the light-hearted controversy for Wake Up Montana on KULR 8 in Billings, performing a Thursday morning fact check.
“The vast majority of the territory … sits in Wyoming,” Warren confirmed on air, “So it looks like the senator from Wyoming was correct.”
However, he added that most of the park’s entrances “are in Wyoming or, excuse me, Montana and Idaho.”
What Warren was alluding to is the fact that three of the park’s five entrances — the West, North and Northeast — are located in Montana, with two in Wyoming (the South and East entrances). The western gate, just outside West Yellowstone, Montana, is also the most popular route for visiting the park.
Montana tourism officials have not been bashful about claiming Wyoming’s portion of Yellowstone as their own, prominently featuring locations like Grand Prismatic Spring (located in Teton County, Wyoming) in their marketing materials.
It’s been a sore point among some Wyomingites.
Diane Shober, the state’s tourism director, told the Casper Star-Tribune in 2013 that it is a problem when travelers from outside the Mountain West don’t see Yellowstone as a part of Wyoming.
“We need a Wyoming and Yellowstone that are linked at the hip,” Shober told the paper.
However, each year, the majority of visitors enter the park from Montana; last summer, for instance, park statistics indicate that 61.5% of visitors entered through either the West Entrance or the North Entrance, outside Gardiner, Montana.
‘Hollywood is bad at geography’
Kyle Schmauch, who works for Republicans in the Montana Legislature, took up Rosendale’s case on Twitter, saying Montana won the PR battle over the park “a long time ago.”
“Might as well just make it official and annex Yellowstone National Park,” Schmauch wrote.
For his part, Rep. Rosendale countered that the Paramount Network “put the show [Yellowstone] in Montana for reason,” but Lummis fired back that it was “not our fault that Hollywood is bad at geography.”
William Perry Pendley, the former acting director of the Bureau of Land Management under the Trump administration, took the opportunity to weigh in as well. The Cheyenne native offered that Rosendale’s comment was “not as bad the Obama-Biden White House.”
“The bright bulbs there thought Wyoming was Colorado,” Pendley wrote, referring to a gaffe the administration made in designing press passes for a 2011 trip.
Meanwhile, an account called “Protect the Wolves” proceeded to berate Rosendale and Lummis for the Twitter banter.
“National Parks belong to the Public not Individual States for your and [Sen. Lummis’] pissing contests!” the account wrote at Rosendale. “Get over yourselves and Start protecting them!!”
Lost amid the Montana-Wyoming spat was the broader point of Rosendale’s video message, which was to highlight National Park Week. He noted Yellowstone’s “incredible geysers, canyons, rivers and forests” and the pristine wildlife of Glacier National Park — calling them the “crown jewels” of the park system. Montana can rightfully claim Glacier, as the park’s one million acres are all within the Treasure State.
“As we celebrate National Park Week,” Rosendale said, “it is my hope that we can continue to experience the natural wonder of our parks for generations to come.”