Yellowstone National Park, the Beauty and History that Lie Within
Yellowstone was created by President Theodore Roosevelt, when the American West wasn’t under the expansive urban sprawl that is enduring today. Yet the foresight of protecting the place for “future generations” became a hallmark of America. As we celebrate the last 150 years, I wonder what it means to preserve Yellowstone (or any national park) for the next 150 years and beyond. What does the word “generations” mean? Generations of wildlife? People?
For 24 years I’ve photographed in Yellowstone National Park. In fact, it was the first park I really started to hone my craft as a photographer, spending days alone in the Lamar Valley hoping to get a shot of an elusive wolf, which had only been reintroduced to the park the year before. I sometimes laugh realizing the lens I had would have required a wolf to walk right up to me! We have to learn somehow.
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I am proud to return to the park today, now a major advocate for the preservation of our national parks and the conservation of nature worldwide. My latest project for the National Parks Conservation Association (npca.org) is part of a run-up of celebrations and forward-thinking efforts to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Yellowstone on March 1, 2022.
The collection of images in this gallery run the range from my most recent trip with Shane [Dr. Shane Doyle, Apsaálooke and Educational Cultural Consultant], to some of my favorite images from my earliest days as a photographer. Even for me as an individual, the park has a multi-decade meaning, and I contemplate what its future really can be.
When the park was created back then by President Theodore Roosevelt, the American West wasn’t under the expansive urban sprawl that is enduring today, yet the foresight of protecting the place for “future generations” became a hallmark of America and is often branded as our “best idea.” But as we celebrate the last 150 years, I also wonder what it means to preserve Yellowstone (or any national park) for the next 150 years and beyond. What does the word “generations” mean? Generations of wildlife? People?
Which of course opens the broader conversation of the first people to inhabit this region, and what Yellowstone will mean to their future generations. This most recent assignment introduced me to Dr. Shane Doyle, Apsaálooke and educational cultural consultant who is helping reveal Yellowstone’s history before it was our first national park. His stories featured in the latest episode of Nature in Focus are just a taste of the rich history that exists around Yellowstone and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
With a history going back at least 12,600 years ago, 27 different Native American nations affiliate their history with Yellowstone. A spiritual place, a place of sustenance, it became the foundation for some of their creation stories and continues to be a vital part of their future.