While Congress is looking for ways to cut federal spending, non-profit organizations such as the Yellowstone Park Foundation are becoming more valuable for the contributions they make to national parks.
The foundation recently provided $350,000 in grants to Yellowstone National Park officials for a wide range of programs, from wildlife studies to an education program so visitors don't find themselves in trouble with wildlife.
Since its establishment in 1996, the foundation has made a top priority of supporting the park's wildlife conservation efforts. Each year, Yellowstone’s superintendent submits proposals to the foundation board for priority projects that are beyond the financial capacity of the National Park Service. The first grants of 2011, approved last month by the board of directors, include:
* $100,000 to launch a seasonal Wildlife & Visitor Safety Program to manage interactions between visitors and bears, wolves, and other animals along park roads. The goal of the program is to keep wildlife wild, while enhancing safety and enjoyment of viewing opportunities for park visitors.
* $85,000 to fund the first year of a comprehensive, five-year Yellowstone Raptor Study, which will inventory birds of prey such as owls and golden eagles in the park. The focus will be to assess population trends for select, seldom-studied species that are decreasing in abundance outside the park, or being considered for listing as endangered species.
* $15,000 to establish a park-wide Bat Monitoring Program for the early detection of white-nose syndrome, a disease that has decimated bat populations in the Northeast and is spreading rapidly south and west.
These new projects complement several ongoing, multi-year projects supported by the Yellowstone Park Foundation, such as the Fly Fishing Volunteers Program, the Yellowstone Wildlife Health Program, funding of bear-proof food storage boxes for campgrounds, and research on the effects of wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
“These grants will be invaluable in helping our wildlife biologists, rangers, and other staff do the best jobs they can do,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk. “The foundation’s support makes us even more effective and efficient stewards of this beautiful place that has been entrusted to our care.”
Project grants are made possible by tax-deductible contributions to the nonprofit Yellowstone Park Foundation. More than 13,000 individuals, foundations, and corporations donated to the Foundation in the past year.
“We are able to do the work that we do because so many people cherish Yellowstone,” said Yellowstone Park Foundation President Karen Bates Kress. “We contribute to the protection, preservation, and enhancement of Yellowstone and its wildlife because of the generous people who contribute to us.”