Monday, April 8, 2013

Sequestering The Seasonals

I love my job as a summer seasonal ranger in Yellowstone, our nation’s first national park, the undisputed Mother Ship of the US park system. I’m ready to go back to work with my summer friends, ready to drive through some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth from my winter desert home in southwestern Utah to my summer high–country home in northwestern Wyoming.

Absaroka Range from Avalanche Peak, Yellowstone National Park

I leave home in mid–May, and right now I’m putting together plans as to which route I’ll select, which highways I’ll meander, which overnight stops I’ll choose as I unhurriedly make my way back to magnificent Yellowstone. It generally takes me nearly a week to travel the 700 miles to the park from home. What, after all, is my hurry? For me it’s not just the destination but the journey. 

Highway26 EasternID
My first season going to Yellowstone, Highway 26, eastern Idaho - 2011

Highway 89 on the way home - 2011

200 mile detour to see 2.7 billion year old rocks - 2012

This season, however, I will be loving Yellowstone a bit less than I have during the past two summers. Due to the federal budget sequester my season has been shortened, and it isn’t pretty. 

All around the country, national park campgrounds will not be open, visitor centers will remain closed, trails and buildings will be left unmaintained, interpretive programs will not be presented, vacancies will be left unfilled, emergency response times will be longer, backcountry patrols will be fewer in number. 

Bechler ranger station in the remote southwestern part of Yellowstone

My enter–on–duty date is a week later than it was last year. My end–of–duty date is three weeks earlier than last year. This four week reduction in work time is a painful punch in the pocketbook for me and a lot of other rangers for whom this job represents a substantial part of our yearly income. 

Last month I wondered how in the heck I was supposed to get to Grant Village in time to start work if the road up from the Tetons wasn’t plowed. There can be a lot of snow at 7770 feet above sea level in mid–May, and plowing was pushed back two weeks. 

But several gateway towns have concluded that if they want the roads into the park plowed on schedule they will have to help. Cody WY and Jackson WY are both feeling the pinch of the sequester and will soon begin plowing inward as the park machines plow outward. The plan is to meet in the middle so that these towns don’t lose millions in visitor dollars. 

YellowstoneNP SouthEntrance
South entrance - 2011

I am hoping that I can stay on until the end of September instead of saying goodbye to the geysers and the grizzlies immediately after Labor Day. I’ll just have to take it a day at a time, hope for the best, and enjoy every moment I spend in Yellowstone. 

Has your life been affected by the sequester in any way?


  1. We too are starting a week later than normal. Haven't heard about an end date yet. But our staff is still 7 as it has been since I started at the canyon in 2008. I'm sure we'll feel the pinch somewhere.

    1. Our seasonal staff is 11, same as last year. But several GS-5 positions have been replaced with GS-4, a lower pay grade.