Vital Signs

Restoring Island Park

A Public/Private Trust for Wilderness Management

The great Yellowstone caldera, home to Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs, last exploded some 600,000 years ago. With a power more than one thousand times greater than Mt. St. Helen's, it threw boulders the size of Greyhound buses nearly to Kansas. Pressure is building up again. The Yellowstone caldera is bulging in preparation for another explosion, which will probably occur sometime between tomorrow and fifty thousand years from now.

In the meantime, we have the task of repairing damage of another sort—that brought about by an agency of the United States government, the Forest Service, in the western boundary area of Yellowstone Park. Restoration ecology provides the tools.

The Island Park caldera area of Fremont County, Idaho, has trophy trout rivers and spectacular views of the Grand Tetons. Unfortunately, the natural beauty of this area is being despoiled at taxpayer expense. Americans are subsidizing the destruction of an increasingly cherished environment.

Beginning in 1961, increasing in the 70's, and accelerating to unsustainable levels during the 80's, the Forest Service liquidated the timber resources of Island Park. Their justification was a pine bark beetle infestation. The Forest Service deviated from a stated policy of sustained yields and increased timber harvest levels to upwards of 76 million board feet of timber per year—levels far in excess of what the area can grow...

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