Schullery examines the past and future of Yellowstone Park

Two bison fight together in Yellowstone National Park last fall.–Conor Barry Colby Patterson
Two bison fight in Yellowstone National Park last fall. Photo by Conor Barry.

Two bison fight in Yellowstone National Park
last fall. Photo by Conor Barry.

Yellowstone National Park is not as popular as it used to be. The park has seen a decline in attendance by the younger generation in recent years.

Paul Schullery, ranger-naturalist at Yellowstone National Park, spoke on the past, present and future of Yellowstone at the U on Wednesday afternoon.

Yellowstone was established in 1872 in order to save the area, and is now one of the most famous national parks in the country. Schullery said that national parks have caused people to question nature, think about life and death as a necessity and learn to “watch not the moment, but the season.”

He said the park reshapes its inhabitants and reminds them that nature does not need answers, and that humankind needs uncertainty just as much as learning.

While with family one time in Yellowstone, Schullery saw a bear eating an elk and described the incident as a “swirl of conflicting ideas.” He didn’t know if he had witnessed tragedy, loss, beauty, wisdom, the past or the future.

Whether on the side of the elk or the bear, witnesses said they saw something “raw and authentic in a world where
artificiality prevails.”

Schullery said many people who visit national parks today sometimes take too much pride in their viewpoints of the park and its necessity in people’s lives. With time, people learn that the founder’s vision of Yellowstone is being reached.

He said that modern research owes many of its answers about the origin of life’s questions to national parks like Yellowstone, even though each generation comes up with its own questions.

Despite what some call “nature deficit disorder,” or millennials’ lack of interest in national parks, Yellowstone has slowly trended towards the values it was originally meant to have.

Pacific Gingras, a senior in environmental studies, said he was “alarmed” by his generation’s lack of interest in national parks. He said social media makes us forget about them and the value behind visiting them.

Marcela Brimhall, a senior in geography, agreed that the bears and other “beasts” of Yellowstone are essential, saying it is a huge misconception that bears are scary.

Brimhall is afraid that the government is not actually saving the national park, but is instead just reserving it or “holding off until we can actually use its resources.”

The Stegner Center Nineteenth Annual Symposium, “National Parks: Past, Present, and Future” will continue Thursday in the Salt Lake City Public Library.

e.trepanier@chronicle.utah.edu