Posted: Mar 15, 2013 3:27 PM by Chet Layman and John Sherer
Updated: Mar 15, 2013 3:53 PM
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk says he's still working with the state of Wyoming to take over snowplowing the Beartooth Highway each spring. Currently, the park is responsible for opening the road.
This year, plowing the road will begin about two weeks late because of budget cuts forced by the sequestration cuts in Washington.
"I've been accused of wanting to walk away from the maintenance of the Beartooth Highway. Every superintendent that has ever sat in this office has wanted to not have the continued responsibility for the Beartooth Highway. The state of Montana took over responsibility of their section of the road from the Wyoming line to Red Lodge back in the 80s and we're very pleased and grateful that they did that. The state of Wyoming has never taken over the section of the highway outside the park," Wenk said Friday morning at park headquarters.
Here's the expense Yellowstone is looking at in a nutshell: 404 lane miles of roads inside Yellowstone Park that have to be taken care of before the summer season can start. Then add the fact of the plowing of the Beartooth Wyoming roads, a quarter of a million dollars on average every year. That expense Yellowstone just can't handle anymore.
"There's never been a special appropriation for doing anything outside the park. Two years ago, which was a high snow year and a very cold spring, we spent $316,000 plowing snow on the Beartooth Highway. Last year, a lighter snow year and warmer spring, we spent $178,000 plowing snow on the Beartooth Highway."
"Would I like the state of Wyoming to help with that, to take over that section of road? I would. The fact that we're plowing highways outside of Yellowstone National Park primarily for the benefit of the local communities and to open up the northeast entrance seems like, well it is a lower priority. It's the last section of the road we get to. If Wyoming took over their section of the road we'd have a whole different climate on the northeast corner of the park," said Wenk.
He says he believes funds are available for Wyoming to take over.
"Yellowstone National Park collects sales tax within the park boundaries. Between sales tax, fuel tax on gasoline etc. We send about $7.5 million in tax dollars to the great state of Wyoming on an annual basis."
It's money Wenk suggests could be used to clear the roads and help local communities.
Wenk says the communities of Jackson and Cody, Wyoming have offered to help plow roads in their neighborhoods this season to offset Yellowstone's costs. There is no word on an offer to take over the Wyoming Beartooth Highway.