Operation Greenest Park
Notes from the Greening Yellowstone Symposium II
For the second time in three years, the Yellowstone Park Foundation (YPF) and Yellowstone National Park (YNP) brought together some of the country’s leading sustainability experts to create viable strategies geared to making Yellowstone the world’s greenest park.
The Greening Yellowstone Symposium II, held this year on May 11-14, attracted professionals from 40 corporate and academic organizations. They took part in a non-stop agenda that included two Park tours, and several deep-dive breakout sessions. The task at hand: to take to the next level the Park’s Vision for Sustainability Strategic Plan -- developed in 2011 during the first Greening Yellowstone Symposium sponsored by YPF and YNP.
The attendees were divided into six groups related to areas identified in the plan as critical to making Yellowstone the leader in national park sustainability. The areas are leadership, education and communication, energy, water, fleet and transportation, and environmental purchasing and waste reduction.
Many different projects were discussed during the symposium, but one key project the attendees visited that incorporates all aspects of sustainability was the Lamar Buffalo Ranch. Originally established in 1907 to preserve one of the last free-roaming bison herds in the U.S., it is now a vibrant center for educational seminars and hands-on student learning experiences. The ranch is also the focus for several YPF corporate partners, who are working to make it a fossil fuels free facility with zero water, waste and energy impact. (See in-depth story in this issue.)
This project is a best practices example of the big challenges the Park faces in its greenest park quest, primarily balancing operational needs and historic and natural preservation with goals for sustainability and climate change mitigation. It is also an example of what a group of committed experts can accomplish.
And what did the symposium attendees accomplish overall? Their valuable contributions in all six areas were significant. Just a few ideas include better tracking for fleet vehicles and initiatives for alternative fuels, improved compost separation for the Park's waste program, and a variety of energy and water conservation projects for facilities that will improve monitoring and education messaging.
In addition, all attendees agreed to significantly increase their contributions to the Park and introduce potential new corporate partners to YPF.
As YPF and YNP use this input, and create an addendum to the strategic plan, stay tuned for more updates.
All photos by Matt Ludin/Yellowstone Park Foundation