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Resilient Habitats: Ecosystems

Greater Yellowstone

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grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) in North America’s wild Rocky Mountains is one of our country’s most treasured and iconic places. As the largest temperate ecosystem in the northern hemisphere that is still largely intact, Greater Yellowstone is big and it is wild. It’s one of the only places in the lower 48 states where all of the major predator species are still present, including grizzly bears, gray wolves and wolverines. In Greater Yellowstone, you can still see wild herds of elk and bison roaming throughout hundreds of miles of sagebrush-covered plateaus, and experience a wonderland of rushing rivers, deep canyons, spectacular geysers, and awe-inspiring mountain ranges.

Approximately 31,000 square miles in size, Greater Yellowstone contains both our country’s first national park, Yellowstone, and our first national forest, the Shoshone. Established in the late 1800s, Yellowstone and the Shoshone are the wild anchors of Greater Yellowstone, which also encompasses another iconic national park, Grand Teton, as well as five additional national forests in three states and two national wildlife refuges. It is the source of three of the nation’s major river systems: the Missouri/Mississippi, Snake/Columbia, and Green/Colorado and is nationally known for its many blue-ribbon fishing streams. Greater Yellowstone is treasured by millions of people within and outside the United States as a place of wonder, profound hope and inspiration.

Bison in Yellowstone

 But the health and well-being of this unique, vast and well-loved ecosystem is seriously threatened. Climate change is bringing a host of changes to Greater Yellowstone – dramatically decreasing snowpack and glaciers that provide life-giving water to downstream wildlife, and a rapid die-off of whitebark pine, which provide a prime food source for grizzly bears. And continued pressure to drill for oil and natural gas threatens some of the most pristine parts of the GYE, such as the spectacular and wildlife-rich Absaroka Beartooth Front.

Greater Yellowstone is absolutely irreplaceable. If we, as a society, cannot protect this spectacular, iconic place that inspires people worldwide with its breathtaking beauty, incredible wildlife, vast landscapes and vision for the best that this country can be in protecting our natural heritage -- if we cannot leave this place wild and intact as a legacy for the future-- where can we?  

Map of Yellowstone

Sierra Club’s Greater Yellowstone Resilient Habitats Campaign works to protect, connect and restore wild lands, rivers and wildlife in the face of a changing climate. Protecting and connecting the intact places that still exist is more important than ever, to give wildlife the best chance of surviving as food sources and habitat change due to a warming climate. Specifically, we are working in the following areas:

  • Preventing Industrialization of the GYE

    • Ensure that no oil and gas drilling is allowed in the most special parts of the GYE, including the Shoshone National Forest, the Wyoming Range, and the Absaroka-Beartooth Front

  • Protecting and Connecting Intact Wild Places

    • Permanently protect public lands in the Shoshone National Forest and Absaroka-Beartooth Front through wilderness designation, wild and scenic river designation and protection of roadless areas

    • End the U.S. government’s grazing of domestic sheep in the Centennial Valley, a key wildlife corridor between Yellowstone National Park and the vast wilderness areas of Central Idaho

  • Protecting Iconic Wildlife of the GYE

    • Continued federal protection of the gray wolf in Wyoming until a science-based management plan and adequate state regulations are in place to protect Wyoming wolves
    • Increase public and hunter awareness of how to recreate safely in grizzly bear country, and reduce grizzly/human conflicts

    • Continued federal protection of the Yellowstone grizzly bear until the effects of climate-induced changes on the bears’ distribution and movement in the GYE is understood; solid, enforceable regulations are in place at the state level to protect this still-vulnerable and isolated grizzly population; and effective programs are in place throughout the GYE to reduce human/bear conflicts

    • Increased habitat for wild bison outside of Yellowstone National Park, and management of wild bison as wildlife, not livestock.

    • Protect threatened Canada lynx by preventing natural gas development in the Wyoming Range, home to the only known population of lynx in the entire GYE

We’re working hard to protect one of America’s last truly wild frontiers, but we need your help. Interested in getting involved? Contact us in the Bozeman office at (406) 582-8365 or bonnie.rice@sierraclub.org.

Be a part of protecting Greater Yellowstone!

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