Amid the tales of sequestration travails, observing the response by Yellowstone National Park to a 5% cut in the National Park Service’s budget reveals just what priorities are being applied by administrators.

Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk’s handling of the situation: freeze permanent hires, hire fewer seasonal employees, and delay plowing entrances to the park by two weeks, resulting in late openings. In response to Wenk’s decision, local business owners that would be hurt by the delayed opening (estimated loss at $250,000) banded together via the chambers of congress to provide equipment and personnel to facilitate plowing, reviewed in detail by Bill Croke at the American Spectator.

Yet what has been lost in this story is Wenk’s inability to make a different type of cut.

I spoke with a resident of Jackson, WY, a gateway community to Yellowstone, who mentioned the recent construction of a network of bike paths that go up into the park, each path afforded bridges to cross rivers. The use of park rangers to put forth environmental evangelization — is there room for a cut there, at least in order to save the communities $250,000 in lost business?

Is Wenk setting the correct priorities? And what is the purpose of the national park: to be open to the public, in this case by allocating funds to plowing the roads, or to enable a quite different set of priorities?

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