There is perhaps no national park more sacrosanct to America than Yellowstone. Anyone who has marveled at its Old Faithful Geyser or looked out at its large herds of roaming bison or stood in awe at its cascading waterfalls has, whether they knew it or not, been the beneficiary of a massively successful government program: conservation of public lands.
But Yellowstone National Park’s days as a pristine ecological retreat could be numbered if Wyoming gubernatorial candidate Taylor Haynes (R) gets his way.
Haynes, a physician and former trustee at the University of Wyoming, wants all national parks and federal lands in Wyoming to be turned over to the state. According to the Casper Star Tribune, Haynes wants to allow all lands in Wyoming, including Yellowstone, to be leased for drilling, mining, and grazing. “We will manage every square inch of Wyoming,” the gubernatorial hopeful said.
The chance that there could soon be drilling in Yellowstone, which in 1872 became the first national park in the world, is exceedingly slim. Haynes is challenging incumbent Gov. Matt Mead (R), who opposes drilling in Yellowstone, in the August 19th primary. Election analysts expect Mead to prevail handily.
Still, Haynes is not the only politician who wants to sully national parks by letting oil and mineral companies in. Others, including Reps. Pete Olson (R-TX), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and Rob Bishop (R-UT), also want to open up public lands for drilling. Bishop, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, downplayed his plan, telling ThinkProgress that he wanted to allow mining around the Grand Canyon in an area merely the size of New Jersey.
Even as drilling in national parks is favored by many Tea Partiers, polling shows that the vast majority of Western voters, including Republicans, actually prefer conservation. The Center for Western Priorities recently surveyed voters, finding that two-in-three Western voters were more likely to support a candidate who wanted to enhance protections for public lands, including 59 percent of Republicans. Three-quarters of Western voters said they opposed proposals to sell off public lands.