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Weekly Column: The Wonder Of America Is All Around Us

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate our nation’s independence as a unique country—built on a bedrock of individual liberties and self-governance that we continue to refine.  Our country is vast and home to people with infinitely different viewpoints, which contributes to our strength and challenges.  However, we are all inheritors of this extraordinary legacy: our United States of America is a shining light and draw for our world not only for the freedoms empowered here, but also for our country’s natural wonders we greatly value. 

A prime example is Yellowstone National Park that bridges Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  This special place has drawn record numbers of visitors in the last few years, with 4.86 million visitors in 2021 alone.  This and other facts about the Park are included in a resolution the Senate unanimously passed earlier this year celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Yellowstone National Park.  Along with fellow U.S. Senator for Idaho Jim Risch, I co-sponsored the resolution introduced by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming).  The resolution highlights the amazing attributes of Yellowstone that include: 

  • Human history in the Yellowstone area dates back more than 11,000 years;
  • Many Native American Tribes are associated with Yellowstone National Park;
  • The Park is 3,472 square miles and more than 2 million acres;
  • The Park contains half of the world’s hydrothermal features, with more than 10,000 in total and more than 500 active geysers, including the Old Faithful Geyser;
  • Yellowstone has the most active, diverse and intact collections of combined geothermal, geologic and hydrologic features and systems on Earth, including the Grand Prismatic Spring;
  • Yellowstone is home to 67 species of mammals, 285 species of birds, 6 species of reptiles, 5 species of amphibians and the largest free-ranging bison herd in North America;
  • More than 1,000 native flowering species and 9 conifer species are found in Yellowstone;
  • In 2020, visitors spent more than $444 million in gateway communities and supported 6,110 jobs in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming with a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $560 million. 


Yellowstone is just one example of the enormous beauty and depth of our great state.  Idaho’s abundant wildlife, forests, rivers and lakes provide unparalleled recreational opportunities.  While the pandemic upended many of our normal work and leisure routines, there was a large uptick in outdoor recreation, which carries both psychological and physiological benefits.  Idahoans are fortunate in that we do not have to go far from any of our communities to benefit from the outdoors.  Families enjoying the outdoors together help instill recognition of the important role of our natural resources, environment and wildlife to our quality of life.  The recent flooding in Yellowstone and surrounding areas reminds us just how fragile these natural wonders are and of the importance of protecting and preserving public lands.  Ensuring access to recreational opportunities enables these resources to continue to benefit local economies and quality of life for future generations.  

As families and friends gather this Independence Day and throughout the summer, we often spend time in our great outdoors.  I grew up camping, hunting and fishing—a tradition I shared with my children and continue to enjoy.  In experiencing the outdoors, we gain a better understanding of the complexities of our beautiful world.  Spending time enjoying the outdoors also provides an opportunity to reset from the jumble of everyday life.  I hope all Idahoans have opportunities to spend time in our state’s and country’s beautiful places, whether it is a national or state park, fishing stream, trail, forest, local community park or our own backyards.  The wonder of America is all around us.   

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