Changes in management at Yellowstone National Park are causing controversies. Some groups accuse Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke of siding with ranchers in a conflict over the bison population at the park.
KELOLAND News tried to get answer from the secretary — on the growing controversy.
The head of Yellowstone National Park, Daniel Wenk was abruptly told he was being reassigned to Washington D.C. Lena Moffit with the sierra club says the move was political.
“Superintedent Wenk who’s been a dedicated servant for 43 years, was just ousted against his will after a long tenure of working to protect the park,” Moffit said.
She believes the issue is over the park’s bison. They roam the park freely but occasionally wander off the park property.
“Yellowstone is home to thousands of iconic bison that wander outside the park. When they wander outside of Yellowstone, lately they’ve been subject to being rounded up and shot,” Moffit said.
Ranchers worry they could spread disease to their livestock, and will over-graze the land. They argue the park’s bison population should be reduced.
Secretary Zinke agrees, but Wenk does not.
KELOLAND News Washington Correspondent Alexandra Limon asked Zinke about the change of leadership at Yellowstone. The secretary says the new pick for superintendent also had a long career with the park service, but wouldn’t address why the staffing change was made.
“The sierra club says that the replacement of the superintendent is political, can you just address was it over the bison issues,” Limon asks.
His office said he was late for a meeting, then sent KELOLAND a statement:
“Senior executives are the highest paid employees in the federal government and signed up for the SES knowing that they could be called upon to work in different positions at any time.”
In addition to being the superintendent for Yellowstone, Wenk served as superintendent for Mt. Rushmore for 16 years. He was planning to retire next year.
–Alexandra Limon, KELOLAND News DC Bureau