Yellowstone Flood Update: June 27, 2022
What's happening in Yellowstone?
On Monday, June 13, rain combined with rapidly melting snowpack caused massive flooding across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The northern section of the park and many communities in southwest Montana experienced unprecedented damage to infrastructure roads, bridges, and access to drinking water. Entire towns were isolated. One home in the community of Gardiner, Montana, at the park's North Entrance, was swept away.
Ecology Project International (EPI) currently operates our Yellowstone Wildlife Ecology programs in the northern section of the park from Gardiner to Silver Gate, Montana. This wildlife-rich region of the park, known as the Northern Range, serves as an incredible living laboratory for EPI students to assist the National Park Service (NPS) with ungulate population studies and wolf observation. The flooding drastically compromised safe travel in these areas.
Fortunately, all of our Yellowstone instructors and students made it safely out of the park on Wednesday, June 16. Thanks to the quick response of park and community officials, there have been no fatalities reported in the park or the surrounding communities. All of our park partners with the NPS and United States Forest Service are safe and sound, although some did not have access to safe drinking water for a week following the disaster.
"Having grown up here, it’s heartbreaking to see all of the destruction in the park and how it’s affected so many of my friends and their families. All of the roads that we used to drive on and some of these houses we used to go to are now gone, and it’s still weird to process that, how in just the span of 24 hours, so much changed." - Fiona - EPI Alum, Gardiner MT
How You Can Help
The flooding forced EPI to press pause on Yellowstone programming and work with our research partners to determine alternatives for upcoming student courses. In the days following the flood, we were doubtful we'd be able to operate anywhere near the Northern Range this summer. But thanks to an outpouring of support from state and government agencies and individual fundraising efforts, work is already underway to rebuild or reroute roads and bridges in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The town of Gardiner, Montana – which serves as EPI's basecamp for Yellowstone programs – has reopened and is ready to welcome back summer visitors.
"The livelihoods of the locals in Gardiner critically depend on guests who come to explore and enjoy this beautiful place we call home," says Terese Petcoff, Executive Director of the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce and CVB. "The support we've received from local agencies and through individual fundraising efforts have been overwhelming and so appreciated, but unfortunately this will only help us in the short-term. These aren't sustainable solutions that will keep our businesses from permanently closing their doors."
There's still a lot of work to be done, but the relief efforts that have taken place so far have allowed EPI to maintain much of our original Yellowstone course itinerary this summer. We're committed to supporting our long-time partners and vendors at the park's North Entrance by not moving our programs to another site, and we're excited to avoid relocating to other areas in the park that typically experience more congestion and traffic delays.
"The support we've received from local agencies and through individual fundraising efforts have been overwhelming and so appreciated, but unfortunately this will only help us in the short-term. These aren't sustainable solutions that will keep our businesses from permanently closing their doors." - Terese Petcoff, Executive Director, Gardiner Chamber of Commerce & CVB
PROVIDING CONTINUITY FOR EPI YELLOWSTONE
EPI was forced to cancel programming for the next 3 weeks, removing critical revenues from local businesses that rely upon Yellowstone National Park summer visitors. The public has been incredibly generous in supporting relief efforts in the Yellowstone area, but EPI Yellowstone programs do not benefit from these relief funds. We are in the unique position of having close relationships with scientists and administrators at Yellowstone National Park, and have the local ability and motivation to bring students back as soon as we can –benefiting the park and local businesses at a time when millions are canceling their trips to the area.
We encourage you to first donate to the relief orgnizations providing direct support for water, social services, and housing for those affected.
We also ask that you consider a donation to EPI's Yellowstone Wildlife and Winter Ecology program, so that our team can continue to bring students to the area, at a critical time in the park's history, and support the local businesses that are suffering most right now.
If you're a middle, high school, or college student, we invite you to come on course with us this summer! EPI has connected 2900+ students and educators to GYE – both local and from across the globe – since 2005, and we're so excited to continue to provide education in this incredible ecosystem in 2022.
"EPI has connected 2900+ students and educators to GYE – both local and from across the globe – since 2005, and we're so excited to continue to provide education in this incredible ecosystem in 2022."
SUPPORTING YELLOWSTONE COMMUNITIES
If you'd like to support disaster relief efforts that directly support Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding communities, here are some other ways you can help:
Yellowstone Forever - the official nonprofit partner of the park - has launched the Yellowstone Resiliency Fund that will provide immediate and flexible funding for the most pressing needs of the park community.
The Yellowstone Community Fund will help families impacted by the flood damage in Gardiner, Montana. Supporters can send checks made out to Yellowstone Community Fund to Jim Halfpenny at PO Box, 989, Gardiner, MT 59030.
Consider planning a trip to the area later this summer or fall. Although some of Yellowstone National Park is currently closed, the communities outside the park offer many of the same incredible mountain scenery, abundant wildlife watching, and exciting outdoor recreation activities.