I had the privilege of touring Yellowstone on a snowmobile last March and then again, a week ago, at the height of the summer season; same place but an entirely different world.
In Yellowstone, you’ll spot license plates from nearly every state, excited families driving from all over this great country to see for themselves what America once was; wild, pristine and mysterious. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Geysers spout, steam pours from vents in the ground, buffalo literally roam and elk graze in wide, windswept meadows, unmolested and magnificent.
In Yellowstone, the hand of man is restrained, development kept to a respectful minimum, nature left alone to do what she has done for the millennia.
We are free to visit a world lacking in modern trappings, a place of towering snowcapped mountains, sprawling forests of pine, sparkling streams and blessed quiet.
On this latest trip, during a cool, sun washed afternoon, we encountered a juvenile grizzly bear wandering next to the Madison River. We watched a young family from Colorado marveling at bear’s antics and thought of the stories those lucky kids would be telling their friends at school come fall. What a memory.
In 1872, Congress set aside Yellowstone’s 3,500 square miles as the first national park, a preserve of natural wonders for the enjoyment of all.
In the years since, many other majestic places were protected from exploitation: the Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Acadia, Glacier, all celebrated in Ken Burns’ aptly titled PBS series, “America’s Best Idea,” a must-see.
From coast-to-coast, these remarkable parks serve as living reminders of where we came from and who we are. Few would disagree they should be left alone for future generations to enjoy.
Tea Party Sen. Rafael “Ted” Cruz is one of the few.
Cruz wants Yellowstone and all of the other national parks in the West sold, presumably to the Koch brothers or some other billionaire industrialist on his speed dial.
Instead of a place where Americans can refresh their souls, Cruz envisions strip mines, clear-cut lumbering and drilling rigs. As if man hasn’t already defiled enough of the American landscape, Cruz would violate what remains of our nation’s natural cathedrals.
After engineering the government shutdown last year, we thought we understood the depths to which Cruz would sink to selfishly advance his nihilistic political career and his undemocratic agenda. But now we know Cruz’s rapaciousness is limitless.
To Ted Cruz, nothing is sacred except Ted Cruz.
Last week, he attached an amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act that would prevent the federal government from owning more than 50 percent of the land within any one state, the balance transferred to the states or, more likely, auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Now dead, the act was designed to expand access to hunting, fishing and shooting on public lands. Sportsmen’s groups adamantly opposed Cruz’s amendment.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers call it, “a radical cry to wrest our national forests and prairies away from public ownership.”
“Public lands shape the American identity, support local economies and perpetuate our sporting heritage. They should not be sold,” added Trout Unlimited.
If Cruz gets his way, Yellowstone might soon look like nearby Gillette, Wyo., a dingy and depressing company town perched next a massive black hole where coal is ripped from the earth.
No more soaring eagles. No more clear running rivers. No more vestiges of the vanishing American wilderness. Just another industrial hellhole enriching people who couldn’t begin to spend the money they already have.
This is Cruz’s twisted vision of “freedom” — and if you see what he sees, I feel very sorry for you.
Kevin Foley is an author, writer and public relations executive who lives in Kennesaw.