Voices: All day with the 90-Second Naturalist!

maynard-350x312Time to step aside briefly and hand the cyber-pen to a far more compelling figure — Thayne Maynard, NPR’s 90-Second Naturalist. Thayne, director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, will be joining us for our 30th anniversary celebration in West Yellowstone and a presentation in Cody, Wyo., in September.

You won’t want to miss our all-day field trip with Thayne on Sunday, Sept. 22, or An Evening With Thayne Maynard in Cody on Monday, Sept. 23!

Read on, as Thayne takes 90 seconds to write for us about what makes the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so special for him.

For a whole bunch of reasons, I have long admired the work of the good folks at the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Most naturally, because like most Americans, I really love Yellowstone National Park. Thanks to GYC having me out for their annual meeting in West Yellowstone in 2003, I was first able to see wild wolves in the Lamar Valley with Doug Smith and Rick McIntyre. Of course, even our beloved national parks are not big enough to save endangered species. Free ranging animals need a system of “parks beyond parks,” as ecologist David Western proposes, for any hope of thriving.

GYC gets this. The founding concept of the organization is right there in their name. It’s not just about the 2 million acres in the park. A healthy, balanced system that includes wilderness, ranchers, farmers, grizzly bears, and even loggers and tourists, is about the 20-million-acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Frankly, I find it a miracle that such an area still thrives in such a crowded and prosperous nation. It is a tribute to the American spirit really. We like to fight over wolves and fracking and condos and cows, but in the end we love the Northern Rockies more.

And GYC’s approach has helped inform this discussion over the last generation. When they started in 1983 the idea of a burgeoning grizzly bear population was challenging to many people in the Greater Yellowstone region. But a lot has been learned about grizzly behavior in the last three decades and the result is that today it is possible for predators and people to thrive in the same landscape with reduced conflict. That’s a good thing because not that long ago most folks thought conservation was all about animals and wilderness. But now we realize it’s mostly about people. GYC has been in the middle of that dialogue all along, working at building community and shaping relationships that work.

That’s what it will take for the Greater Yellowstone region to remain wild a century from now.

Here’s to an America that’s willing to weigh in and arm wrestle over the things we cherish. And here’s to the next 30 years of good work educating, arguing, explaining, and advocating by my friends.

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