By Amanda Eggert EBS Senior Editor
BOZEMAN – Just over a year after Yellowstone Association and Yellowstone Park Foundation merged to form Yellowstone Forever, big plans are in the works for the official nonprofit partner of the world’s first national park.
During a Dec. 5 event in Bozeman’s Baxter Hotel celebrating the organization’s one-year anniversary, Yellowstone Forever Executive Director Heather White reaffirmed her organization’s focus on philanthropy and education.
White said the nonprofit aims to raise $150 million of support for Yellowstone National Park by 2022, the park’s 150th birthday. Since the October 2016 merger, Yellowstone Forever has raised approximately $19 million for the park through educational programming, direct funds and grants.
Yellowstone Forever aims to expand its educational programming, which could potentially include the incorporation of technology and online courses to help park enthusiasts learn about Yellowstone remotely. “We want to take the Yellowstone story out to the world,” White said.
Other large objectives include expanding Yellowstone Forever’s brand nationally, serving as a job creator for gateway communities near park entrances, expanding the organization’s native fish restoration program, and building a $40 million state-of-the-art youth campus that will require little or no electrical inputs from the power grid. White described the vision for the building as “LEED Platinum 2.0.”
Park Superintendant Dan Wenk, who will be the recipient of an honorary doctorate in letters at MSU’s Dec. 16 commencement ceremony, highlighted the importance of becoming stewards of, and advocates for, the park in a time when the fate of public land is so prominent in public discourse.
Wenk added that the National Park Service has added a third pillar, education, to its mission. “This all falls together with our emphasis and what we’re trying to do within national parks [more broadly],” Wenk said of Yellowstone Forever’s goals moving forward.