Foundation funds Yellowstone projects from bat disease to ‘million-dollar room’

Hamilton's Lower Store at Old Faithful

The Yellowstone Park Foundation has announced $200,000 in funding for a variety of projects, including $60,000 for preservation of a unique and historic wall covering in the Old Faithful Lower Hamilton Store. (Wikimedia/Acroterion)

From Staff Reports

BOZEMAN, MONT. — A host of diverse projects in Yellowstone National Park — including bat research, geyser data sharing and even preserving a unique and historic wall covering — will receive financial support this year from the Yellowstone Park Foundation, the park’s official fundraising partner.

The Foundation has announced more than $200,000 in new grants aimed at helping park managers, researchers and others achieve important goals that are not necessarily covered by the park’s $69.5 million annual budget.

Each year, Yellowstone’s superintendent submits proposals to the Yellowstone Park Foundation for projects that are unfunded or not fully funded by the National Park Service. The independent, nonprofit Foundation’s board decides on projects and funding.

Though the Bozeman, Mont.-based Foundation may be best known for making large, high-profile grants for major projects — including millions of dollars to assist with lake trout reduction measures and construction of a new visitor center at Old Faithful — it also makes smaller but significant grants to a wide range of other projects.

“Our role as Yellowstone’s fundraising partner is to follow the needs of the Park,” Foundation President Karen Bates Kress said in a written statement. “When Yellowstone has priority needs to meet, we aim to respond as quickly as we can.  Citizen stewardship of the park makes that possible.”

The round of grants approved last month by the Foundations directors includes:

  • $10,000 to enhance the Geothermal Research Network, a data-sharing collaboration among scientists who study Yellowstone’s 10,000 geysers and other geothermal features.
  • $60,000 for historic documentation and preservation in the Old Faithful Lower Hamilton Store, built in 1897. Work will focus on the Million Dollar Room, once the office of legendary park concessioner Charles A. Hamilton, who papered the walls with hundreds of cancelled checks totaling $1,839,105.
  • $10,000 to update outdoor educational exhibits with QR tags. These coded graphics will provide links to in-depth, multilingual online content accessible by smartphones and mobile devices.
  • $15,000 for a research study on little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), a species vulnerable to regional decimation from the disease white-nose syndrome.
  • $40,000 to replace outdated outdoor lighting fixtures in the Mammoth Hot Springs historic district with energy-efficient LED lights.
  • $10,000 to expand Yellowstone’s oral history collection by recording interviews with individuals who played key roles in wolf reintroduction 17 years ago.
  • $60,000 in continuing funding for visitor education, boat inspections and other work to combat aquatic invasive species in the park’s waters.

Funding for these new projects is in addition to $1.45 million in grants announced by the Foundation in March.

The Foundation funds activities that are “often outside the scope of government funding, but are so important to maintaining Yellowstone’s status as a worldwide leader in conservation,” Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said in a written statement released by the Foundation.

“The Foundation and its supporters fund critical research studies, meticulous preservation work, and improvements to help the Park reduce its environmental footprint,” Wenk said.

More than 15,000 donors have helped the the Yellowstone Park Foundation raise more than $60 million for 200 projects since 1996.

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