In the early 1990s Malcolm Wallop, then a U.S. senator from Wyoming, set out on a summer drive with friends in Yellowstone National Park. It wasn’t long before they were in traffic backed up for miles. The cause: a road construction project and countless “wildlife jams.”
The notion that gave birth to America’s first national park in 1872, “a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” resided then and still resides in our collective consciousness: the idea of loading up the station wagon and making a pilgrimage to commune, peacefully, in nature. But what the senator experienced was closer to the reality, and embodies one of the biggest problems in Yellowstone today: wilderness contained, nature under management, wild animals obliged to abide by human rules.
Wallop sought a way to solve the problem. He returned to Washington, D.C., and got $300,000 in federal funds so that the National Park Service could study the feasibility of erecting monorails in America’s first national park.