Yellowstone: Adverse Impacts of Record-Setting Visits 'Unsustainable' 

click to enlarge Yellowstone National Park - DANIEL MAYER, CC BY 3.0
  • Daniel Mayer, CC by 3.0
  • Yellowstone National Park

What might save some United States national parks from upturned trash cans, traffic jams, accidents and life-threatening impacts to wildlife? Fewer people in the parks.
The Associated Press reports parks officials are seriously considering putting a cap on visitors.

An approximate 4.1 million people drove through the gates of Yellowstone National Park last year, an increase of  580,000, or 17 percent more, than the previous year. According to officials, that number looks like it could be even higher in 2016. Yellowstone Park Superintendent Dan Wenk told the AP the park has seen a 60 percent increase in visitation in the first few weeks of the 2016 season.

"We realize that currently we're on an unsustainable course in terms of demands for visitation compared to the ability of the current park system to handle it," Yellowstone social scientist Ryan Atwell told the AP.

Yellowstone registered more than 52,000 warnings to visitors in 2015, including approaching wildlife too closely, hiking in restricted areas and "taking bathroom breaks outside of the restrooms." Additionally, motor vehicle accidents resulting in injury in the park skyrocketed 167 percent between 2014 to 2015.

Earlier this month, Yellowstone officials had to euthanize a bison calf after tourists decided to put the newborn in their van, thus causing the animal to be rejected by its herd. A few days later, four more tourists walked off a designated boardwalk into the Grand Prismatic Spring, damaging precious bacterial mats that scientists say give the spring its vivid colors.
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