An Idea is Born

As early as 1897, Colonel S.B.M. Young, acting Superintendent of Yellowstone, proposed to expand Yellowstone's boundaries southward to encompass portions of northern Jackson Hole and protect migrating elk herds. In 1898 Charles D. Walcott, head of the U.S. Geological Survey, made a similar proposal, suggesting that the Teton Range be included as well as northern Jackson Hole. Neither the Interior Department nor Congress acted on either of these proposals.

In 1916, a new bureau called the National Park Service was created within the Department of Interior. This bureau could promote park ideas both locally and at the national level with the creation of a Washington DC office. Director of the National Park Service, Stephen Mather and his assistant, Horace Albright affirmed their commitment toward park expansion in a 1917 report to Secretary of the Interior, Franklin Lane. The report stated that adding part of the Tetons, Jackson Lake, and headwaters of the Snake River to Yellowstone National Park is "one of seven urgent needs facing the Park Service." Mather and Albright worked with the Wyoming congressional delegation to draft a bill addressing expansion of Yellowstone's boundaries into the Teton country. Congressman Frank Mondell of Wyoming introduced the bill in 1918. The House unanimously approved a revised bill in 1919. However, the bill died in the Senate when Idaho Senator John Nugent feared the loss of sheep grazing permits with expanded park service jurisdiction.

As historian Robert Righter states, "an opportunity had been lost. Never again would park extension be so non-controversial."

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