When President Trump announced a federal hiring freeze in January, his action didn’t clarify whether summer workers could be hired.
Seasonal workers make up much of Yellowstone, and the Shoshone National Forest summer workforce. The Park finally got the answer this week, a month after the hiring freeze was imposed.
For the second year in a row, Yellowstone National Park had record crowds: more than four million visits in 2016. At the beginning of the summer, Superintendent Dan Wenk commented on the challenges.
He said, “We’re studying the visitor experience, the visitor expectations.”
But, when asked for Wenk’s comments on how the hiring freeze would affect Yellowstone in light of record visitation, a Park public affairs spokeswoman told us to contact the Office of Management and Budget.
A November Park press release says 850 employees work in Yellowstone at peak season. Many of those employees are seasonal, or part-time employees.
It was unclear whether those seasonal employees would be hired this year.
The answer came in an email from Yellowstone’s public affairs representative Linda Veress.
Her email said, “On Friday, Feb 17, the Office of Management and Budget approved the National Park Service’s hiring plans for seasonal employees.”
That was great news for businesses in Yellowstone gateway communities, like Cody.
Cody Chamber of Commerce Director Tina Hoebelheinrich said, “Any good news for one of our partners is good news for all of us, you don’t always make those connections when you hear about a hiring freeze, and how that might impact folks down the road.”
The Whit Fire between Cody and Yellowstone last summer reminded local homeowners how valuable seasonal BLM and National Forest workers are.
Shoshone National Forest spokeswoman Kristie Salzmann said firefighters jobs were filled anyway. But other seasonal jobs, like campground attendants, and recreation technicians were not assured, until recently.
Salzmann said, “There was a period of clarification back in Washington, D.C. between our headquarters and OMB, and it was finally determined about a week ago that seasonal hiring could move forward.”
Shoshone Forest Service campgrounds won’t be open for more than two months.
Meanwhile, cars will already be streaming up the highway next to the campground toward Yellowstone’s East Entrance, which typically opens the first weekend in May.