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Behind the Scenery: People of Yellowstone

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yellowstone

A new book highlights the diverse group of humans — including maintenance crews, wranglers, and scientists — that protect and conserve America’s first national park.

Transformative. That’s the word photographer Steve Horan and writer Ruth W. Crocker use to describe the impact of Yellowstone National Park on the lives of the people featured in their new book of portraits, People of Yellowstone.

“These individuals absolutely love this amazing place and have devoted themselves to being in the Park to preserve its wonders,” says Horan, who refers to Yellowstone as a walking meditation. “When you’re in Yellowstone you have to learn to be aware of your surroundings and your place in it. It teaches you to go beyond yourself.”

Horan, a New York City native, spent five years crossing three states to find subjects for the project — which unites his passion for community and its connection to the natural world. “The friendships that are made if you work, live, or camp in Yellowstone last a lifetime,” Horan says.

 The stunning photographs combined with Crocker’s insightful descriptions of 87 unique humans devoted to preserving public lands provide an insider’s look at America’s beloved first national park. Readers get to know expedition leaders, scientists, construction crane operators, horse wranglers, and rescue team members.

Horan says that one of his most memorable moments was his interview with the late wildlife advocate John J. Craighead. Craighead and his brother Frank led research that inspired legions of fellow scientists, helped save the grizzly, and shaped public policies such as 1968’s National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Crocker remembers fondly her discussion with tree-ring scientist John King who has spent years collecting data from tree rings and stumps to determine the age of cultural artifacts, frequency and extent of floods, and the impacts of climate change.

Here’s a sampling of some of the other people who live and work within this magnificent ecosystem:

 

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Grant Bulltail, Apsaalooke Crow tribal elder

Now in his 90s, Grant Bulltail has spent his life learning and sharing the stories of the Crow people living in Greater Yellowstone.

 

Lisa, Jane, and Candy, Seasonal employees

Like many Park employees, these three Taiwanese workers are all smiles as they catch lifts from truckers or families with space in their RVs to find their way to work or to explore Old Faithful.

 

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Linda Thurston, Wolf tracker and biologist

Thurston has been running with the Yellowstone wolves since they were reintroduced back into the park in 1996.

 

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Salle Engelhardt, Interpretive ranger, artist, musician, and former truck driver

In her 30s, after viewing the United States from the cab of her truck, Engelhardt decided to trade in her keys for a college degree in public administration. She’s now an expert in snowbound living, wolves, bears, and birds.

 

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Stacy Gerths, Wrangler and trail rider

Gerths spends her days wrangling humans and horses for trail rides into Yellowstone’s iconic landscapes.

 

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Wendy Medina, Recycler, artist, and hiker

“You’re not throwing that out are you?” Medina asked many times during her six-year reign as the recycling expert in the Old Faithful maintenance yard.

 

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John King, Dendochronologist and ecologist

“Humans can learn a lot from trees,” says the tree-hugging scientist who spends his time in the forests collecting records of tree growth.

 

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John J. Craighead, Wildlife advocate and researcher

“We should think like nature and look at the fundamentals of things. I have listened to the voice of the mountain for most of my life,” said the late John J. Craighead whose wildlife-wildland advocacy continues at the Craighead Institute in Bozeman, Mt.

is an Experience Life staff writer.

Photography by Steve Horan