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Yellowstone National Park receives $40M donation for employee housing

Housing in and around national parks can be expensive, forcing many park employees to make long commutes each day and lowering worker retention.
File photo of small town on the edge of Yellowstone National Park.
Posted at 2:13 PM, Mar 08, 2024

In an act of altruism and goodwill, one person has given Yellowstone National Park a massive sum of cash — but not for preserving nature or wildlife directly.

The National Park Foundation and National Park Service announced that an anonymous donor has given $40 million to Yellowstone to expand and improve employee housing at the park. The generous donation comes as housing in or near Yellowstone is scarce and expensive, forcing many park employees to make long commutes each day.

"This gift will be transformational in helping us continue improving employee housing across Yellowstone," Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement. "Our thanks to the donors for their generosity and commitment to meet the needs of park employees and to the Park Foundation for its leadership and continued partnership."

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More than 5,000 people work in Yellowstone during the peak tourist season, and finding affordable housing that's nearby can be difficult. But National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said it's not an issue that's unique to Yellowstone.  

"The housing challenges facing each park are unique, and so are the solutions," Sams said in a statement. "The ability to recruit and retain a talented workforce remains essential to our ability to protect parks and to ensure a world-class visitor experience. NPS is committed to innovative solutions that contribute to meeting the demand for employee housing across the National Park System."

Work on the new units at Yellowstone is slated to begin later this year, but housing is not the only issue parks are facing. It's their infrastructure overall.

According to the most recent report from the National Park Service, more than $23 billion was needed at the end of fiscal year 2023 for maintenance on things like roads, buildings, utility systems and other park facilities. That includes more than $115 million needed to add additional employee housing units at Acadia, Yosemite and Grand Teton national parks.

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National Park Foundation CEO Will Shafroth hopes the most recent gift to Yellowstone will inspire additional much-needed donations to other parks as well.

"This transformational gift will meet a critical need for new housing in Yellowstone, and be a catalyst for more philanthropic investment," Shafroth said. "These skilled, dedicated professionals at the National Park Service who protect our parks and make visitors’ experiences great deserve housing they can be proud to call home."