The Stewardship of Public Lands:

“Politics and the Yellowstone Ecosystem”


In partnership with the Yellowstone Association Institute

Faculty Seminar in Yellowstone National Park

Monday, July 30 – Saturday, August 4, 2012

How do universities design courses and programs to help undergraduates develop the understandings and skills necessary to become thoughtful, engaged citizens?  The Democracy Commitment, partnering with the American Democracy Project (ADP) is seeking new strategies to answer that question.

To develop and design new approaches, the American Democracy Project began a series entitled Civic Engagement in Action, creating new programs that would engage undergraduate students in civic issues. The Democracy Commitment is both fortunate and delighted to take part in some of these programs beginning in 2012.

One of the programs ADP developed is The Stewardship of Public Lands.  The key question of this initiative is: How are competing but equally legitimate interests about public lands resolved in a democracy?  For the past seven summers, faculty and administrators from AASCU campuses have spent a week studying political disputes in Yellowstone National Park.  The first year, 2005, they studied wolf re-introduction.  Twenty-six (26) faculty members from 19 ADP campuses spent a week in the Park, first studying the biology and the politics of wolf re-introduction.  But the most innovative part of the program is when they traveled outside the Park to talk to citizens and activists on both sides of the issue, to understand the controversy from their point of view.  At the end of the week-long program, ADP participants considered ways that faculty might develop programs on their own campus that focused on (1) national public resource issues such as wolf re-introduction and (2) local public resource issues such as oil drilling on national seashores, wind turbines in state parks, and restoration efforts in wetlands.

For the last six summers, the American Democracy Project expanded the focus of the program to examine the entire Yellowstone region in a program entitled Politics and the Yellowstone Ecosystem.  In this program, participants spend six (6) days in Yellowstone National Park in a combination of classroom and field activities, examining four key political controversies: bison, wolves, snowmobiles, and grizzly bears. They begin the week examining the science and history of the controversies, listening to scientists and Park rangers.  Then at the end of the week, they interview local citizens on both sides of the issues, including political activists, business people, ranchers, and other citizens.

The goal of this project is to develop new strategies and new approaches that colleges and universities can use to help undergraduates become thoughtful, informed, and engaged citizens.  In a world too often filled with bitter partisan politics, this non-partisan project seeks to move beyond rhetoric and confrontation, providing students with new models that promote understanding and resolution.  In a political environment where special interest groups tend to push people to polarized positions, we seek common ground.

All members of The Democracy Commitment – their faculty and students – are welcome to register for “Politics and the Yellowstone Ecosystem” project in 2012. The program begins late afternoon on Monday, July 30th and ends at noon on Saturday, August 4th.  The program will be held at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in the northern part of Yellowstone National Park, just below Gardiner, Montana.  The cost of the program is $1,295, which includes five (5) nights individual room lodging at Mammoth Hotel (single occupancy hotel room or cabin); all instruction and instructional materials, AV rental, classroom rental; in-park transportation; and a number of meals, including reception and dinner the first night, lunch Tuesday, and breakfast Wednesday.  Family members or guests are welcome to come to Yellowstone with the faculty participant.  However, space does not allow for guest participation in the program except for some classroom lectures, a few field trips, and evening films and presentations.

Instructor:  Brad Bulin, a long-time Yellowstone
Association staff member andwildlife biologist with
more than 10 years experience teaching science
and conducting extensive field research on carnivores,
raptors, amphibians, and plants in the Yellowstone

For more information on this program or registration materials, please contact George Mehaffy, 202.478.4672 ( or Amee Bearne 202.478.4675 (