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Amid shake-up reports, Yellowstone superintendent mulls future at park

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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - The Washington Post has reported that a half-dozen top National Park leaders will be moved to other jobs in a major shake-up of the agency by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

One of those named is Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk, who says he's received no official word that he is moving. According to the Post, he would be heading to Washington, D.C. 

“Until the Washington Post article, and shortly before, it was certainly something I had not thought about,” said Wenk.

Wenk says he fully expected to end his career in the same place he started working for the National Park Service -- Yellowstone.  

 “I’ve worked for 42 years for the National Park Service. I’m 66 years old. So, it’s, my retirement’s not long off under any event.” 

So far, the Interior Department has only said it has no announcements to make about National Park personnel. But, if asked, would Wenk consider going to Washington? 

“If the call came with reasons why I should go, and how I could be helpful in terms of the National Park Service, to which I’ve devoted my career, I might,” he said. 

But Wenk says he still has work to do in the park. There’s his pet project, protecting the pure strain of wild bison in Yellowstone, but there’s a lot more on his to-do list. 

“Fisheries will continue to be a big issue. We’ve made some great strides with the concession operation in Yellowstone. We have a couple of other contracts that are soon to expire, and to write new contracts to continue to improve visitor facilities is important,” Wenk said. “We haven’t touched half the roads in the kind of treatment that they need to do. That needs a major influx. Employee needs. Employee housing in Yellowstone National Park. We have to take care of our employees.”

Wenk is proud of infrastructure improvements he’s been able to usher in for the park, like a road refurbishment project and a lot of new buildings as well. But, he thinks that perhaps less tangible projects are even more important.

 “Maybe the biggest issue facing Yellowstone National Park is the incredible amount of visitors that we have to the park,” Wenk said. 

The number of visitors is up more than 20 percent in the last three years to about 4.25 million visits every year.

“We can’t build ourselves out of this,” said Wenk, “so the question is, how are we going to manage visits?”

Look for a major new research project asking visitors what they want. That will begin this summer, and Wenk is eager to get started.

“I think there are some things I’m well positioned to finish up. I’d like to get the opportunity to do that,” he said.

Wenk told MTN he has not spoken to Zinke about the article or the possibility that he might be moved out of Yellowstone.

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