As departing Administrations before it have done, the Reagan Administration can leave America a great legacy of natural wonder during 1988: official protection for an area of the Rocky Mountains known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Yellowstone itself is the nation's oldest national park, created along the straight lines of the cartographer in 1872. But grizzly bears, elk and other creatures do not live their lives within arbitrary lines drawn on maps. The 2.2-million-acre park is only the core of a natural wonderland along the Continental Divide that remains much as it did before the arrival of the settlers.
There is far more there than just the popular tourist attractions like Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The 13-million-acre Yellowstone country incorporates dramatic mountain ranges like the Tetons and the Wind Rivers, forests, grasslands and major river systems like the Yellowstone, the Green and the Snake. The region abounds with wildlife, and is one of the last sections of the country able to sustain a viable population of grizzlies.
As the Wilderness Society has noted: "Not only does the ecosystem preserve a tremendous array of species, it also preserves ecological processes--the complex web of interactions that occur between species and their environments. Indeed, this area represents one of the last regions of the country where these ecological processes operate much as they did before human interference."