Beyond Boundaries

A group of people listen to a presenter
Managers from local, state, and federal agencies across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem make efforts to coordinate the management of public land and cross-boundary issues, and seek scientific guidance.



Managing Resources and Impacts Across Political Lines

Despite the size of the ecosystem, Greater Yellowstone’s biodiversity is not guaranteed. Many of its plant and animal species are rare, threatened, endangered, or of special concern, including more than 100 plants, hundreds of invertebrates, six fish species, several amphibian species, at least 20 bird species, and 18 mammal species. These are estimates because comprehensive inventories have not been completed. A healthy Yellowstone is important for meeting the park's mandate to preserve resources and values in a manner that provides for their enjoyment by people. At the same time, a healthy Yellowstone enhances the lives of people living outside the park, by providing sustainable resources such as clean water, wildlife populations, and vegetation communities.

Several factors strongly influence the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and its management:

  • The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem spans different climate regimes and vegetation zones, crosses multiple jurisdictional boundaries, and is the last remaining large, intact native ecosystem in the contiguous United States.
  • The park’s geographic location also attracts humans who want to occupy increasing amounts of space in the ecosystem. This leads to habitat modification, which poses a serious threat to both biodiversity and to ecosystem processes. For example, when homes are built close to wilderness boundaries, they fragment habitats and isolate populations of plants and animals, cutting them off from processes necessary for survival.
  • Yellowstone National Park was created before the surrounding states existed, which makes its relationship to its neighbors different from those of many national parks. This park has exclusive jurisdiction over managing wildlife within the park boundary; wildlife management is driven by National Park Service mission and federal mandates, rather than by state wildlife management objectives. However, the National Park Service recognizes ecological boundaries do not match the social and political boundaries established in the ecosystem. Thus, most managers in the park have established relationships with neighboring agencies to coordinate actions that, in some cases, are quite different on each side of the park boundary. The park works with the states on most issues, including wolf and bison management.
  • Time also affects how this ecosystem changes and at what pace. What are the intervals between volcanic eruptions? Between fires? How has forest composition changed in the past 100 years? How will climate change alter these patterns? These are the types of “time” questions that influence management of Yellowstone.

Ecosystem managers face these challenges by addressing the whole ecosystem, including preserving individual components and their relationships and linkages between them. Maintaining healthy, functioning ecosystems preserves species more effectively than do emergency measures to bring back threatened species from the brink of extinction.


Effective management also requires strong partnerships. Several management and research partnerships exist among state, federal, and tribal agencies to help focus resources and provide collaborative problem solving on regional issues. Many of these partnerships include academic and non-profit institutions as well.

Greater Yellowstone Network

The Greater Yellowstone Network (GRYN) was established by the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program in 2000 to help enhance the scientific basis for stewardship and management of natural resources in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Teton National Park (including John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway), and Yellowstone National Park. The GRYN is one of 32 units nationwide that group some 270 national parks into networks based on geographic similarities, common natural resources, and resource protection challenges. This collective approach to inventory and monitoring helps to facilitate collaboration and information sharing between the parks and with other natural-resource management agencies and interests.

Rocky Mountains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit

The Rocky Mountains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit brings together the region’s best scientific talent and scholarship to help manage resource problems across social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental arenas. The Rocky Mountains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit conducts research, education, and technical assistance on both agency-specific issues and on issues concerning areas of mixed ownership. This information is made available to those who need it, including land managers and political and industry leaders.

Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee

In 1964, the managers of the national parks and national forests in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem formed the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee (GYCC) to seek solutions to common issues. One of the nation’s earliest land-management partnerships, the GYCC reportedly first signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 1964. The GYCC now includes managers from two national parks, five national forests, two national wildlife refuges, and the Bureau of Land Management in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. During its five decades, the GYCC has provided guidance and decisions for managing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The GYCC managers set priorities for interagency coordination, and allocate staff and funding to advance these priorities. Interagency staff and partners collaborate on topicspecific committees to address priority issues and to coordinate operations such as wildfire management.

  • Ecosystem health: air and water quality, invasive species management, species on the brink (bears, cutthroat trout, whitebark pine) and climate-change adaptation
  • Connecting people to the land.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 3626. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

A wildfire crew stands closely by a large pile of burning logs.
Fire Management

Balancing the benefits and threats of fire.

Green and brown bacterial mats growing in runoff water.

Bioprospecting is the discovery of useful scientific information from genetic or biochemical resources.

Bison grazing in the grassy areas around a hot spring with snow covering part of the ground.
Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Yellowstone is the heart of one of the largest, nearly intact temperate-zones on Earth.

Last updated: October 5, 2020

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168



Contact Us