Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center

People with and without masks leave the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park in July of 2020. The facility is remaining open through the current spike in COVID-19 transmission, though a similar visitor center on the adjacent National Elk Refuge is closing its indoor facilities.

Although the federally owned visitor center on North Cache Street has been closed because of Teton County’s high COVID-19 risk level, similar federal facilities in Grand Teton National Park are remaining open.

The National Elk Refuge, which manages the in-town Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, sent word last Thursday that its doors would shut until the COVID-19 risk level abated. In the meantime, “limited services” will be offered outside the visitor center seven days a week when weather allows.

“The move to close the interior of the visitor center is in line with agency guidance, which prioritizes the health and safety of refuge staff, volunteers, partners and visitors,” Elk Refuge officials announced in a statement.

The National Elk Refuge is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the U.S. Department of Interior.

The National Park Service shares the same federal government parent — the Interior Department — but its guidance differs when it comes to operating public facilities in high COVID-19 risk areas, which Teton County is at the moment. As a result, Grand Teton National Park is keeping its visitor centers open for the time being.

“We do have the mask requirement for anybody inside federal facilities, and if you cannot socially distance outside you should have a mask on, but our facilities are open at this time,” Teton Park spokeswoman Denise Germann said.

Yellowstone National Park’s visitor centers and ranger stations located in Teton County were open on Monday, according to its website.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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