Monday, January 13, 2020

National Park Service Announces Fiscal Year 2019 Accomplishments to Reduce Wildfire Risks

National Park Service (NPS) Deputy Director David Vela recently announced that the NPS successfully treated 230,308 acres of public land in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, helping to reduce wildfire risks in America’s national parks and safeguarding nearby communities, natural resources and infrastructure.

Prescribed fire was used to treat nearly 207,000 acres, and an additional 24,000 acres were treated by mechanical and other methods. In support of recently issued Executive and Secretary’s Orders calling for an increase in active management, 17,000 acres were treated through active vegetation treatments. A robust vegetation management program improves the resiliency of landscapes to wildfires and preserves public lands for a variety of uses and enjoyment by the public.

“The accomplishments of our fire and aviation programs are vital to meeting our mission as well as the Secretary’s priorities,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “We are proud of the dedication and hard work completed over the past year by the men and women of the aviation, structural and wildland fire programs.”

In FY 2019, the bureau reached a milestone with over 90% of the 31,339 structures listed in the NPS Wildland Fire Geodatabase now surveyed for threats from wildland fire. Also in 2019, the areas adjacent to more than 6,000 structures were treated and the potential of risk from wildfire was reduced.

Research in wildland fire to better inform and fuels management is another high priority for the NPS. In 2019, the following five research projects were funded totaling $157,000:

• Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, California: Effectiveness of Fuel treatments on Wildfire in a Chaparral Community

• Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico: Identifying Activity Periods of an Endangered Salamander to Facilitate Fuels Treatments

• Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina: Changes in Woody Fuel Loading and Ericaceous Shrub Cover from 2003 to 2019 in Great Smoky Mountains NP

• Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Alaska: Fire and Ice – integrated fire research to inform managers on the short and long term impacts of fire and climate on ice-rich permafrost soils, water resources, vegetation and wildlife habitat

• Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier national parks, Wyoming and Montana: Drivers of Early Postfire Tree Regeneration and Indicators of Forest Resilience in National Parks of the Northern Rocky Mountains

Within the NPS Structural Fire Program, NPS revised and updated all structural fire classes and added a hazardous materials class; this provides bureau structural firefighters with all the multi-faceted training needed for certification. More than 150 NPS employees were trained in structural firefighting, including 41 new firefighters, 26 new driver operators and 92 at firefighter refresher classes. In addition, 34 new park structural fire coordinators were trained during 2019. The program has also developed cancer awareness and prevention procedures and a grant to support structural firefighter gear cleaning for cancer prevention in parks.

Aviation continues to be an important multidisciplinary program for the NPS. In 2019, aviation resources supported wildland fire, search and rescue, law enforcement, and natural resources studies, surveys, and research missions. Approximately 11,000 hours of flight time, from 7,400 flights were conducted in 2019.

In addition to treatment projects conducted domestically, the DOI and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which is a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, continue to support ongoing efforts to combat the wildfires in Australia. At the request of the Australian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, DOI and the USFS have deployed 150 firefighters thus far, 10 total from the NPS.

“The loss of life, property and environment are devastating in Australia,” said U.S. Secretary David Bernhardt. “The United States stands with our partners, and we will continue to support Australia in sending our world class personnel to contain these blazes and help protect Australian communities and wildlife.”

The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have been exchanging fire assistance for more than 15 years as the Australian and New Zealand personnel filled critical needs during peak wildfire season in the United States. The last time the U.S sent firefighters to Australia was in 2010.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Two men sentenced to ten days in jail for Yellowstone thermal trespass violations

Two men were recently sentenced for trespassing on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser, a closed thermal area. Eric Schefflin, 20, of Lakewood, Colorado, and Ryan Goetz, 25, of Woodstock, New York, appeared in court on December 5, 2019, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming.

Schefflin and Goetz pleaded guilty to the violation of thermal trespass. On September 10, 2019, at about 8:30 p.m., employees and visitors witnessed two individuals walking on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser and reported it to park dispatch. A ranger contacted and cited Schefflin and Goetz.

Sentencing for each included:

• 10 days of incarceration
• $540 in restitution
• Five years of unsupervised probation
• Five year ban from Yellowstone National Park

“Visitors must realize that walking on thermal features is dangerous, damages the resource, and illegal. Law enforcement officers take this violation seriously. Yellowstone National Park also appreciates the court for recognizing the impact thermal trespass can have on these amazing features,” said Chief Ranger Sarah Davis.

The ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin, and there is scalding water just below the surface. Visitors must always remain on boardwalks and exercise extreme caution around thermal features. Learn more about safety in thermal areas at go.nps.gov/yellsafety.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Headed to Grand Teton National Park?

Are you planning to visit Grand Teton National Park this summer - or anytime down the road? I wanted to let you know that I just published a new eBook that provides hikers with access to trail information while hiking in the park.

Exploring Grand Teton National Park is the mobile version of TetonHikingTrails.com, the most comprehensive website on the internet for hiking trail information in Grand Teton National Park. This book was published to provide readers with convenient access to the information contained on TetonHikingTrails.com while in the park, or on the trail, where internet access is most likely unavailable. Additionally, the format of this book will provide a much better experience for smartphone users.

Exploring Grand Teton National Park covers 44 hikes. This includes 41 hikes within Grand Teton National Park, as well as 3 hikes in the Teton Pass area, located just south of the park boundary. Like the website, the book includes driving directions to each trailhead, detailed trail descriptions, key features along the route, difficulty ratings, photographs, maps and elevation profiles, which provide readers with a visual representation of the change in elevation they’ll encounter on each hike. Some hikes will also include historical tidbits related to the trail. Whether you're looking for an easy stroll in the park, or an epic hike deep into Grand Teton's backcountry, this book provides all the tools you'll need to make your hiking trip as enjoyable as possible.

As with our four websites, this book also contains several directories that will help you choose the best hikes suited to your preferences and abilities. This includes hikes listed by location within the park, hikes listed by key trail feature, and hikes sorted by difficulty rating. I’ve also included lists of our top 10 hikes, the best easy hikes, the top fall hikes, and the top early season hikes.

The book is now available at Amazon.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Areas of Central Teton Range in Park Temporarily Closed For Nonnative Mountain Goat Management

Grand Teton National Park will implement a temporary area closure for public and operational safety during nonnative mountain goat removal activities January 5-12, 2020. The closure area is bounded on the south by South, Middle and Grand Tetons, Mount Owen and Teewinot Mountain peaks; bounded on the west by the park boundary; bounded on the east by the western shores of Jackson, Leigh, String and Jenny Lakes; and bounded on the north by Rolling Thunder Mountain and Eagle Rest Peaks. No public access will be allowed in the area during this time. Signs will be posted at main access locations and a map of the temporary closure area can be viewed here.

In order to aid in the conservation of a native and vulnerable population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Teton Range, the National Park Service is implementing a recently finalized management plan to remove nonnative mountain goats from the park via lethal and nonlethal means.

The National Park Service has a responsibility to protect native species and reduce the potential for local extinction of a native species and therefore intends to reduce the number of nonnative mountain goats in the park as quickly as possible. Mountain goats are not native to Grand Teton National Park. Mountain goats threaten the native Teton Range bighorn sheep herd through increased risk of pathogen transmission and the potential for competition. Aerially-based lethal activities are the most efficient and effective methods to remove nonnative mountain goats.

Beginning Monday, January 6, helicopter-based lethal removal efforts will be initiated, as weather conditions and mountain goat distribution allow. Removal activities will be performed by a qualified contractor. Timing of the activities is planned when park visitation is low, and will be concentrated in the area between Cascade Canyon and Snowshoe Canyon where the majority of the mountain goats are located. Without swift and active management, the mountain goat population is expected to continue to grow and expand its distribution within the park. The mountain goat population is currently at a size where complete removal is achievable in a short time, however, the growth rate of this population suggest that complete removal in the near future may become unattainable.

The Teton Range is home to a small herd of native bighorn sheep currently estimated at approximately 100 animals. This herd is one of the smaller and most isolated in Wyoming, and has never been extirpated or augmented. The Teton Range herd of native bighorn sheep is of high conservation value to the park, adjacent land and wildlife managers, and visitors.

Currently the nonnative mountain goat population within the park is estimated at approximately 100 animals. Resident mountain goats within the park are likely descended from a population that was introduced outside the park.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council to Meet in Polson

The Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council is meeting in Polson for its next meeting.

The advisory council, made up of 18 citizens from across Montana, will gather Jan. 14-15, at the KwaTaqnuk Resort in Polson. The meeting will start at 8 a.m. on Jan. 14 and 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 15. The meetings are open to the public and opportunities for public engagement will be available both days. The public is also encouraged to provide input to council members online at fwp.mt.gov/gbac.

The public meeting in Polson will be the council’s fourth gathering. Additional meetings will be held across the state to provide more people the opportunity to interact with the council.

Over the last few months, the council has reviewed the history of grizzly bear recovery and conservation in Montana, interagency management efforts, legal considerations, and grizzly bear distribution. Presentations have focused on the current state of grizzly bear populations across the state and the core questions and considerations that wildlife managers and others face as these populations continue to expand in Montana, including into some areas that they have not occupied for decades. Councilors have heard from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks management staff, as well as tribal and federal managers, who respond to conflicts and develop prevention measures. Non-profit organizations have also presented information on education and outreach efforts across the state.

At the upcoming meeting in Polson, the council with review transplant protocols, livestock loss compensation, the status of the Bitterroot ecosystem, and more.

Grizzly bears in Montana are native, iconic carnivores that have high value to people and cultures across the state and around the world and play important roles in Montana ecosystems and economies. At the same time, they can and do injure or kill people and livestock, and cause property damage and economic loss, which may disproportionately affect individuals living and working in bear country. Their potential presence is both valued and feared.

After 40 years of hard work by all Montanans, grizzly bear populations have reached and surpassed federal recovery goals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem is below recovery goals with approximately 55-60 grizzly bears, and the Bitterroot Ecosystem does not currently have a resident population of grizzly bears.

In the GYE and NCDE, densities of grizzly bears are increasing, and they are now expanding into areas where they haven’t been for decades, including connectivity areas between recovery zones. These areas include a greater percentage of working private lands and places where the human population is expanding, creating a greater potential for conflicts. Existing management plans and agency communication built public expectations on where bears would occur and do not reflect recent changes to bear distribution.

Montana remains committed to maintaining the long-term viability of grizzly bears, consistent with FWP’s long history of wildlife conservation. The challenge is balancing conflicting values and addressing diverse needs, especially in newly-recolonized areas. Federal protected status currently governs Montana’s ability to address distribution and abundance. However, many challenges would remain regardless of federal protections.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock appointed the council and tasked the diverse group with producing a final report with discrete, actionable recommendations that provide clear and meaningful guidance to the Governor’s Office, the Fish and Wildlife Commission, and other entities with responsibility for grizzly bear management and conservation in Montana.

For more information on the council, visit fwp.mt.gov/gbac.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Glacier National Park Announces Fee-Free Days for 2020

Glacier National Park will waive its entrance fee on five days in 2020.The five entrance fee-free days for 2020 will be:

January 20 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day
April 18 - First Day of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day
August 25 - National Park Service Birthday
September 26 - National Public Lands Day
November 11 - Veterans Day

Glacier National Park normally charges $35 per vehicle in the summer, and $25 per vehicle in the winter. A full fee schedule for motorcycles, bicyclists, and pedestrians can be found on the park’s website. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping or special tours.

Information about summer and winter ranger-led activities can be found on the park’s website.

Glacier National Park is one of 115 national parks that has an entrance fee. The other 303 national parks do not charge an entrance fee. The National Park System includes more than 85 million acres and is comprised of 418 sites, including national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national seashores. Last year, 331 million people visited national parks spending $18.2 billion which supported 306,000 jobs across the country and had a $35.8 billion impact on the U.S. economy.

Glacier National Park’s annual pass is $70 and provides valid entry for the purchaser and private vehicle passengers for one year. The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current members of the military, families of fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.

Passes are available for sale at park entrance stations and Monday-Friday 8 am – 4:30 pm at Park Headquarters in West Glacier, MT. The park is now also offering the Glacier National Park annual pass and the 7-day entrance pass online at Recreation.gov.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, December 26, 2019

White Sands Re-designated as a National Park

On Friday, December 20, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which includes a provision that re-designates White Sands National Monument as White Sands National Park, making it the 62nd designated national park in the National Park System.

“Our staff are very excited for White Sands to be recognized as a national park and to reintroduce ourselves to the American public,” said White Sands National Park Superintendent Marie Sauter. “We are so appreciative of our partners, local communities, and congressional leaders who made this achievement possible and look forward to continued success working together.”

White Sands National Monument was established on January 18, 1933, by President Herbert Hoover to preserve, “the white sands and additional features of scenic, scientific, and educational interest.” Today’s re-designation recognizes the added significance of the park for its natural and cultural resources. In addition to containing the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, including gypsum hearthmounds found nowhere else on earth, the park is home to the globe’s largest collection of Ice-Age fossilized footprints and tells more than 10,000 years of human presence, all while providing memorable recreational opportunities.

Just so happens that my wife and I visited the park back in April. Here are a few photos from that visit.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking