Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Interior Department Cancels Remaining Oil and Gas Leases Near Glacier National Park

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced yesterday that the Bureau of Land Management has canceled the final two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area within the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Northwest Montana. The two lease cancellations address outstanding concerns about the potential for oil and gas development in this culturally and ecologically important area.

“We are proud to have worked alongside the Blackfeet Nation and the U.S. Forest Service throughout this process to roll back decades-old leases and reinforce the importance of developing resources in the right way and the right places.” said Secretary Jewell. “The cancellation of the final two leases in the rich cultural and natural Badger-Two Medicine Area will ensure it is protected for future generations.”

The BLM notified J.G. Kluthe Trust of Nebraska and W.A. Moncrief Jr. of Texas of the cancellations of the final two leases in the area. The lease cancellations occur after thirty years of administrative, legal and legislative actions and reflect the historical and cultural significance of the area to the Blackfeet Tribe and concerns regarding leasing issuance.

The Badger-Two Medicine is a 130,000 acre area, bounded by Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. This portion of the Rocky Mountain Front is considered sacred by the Blackfeet Tribe, and is part of a Traditional Cultural District. These characteristics caused Congress to legislatively withdraw the area from mineral development in 2006.

The canceled leases were issued in the 1980s and have not had any drilling in the area since issuance.

The cancellation respects recommendations by the U.S. Forest Service, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and concerns expressed by the Blackfeet Tribe and interested members of the public. In 2016, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the cancellation of 16 leases in the area. The leases were held by Solonex LLC and Devon Energy.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Drifting and Limited to No Visibility on Teton Park Roads

Grand Teton National Park temporarily closed U.S. Highway 89/26/191 today due to limited and no visibility, and significant drifting on various locations along the road. At approximately 8:30 a.m. the highway was closed between Moose and Moran Junction. The closure was then extended to the south from Moose to the Jackson Hole Airport junction at approximately 1 p.m.

Approximately 150 individuals will be staying overnight at Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch due to the road closure. These include participants in snowmobile and snow coach tours, as well as the guides. Flagg Ranch Company is providing overnight arrangements and food for the displaced visitors and staff.

The park worked cooperatively with the Kelly and Moran Schools during the road closures. Park rangers helped escort a north-bound school bus on the closed road to facilitate safe transportation of students to their families.

Rangers also escorted vehicles for southbound and northbound traffic between Moose Junction and Jackson Hole Airport Junction between 1:30-3:30 p.m. The road was opened to traffic south of Moose at approximately 3:30 p.m.

The road from Moose to Moran continues to be closed. Park road crews will utilize rotary plowing operations to open the road as soon as feasible and safe.

Weather forecasts include additional snow and very windy conditions. Roads will be open as conditions allow. Park headquarters will be closed Wednesday, January 11.

Drivers traveling U.S. Highway 89/26/191, Kelly Road and any other park road should use caution and drive slowly. Road conditions are snow packed, icy and drifting, with limited visibility at times. Please call the park road condition information line for updated information at 307-739-3682.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winter Trails Day in the Flathead

The Flathead Community of Resource Educators (CORE), a network of individuals and organizations working together to increase awareness and understanding about the natural, historical and cultural resources of the Flathead Region, is celebrating Winter Trails Day on Saturday, January 14 with several free outdoor activities.

These free activities are a great way to enjoy the outdoors in winter and discover the fitness and social benefits of snowshoeing and winter hiking in Northwest Montana. All activities are suitable for beginners and families. Be prepared with warm clothing and wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots. Bring along binoculars for catching a glimpse of winter birds.

* A snowshoe walk on the Flathead National Forest, hosted by the Swan Lake Ranger District and Foys to Blacktail Trails, will be at the Blacktail Mountain cross-country ski trails near Lakeside, 10am-Noon. Participants may bring snowshoes, or a limited number of children and adult shoes will be available by reservation. Please meet at the upper trailhead parking area. Reservations are not required. For more information or to reserve snowshoes, please contact the Swan Lake Ranger District at 837-7500.

* Explore Lone Pine State Park on snowshoes. From 10am to 5pm, park visitors can borrow snowshoes and explore the many park trails. Adult and children’s snowshoes are available on a first-come, first-served basis. A ranger-led snowshoe walk takes place at 1pm. Please contact the park at 755-2706 for more information and to reserve snowshoes for the 1pm walk.

* Ranger-led snowshoe hikes at Glacier National Park will be hosted at 10:30am and 2pm. Each hike will last approximately two hours and reservations are not required. Snowshoes are available for hike participants. Visitors need to purchase a park entrance pass. Please meet at the Apgar Visitor Center. Call 888-7800 for more information.

* Join Flathead Audubon for a guided ‘Winter Birds and Tracks’ hike along the trails at the Owen Sowerwine Natural Area in Kalispell, from 10am to Noon. Bring your snowshoes. Meet at the Treasure Lane entrance gate (at end of Treasure Lane off Willow Glen). Call 249-3987 for more information and to register.

Snowshoe and learn about winter ecology on a four-mile round trip hike to Stanton Lake in the Middle Fork of the Flathead, hosted by the Montana Wilderness Association. Families welcome. To register visit and click on the Winter Walks link. For more information call 303-726-3931 or email

For more information about the above local events visit,

During the month of January there are several other opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy winter trails, including another Winter Walk with the Montana Wilderness Association on January 21 ( and a guided snow science walk hosted by Whitefish Legacy Partners along the Whitefish Trail, January 22, (call 862-3880 for more information).


Friday, January 6, 2017

Backcountry skier dies from avalanche related injuries

A skier was caught in an avalanche in Glacier National Park on yesterday afternoon (January 5th). He and a companion were skiing on the south face of Mt. Stanton, and were approximately 500 feet from the summit. A third skiing companion had previously gone back to the trailhead.

The park received a 911 call from the companion skier at approximately 3:15 pm. He was able to place a call from his cell phone.

The individual stated that his skiing partner had been caught in an avalanche, and that he was not buried but was severely injured. The reporting party confirmed that he had been able to locate his companion, warm him, and continued to provide comfort and care until medical help arrived.

The park, in partnership with the Flathead County Sheriff and Alert, launched a rescue mission. Park rangers responded with a ground rescue mission while an air rescue mission was initiated using Flathead County aviation asset Two Bear Air. Two Bear Air responded to the injured party’s location shortly after 4 pm.

The injured skier was in critical condition when Two Bear Air arrived, and was determined deceased during rescue efforts. The victim has been identified as 36-year- old Benjamin Parsons of Kalispell, MT.

The park will work with the Flathead Avalanche Center to learn more about the sequence of events and other circumstances that may have contributed to this incident. The investigation is ongoing.

This is the ninth recorded avalanche fatality since the park was established in 1910.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Three Lost Skiers Rescued in Granite Canyon

Park rangers responded early Christmas morning to rescue three backcountry skiers who had become disoriented the previous day, and had inadvertently skied into Granite Canyon within Grand Teton National Park. The three men, Drew McCord, 32 of Houston, TX; Kevin Livingston, 37, of Afton, WY; and Patrick Callihan, 24, of Jackson, WY had intended to ski Rock Springs Bowl in the Bridger-Teton National Forest but lost their way because of poor visibility just after leaving the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski area boundary.

Teton County Search and Rescue initially received the call for assistance from McCord’s girlfriend around 6:30 p.m. December 24. She reported receiving a text message from the men stating they were in trouble and needed help. Upon realizing the party was within Grand Teton National Park, the call was forwarded to park rangers at approximately 7:00 p.m. Though initial communication with the men was difficult, they hiked back uphill into an area with better cell phone reception and were able to communicate directly with park rangers by text around 10:00 p.m.

Using this direct communication, rangers were able to confirm the men were uninjured and had the ability to dig a snow cave and build a fire. Given the darkness of the hour, rangers planned to ski in the following morning when conditions would be less hazardous for rescuers.

At first light Christmas morning, two park rangers were joined by two members of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Ski Patrol to begin the rescue. After riding the tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, the four rescuers descended into the Targhee Woods area where they located the missing party’s ski tracks. They followed the tracks and located the men in the area commonly referred to as “Cam’s Run.” The party was able to text their coordinates to the rescuers, which aided in their location.

The cold but uninjured men were escorted down Granite Canyon. Given the considerable avalanche risk, the resort’s ski patrol closed the backcountry gates above the descent route. Despite this safety precaution, the rescuers encountered multiple parties who had violated the closure thus putting the rescuers at increased risk of being caught in a skier-triggered avalanche. The group returned to Teton Village at approximately 1:15 p.m.

Park rangers commend the men for remaining calm during the incident, staying together, initially attempting to return the way they had come, and their ability to light a fire and build shelter. The men were equipped with basic backcountry ski gear including avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels. However, the men had very little food, water, extra clothing layers, or other emergency equipment.

Park rangers remind those that venture outside of the ski area boundary that they should be prepared for emergencies and the potential for extended stays outdoors. Granite Canyon presents challenging terrain that should be attempted only by expert backcountry skiers with the knowledge, skills, and experience to travel in avalanche zones. Backcountry closures should always be obeyed.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Ranger-Led Snowshoe Hikes in Grand Teton Begin December 26th

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes in Grand Teton National Park begin Monday, December 26th. The two-hour guided walks begin at the Taggart Lake Trailhead at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday each week through mid-March dependent on conditions. Previous experience is not necessary and snowshoes are available. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 307.739.3399.

The guided tours of the Taggart Lake area are a great way for beginners to get an introduction to winter recreation, and a way for the more experienced to delve deeper into the worlds of snow science and winter ecology. Topics covered during the hikes vary, but can include park history, winter wildlife adaptations, animal tracks, and snowpack.

The snowshoe hike experience is enhanced by the use of historic wooden snowshoes, the oldest of which dates to 1943. While the precise history of the snowshoes is unknown, some of them likely came from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. During and after World War II, soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division trained for combat in mountain areas and winter conditions using skis and snowshoes. Veterans of the division were in large part responsible for the growth of the snow sports industry after the war and many of them had ties to the Teton Range. The historic snowshoes are available to hike participants for a suggested donation of $5 per participant. All donations are collected by Grand Teton Association and used to maintain the snowshoes.

Skiers and snowshoers are also welcome to explore the park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway on their own. While winter recreationists are not restricted to established trails, visitors are required to observe the following public closures which are in place for wildlife protection during the winter:

December 1 through March 31— Static Peak, Prospectors Mountain and Mount Hunt.
December 15 through March 31— Snake River floodplain from Moran to Menor's Ferry near Moose, Buffalo Fork River floodplain within the park, Uhl Hill, and Kelly Hill.

A map of the closed areas can be found on page four of the Grand Teton Guide and at


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Historic White Grass Dude Ranch Rehabilitation Completed

Rehabilitation of the historic White Grass Dude Ranch located within Grand Teton National Park is complete after 11 years of meticulous preservation work. The former dude ranch has been transformed into the home and primary training center of the National Park Service’s Western Center for Historic Preservation. Earlier this fall a rope cutting ceremony was held for the ranch. Since that time, staff have completed the finishing touches, and the ranch has formally transitioned from a construction site to a full-fledged training center.

The National Park Service partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2005 to rehabilitate White Grass. Rehabilitation work included repair of failed foundations, roofs, windows and doors; replacement of rotten logs; and upgrades to aging utility systems. The jointly-funded project cost approximately $3 million.

The Western Center for Historic Preservation is the only training center devoted to the preservation of traditionally-built architecture in the western United States, Alaska, and the Pacific Islands. While the Western Center is commonly associated with log structures, its staff also conducts remote trainings on the preservation of adobe and mine shack type buildings. “The completion of White Grass means that we can shift our attention to training the staff needed to tackle deferred maintenance projects in the 159 parks we serve.” said Center Director Katherine Wonson.

Western Center trainings are led by subject-matter experts from both within and outside the National Park Service. They are open to the general public and are provided at no charge to participants. Fourteen of the 20 trainings conducted in 2016 were hosted at other parks. While remote trainings will continue, completion of the ranch’s rehabilitation is beneficial as more workshops can be hosted at the historic ranch.

Wonson said, “We’ve conducted trainings in other parks, and while they meet our training objectives, they ultimately don’t provide the same transformative experience as trainings at White Grass. Trainings at White Grass have the power to completely change the course of people’s careers, which it has already done for a number of National Park Service staff. They come and it’s an immersive experience.” Trainings were first hosted at White Grass in 2014.

The rehabilitation also increases the center’s ability to host trainings that are contained entirely at White Grass, and are therefore more transformative for participants. The sleeping cabins have been rehabilitated to provide overnight accommodations to trainees and the Main, Hammond, and Bath House cabins serve as communal space for eating, teaching, and shop work.

Life-changing experiences are nothing new to White Grass. As the third oldest dude ranch in Jackson Hole, White Grass built a tight-knit community of devotees. “White Grassers,” as they have come to be known, often returned to the ranch year after year from their homes in other parts of the country. The place stuck with them and, for many, was their primary connection to nature and the western way of life. The rope cutting event offered many of those individuals an opportunity to reconnect with the ranch, which has been managed by the National Park Service since 1985, when the Galey family’s life estate expired.