Friday, August 26, 2016

Fatality at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Early on August 26, a park concession employee fell to her death from Grand View Point above the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Her body was recovered just after 10 a.m. by park search and rescue crews in a helicopter.

Estefania Liset Mosquera Alcivar, 21, of Quito, Ecuador, was socializing with a small group of coworkers near the trail along the rim when she fell over the edge of the canyon at approximately 3:15 a.m. Her companions, who witnessed the fall, dialed 9-1-1 and park rangers and paramedics responded. Rescuers were able to locate her below the rim at first light and determine that the fall was not survivable.

The incident remains under investigation. As always, visitors are encouraged to use caution on the rim trails at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.


Grand Teton National Park Foundation Completes $14 Million Jenny Lake Campaign in Celebration of NPS Centennial

Grand Teton National Park Foundation has not only completed but exceeded its $14 million Inspiring Journeys fundraising campaign to renew Grand Teton’s most iconic destination in honor of the National Park Service centennial. This $18 million public-private effort is transforming backcountry trails and frontcountry visitor facilities at Jenny Lake to ensure this incredible resource inspires visitors for the next 100 years in Grand Teton. The National Park Service contributed $4 million to the project.

Construction is underway at Jenny Lake and this NPS centennial summer marks the third year of construction. Backcountry trails leading to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point were heavily eroded and worn by the millions of hikers visiting the park’s famous destinations. The trails had become unsafe for visitors and unsustainable for the park to maintain. Grand Teton crews are improving more than five miles of trail as part of this project of which 3.5 miles have been reconstructed to date. Crews are using long-lasting methods and materials such as dry-stone masonry techniques to honor the timeless craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps who built the original path in the 1930s.

Work in the frontcountry began this past spring. After decades of use by visitors, the area at South Jenny Lake was full of social trails and generally caused confusion for visitors. Crews are working to create an intuitive trail system, sustainable lake overlooks, and engaging interpretive areas that will give a wide range of visitors the opportunity to truly enjoy Jenny Lake and expand their understanding of the area. Construction is projected to be complete by summer 2018.

This season alone, crews have moved over 900,000 pounds of material to build over 207 stone steps, 20 stone drains, 338 linear feet of single-tier wall, 704 square feet of multi-tier wall, and 550 cubic feet of causeway. An average of 25 workers per day have been completing dry-stone masonry work, each responsible for moving 36,000 pounds or 18 tons of rock since the beginning of the summer season. Here's what one section of trail looked like before the rehabilitation project began:

And here's what that same section of trail looks like now:

“We have been touched by the many people who care deeply about Grand Teton and want to be part of this project,” Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s President Leslie Mattson said. “Helping park staff eradicate challenges they’ve faced with trails and other facilities at Jenny Lake will give Grand Teton a fresh start to the National Park Service’s second century and visitors an incredible experience they will never forget.”

“We are extremely grateful for the support of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the margin of excellence they provide,” said Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela. “The Jenny Lake Renewal effort is transforming the visitor experience at Jenny Lake, and my sincerest thanks goes to the Foundation staff, board, and everyone involved in making this happen.”

To learn more about how this centennial project is benefitting Grand Teton National Park, please click here.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Katahdin Woods & Waters - Our Newest National Monument

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis today applauded the designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the first national monument to preserve the landscape and honor the history and culture of Maine’s North Woods. The Antiquities Act, which was used to make this designation, permanently protects 87,500 acres of lands donated to the National Park Service earlier this week by the Elliottsville Plantation, Inc., (EPI). This land donation includes the East Branch of the Penobscot River and its tributaries, one of the most pristine watersheds in the Northeast.

This weekend, Secretary Jewell will visit the national monument lands in Penobscot County, Maine, to celebrate the designation with state and local officials and members of the public. National Park Service staff will be on site to assist with the first steps to open the park.

EPI is the nonprofit foundation established by Roxanne Quimby and run by her son Lucas St. Clair. Their gift of land is accompanied by an endowment of $20 million to supplement federal funds for initial park operational needs and infrastructure development at the new monument, and a pledge of another $20 million in future philanthropic support.

The new national monument – which will be managed by the National Park Service and is now the 413th park unit in the National Park System – is located directly east of the 209,644-acre Baxter State Park, the location of Maine’s highest peak, Mt. Katahdin (5,267 feet), the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The boundaries of the new national monument also include 4,426 acres of private land owned by the Baskahegan Company, which requested inclusion should the company in the future decide to convey its lands to the United States or a conservation buyer, on a willing seller basis, for incorporation into the monument.

The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument designation is the result of a years-long effort by Quimby and her son. Quimby purchased the lands with a portion of the wealth she created as a co-founder of Burt’s Bees in 1984, and developed the idea of gifting the lands to the American people as part of the National Park System. St. Clair, raised in Maine and dedicated to preserving the landscape and access for recreational activities, and a small EPI staff, have been operating the lands as a recreation area for several years.

The new national monument includes the stunning East Branch of the Penobscot River and a portion of Maine’s North Woods that is rich in biodiversity and known for its outstanding opportunities to hike, canoe, hunt, fish, snowmobile, snowshoe and cross-country ski. These and other traditional activities will continue to be available in the new national monument.

The new monument is also a storied landscape. Since the end of the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago, the waterways, wildlife, flora and fauna, night skies, and other resources have attracted people to the area. For example, the Penobscot Indian Nation considers the Penobscot River watershed a cultural and spiritual centerpiece and since the early 19th century, logging has been a way of life. Artists, authors, scientists, conservationists and others – including Teddy Roosevelt, Henry David Thoreau and John James Audubon – have also drawn knowledge and inspiration from the area’s resources.

National Park Service staff will hold a series of public listening sessions throughout the Katahdin region starting the week of September 12 to begin work on the management plan that will be developed during the first three years. Details of the listening sessions, including dates and locations, will be shared with local newspapers and posted to the monument’s website ( NPS’s planning will be done with full public involvement, with special emphasis on understanding the ideas and concerns of the local communities.

The approximately $100 million total gift to the American people from the EPI, was facilitated by the National Park Foundation as part of its Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

“This extraordinary gift sets the stage for a strong and vibrant second century for America’s national parks,” said Will Shafroth, President of the National Park Foundation. “Through their vision and generosity, Ms. Quimby and her family are carrying on the philanthropic tradition from which the national parks were born 100 years ago, and which helped create Grand Teton, Acadia and Virgin Islands National Parks.”


Berry Fire Shuts Down Southern Entrance of Yellowstone National Park

The Berry Fire grew significantly on August 22, driven by high winds and low humidity and burning through a mix of mature forest and areas burned during the 1988 fires. The fire has now burned from Grand Teton National Park onto the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Due to high fire danger, there is no access to Flagg Ranch and the southern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

US Highway 89/191/287 in Grand Teton National Park is closed at Leeks Marina on the south, and at the South Gate of Yellowstone National Park on the north, effectively closing access to Flagg Ranch/Headwaters Lodge, Grassy Lake Road (from Ashton, ID), and the south entrance to Yellowstone. The road is closed due to fire danger along the road, and will re-open when fire danger is reduced and hazardous trees removed.

The Headwaters at Flagg Ranch, Sheffield Campground, and Lizard Creek Campground are now closed. Flagg Ranch Alternate Accommodations: 1-800-443-2331. In Grand Teton National Park, the following trailremained closed: Glade Creek trail, Owl-Berry Cutoff trail, Berry Creek trail from Glade Creek to Hechtman, and Owl Creek trail three miles west of Cutoff to Webb Canyon junction. For the most up-to-date trail closures, contact Backcountry Information at 307-739-3602.

Fire management goals for the Berry Fire include providing for public and firefighter safety; suppressing fire to protect structures and campgrounds; and monitoring fire growth as it burns in wilderness and contributes to long-term forest health.

Hazardous Conditions: Continued and rapid fire growth is expected the next few days due to gusty south/southwest winds, and low humidity. Road conditions will continue to be monitored and information updated. Drivers should be alert for smoke, use headlights, and reduce their speed.

So far the fire has burned 6,819 acres.

Travelers should also note that there are several fires burning inside Yellowstone right now, including the Maple Fire near the West Entrance, which has burned more than 27,000 acres to date.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Grand Teton Promotes Wildlife and Visitor Safety with String Lake Volunteer Team

A new volunteer program to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts in the String Lake area has proven successful for Grand Teton National Park, and additional volunteers are wanted. The String Lake Volunteer Team offers interpretation and education services regarding safe recreational experiences in the lakeshore area. The volunteers promote the "Bear Aware" campaign reminding visitors about the responsibilities related to recreating in bear country, as well as help with the increased issues related to the popularity of the area. The program was based on the successful wildlife brigade volunteer program that the park created in 2007.

String Lake, located north of Jenny Lake, is easily accessible, hosts a scenic lakeshore and provides water recreation, hiking and picnic opportunities. The area has received an increase of visitation in recent years. The visitation growth resulted in numerous food storage violations in 2015, including the relocation of two black bears to a zoo. There has been an escalation in water recreation activities, parking demand and resource impacts.

The park initiated the volunteer program in June. There are approximately 14 volunteers that patrol the picnic area, parking lots, trails and picnic sites. The team greets and orients visitors to the area, shares information about proper food storage practices, encourages ethical wildlife viewing and promotes recreational safety. Another value-added task is the monitoring and data gathering they conduct regarding parking behaviors, traffic patterns, resource impacts and signage.

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, "This group of volunteers is outstanding and we greatly value the positive impact they have contributed to the visitor experience and resource protection at String Lake." To date, there have not been any significant human-wildlife interactions in the String Lake area this summer. He noted that additional volunteers are needed for the fall, and anyone interested in helping a minimum of five hours a week are encouraged to call the park at 307-739-3410.

The work of the volunteers is helping to determine some short-term actions that are being implemented that include identification of proper parking locations by painting and repainting curbs, and additional food-storage containers, informational signage, and temporary toilets facilities.

The park is planning a visitor-use study for the String and Leigh Lake areas that will begin next summer. This study will provide information about visitor access, use and experience, and resource impacts associated with increased visitation. Vela said, "This study will clearly define the existing conditions, and allow us to determine desired future conditions to meet our responsibility to protect the resources and provide a quality visitor experience." It is anticipated the study will include two summers of data collection.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Yellowstone River Closed In Response To Ongoing Fish Kill

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is implementing an immediate closure of all water-based recreation (fishing, wading, floating, tubing, boating, etc.) on the Yellowstone River and its tributaries from Yellowstone National Park’s northern boundary at Gardiner to the Highway 212 bridge in Laurel. This significant action on the part of the Department is in response to the ongoing and unprecedented fish kill on the Yellowstone. This action is necessary to protect the fishery and the economy it sustains. The closure will also help limit the spread of the parasite to adjacent rivers through boats, tubes, waders and other human contact and minimize further mortality in all fish species.

In the past week, FWP has documented over 2,000 dead Mountain Whitefish on some affected stretches of the Yellowstone. With that, FWP estimates the total impact to Mountain Whitefish in the Yellowstone to be in the tens of thousands. FWP has also recently received reports of the kill beginning to affect some Rainbow and Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.

Test results from samples sent to the U.S. and Wildlife Service Fish Health Center in Bozeman show the catalyst for this fish kill to be Proliferative Kidney Disease – one of the most serious diseases to impact whitefish and trout. The disease, caused by a microscopic parasite, is known to occur in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. It has been documented previously in only two isolated locations in Montana over the past 20 years. Recent outbreaks have occurred in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. In trout, research has shown this disease to have the potential to cause 20 to 100 percent mortality. The parasite does not pose a risk to humans.

The effect of the disease on Yellowstone’s fish populations is exacerbated by other stressors like near record low flows, consistent high temperatures, and the disturbance caused by recreational activities.

FWP Director Jeff Hagener says in coming to the decision, the Department had to weigh the totality of the circumstances and risk to the fishery.

“We recognize that this decision will have a significant impact on many people. However, we must act to protect this public resource for present and future generations,” said Hagener.

"A threat to the health of Montana's fish populations is a threat to Montana's entire outdoor economy and the tens of thousands of jobs it sustains," said Gov. Steve Bullock, noting that Montana's outdoor recreation economy is responsible for more than 64,000 Montana jobs and nearly $6 billion in yearly economic activity. "We must be guided by science. Our state cannot afford this infectious disease to spread to other streams and rivers and it's my responsibility to do everything we can to stop this threat in its tracks and protect Montana jobs and livelihoods."

FWP will continue to monitor the river and will lift the closure when stream conditions such as flow and temperature improve and fish mortality ceases.

In addition to the closure on the Yellowstone, FWP is asking for the public’s assistance in preventing the spread of this parasite by properly cleaning (CLEAN.DRAIN.DRY) all equipment prior to moving between waterbodies (i.e., boats, waders, trailers). FWP has also set up two Aquatic Invasive Species decontamination stations set up along I-90 near the affected area in an effort to help reduce the chance of this parasite moving to other rivers.


Grand Teton Wildfire Being Managed For Resource Benefits

Teton Interagency Firefighters are actively monitoring a lightning-ignited fire in Grand Teton National Park on the northwest side of Jackson Lake. The Berry Fire, detected on July 25, 2016, is burning in mixture of dead and down fuels and mature conifer forest. The fire is burning on Elk Ridge near Berry and Owl Creeks, approximately one mile west of the northwest shore of Jackson Lake and five miles south of the Grassy Lake Road. The fire, now 617 acres in size, is burning actively with short range spotting and uphill runs. Fire managers anticipate that lower than average fuel moisture combined with hotter and drier weather will continue to drive increased fire activity over the next few days.

The Berry Fire is being managed to accomplish objectives outlined in the Grand Teton Fire Management Plan, which allows naturally ignited fires to burn under specific management guidelines. Wildfire is a very natural and important part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Fire improves the overall landscape health by reducing fuel loading, releasing nutrients back into the soil and creating new habitat for plants and animals when allowed to perform its natural role. Fire has helped shape the environment that park visitors see today and influences the diversity of life found here.

Firefighters established a camp near the fire in order to monitor fire activity and implement management actions as it affects values at risk. A group of firefighters are placing structure protection around the historic Lower Berry Patrol Cabin. Plans are in place to initiate suppression actions if any direct threats to park infrastructure or visitor safety occur. A combination of helicopters and boats will be utilized to monitor this fire and provide food and supplies to firefighters. Presently there approximately 25 firefighters assigned to manage the fire, including both ground resources and support staff.

The following sections of trail are closed in Grand Teton National Park. The Berry Creek Trail from the junction with the Glade Creek Trail traveling generally west to where the trail intersects with Hechtman Creek;and the north/south connector trail between Owl Creek and Berry Creek located on the west edge of Elk Ridge. Travel through these sections of trail is prohibited for public health and safety reasons in support of managing the Berry Creek Fire.

Other trails in the fire area remain open. However, fire conditions can change rapidly and hikers entering the backcountry need to be aware of current conditions and closures in the area. Before entering these areas it is imperative that you be familiar with the trail network in the Owl and Berry Creek drainages and Webb Canyon in order to alter your itinerary should conditions change.

Smoke from the fire may be visible from the east shore of Jackson Lake and along US Highways 89/191/287. During the morning and evening hours, smoke may settle into low areas around park roadways. Drivers should use caution when driving in smoky areas, including turning on headlights and reducing their speed.

Updates will be posted to and