Monday, January 14, 2019

Wyoming Trails Advisory Council to meet in Saratoga January 25

A meeting of the Wyoming Trails Advisory Council will be held, January 25, at 9 a.m. at the Platte Valley Community Center in Saratoga, Wyo.

Agenda items include discussion of land use planning, approval of Recreational Trails Program and the Trails OHV Partnership grants.

The Wyoming State Trails Advisory Council is a ten-member recreational trail advisory committee appointed by the Governor to advise the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources regarding trail policies, functions and priorities.

Persons with questions concerning the meeting are asked to call 777-6491.



Jeff
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Friday, January 11, 2019

Update to operations at Yellowstone during the lapse of appropriations

By Sunday, January 13, Yellowstone National Park will provide additional basic services during the lapse of government appropriations. National Park Service (NPS) staff will:

• Collect trash and clean bathrooms across the park. We appreciate the efforts of park concessioners, partners, and local community groups who have performed these services since December 22.

• Staff entrance stations (all except Northeast) and the Madison Warming Hut to provide safety information for visitors. Fees will not be collected at the entrance stations.

• Remove snow at Canyon overlooks to provide better visitor access and improve safety.

• These additional basic services will be funded by the park's recreation fee revenue as outlined in the recent statement by NPS Deputy Director, P. Daniel Smith. While basic visitor services have been restored, other services and facilities, including visitor centers, remain closed.

The park will continue to provide services that have been in effect since the shutdown began:

• The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs to the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City, Montana, is open to wheeled vehicle travel. Visitors can access all the commercial services along this route.

• Visitors can also access commercial services in the interior of the park via oversnow travel (e.g. at Old Faithful). The park extends a special thank you to the concessioners, especially Xanterra Travel Collection, who have made donations enabling NPS staff to groom roads and allow oversnow access to continue.

• Guided snowmobile and snowcoach trips with commercial operators are allowed. Previously permitted non-commercially guided snowmobile trips are also allowed (new permits are not being issued).

• Park staff are providing emergency services and law enforcement. All park regulations, including those regarding oversnow travel, are in effect as normal.

If conditions become unsafe at any time, roads and/or developed areas in the park may be closed. The park website and social media sites are not being maintained. All administrative offices, including the public affairs office, are closed until the government reopens.



Jeff
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Monday, January 7, 2019

Statement on Protecting National Parks while Providing the American People Continued Access during the Lapse of Appropriations

The following is a statement from P. Daniel Smith, Deputy Director of the National Park Service:

“During the lapse of appropriations, the men and women of the National Park Service who have remained on duty have gone to incredible lengths to keep America’s iconic national parks as accessible as possible to the American public. Thanks to the strong relationships that many national parks have built with partners across the country, a number of states, private concession companies, and park nonprofit groups have stepped up to provide over two million dollars’ worth of donations and in-kind services to help over forty parks continue to provide key services for visitors.

“As the lapse in appropriations continues, it has become clear that highly visited parks with limited staff have urgent needs that cannot be addressed solely through the generosity of our partners.

“Over the last few days the Acting Secretary of the Department of the Interior David Bernhardt and the National Park Service (NPS) have explored a number of options to address the maintenance and sanitation issues that have arisen at a number of highly visited parks while keeping our commitment to the American public to ensure they have access to their lands.

“The NPS currently has funds derived from entrance, camping, parking and other fees collected from park visitors that would typically be used for future projects at parks. After consultation with the Office of the Solicitor at the Department of the Interior, it has been determined that these funds can and should be used to provide immediate assistance and services to highly visited parks during the lapse in appropriations.

“We are taking this extraordinary step to ensure that parks are protected, and that visitors can continue to access parks with limited basic services.

“In the coming days the NPS will begin to use these funds to clean up trash that has built up at numerous parks, clean and maintain restrooms, bring additional law enforcement rangers into parks to patrol accessible areas, and to restore accessibility to areas that would typically be accessible this time of year. While the NPS will not be able to fully open parks, and many of the smaller sites around the country will remain closed, utilizing these funds now will allow the American public to safely visit many of our nation’s national parks while providing these iconic treasures the protection they deserve.

“Visitors should go to www.nps.gov and select “Find a Park” for additional information on access to parks and sites in a particular area.”



Jeff
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Friday, December 28, 2018

U.S. Forest Service reflects on past year’s progress

In the past fiscal year, the USDA Forest Service responded to natural disasters and battled through one of the most destructive fire seasons on record. Throughout these challenges, the Forest Service also actively treated forests to improve conditions, increase timber production, and enhance rural prosperity—all while putting customer service first.

“With the commitment and strength of our employees and partners the Forest Service continued to improve conditions across the forested landscapes this last year,” said USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “This included active management, and increasing services and production to create jobs and support economies for rural America. We also focused on being good neighbors in communities and states, and consistently offering exceptional service and experiences for all uses of public lands. At the same time, we moved forward in in our commitment to transforming the culture to create a workplace that helps all employees do their part to deliver our mission to the American people.”

Improving Forests

In the past year, the Forest Service treated more than 3.5 million acres reducing hazardous fuels and improving forest health through prescribed fire and timber sales; the latter totaling 3.2 billion board feet. The Forest Service treated an additional 2.5 million acres improving watershed conditions, ecosystems, and infrastructure, as well as providing clean water for millions of Americans.

The agency increased use of 2014 Farm Bill authorities, including 166 Good Neighbor agreements and stewardship contracts. Together, these efforts strengthened collaborative work with states and partners, improved forest conditions, protected communities, and supported as many as 370,000 jobs.

Shared Stewardship

The Forest Service prioritized working with customers, partners, and communities to achieve shared goals. In August, Secretary Perdue publicly unveiled the USDA Forest Service report on Shared Stewardship—a new approach to active forest management. This approach will help reshape the agency’s work as good neighbors and will build stronger relationships with states, partners, tribes, and communities to improve forest conditions. The Western Governors Association embraced USDA’s commitment and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Secretary Perdue. The MOU commits the USFS and WGA to a more integrated approach to prioritizing investments where they will have the greatest impact and will work together to set priorities that address risk across broad landscapes.

Another component of shared stewardship is developing the next generation of land stewards to manage and protect national forests. Over the past several years, the Forest Service worked on outreach and education for young people through programs such as Every Kid in a Park. This program leveraged nearly $7 million in private and nonprofit contributions to get fourth-graders into the great outdoors this year.

Fire Funding Fix

Last March, Congress passed historic legislation that significantly reduces the need to transfer funds from much needed management work to pay for firefighting costs, which exceeded $2 billion this year. This new law expanded authorities that the Forest Service can use to improve forest conditions and reduce wildfire risk. When the new funding fix takes effect in Fiscal Year 2020, the Forest Service budget will become more stable, freeing up funds to help accomplish critical on-the-ground work to increase forest health and resilience, as well as protect lives, communities and resources.

Improving Customer Service

The Forest Service took definitive steps to improve customer experience by modernizing our systems and employing new technology. The special use permit process was expedited, reducing the permit backlog by half. The Forest Service removed unnecessary barriers to minerals development and energy production, helping to promote energy independence, create jobs, and support rural economies. Access was also expanded through investments in infrastructure, facilities, and rural broadband.

As well, the agency made improvements to recreation opportunities, including protecting and improving access for hunting, fishing, hiking, motorized recreation, and more. The Forest Service developed fee offset projects to promote campground concessionaire facility improvements and worked with six other agencies to develop a one-stop reservation and trip-planning website to be launched in 2019.

Transforming the Culture

The Forest Service moved to permanently transform its work environment to ensure everyone is respected and included by implementing a new Code of Conduct that includes zero-tolerance for harassment, retaliation, and misconduct. Agency leadership also created a new performance requirement on work environment that has raised accountability for all supervisors, and established a new anti-harassment call center.

“We started by implementing a 30-day “Standing Up for Each Other” action strategy that requires every employee to be held accountable to the new code of conduct,” said Christiansen. “We are changing policies to further prevent harassment and retaliation, and we’re building skills within the workforce so employees prevent, recognize and intervene in inappropriate conduct and retaliation.”

Regulatory Reform

The Forest Service revised policies and streamlined processes to create efficiencies in environmental analysis, forest products delivery, energy development, and wildland fire management. Improvements in environmental analysis and decision making cut costs by $30 million, and reduced analysis time by 10 percent. The Forest Service worked with sister agencies to update policies and processes for more efficient application and implementation of mineral extraction and energy production projects. The agency also reformed wildland fire systems to better allocate resources based on risk and lower costs while continuing to protect lives, property, and resources

For more information about the U.S. Forest Service visit http://www.fs.fed.us/.



Jeff
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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Montana to appeal Yellowstone grizzly decision - looks to broader effort

Last week the state of Montana filed a notice of appeal of the September decision by the federal district court in Missoula to re-instate endangered species protection to grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“Grizzly bear recovery and conservation is an amazing success story that’s taken decades of hard work and dedication. The science is clear that grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are recovered,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Martha Williams.

Montana joins the states of Idaho and Wyoming, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in appealing the court’s decision.

“With grizzly bear recovery goals met in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the safeguards in place to ensure healthy populations will persist, it’s time to hand over management to the states,” said Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

In Montana, grizzly bears are expanding from beyond the core areas where they’ve met population recovery goals – the GYE and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. They are showing up in places they haven’t been for decades, like the prairie east of the Rocky Mountain Front, parts of western Montana and areas northeast of Yellowstone National Park.

The grizzly bears numbers in these recolonized areas are increasing, and while the appeal Montana is filing today will only address the GYE, it’s clear more needs to be done to look comprehensively at grizzly bear management across Montana.

“For long-term success, grizzly bear management in Montana must consider the needs of our communities and people along with those of the bear,” Williams said. “As this appeal proceeds, Montana will focus on our responsibilities for management by convening the diverse interests of our citizens to identify strategies that address emerging and future needs for bear recovery and conflict management.”

Historically, the approach to delisting has been to focus on just the NCDE and GYE. While that has been successful for grizzly bear recovery, it creates challenges for bear management. Grizzly bears are spilling out of the NCDE and GYE and showing up in communities surrounding these ecosystems where they haven’t been for decades and where people aren’t prepared for them.

Montana is home to two other recovery zones, the Selway Bitterroot and Cabinet-Yaak. Neither has met recovery goals. Between the four recovery zones, bears are expanding into landscapes that aren’t covered under an existing management plan. To address this, Montana needs a more comprehensive look.

“Montana has long been a leader in conservation and now we have a unique opportunity to forge a path forward for these iconic animals that incorporates the diverse values of our citizens as part of a solution,” Bullock said. “Ultimately a comprehensive and collaborative approach to bear management across the state is the best path toward a durable delisting rule and balancing the needs and goals of our state’s citizens.”



Jeff
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Saturday, December 22, 2018

Government Shutdown in Glacier National Park

According to the park website, "Glacier will remain open during the government shutdown, however park facilities, visitor centers, and restroom facilities will be closed. Roads will receive only minimal plowing as needed. Conditions are subject to change."

On the park Facebook page, officials stated that, "During the federal government shutdown, we will not monitor or update social media. Some areas of Glacier National Park are accessible; however access may change without notice, and there are no NPS-provided services."



Jeff
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Government Shutdown at Grand Teton

In response to the lapse in federal appropriations, Grand Teton National Park is implementing its plan for a government shutdown. Government-operated facilities in the park will be closed. Visitors will be able to access the park, though no visitor services will be available.

Grand Teton National Park Deputy Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said, “Visitors will be able to access Grand Teton National Park, but should plan ahead and use caution as park staff will not be available to provide guidance or assistance. If visitors see something that jeopardizes visitor safety or park resources, call Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 307.739.3301.”

Grand Teton National Park’s shutdown plan includes:

• Park roads will remain open if they are essential to respond to emergencies—this includes most roads that are normally maintained and open at this time of year. Access to all residences will be maintained.
• Emergency response may be delayed.
• Entrance stations will not be staffed.
• Grooming of the Teton Park Road will continue through a partnership agreement with Grand Teton National Park Foundation. Grooming is scheduled to occur twice a week.
• Teton Interagency Dispatch Center will be available during normal winter hours—6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Emergency 911 calls will be answered by Teton County Dispatch 24 hours/day.
• Park website and social media sites will not be maintained.
• Concessioners and Commercial Use Authorization holders may continue to provide visitor services after coordination with the park to ensure compliance with government shutdown protocols.
• Access to Yellowstone National Park’s south entrance will continue, including staging and winter services available at Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch in John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking