Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Citizen Advisory Committee Meeting to Highlight Moose Research

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff will present highlights from a multi-year statewide moose research project at a public meeting this week.

Members of the public are invited to attend the Region One Citizen Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6 starting at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is at FWP’s regional headquarters at 490 N. Meridian in Kalispell.

The meeting agenda includes a presentation by FWP research technician Jesse Newby, who has been studying Montana’s moose population. Newby will provide an update from FWP’s 10-year statewide research project as it finishes its fifth year. The presentation will include updates on efforts to develop a cost-effective statewide monitoring program for moose, as well as updates on field research into moose population dynamics.

Concern has emerged in recent years over widespread declines of North American moose populations along the southern extent of their range. Populations in Montana appear to have declined since the 1990’s, as evidenced by aerial survey trends and hunter harvest statistics

In 2013, FWP began a 10-year study designed to help the department better understand the status and trends of moose populations across Montana and identify the most cost-effective means to monitor those populations and maximize hunter opportunity.

The Region One Citizen Advisory Committee is comprised of local residents who help FWP achieve its goals by serving two main functions: providing the agency with information, ideas, emerging trends and initiatives from the public in a setting that welcomes diverse interests, and providing a vehicle for FWP to inform citizens.

For more information, visit http://fwp.mt.gov/regions/r1/cac/.



Jeff
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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

National Park Service Extends Public Comment Period for Proposed Peak-Season Entrance Fees at 17 Parks

The National Park Service has extended the public comment periods for the proposed peak-season entrance fees at 17 national parks and revised fees for road-based commercial tours and will accept comments until December 22, 2017. If implemented, the increased fees would generate needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks.

The deadlines, originally scheduled for November 23, have been extended to accommodate interest in this issue from members of Congress and the public. Already, more than 65,000 comments have been received on the proposals.

Under the proposal, peak-season entrance fees would be established at 17 highly visited national parks. The peak season for each park would include its busiest contiguous five-month period of visitation. The peak season entrance fee for a seven-day pass to each park would be $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot. A park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be available for $75.

The cost of the annual America the Beautiful- The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which provides entrance to all federal lands, including all national parks for a one-year period, would remain $80. Entrance fees are not charged to visitors under 16 years of age or holders of Senior, Military, Access, Volunteer, or Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) passes. The majority of national parks will remain free to enter; only 118 of 417 parks have an entrance fee.

The proposed new fee structure would be implemented at Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks with peak season starting on May 1, 2018; in Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Shenandoah National Parks with peak season starting on June 1, 2018; and in Joshua Tree National Park as soon as practicable in 2018.

Fees have long been an important source of revenue used to improve the visitor experience and recreation opportunities in national parks and on other federal lands. Estimates suggest that the peak season price structure could increase national park revenue by $70 million per year. The funds would be used to improve roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other amenities which enhance the visitor experience. Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, 80% of entrance fees remain in the park where they are collected. The other 20% of the revenue is distributed to other national parks.

Access to the vast majority of National Park Service sites remains free; only 118 of 417 National Park Service units charge an entrance fee.

The public can comment period on the peak-season entrance fee proposal until December 22, 2017, on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website https://parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedpeakseasonfeerates. Written comments can be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.

The public comment period for proposed entry and permit fee adjustments for commercial tour operators has also been extended until December 22. The proposal would increase entry fees for commercial operators and standardize commercial use authorization (CUA) requirements for road-based commercial tours, including application and management fees. All CUA fees stay within the collecting park and would fund rehabilitation projects for buildings, facilities, parking lots, roads, and wayside exhibits that would enhance the visitor experience. The fees will also cover the administrative costs of receiving, reviewing, and processing CUA applications and required reports.

The proposal also includes a peak-season commercial entry fee structure for the 17 national parks referenced above. All proposed fee adjustments for commercial operators would go into effect following an implementation window.

Information and a forum for public comments regarding commercial permit requirements and fees is available until December 22, 2017 on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commercialtourrequirements. Written comments can be sent to National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.



Jeff
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Monday, November 13, 2017

Glacier National Park Builds Sister Park Relationship with Mongolian Park

A delegation from Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and the Mongolian Department of Protected Areas Management visited Glacier National Park for five days this October. The visit included the signing of a Sister Park Arrangement between Glacier National Park and Gorkhi-Terelj National Park on October 24.

The Mongolian delegation included two members of the Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism, including the Director, and four staff. Glacier National Park volunteers and past employees Fred and Lynne VanHorn provided primary logistical support for the delegation.

Glacier National Park has had a sister park agreement with the Khan Khentii Protected Area in Mongolia—just north of Gorkhi-Terelj—since 2004. Khan Khentii Protected area was divided into two parts in 2013, one of which is Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is located in Northeast Mongolia, 37 Km from Ulaanbaatar, the nation's capital.

The purpose of the sister park relationship is to promote international cooperation for the mutual benefit of the parks, provide a forum for collaboration about shared challenges, enrich the experience and training of park personnel through international exchanges and to share the cultural and social values of both countries.

Mongolia and Montana are located at the same latitude and have similar landforms, ecosystems, and wildlife. These similarities provide a unique platform for international cooperation and information sharing. The relationship with Gorkhi-Terelj will allow both parks to exchange expertise and to collaborate on a variety of projects, including education and youth programs, GIS mapping and trails development, threatened species protection, and the development of adaptive strategies in response to climate change.

During the visit, the Mongolian delegation toured the park and met with park staff and the park's non-profit partners. They also worked with park staff to assemble a ger, which is a type of yurt that the Mongolian Ministry of Environment gifted to Glacier National Park several years ago. The Glacier National Park Conservancy supported the visit, covering local expenses associated with their visit to the area.



Jeff
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Thursday, November 9, 2017

National Parks Commemorate Veterans Day

The National Park Service will commemorate Veterans Day and the service of American military members past and present with special events and free admission in parks throughout the country on November 11 and 12. The National Park Service’s American Military website contains a list of events as well as other military-related outreach and information.

“More than 100 national parks have direct connections to American military history, including frontier forts and Cold War sites, battlefields and national cemeteries, memorials and patriotic shrines, “ said Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds. “These special places pay tribute to our veterans and serve as reminders of their selfless service and sacrifice throughout the history of our nation.”

From the colonial Minutemen who stood in defense of their rights, homes, and families near the North Bridge to modern warriors gathered for a reenlistment ceremony at the Statue of Liberty, the history of the National Park Service is interwoven with that of the United States military. In fact, each plays a part in the origin story of the other. The U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and Navy were established by the Founding Fathers in buildings preserved in Independence National Historical Park. And, in 1886, the 1st U.S. Cavalry was dispatched to Yellowstone to stop the vandalism, poaching, and trespassing that threatened the world’s first national park. The military continued to oversee several of the country’s earliest national parks until the National Park Service was established in 1916.

During World War II, Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Denali, Hot Springs, and Carlsbad Caverns national parks hosted rest and rehabilitation camps for service members. This tradition of providing veterans and active duty military members with opportunities for relaxation, recreation, and camaraderie in the great outdoors continues today and includes partnerships with many service-related organizations. From high-adrenaline outdoor activities to peaceful experiences in the wilderness, national parks provide a variety of opportunities to enhance physical, social, mental, and spiritual fitness. Many parks are popular destinations for active adventures like hiking, climbing, cycling, swimming, and scuba diving, while others are known for more tranquil activities such as camping, fishing, wildlife watching, and observing the night sky.

The National Park Service also salutes its employees and volunteers who have served in the military. Their skills provide a wealth of benefits to national parks and park visitors. To name just a few of the career fields they fill in the National Park Service, veterans are accountants, archeologists, heavy equipment operators, historians, human resources specialists, law enforcement officers, mechanics, park managers, pilots, and wildlife biologists. The 5,813 employees who are veterans comprise 28 percent of the workforce. Park Ranger James Pierce, a combat-wounded veteran who now works at the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said, “I am very proud to be part of the National Park Service where I can continue to serve and give back to my country, just in a different uniform. Working at national memorials that are dedicated to those who have fought and died for our freedom means everything to me."

In addition to special programs in parks across the country, all national parks will provide free admission to everyone on November 11 and 12. When in a park, active duty members of the military and their dependents can pick up a free annual pass to all national parks. Veterans with a permanent disability are eligible for a free lifetime pass. The passes provide free entrance to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and other federal recreational areas. The passes can be acquired at any national park that usually charges an admission fee.



Jeff
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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Special Use Permit Fees Adjusted for 2018 in Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park’s Special Use Permit fee schedule will be adjusted for 2018. The adjustments include modest increases to permit fees for backcountry use, non-motorized boating, weddings, and special events. Permit fees for commercial filming, motorized boating, and other uses will remain unchanged.

Each year, park staff conduct a review of the special use permit program. The review compares the amount of fees collected over the past year for each special use with the operational costs associated with that use. The primary operational cost of each special use is staff time to issue the permits and conduct other activities such as maintenance, patrol, monitoring, or cleaning which may be associated with a particular special use. Other costs associated with special uses include printing, reservation software, and equipment.

Backcountry permits will rise from $25 to $35. To see the full list of changes, please click here.



Jeff
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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Nearly all entrances and roads close in Yellowstone Monday, Nov. 6

This weekend, November 4-5, provides the last chance for visitors to drive to many iconic locations in Yellowstone. The West, South, and East Entrances and all roads, with one exception, will close to vehicle travel at 8 a.m. Monday, November 6, so the park can prepare them for the winter season and snowmobile and snowcoach travel, which will begin Tuesday, December 15.

The one exception is the road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana through Mammoth Hot Springs to the park’s Northeast Entrance and the communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana. This road is open all year, weather permitting. Travel east of Cooke City (via the Beartooth Highway) is not possible from late fall to late spring.

The one exception is the road from the park’s North Entrance at Visitors driving to and in the park during the fall and winter should have flexible travel plans and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Temporary travel restrictions or closures can occur at any time without notice. For the most current information on road conditions and road closures, visit go.nps.gov/YellRoads or call 307-344-2117 for recorded information.

Extensive information for planning a winter visit in Yellowstone, including information about lodging, camping, services, and activities, is available on the park’s web site at www.nps.gov/yell.

All communities near Yellowstone are open year-round, with local businesses offering a wide range of fall and winter recreation opportunities. For information about communities in Montana (Gardiner, West Yellowstone, Cooke City, and Silver Gate), visit www.visitmt.com. For information about Wyoming communities (Cody and Jackson), visit www.wyomingtourism.org. And if your travel plans to the park take you through Idaho, visit www.visitidaho.org.



Jeff
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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Some Elk Herds Show Early Signs of Adapting to Chronic Wasting Disease

New research shows that elk herds infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD) for decades are genetically different than herds that haven’t been exposed to the fatal disease. It all comes down to a specific gene and a relatively rare variant of a protein. Elk herds with a long history of CWD have the rare version of the protein at twice the frequency when compared to herds that do not have CWD.

This protein is important because previous studies on elk in captivity found that elk with the rare version of the protein can survive longer after contracting CWD, which may also allow them more time to reproduce. Elk with the more common version of this prion protein may only live two years or less before succumbing to the disease.

How this single, genetic difference might affect other aspects of health and fitness in herds remains to be seen. For example, carrying this rare version of the protein may have other unknown harmful effects on elk, and other factors, such as new strains of CWD, may also affect the influence of the rare protein on elk herds with CWD. It is important to note, too, that most elk studied do not have the rare variant of the protein. This suggests that wildlife managers should continue to take a cautious approach and adopt strategies that minimize the spread of CWD.

“One of the most important conclusions from this study is that we cannot assume this genetic adaptation will prevent the impacts of CWD on elk. We must continue to evaluate and, where necessary, adjust how we manage elk populations that are or could be exposed to this disease,” says Dr. Ryan Monello, lead author of the paper Pathogen-mediated selection in free-ranging elk populations infected by chronic wasting disease.

To see if wild herds are adapting to CWD, biologists from the National Park Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, USDA Agricultural Research Service, and Washington State University collected and analyzed more than 1,000 samples from elk populations in Colorado, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Some of the herds had been infected with CWD for 30-50 years, while others had never been exposed to CWD.

“CWD remains a major concern for the health of wild deer and elk populations and now occurs in more than 20 states and provinces in North America. These findings are critical for establishing a baseline in our study populations and understanding how elk populations may or may not be able to respond to CWD going forward,” Dr. Monello says.

This research was published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Oct. 30, 2017. Read the full paper here.



Jeff
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