Monday, August 13, 2018

Howe Ridge Fire Update: Structures Lost

Rapid growth and extreme fire behavior on the Howe Ridge Fire prompted very rapid evacuations last night. Between 8 PM and 10 PM the park estimates that roughly 87 campsites, 82 rooms at the Lake McDonald Lodge, and other visitors, employees, and local residents were evacuated from the following areas:

· Avalanche Campground

· North Lake McDonald Road (private residences and the Lake McDonald Ranger Station)

· Lake McDonald Lodge Complex (all businesses, employees, and private residences)

· Private residences along the Going-to-the-Sun Road Sprague Creek campground is being evacuated today. It has 25 campsites.

The evacuations were ordered when the fire column shifted and began spotting and moving over the ridge. A fire spot was found as far away as the opposite side of Stanton Mountain. Fire behavior last night was extreme. Tree torching, crown runs, wind driven fire, and fire spots up to ½ mile away occurred for multiple hours.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed between the foot of Lake McDonald (near Apgar) and Logan Pass. The road remains open between St. Mary and Logan Pass. Most other areas of the park are open as well. Multiple trail closures are associated with this fire, including The Loop Trail. Please see full trail closures on the park’s website. Visitors with cars currently parked at The Loop will be directed to drive out of the park via St. Mary.

Fire managers indicate that structures on the north end of Lake McDonald were lost. Details are not available at this time about the number or type of structures. A Flathead County structural fire task force provided a significant response.

All visitor services at Lake McDonald Lodge are closed.

The park has established a Fire Information Line with updated recorded information: 406-888-7077. An Inciweb page for this fire is expected to be established later today. Maps are expected in the next few days.

Local fire resources from other agencies have been arriving over the last 24 hours in a limited capacity following this fire start on Saturday night. Canadian “super scoopers” were assigned to the Howe Ridge Fire yesterday for a four hour cycle. Those efforts were not effective in controlling fire growth. The planes were not able to fly very close to the fire to drop water due to high winds. The super scoopers are most effective when they can fly low and drop water directly on a fire.

Prior to the extreme fire activity yesterday, the park in partnership with the Flathead National Forest ordered a Type I Incident Management Team to manage the Howe Ridge Fire, the Paola Creek Fire, and the Coal Creek Fire. That order is still in place.

There is currently spotting on the Trout Lake side of Stanton Mountain. Conditions are very dry across the park. Fire behavior calmed this morning, but may pick up later today.

The top fire priority today is firefighter and visitor safety. Ground firefighters are evaluating what areas of the fire are possible to contain with resources on hand. They will also establish trigger points that would prompt additional evacuations or warnings for other areas in the park. Suppression operations also continue at Numa Ridge and on the Heavens Sake Fire.

Effective 12 a.m. tonight, the park will enter Stage II Fire Restrictions. No campfires will be permitted in the frontcountry or backcountry. Smoking is also prohibited except within an enclosed building, vehicle, developed recreation area, or barren area three feet in diameter. Propane stoves that have an on/off switch are permitted.

The park does not have updated acreage information for the fire at this time. Media access and local resident access into the fire closure area is not anticipated today.



Jeff
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Saturday Lightning Starts Multiple Fires in Glacier

Glacier National Park and interagency firefighters are responding to multiple fire starts following lightning activity the night of August 11. Park officials have expanded the evacuation order to include all businesses and private residences within the Lake McDonald Lodge complex, including the historic Lake McDonald Lodge. Visitors and employees were notified of the need to evacuate at around 9 PM last night. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed from Lake McDonald Lodge to Logan Pass. The Avalanche Creek Campground and residences along North Lake McDonald Road were notified of the need to evacuate at around 8 PM Sunday night.Three known fires have started:

• The Heavens Sake Fire, below Heavens Peak is visible from the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Rappellers are on order to take suppression action on that fire.

• Smoke jumpers have been ordered for a fire near Numa Ridge because there is a suitable location for the jumpers to respond.

• A fire on Howe Ridge burned actively throughout the night. It grew significantly due to windy and very dry fire conditions. Visitors will likely see CL-215s (super scoopers) scooping water out of Lake McDonald to fight that fire. Ground resources are also hiking in. Structure protection resources are on scene.

The following trails have been closed due to fire danger: Numa Lookout Trail, Trout Lake Trails, Howe Ridge and Howe Lake Trails.

No evacuation orders have been issued for residents that live in the park. The park does not have acreage estimates at this time.

The park has established a Fire Information Line with updated recorded information about these fires: 406-888-7077.



Jeff
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Friday, August 10, 2018

Hidden Falls and Lower Inspiration Point Reopen

The Hidden Falls Viewing Area and Lower Inspiration Point on the west shore of Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park have reopened. The area was closed on July 10 out of an abundance of caution and concern that a rock buttress could come loose and fall onto the area. Park staff completed a risk assessment and determined that a smaller closure area is appropriate.

Visitors to the west shore of Jenny Lake are now able to enjoy the view of Hidden Falls — those who desire may continue their hike 0.3 miles further uphill to a scenic viewpoint called Lower Inspiration Point. The traditional Inspiration Point is undergoing trail rehabilitation and is closed for the year. Those wishing to access the Cascade Canyon Trail may do so via the horse trail bypass. Hikers can also complete the loop trail around Jenny Lake.

Park staff and subject matter experts completed a risk assessment, based on field observations and modeling, regarding what would happen if the rock buttress were to come loose and fall. The modeling indicated that rockfall, if it does occur, is unlikely to reach the Hidden Falls Viewing Area due to distance and terrain.

A closure remains in effect for the climbing area known as the “Practice Rocks.” The results of the risk assessment indicate that if the rock buttress does fall, this area is more likely to be impacted. Going forward, park staff continue to monitor cracks in the rock buttress above the “Practice Rocks” to better understand the probability that the rock will come loose and fall. A decision regarding this closure will be based on monitoring and further assessment.

Park visitors are reminded that travel in the Teton Mountain Range has inherent risks, including potential rockfall. Rockfall is a part of the naturally dynamic environment of mountains. As a relatively young mountain range, the Tetons are still rising and actively eroding.



Jeff
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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Flathead National Forest’s September Trails Initiative

Flathead National Forest is inviting local citizens to join its September Trails Initiative and help make a few trails close to home a little better.

Volunteer work parties will be held the last four Fridays and Saturdays in September 2018 on a wide range of trails within roughly an hour of Kalispell. Each weekend of work parties features one of the many non-profit partners in the Flathead Valley that work hard to make the whole trail system a great place for a wide range of trail lovers.

Each work party starts at 9 at the trailhead and ends at about 3:30pm rain or shine. Be sure to bring a long sleeve shirt, long pants, sturdy boots, pair of work gloves, lunch, plenty of water and a winning attitude. Expect a physically strenuous day and a hike up to 3 miles one-way.

For more information and to sign up for one or more work parties visit http://bit.ly/SeptTrails2018. When you sign up you will receive a confirmation email with more details on where to meet and what to expect.

"Few activities on National Forests are more rewarding than helping maintain trails: get outside, get a little work out, feel the joy of working alongside some new friends, and perhaps most importantly, immediately see how your efforts improve trails that many others will enjoy." –MJ Crandall, District Recreation Lead for Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District.

Finally, come celebrate all the good work we get done as well for the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act on Tuesday October 2nd at 6:00pm at the Backslope Brewing in Columbia Falls.

For questions, contact MJ Crandall, Hungry Horse-Glacier View District Recreation Lead at 406-387-3818 or mjcrandall@fs.fed.us.



Jeff
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

FWP proposes rule outlining grizzly bear population objectives in NCDE

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is proposing an administrative rule to codify the population objectives detailed in the conservation strategy for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on the proposed rule during their Aug. 9 meeting. If the proposed rule is approved by the commission, it will move into a public comment period by late August and ultimately go back to the commission for final approval in December.

“By proposing this administrative rule, we are committing to keeping a viable and healthy population of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem,” said FWP director Martha Williams. “It’s an important step toward federal delisting of the bears, as well as an important piece for the future of grizzly bear conservation and management in Montana.”

The NCDE subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) completed the conservation strategy (found here) earlier this summer. This document summarizes the commitments and coordinated efforts made by the state, tribal and federal agencies to manage and monitor the population and its habitat upon delisting.

The conservation strategy identifies a demographic monitoring area (DMA) that is home to the core population of grizzly bears in the NCDE. The DMA is comprised of the primary conservation area (which includes Glacier National Park and parts of five national forests including the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex), and an area identified as zone 1, which is a buffer zone outside the primary conservation area. The objective in this area, as detailed in the conservation strategy, is continual occupancy by grizzly bears, which will require maintaining good habitat conditions and adhering to population criteria.

FWP’s proposed administrative rule centers on Chapter 2 of the conservation strategy that details grizzly bear population objectives for the DMA.

Precise population estimates are difficult to obtain. The population objective for the DMA aims to continually maintain a population size above 800 bears with at least 90 percent certainty. Effectively, this would mean managing for a population of approximately 1,000 grizzly bears in the DMA.

A draft version of the conservation strategy was open to public review and comment in 2013. Since 2013, more research and analysis has provided the IGBC better information about the grizzly bear population and how it has changed. Public and peer comments also helped lay the groundwork for an improved monitoring approach for the NCDE. These changes are incorporated into Chapter 2 of the conservation strategy.

Grizzly bears in the NCDE are still federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, though their population has met recovery goals outlined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To delist grizzlies in the NCDE, regulations must be in place to ensure they will not once again become threatened or endangered.

“By putting population objectives into rule, FWP is not only demonstrating a commitment to a healthy grizzly population, but we are strengthening the regulatory mechanisms associated with population management,” Williams said. “Additionally, the rule making process allows for ample public comment and engagement on this most recent element of the conservation strategy.”

FWP would work with the NCDE subcommittee to incorporate any changes to the rule resulting from this public process into the conservation strategy.

Public comment will be taken at the Aug. 9 commission meeting in Helena and via live video at all FWP regional offices. The meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. and will be streamed live via video to all FWP regional offices. The meeting will also be audio streamed online at fwp.mt.gov.



Jeff
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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Suspect in Yellowstone Bison Incident Arrested in Glacier National Park

On the night of August 2nd, at approximately 10:45 p.m., Glacier National Park rangers apprehended Raymond Reinke, age 55, from Pendleton, Oregon. Reinke was wanted following an incident earlier this week at Yellowstone National Park when he was captured on video harassing a bison.

Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk said, “We appreciate the collaboration of our fellow rangers in Glacier and Grand Teton national parks on this arrest. Harassing wildlife is illegal in any national park.”

Reinke had been traveling to multiple national parks over the last week. On July 28, he was first arrested by law enforcement rangers at Grand Teton National Park for a drunk and disorderly conduct incident. He spent the night in the Teton County Jail, and was then released on bond.

Following his release, he traveled to Yellowstone National Park. Rangers at Yellowstone stopped his vehicle for a traffic violation on July 31. Reinke appeared to be intoxicated and argumentative. He was cited as a passenger for failure to wear a seatbelt. It is believed that after that traffic stop, Reinke encountered the bison.

Yellowstone rangers received several wildlife harassment reports from concerned visitors and found Reinke later that evening, issuing a citation requiring a court appearance. The video of the event surfaced after that citation had been issued.

On Thursday, August 2, Yellowstone rangers connected Reinke’s extensive history, and seeing the egregious nature of the wildlife violation, the Assistant U.S. Attorney requested his bond be revoked. The request was granted and on the night of August 2, a warrant was issued for Reinke’s arrest.

Reinke had told rangers that his plans were to travel to Glacier National Park. Last night, August 2, Glacier National Park rangers began looking for his vehicle. Simultaneous with that search, rangers responded to the Many Glacier Hotel because two guests were arguing and creating a disturbance in the hotel dining room. Rangers identified one of the individuals involved as Reinke.

Glacier rangers transported Reinke to Helena late last night, where they met Yellowstone rangers. Yellowstone rangers transported Reinke to Mammoth Hot Springs and booked him into the Yellowstone Jail. He is scheduled for a court appearance today.



Jeff
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Friday, August 3, 2018

Digital Entrance Pass Now Available at Glacier

Glacier National Park announced recently that visitors can now purchase digital annual and seven-day entrance passes online at YourPassNow. The National Park Service (NPS) partnered with NIC Inc. to develop and administer YourPassNow to better serve Glacier visitors.

“We are pleased to offer this new convenience to our visitors,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “This technology will allow people to save some time at the entrance station by purchasing a pass in advance.”

The pass will be accepted at all park entrance stations. Connectivity is limited around and within the park, particularly at the Polebridge, Two Medicine and Many Glacier entrances. Prior to arrival, visitors should ensure that the pass is printed out or properly loaded onto a mobile device.

YourPassNow provides an alternative to the traditional paper-based, in-person purchase method. Using a personal device, visitors can purchase park entrance passes from www.yourpassnow.com at no additional cost. Once purchased, passes are emailed and can be used immediately, stored on a personal device, or printed for future use.

Glacier joins many other public lands currently providing electronic passes and permits through YourPassNow including: Acadia, Everglades, Grand Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks; Castillo de San Marcos and Colorado National Monuments; Whiskeytown National Recreation Area; Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area; Wayne National Forest; the Bureau of Land Management’s Lake Havasu Field Office; and the State of Arkansas’ historic Eureka Springs.



Jeff
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