Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Glacier Road Status Report

Plow crews in Glacier National Park continue to make progress. On the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, crews have plowed past The Loop, and are approaching the Haystack Creek area.

Currently, 17 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open for travel. Visitors can drive 11.5 miles from the West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge, and 5.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Rising Sun.

Yesterday, on the park's Facebook page, officials announced that the road into the Many Glacier Valley is now open. They also announced that the Two Medicine Road is open all the way into the valley as well. However, the road into the Two Medicine Campground is still closed.

To keep up with the latest road opening and closings, please click here .

Do you recognize the location in the photo below? This ranger on skis is inspecting the Granite Park Chalet!

To get an idea of how high the snow is, here's what the area looks like in the summer:

To see more scenic photos as the snow plows progress up the Going-to-the-Sun Road, please visit the park's flickr page .

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, April 29, 2013

Massive avalanche caught on film

Earlier this month a massive avalanche was caught on film by a group of climbers on the via Ferrata de Saint Christophe in the French Alps. The climbers were extremely lucky to be high enough above the impacted area that their lives were never in danger. However, their location on the wall on the opposite side of the valley did provide them with an excellent birds-eye view of the avalanche as it happened:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hiking the Beautiful USA

Quick: What's the longest National Scenic Trail in America? If you answered the Continental Divide Trail you would be wrong. In fact, the CDT isn't even close to be the longest. At 4600 miles, the North Country National Scenic Trail is by far the longest trail in America.

Recently, REI published an infographic that provides a bird's-eye view of the 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States, which measure more than 18,753 miles when combined. Looking over the map, if we only had a trail that spanned the southern tier of our country, thru-hikers would be able to perpetually hike around the country:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, April 26, 2013

Opening Dates for Grand Teton & JDR Parkway

Grand Teton National Park officials have announced the opening dates for seasonally operated facilities and roads in the Park and on the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. The dates are as follows:  

* Teton Park Road -- May 1
* Grassy Lake Road -- June 1; remaining snow drifts may limit access
* Moose-Wilson -- Open when snow melts naturally
* Death Canyon -- Open when snow melts naturally
* Signal Mountain Summit -- Open when snow melts naturally
* Schwabachers Landing -- Closed for 2013
* Spaulding Bay -- Closed for 2013
* Two Ocean Lake -- Closed for 2013

 Paved multi-use pathways will be fully accessible for use as remaining snow melts.  

Visitor Centers
* Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center -- Open
* Colter Bay Visitor Center -- May 11
* Jenny Lake Visitor Center -- June 1
* Laurance S. Rockefeller (LSR) Preserve Center -- June 1
* Flagg Ranch Information Station -- Closed for 2013

Two facilities that would have remained closed as a result of automatic across-the-board budget cuts under sequestration will now be open thanks to collaboration with park partners. For this year only, Grand Teton Association has agreed to help fund operation of the Jenny Lake Visitor Center through revenue from their book sales; and Jackson Hole Preserve, Inc., which holds an endowment for the LSR Preserve, has established a singular grant to provide funding to operate the LSR Preserve Center in 2013. This grant was made with the understanding that it is a one-time gesture. Both facilities will operate with a shorter season and reduced hours.  

Campgrounds * Gros Ventre -- May 3
* Signal Mountain -- May 10
* Jenny Lake -- May 10
* Colter Bay -- May 23
* Colter Bay RV Park -- May 23
* Headwaters Campground & RV Sites -- June 1
* Lizard Creek -- June 7

Backcountry campsite reservations may be made until May 15 with a $25 non-refundable fee. Reservations can be made online at www.nps.gov/grte/, by fax at 307.739.3438, or by mail to Grand Teton National Park, Backcountry Permits, and PO Box 170, Moose, WY 83012. After May 15, all backcountry site permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis.  

* Signal Mountain Lodge -- May 10
* Jackson Lake Lodge -- May 20
* Colter Bay Cabins -- May 23
* Triangle X Ranch -- May 24
* Jenny Lake Lodge -- June 1
* Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch -- June 1  

Entrance Stations
The Moose, Moran and Granite Canyon entrance stations are open. Fee options include:
* $12 for a 7-day permit to enter by foot/bicycle into Grand Teton & Yellowstone national parks
* $20 for a 7-day permit to enter by motorcycle into Grand Teton & Yellowstone national parks
* $25 for a 7-day permit to enter by vehicle into Grand Teton & Yellowstone national parks
* $50 for a Grand Teton/Yellowstone Annual Pass valid for one-year entry into both parks
* $80 for an Interagency Annual Pass valid for one year entry to all fee areas on federal lands

Bicyclists are reminded that they must stop and show an entry pass before proceeding through the gates, just as vehicles are required to do. An automated self-serve machine is located on the multi-use pathway adjacent to the Moose Entrance Station. People traveling on the pathway by foot, bike, or rollerblade will be required to stop and pay $12 for a 7-day entry permit, or have a valid pass in possession. Personal identification is required with any pass that requires a signature.

For additional information about activities and services within Grand Teton National Park or the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, please visit www.nps.gov/grte, stop by any visitor center, or call 307.739.3300.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Swing for Glacier

Glacier National Park’s three non-profit park partners (The Glacier Institute, Glacier National Park Volunteer Associates, Glacier National Park Conservancy) are inviting everyone to the 10th annual Swing for Glacier - Moonlight and Music - a gala event that will be held at the Belton Chalet and Lake McDonald Lodge on Friday, May 24th.

The evening begins at 4pm with a complimentary beer and wine reception at the Belton Chalet. Red “Jammer” buses will then transport the guests to the Lake McDonald Lodge, where there will be a variety of complimentary appetizers, micro brews and wines. Scenic boat rides with park rangers, a silent auction and lively entertainment are a part of the evening, as well as a buffet dinner.

Dance to the sounds of Swingin’ Light in the historic Lodge Auditorium and enjoy a full moon rising over majestic Lake McDonald. Then return to West Glacier on one of the red buses.

Ticket prices for this unforgettable event are $125 per person. The park partners warns that it does sell out.

There are also a couple of 10th Anniversary Ticket Packages available:

■ “Friends Package” Buy 3 tickets at $125 ea and you’ll get a 4th ticket FREE!

■ “Overnight Package” Buy 2 tickets at $125 ea and you’ll get a room for 2 at the Belton Chalet for $49 or at Lake McDonald Lodge for $75.

There will also be a Saturday morning program at the Belton Chalet, “Riding the Trails, a Look Back at Glacier’s Dude Ranch Days.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 406-888-9039.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wilderness Survival Workshop at Montana Wild

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will host a wilderness survival workshop suitable for all outdoor enthusiasts at Montana Wild on May 4th.

David Cronenwett's $35 workshop on the basic needs for short-term survival includes instruction on: survivor psychology; dressing for the weather; primitive and modern methods for fire making; improvised signaling for the survivor; shelter concepts and survival kits.

The workshop is limited to 20 people and registration is required. The four-hour long course will begin at 10 a.m. on May 4 at the Montana Wild Education Center.

Montana Wild is located at 2668 Broadwater Ave., next to Spring Meadow Lake State Park off Highway 12 West. For more information and to register call Montana Wild at 406-444-9944.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, April 22, 2013

Yellowstone's Black Sand Basin Closed for Boardwalk Repairs

Access to Yellowstone National Park's Black Sand Basin will be temporarily closed until at least the Memorial Day weekend while maintenance crews replace and reroute a section of boardwalk that has been damaged by the area's thermal features.

The closure will include the entire boardwalk around the basin as well as the associated public parking area. Trails leading into the basin will also be signed and marked to protect visitors. It is unsafe and illegal to enter a closed thermal area in the park.

Black Sand Basin, a popular geothermal area located in the park's Upper Geyser Basin near Old Faithful, has more than 300 feet of boardwalk that safely guides visitors through attractions such as Sunset Lake and Rainbow Pool. However, as the "plumbing" underneath Yellowstone's thermal features constantly changes, so too must the boardwalks that are carefully and strategically placed over their surfaces.

Approximately 120 feet of Black Sand Basin boardwalk that has been damaged by extremely hot, acidic thermal waters will be rebuilt and rerouted using a combination of untreated Douglas Fir wood decking and treated composite framing materials. An additional 200 feet of deck planking on the remaining boardwalk throughout the basin will also be replaced in stages, with half being completed during this project and the remaining half completed the following summer.

Wooden boardwalks in Yellowstone -- of which the park has more than 14 miles, or 74,000 feet! -- can last up to 30 years, depending upon conditions such as weather exposure, thermal feature influence and wear and tear by the hundreds of thousands of visitor feet that cross over them every day. ADA-approved ramps and other accessible features are also incorporated into outdated boardwalks when repairs are due. Black Sand Basin's boardwalk is nearly 22 years old, making it a prime candidate for repair.

And whether they're made of wood or experimental recycled composite plastic, as in the case of the Old Faithful boardwalk, their careful placement serves not only as a reminder of the respect due to the forces of Mother Nature, but of the constant flux of Yellowstone's geologic personality. Using thermal mapping technologies, park geologists monitor the best areas to place boardwalks that keep visitors safe, but still provide the most up-close and personal experience possible with the thermal feature.

"We use cutting edge technology and work collaboratively with park maintenance crews, landscape architects and law enforcement to protect not only our visitors, but also Yellowstone's wonderfully dynamic geothermal processes that move and change daily right before our eyes," said Yellowstone chief geologist Henry Heasler. "So rather than build a permanent boardwalk around a spring or geyser, we continually move it, shape it, replace and re-route it, so that the springs can move where they wish and visitors can still follow them along."

Yellowstone will announce when the basin will re-open in late May.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Near record backcountry camping permit applications submitted this year

This past Monday was the final day that backpackers could submit a permit application, in order to be eligible for the advanced reservation request lottery. In a blog posting on the Glacier National Park website, ranger Mark Wilson states:
We have received approximately 1600 permit applications this year, which puts us on par with our busiest summer 2010, our Centennial year.
He also mentions that hikers should expect winter conditions in the high country along the passes until late July or early August, while backcountry campgrounds are likely to open on schedule. However, as Mark mentions, the weather between now and then can always change those time estimates.

If you've entered a permit application into the lottery, you may want to read his posting to find out what you can expect, and what the next steps are in the process.

So, if you think your having a stressful day on the job, this is what it looks like right now in Glacier's backcountry permit office:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

"Beyond Band-Aids" at Montana Wild

Wilderness first-aid means carrying more than band-aids. Learn what you need from a Helena doctor at Montana Wild on Thursday, May 2nd.

St. Peter's Hospital's Dr. Anne Anglim will present "Beyond Band-Aids" in a discussion about common medical afflictions in the wilderness. Participants will learn how to be best prepared for heat, cold, frostbite, and more. Dr. Anglim is certified in wilderness and tropical medicine.

In addition, the program will include a demonstration from Capital Sports on SPOT - the Satellite Tracker & Messenger for wilderness emergencies.

The one-hour program will begin at 6:30 p.m. on May 2 at the Montana Wild Education Center. Montana Wild is located at 2668 Broadwater Ave., next to Spring Meadow Lake State Park off Highway 12 West. For more information call Montana Wild at 406-444-9944.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Making Progress on the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Road crews in Glacier continue to make progress on plowing the Going-to-the-Sun Road. I'm always amazed by the photos from the crews as they climb higher towards Logan Pass. But I have to ask - would you really want this job:

You can view many other photos of road crew progress and winter scenery on Glacier's Flickr page.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, April 19, 2013

Turkey hunter may have wounded a grizzly bear near Glacier

A turkey hunter encountered a grizzly bear adult and two grizzly yearlings in the area of the Creston National Fish Hatchery east of Kalispell this morning. The hunter was walking along, and spotted a deer carcass. He heard something and looked up to see a grizzly charging him at close range. The hunter fired his shotgun at the grizzly from about 10 yards away; he was uncertain whether or not his shot hit the grizzly.

The adult grizzly and what appeared to be two yearlings ran away to the east of the fish hatchery area.

The hunter notified Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks; Wardens Chuck Bartos and Nathan Reiner, and Tim Manley, Grizzly Bear Management Specialist, responded to investigate the incident. They could find no blood at the scene although they did located grizzly bear tracks in skiffs of snow that quickly melted. In the interest of public safety, FWP observed the area from a helicopter but no sign of the bears could be found.

Cameras were installed near the deer carcass to monitor the area in case the bears return.

Warden Captain Lee Anderson asks the public to notify FWP if any sign of the bears is found.

Please call: Tim Manley, Grizzly Bear Management Specialist,406-250-1265, with any information on the bears.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Biologists Begin Seasonal Grizzly Bear Capturing for Research and Management

As part of an ongoing interagency program to monitor the population of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and Tribal wildlife managers will once again begin seasonal scientific capture operations in parts of western Montana this month.

From April through the end of October, biologists will work in the Blackfoot Valley, along the Rocky Mountain Front, in the Swan and Clearwater River Valleys, within Glacier National Park, and in the North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River. Traps will also be set periodically on private and public lands where bear/human conflicts are occurring.

Warning signs will be posted along the major access points to the trapping site, and it is critical that all members of the public heed these signs.

Monitoring of grizzly bear distribution and population trend is vital to ongoing recovery of grizzlies in the NCDE. Potential trapping sites are baited with natural food sources and snares or culvert traps are used to capture the bears. Once captured, the bears are sedated, studied, and released in accordance with strict protocols.

For more information regarding grizzly bear trapping efforts, call FWP in Missoula at 406-542-5500 or in Kalispell at 406-752-5501. Officials in Glacier Park can be contacted at 406-888-7800, on the Blackfeet Reservation at 406-338-7207, or on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation at 406-883-2888.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Prescribed Burn Planned in North Fork

A prescribed fire project is planned in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park, approximately four miles northwest of Polebridge, in the next month. Approximately 175 acres are planned to be burned in the Big Prairie area, depending on weather and fuel conditions.

The primary objective of the burn is to reduce lodgepole pine regeneration which is encroaching on the native prairie grassland. Managers hope to remove some lodgepole with fire and improve the growth of native grasses and shrubs.

This prescribed burn will only take place if optimum weather and smoke dispersal parameters are met. For more information, contact Glacier National Park Fire Manager Dave Soleim at 406-888-5803.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bears are emerging from dens in Glacier

Recent observations of bear tracks in the snow indicate bears are emerging from hibernation and venturing out looking for food in and around Glacier National Park. Both grizzly and black bears live and travel in the park. The bears hibernate during the winter months and begin to emerge from dens when temperatures warm. The bears are hungry and looking for food, especially carcasses of winter-killed animals.

Acting Glacier National Park Superintendent Kym Hall said, "Glacier National Park is bear country and park visitors should be alert for spring bear activity, and to be familiar with responsible actions to maintain human and bear safety."

Recreational visitors to the park should travel in groups and make loud noise by calling out and/or clapping their hands at frequent intervals, especially near streams and at blind spots and curves on trails. These actions will help avoid surprise encounters. Do not approach any wildlife; instead, use binoculars, telescopes, or telephoto lenses to get closer looks. Visitors should maintain a minimum distance of 100 yards from any bear within the park.

Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes when not in use. Garbage must be deposited into a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. These actions help keep bears from becoming conditioned to human food, and help keep park visitors and their personal property safe.

Proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best method for fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury to the person and animal involved. Anyone recreating in bear country is highly encouraged to have bear spray. The bear spray should be readily accessible and the user should have knowledge on how to use it. The carrying of firearms within national parks and wildlife refuges is allowed as consistent with state laws. Glacier National Park managers agree with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks' statement: "If you are armed, use a firearm only as a last resort. Wounding a bear, even with a large caliber gun, can put you in far greater danger."

Visitors should report any bear sightings or signs of bear activity to the nearest visitor center, ranger station or by calling 406-888-7800 as soon as possible.

For more information about bears and how to recreate safely in Glacier National Park, you can click here and here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

The National Park Week Getaway Giveaway

The National Park Foundation has partnered with Globus to launch the National Park Week Getaway Giveaway! The lucky winner of this sweepstakes will receive airfare, hotel stays, transportation, and VIP access to some of the most spectacular national parks including Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, and Grand Teton National Park. The total value of the Grand Prize is approximately $4800!

The National Park Week Getaway Giveaway winner and a guest will experience the breathtaking landscapes, wildlife, and history of the West. This trip features an 11-day guided tour from Denver to Salt Lake City with stops at national parks, museums, and historic sites. Expert Globus tour guides will present fascinating information and stories about each of the destinations and offer a unique level of access to park attractions. Globus has developed a full itinerary, including lodging and transportation, for a completely hassle-free touring experience.

The sweepstakes closes on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 11:59 PM EST.

For more information, and to enter, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

NPS Proposed Rule to Implement New Yellowstone Winter Use Plan Released for 60-day Public Review and Comments

The National Park Service released for public comment a proposed rule to more effectively manage access for snowmobiles and snow coaches in Yellowstone National Park while minimizing impacts on visitors, air and sound quality, and wildlife. The Proposed Rule to guide management of winter use in the park was published in the Federal Register yesterday, opening a 60-day public review and comment period.

The rulemaking process supports the Final Winter Use Plan Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) which was released on February 22, 2013. The proposed rule would implement the preferred alternative in the Final SEIS.

Under the preferred alternative, the park would permit up to 110 "transportation events" daily, initially defined as one snowcoach or a group of up to 10 snowmobiles, averaging seven snowmobiles per group per season. Up to 50 transportation events may be groups of snowmobiles. Management by transportation events is an impact-centric approach designed to minimize the impact of oversnow vehicles (OSVs) on air quality, soundscapes, and wildlife rather than focusing solely on the number vehicles allowed in the park.

This new, practical approach to OSV management also provides greater flexibility for OSV commercial tour operators, rewards future OSV technological innovations, and reduces OSV-caused environmental impacts all while making the park cleaner and quieter than previously authorized and allowing for increases in visitation.

Four transportation events per day (one per gate) would be reserved for non-commercially guided snowmobile access and Sylvan Pass would continue to be operated in accordance with the Sylvan Pass Working Group Agreement.

The Final Winter Use Plan and SEIS were developed with extensive consultation with the public, conservation and industry groups. The National Park Service specifically seeks public comments on the following elements of the proposed rule: management of OSVs by transportation events, the attainability of the new Best Available Technology requirements, anticipated costs associated with the BAT requirements, and the proposed implementation schedule.

The winter of 2013/2014 will be a transition year, during which the park will allow motorized over-snow travel under the same conditions in place for the past four winters: up to 318 commercially guided Best Available Technology snowmobiles and up to 78 commercially guided snowcoaches daily.

The proposed rule and an electronic form to submit written comments can be found on the Internet at www.regulations.gov by searching the "Documents Open For Public Comment" and selecting the National Park Service as the agency. It is also available on CD or in hard copy by writing the Winter Use Planning Team, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190. Written comments may be submitted through the Regulations.gov website, in person, or by mail. Comments will not be accepted by phone, fax, or e-mail. All public comments must be received or postmarked by midnight, June 17, 2013.

Additional information on Yellowstone's winter use planning process including answers to Frequently Asked Questions can be found here.

The Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park will use the analysis and recommendations contained in the Final SEIS and comments on the proposed rule to make a final recommendation to the NPS Intermountain Regional Director regarding the direction of winter use. The Regional Director is expected to issue the Record of Decision (ROD) sometime this summer, after which a final rule to implement the decision will be published in the Federal Register in order to allow the park to open for the 2013/2014 winter season.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Roads from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful Set To Open This Friday

Yellowstone National Park will open the roads from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful on Friday, April 19th, as originally scheduled.

Budget cuts due to the impacts of sequestration prompted the park to take many administrative actions and make changes to park operations for this season. This included delaying the start of plowing from March 4 until March 18, which pushed back the scheduled opening of roads by one to two weeks.

Favorable weather conditions, below average snow levels, and assistance from the Wyoming Department of Transportation have allowed the park to prepare some road segments for automobile travel earlier than anticipated. This will permit Yellowstone to open the roads from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful to visitors at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, April 19.

Restroom facilities will be available at Madison Junction and Old Faithful starting April 19, with pay-at-the pump fuel available 24 hours a day at both the Upper and Lower Service Stations.

The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, the Geyser Grill and the Bear Den Gift Shop will open for the season on Friday, April 26. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge, Cabins and Restaurant, the Old Faithful Upper Store and the Lower Service Station convenience store all open for the season on Friday, May 3.

Visitors should be aware that spring in Yellowstone is very unpredictable and often brings cold temperatures, high winds and falling snow. Even cleared sections of roads can be narrow and covered with a layer of snow, ice and debris. Therefore, visitors should use extreme caution when driving as road clearing operations can be ongoing at any time throughout the park. In the case of extreme weather conditions, temporary road closures are also possible with little or no advance warning.

Park entrance fees will be waived April 22-26 as part of National Park Week. The week-long annual celebration is designed to encourage people to visit one of America's 401 national park system sites. A seven-day pass to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks is normally $25 for a private, non-commercial vehicle.

The road from the park's North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana through Mammoth Hot Springs, and on to the Northeast Entrance and the communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana, is open all year.

Weather permitting, the road from Norris Junction through Canyon and Fishing Bridge to the park's East Entrance will open to travel on Friday, May 3 as originally scheduled. Travel through the South Entrance to Grant Village, West Thumb Junction and on to Fishing Bridge is set to open as originally scheduled on Friday, May 10, given favorable weather conditions. The road from West Thumb Junction to Old Faithful will open sometime after May 10.

Information on current conditions in the park is available online at http://www.nps.gov/yell/conditions.htm. Updated Yellowstone National Park road information is available 24 hours a day by calling 307-344-2117.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, April 15, 2013

Is that a mountain goat or a sheep?

Is that a mountain goat or a bighorn sheep?

Our friends to the north from Banff National Park have possibly provided the definitive answer to this age old question in this "musical" video:

Any more questions?

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Moose battle near Grinnell Glacier

In 2011 Jake Bramante became the first person to hike all the trails in Glacier National Park in one year. To help document this accomplishment, Jake recorded many (if not all) of his hikes on video. One of the last hikes that season was to Grinnell Glacier. The video below contains some awesome footage of the trail, as well as some amazing wildlife shots. What makes this video stand out is the battle he caught between two bull moose (around the 3:30 mark):

For more information on the hike to Grinnell Glacier, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, April 12, 2013

National Park System Advisory Board Report Offers Strategies to Strengthen 21st-century National Park Service

Strategies to strengthen the work of the National Park Service as it prepares for its centennial in 2016 are included in a report released today by the National Park System Advisory Board (NPSAB). The report, Engaging Independent Perspectives for a 21st-Century National Park System, summarizes the board’s recommendations to National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis for the future in four areas: stewardship, education, relevancy and the National Park Service workforce.

The NPSAB consulted with National Park Service employees and more than 100 outside subject matter experts, including scholarly and professional organizations, and private sector representatives. Their report focuses on 10 separate tasks designed to:

■ Plan for a future National Park System.

■ Recommend national historic landmarks that represent a broader, richer representation of America’s story.

■ Propose national natural landmarks that increase awareness of America’s diverse natural history and explore new opportunities for public and private support.

■ Support the economic valuation of National Park Service parks and programs, including cooperative programs outside the National Park System.

■ Revisit the “Leopold Report,” a 1963 report that influenced the philosophy, policies and people of the National Park Service, and prepare a contemporary version to help the National Park Service confront modern challenges in resource management.

■ Expand collaboration in education to broaden contacts with educational institutions and incorporate National Park Service parks and programs into educational media.

■ Explore American Latino Heritage by developing a theme study to identify American Latino related places for inclusion in new national historic landmarks and national parks, as well as existing National Park Service sites.

■ Support the National Park Service centennial by providing advice for a centennial public awareness initiative.

■ Build community relationships to explore new approaches for broader relevancy and public engagement.

■ Support leadership development by providing advice on National Park Service leadership, workforce, organizational development, and more effectively advancing innovation.

Established under the Historic Sites Act of 1935, the NPSAB is a congressionally chartered body of 12 private citizens appointed by the Secretary of the Interior that provides advice to the Secretary of the Interior and to the Director of the National Park Service on matters relating to operation of the parks and management of the NPS. A primary purpose of the NPSAB is to provide independent perspectives on current issues and to identify long-range opportunities and possible solutions to Systemwide challenges. Its 2001 report, Rethinking the National Parks for the 21st Century, recommended a 25-year vision for the NPS; today’s report builds on that work.

The report is available online at www.nps.gov/resources/advisoryboardreport.htm.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Swan Lake Ranger District Proposes Condon Mountain Fire Salvage Project

The Swan Lake Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest is proposing a salvage harvest of burned and beetle-infested trees in the area of the 2012 Condon Mountain Fire. The project is proposed for about 583 National Forest System (NFS) acres.

The purpose of this tree salvage project is to recover merchantable wood fiber affected by the Condon Mountain Fire in a timely manner. The project will provide forest products to the local timber industry, contributing to short term timber supply and long-term sustainability of timber on NFS lands. Due to expected decay rates of fire-affected trees, timely harvest is essential to ensure their merchantability.

In late July, 2012, the Condon Mountain Fire started as a result of a lightning strike and affected approximately 5,500 acres. The fire was contained in late October. The project area is a few miles northeast of Condon in the Swan Valley.

There will be a two week scoping/comment period on the Condon Mountain Fire Salvage Project. To have your input included in the Forest Service analysis, please provide comments by Friday, April 26th. The proposal is available on-line (www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/projects), or from the Swan Lake Ranger District Office, 200 Ranger Station Road, Bigfork, Montana, or call the ranger station at (406) 837-7500.

For more information, please contact Michele Draggoo, Project Leader, at (406) 387-3827, or Rich Kehr, Swan Lake District Ranger at (406) 837-7500.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Obama's Budget Proposal Slashes National Parks Budget by 13%

The National Park Service announced today that the "President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget requests $2.6 billion to support the critical conservation, preservation, and recreation mission of the National Park Service."

This request represents a 13% reduction in the amount from the original 2013 NPS budget, which gave total budget authority to the NPS in the amount of $2.99 billion. That figure was recently reduced by 5% as a result of sequestration, which brought the NPS budget down to roughly $2.84 billion for fiscal year 2013. When compared to the revised sequestration budget, the President’s budget is still 8.5% below 2013 levels.

More importantly, the President’s 2014 budget request takes National Park funding back to 2004 levels, when the NPS had $2.56 billion in total budget authority. Indeed, each year since 2010, when total NPS budget authority reached $3.16 billion, the budget for National Parks has decreased.

According to the National Parks Traveler, the President's 2014 budget:
"calls for a reduction of more than 100 full-time employees to an agency that currently has 900 full-time vacancies"

"The budget also calls for a reduction of 92 employees under park operations, and 30 from the construction programs."

"According to a synopsis of the budget provided by the department, the proposal calls for more than $600 million in programmatic reductions to offset spending. It also would sustain current administrative cost reductions in travel, contract services, and supplies and equipment that would save $217 million."
Given that Obama's overall Federal spending remains relatively flat in 2014, versus 2013, the decision to reduce the National Parks budget in the amount he's requesting is extremely disappointing. Are National Parks a lower priority when compared to other government agencies?

For more details on what's in the NPS budget, you can click here to read the NPS press release.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Mission Lookout Opening Two Weeks Early for Cabin Rental Program

The Mission Lookout on the Swan Lake Ranger District will be available for rental earlier in 2013 than in previous years. The Lookout had been opening on June 1, but the district will make the cabin available starting May 15, 2013.

Like similar Forest Service Lookouts, the Mission site has experienced several face-lifts in its 75 year history as a fire detection tower. The existing structure built in 1959 consists of a 15' by 15' cabin with windows on all sides perched atop a 40 foot wooden tower. With a maximum group capacity of 2 adults and children, Mission Lookout is best suited for a couple or small family. The Tower is equipped with a small bed, fold-up cots, a propane cooking stove and simple cooking utensils. An outhouse is located at ground level. Renters will need to bring bedding including pillows, food, firewood (a fire ring is located at the base of the tower), toiletries, water, and non-open flame light source.

The Flathead National Forest has 14 cabins that are available to rent on an overnight basis. Some of the cabins have electricity, all have either wood or electric stoves for cooking and heating, one has indoor plumbing. Some of the cabins are located right on a road; others require that you hike, ski, or snowmobile into them. For a list of cabins on the Forest, see the rental information page.

The Mission Lookout and other rental cabins can be reserved by calling Toll Free 1-877-444-6777 (International 518-885-3639 or TDD 877-833-6777) or on-line at www.recreation.gov.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wyoming Results of 2012 Forest Health Survey Announced

The U.S. Forest Service and Wyoming State Forestry Division have announced the results of the annual aerial forest health survey for Wyoming. Both the mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle epidemics have declined across Wyoming in 2012. Statewide the number of new acres affected by the mountain pine beetle has declined from 719,000 in 2011 to 180,000 acres in 2012. The total footprint of the outbreak in Wyoming is now 3.4 million acres since 1996. In 2011, the total acreage for the epidemic was 3.3 million acres.

“Our actions today and in years to come will shape the forest of the future. Active forest management on both public and private lands can lead to healthier trees on the landscape and create the diversity necessary to reduce future large-scale insect epidemics.” said Bill Crapser, Wyoming State Forester.

Mountain Pine Beetle:

In south central Wyoming, including the Medicine-Bow National Forest, the aerial survey indicated a decline of mountain pine beetle activity from 378,000 in 2011 to 49,000 acres in 2012 largely due to fewer trees available for beetle infestation.

In western Wyoming, including the Shoshone, Wasatch-Cache and Bridger-Teton national forests, mountain pine beetle activity has declined from 280,000 in 2011 to 83,000 acres in 2012 in lodgepole and 5-needle pines largely due to fewer trees available for beetle infestation.

In north central Wyoming, including the Bighorn National Forest, large areas of forest remain unaffected by mountain pine beetle. In 2012, only 440 acres of mountain pine beetle activity was detected.

Northeast Wyoming, including the Black Hills National Forest, mountain pine beetle activity continues with aerial photograph interpretation detecting 730 acres additional acreage from 2011’s survey.

Spruce Beetle:

Spruce beetle activity has declined from 76,000 in 2011 to 32,000 acres in 2012 statewide. Since 1996, 558,000 acres have been affected by spruce beetle statewide leaving many areas of large dead standing spruce in the high country.

In south central Wyoming, the spruce beetle epidemic is declining leaving large areas of dead standing large spruce in the Sierra Madre, Snowy Range, and Medicine Bow Mountains in Albany and Carbon counties.

In northwestern Wyoming’s Absaroka Mountains in and adjacent to the Shoshone National Forest, spruce beetle continues to kill spruce and many areas have few surviving mature spruce remaining.

The 2012 aerial survey results for Wyoming can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/r2.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Annual Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex Public Meeting

The public is invited to the annual Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (BMWC) Public Meeting on April 13, 2013, starting at 10 a.m., at the Hungry Horse Ranger Station in Hungry Horse, Montana.

The BMWC is comprised of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Great Bear Wilderness, and Scapegoat Wilderness. Together they comprise an area of more than 1.5 million acres. This is the third largest wilderness complex in the lower 48 states. The complex is managed by four national forests (Flathead, Lolo, Helena, and Lewis & Clark) and five ranger districts (Spotted Bear, Hungry Horse, Seeley Lake, Lincoln, and Rocky Mountain).

“This is a great annual opportunity to meet with the National Forest Wilderness Managers and Montana Fish and Wildlife staff”, says Deb Mucklow, Spotted Bear District Ranger. “This year the rangers districts will be reporting on some of the results of the ongoing monitoring that has occurred over the last twenty-five years, as well as the actions that have been implemented in the past five year period.”

The monitoring and actions are a piece of the Limits of Acceptable Change for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. The BMWC plan was developed by interested individuals, partners and agency representatives.

Recently the Forest managers and Fish and Wildlife staff prepared the annual BMWC newsletter which is available on the Flathead National Forest website. This newsletter provides BMWC background and highlights some of the information that will be shared at the public meeting.

For additional information on the meeting, please contact the Spotted Bear Ranger District at (406) 387-3800. For more information on the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Monday, April 8, 2013

The difficulty in singling out any part of Glacier National Park

"The broken and diversified character of this scenery, involving rugged mountain tops bounded by vertical walls sometimes more than four thousand feet high, glaciers perched upon lofty rocky shelves, unexpected waterfalls of peculiar charm, rivers of milky glacier water, lakes unexcelled for sheer beauty by the most celebrated of sunny Italy and snow-topped Switzerland, and grandly timbered slopes sweeping into valley bottoms, offer a continuous yet ever changing series of inspiring vistas not to be found in such luxuriance and perfection elsewhere."

"And this rare scenic combination is not alone of one valley of the park, but is characteristic of them all; so that it is difficult to single out any part of these fifteen hundred square miles that is more beautiful, more remarkable, or more strikingly diversified than any other."

Most people would probably have to agree with the quote above from the 1916 Glacier National Park brochure: that it is very difficult to single out any part of Glacier that is more beautiful than any other. For those that are unfamiliar with the park, I've attempted to give some guidance with my list of the top 10 hikes in Glacier.

However, as a case in point, the hike to Gunsight Lake didn't even make my list, even though, as you can see in the photo above (of Mirror Lake), the scenery is quite spectacular.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Friday, April 5, 2013

‘Bicycle-Only’ Season Opens For Riders On Yellowstone’s West Side

Bicyclists willing to brave the often unpredictable elements of spring in Yellowstone National Park will be able to travel 49 miles of park roads from the West Entrance at West Yellowstone, Mont., to Mammoth Hot Springs beginning at 8:00 a.m. today.

A 14-mile section of road between the West Entrance and Madison Junction is already open for the cycling-only shoulder season as plowing crews clear snow and ice in preparation for opening the route to automobile traffic on April 26.

There is no spring bicycle-only access toward Old Faithful or Canyon during this time.

A bicycle trip into Yellowstone this time of year is not to be undertaken lightly. The quickly changing weather can be challenging, and snow and ice may still cover sections of road. Bears, bison, elk, wolves and other wildlife could be encountered at any time. No services are available along these sections of road, and cyclists should expect to encounter and yield to snowplows or other vehicles operated by park employees or construction workers traveling in conjunction with park operations.

Bicyclists are required to ride single file and follow all other rules of the road. They are strongly encouraged to carry bear spray, should be prepared to turn around and backtrack when encountering wildlife on the road, and must stay out of closed areas.

Riders need to have a plan for self rescue or repair and be prepared to be out in severe winter conditions for an extended period of time in the event they experience a mechanical breakdown, injury or other emergency. Cell phone coverage throughout the park is sparse and unreliable for communicating emergencies.

The road from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Mont., to Cooke City, Mont., at the park's Northeast Entrance is open all year to cyclists and automobiles, weather permitting.

Cyclists are urged to call 307-344-2107 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays for updated road access information, or call 307-344-2113 for 24-hour weather information before committing to any park ride. Additional planning information is also available online.

Updated Yellowstone National Park road information is available 24 hours a day by calling 307-344-2117.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Teton Park Road Opens Today for Non-Motorized Activities

Grand Teton National Park road crews are nearing completion of annual spring plowing operations on the Teton Park Road from the Taggart Lake parking area to Signal Mountain Lodge. The road opens to non-motorized activities Friday, April 5, 2013.

Grand Teton National Park delayed plowing operations by two weeks. That delay, coupled with a relatively low snowpack, allowed plow crews to clear the road in only three days. Spring opening of the Teton Park Road is a process that can take upwards of 10 days to complete, depending on the depth and consistency of the snowpack.

Although the Teton Park Road will open to non-motorized use, visitors should be alert for park vehicles that may occasionally travel the road for administrative purposes. The Teton Park Road will open to vehicle traffic on Wednesday, May 1.

Visitors are reminded that dogs are permitted on the Teton Park Road. Owners are required to keep pets on a leash no longer than six feet in length, and are required to use waste disposal bags to pick up after their dogs. Mutt Mitt stations are in place at the Taggart Lake parking area.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Plowing Activity Begins on the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Earlier this week Glacier National Park announced that plowing activity has begun on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The first website update is reporting that the West Lakes road crew has started removing snow off the road at Lake McDonald Lodge Gate towards the North McDonald Road area. So far the crew has encountered snow depths of 12-20 inches, while the road surface is covered with 2 to 4 inches of ice.

In Many Glacier, road crews also started plowing on the main road towards the Many Glacier Valley, beginning just past the dam. They've encountered drifts of more than 10 feet deep.

If you're worried about drought and forest fires in Glacier later this summer, there's some great news from the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL. According to the latest data published by the SNOTEL (SNOw TELemetry) station, the amount of snow in Glacier National Park is now above the 40-year average - roughly one month ahead of the average peak time. As of April 1st the SNOTEL is measuring a total of 48.2 inches of Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), which is the weight of snow water equivalent to inches of water. That amount is already 2.3 inches above the 40 year average, but is still below last year's peak, which reached 55.8 inches on May 6th.

The Flattop Mountain SNOTEL station is located at an elevation of approximately 6300 feet on Flattop Mountain, which is a high plateau between the Lewis and Livingston Ranges in Glacier National Park. According to the website, "Flattop Mountain is a useful indicator of snowfall throughout Glacier National Park because it is subject to the factors that influence conditions elsewhere in the park".

Data from the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL is compiled by water year, which runs from October 1st through September 30th.

The following is a graph that compares SWE for 2013 versus the average and other significant water years (you can click here for a larger version):

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Spring Migration in Motion at Grand Teton National Park

With spring-like weather and warmer temperatures, animals are actively "on the move" from their winter ranges to their summer haunts in Grand Teton National Park. Herds of elk recently moved off the National Elk Refuge and fanned out across the sagebrush flats just north of the Gros Ventre River and along both sides of Highway 26/89/191. Several groups of elk began spreading across snow free areas in the park on Monday afternoon, April 1 and Tuesday morning, April 2. Because spring migration is now fully underway, motorists should be alert for wildlife on and near park roads and drive with extra caution during the coming weeks.

As the snow recedes, bison, mule deer and moose are also making a transition from wintering areas to summer ranges. In the past week alone, two moose were struck and killed by vehicles just south of Moran Junction on Highway 26/89/191 in an area of dense willows near the confluence of the Snake River and Buffalo Fork River. This section of highway carries a 45 mph speed limit day and night, and a nighttime speed limit of 45 mph is posted for the entire length of Highway 26/89/191 in Grand Teton National Park. Lower speed limits are posted in an effort to slow drivers and reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions such as those that took the lives of two moose in one week.

Many animals tend to move during low light conditions and are generally most active between dusk and dawn. Moose can be found browsing in both the sagebrush flats from Gros Ventre Junction to Moose Junction and in riparian areas near the Gros Ventre River and Buffalo Fork of the Snake River just south of Moran Junction. Mule deer, wolves, bears and other animals may also be encountered on or near park roads, and pronghorn antelope will soon make their way back to Jackson Hole.

Animals are typically weakened from the rigors of a Jackson Hole winter and may be forced to use precious energy whenever startled or disturbed by the presence of vehicles and humans on foot or bicycle. All visitors and local residents should keep their distance from all wildlife, maintaining a distance of 100 yards from bears or wolves and 25 yards from other wildlife, including nesting birds. Public closures are now in effect near sage grouse leks throughout the park. Those who visit these areas must obey the posted closures to reduce disturbance to sage grouse on their seasonal mating areas. Wildlife protection closures will be in place for the next 4-6 weeks while the sage grouse are present.

Motorists are required to drive the posted speed limit and advised to be alert for animals that cross roads unexpectedly. Driving slower than indicated speed limits -- especially at night -- can increase the margin of safety. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to the vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Grand Teton Posts New Interactive eHike on Website

Last week Grand Teton National Park announced a brand new, web-based, interactive program takes viewers on an 'eHike' around String Lake, one of the six glacial lakes that grace the foot of the Teton Range.

Grand Teton National Park interpretive rangers invite classroom students as well as visitors far and wide to explore, through the convenience of their personal computers, the beauty and wonders of the String Lake area. Whether viewers want to relive a previous hike taken around String Lake or plan for an actual visit, this virtual field trip -- or eHike -- provides an introduction to the features that make up String Lake and its mix of natural habitats.

The web-based tour introduces viewers to the various elements -- earth, wind, water and fire -- that form the physical environment of the String Lake area. It also explains the role these forces have played in the creation of today's landscape.

eHikers can control images and sounds at each stop along their virtual tour, and they can activate videos to further explore the human and natural history stories related to each location. Alternate views will appear by hovering a mouse over side images, and hidden images will be revealed through the click of a button. eHikers can also click on audio icons to hear the sounds of birds and mammals along the trail, use video buttons to imagine being there, and "mouse over" a main image to find hidden gems in the virtual landscape.

"eHikes are becoming a useful and beneficial tool for providing park information to visitors before they can arrive in person," said Vickie Mates, Grand Teton National Park's chief of interpretation and partnerships. "We hope children and adults alike enjoy this virtual journey around String Lake, and we hope each viewer is tempted to make an actual visit to experience first-hand the captivating Teton landscape and wildlife."

To experience this innovative program, visit the park's website.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Former Wolf Advisory Council To Meet With Gov. Bullock, FWP

Former members of Montana’s Wolf Management Advisory Council will gather in Helena, April 12, to review and discuss the wolf management plan they helped to create.

The disbanded 12-member citizens' council last met about five years ago to discuss specific hunting and trapping recommendations in anticipation of the wolf's official recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains.

"A lot has transpired since the council last met in 2007," said Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Director Jeff Hagener. "Governor Steve Bullock and I have invited the members to gather in Helena for a one-day meeting to review the status of the wolf in Montana today and to discuss the effectiveness of the management plan."

The April 12th meeting, set to begin at 8:30 a.m., will be held at FWP Headquarters in Helena, 1420 E. Sixth Ave. The meeting will be video streamed live via the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov.

The meeting agenda includes introductory remarks from Gov. Bullock, Hagener and Chase Hibbard, the former chairman of the council. The core of the agenda includes an update on existing federal requirements; a review of the legal procedures that led to delisting in 2011; and reviews and updates on the wolf population's status, research activities, hunting and trapping seasons, livestock depredation, recent wolf-related legislation, and wolf-program funding. The agenda also includes opportunities for public comment at 2 p.m.

The delisting of wolves in 2011 allows Montana to manage wolves in a manner similar to how bears, mountain lions and other wildlife species are managed, which is guided by state management plans, administrative rules, and laws.

Montana wildlife officials recently estimated that at least 625 wolves, in 147 verified packs, and 37 breeding pairs inhabited the state at the end of 2012. To learn more about Montana’s wolf population, visit FWP online at fwp.mt.gov.

The wolf advisory council was created in 2000 to advise FWP on the development of a wolf conservation and management plan. Montana's plan was approved by federal officials in 2004.

FWP ensures its meetings are fully accessible to individuals with special needs. To request arrangements call FWP at 406-444-3186.

Hiking in Glacier National Park