Saturday, March 29, 2014

State of Montana and National Park Service to jointly develop new Bison Management Plan

The National Park Service (NPS) and the State of Montana (State) have agreed to prepare a joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to consider possible changes for managing wild Yellowstone bison and the non-native disease brucellosis.

The process will allow the NPS and the State to account for substantial new information and changed circumstances since the implementation of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) began in 2001, and could result in the creation of a plan to replace the IBMP.

The NPS and the State will be working within the guidelines of both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) in preparing the EIS.

A notice will be published in the Federal Register later this year announcing the start of public scoping, which is an opportunity early in the planning and EIS process for the public, organizations, and other agencies to suggest issues and alternatives that should be considered by the NPS and the State.

The purpose of management is to conserve a viable wild population of Yellowstone bison while continuing to reduce the risk of brucellosis transmission to cattle, damage to property, and threats to human safety.

The NPS and the State will continue to implement the current IBMP with agreed upon adaptive management changes until new Federal and State Records of Decision are signed at the conclusion of this environmental planning and review process.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Glacier National Park to emphasize ethical wildlife watching this year

Glacier National Park posted this announcement yesterday on their Facebook page regarding ethical wildlife watching within the park:
Glacier National Park and the Glacier National Park Conservancy will be partnering this summer on an educational project about ethical wildlife watching. You will see this logo in various places around the park and you can sign a wildlife viewing pledge to behave appropriately around wildlife. There will also be a new wildlife viewing exhibit kiosk near the Many Glacier entrance station. Finally, you can show your support by purchasing a t-shirt and car decal featuring our logo at a Conservancy store. Thanks in advance for caring about Glacier's wildlife. (mw) Note: the t-shirt and decal will be available this summer.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Summiting Longs Peak via the Keyhole Route

Below is a pretty good video of what it's like to climb Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. The video takes viewers through the Boulder Field, the Keyhole, the Ledges, the Trough, the Narrows and the Homestretch. Although many hikers and backpackers reach the summit each year, this really isn't a hike:

As you can see, to reach the summit of Longs Peak is more than just a tough day hike. It's considered to be a Class 3 climb, and requires some basic mountaineering skills, especially if the weather goes south on you while on or near the summit. If you think this is something you would like to do someday, I highly recommend learning more about this climb on the website.

If you're like me and think that the summit is beyond your comfort level, you can still hike up to the Keyhole. Although it's an extremely tough hike, there's relatively little exposure to steep drop-offs. In fact, for experienced hikers, it's one of the most popular hikes in the park. The views along much of the hike, especially from the Keyhole itself are quite spectacular. For more information on this hike, please click here.

If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain National Park this year, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings for both Estes Park and Grand Lake.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Video: Hiking to Grinnell Glacier

Below is another excellent "hikelogue" from The West is Big! Travel Guides. The film highlights one of the classic hikes in Glacier National Park. Roundtrip, this quintessential Glacier hike covers roughly 7.6 miles, and traverses through some of the most spectacular scenery in the park. For more detailed information on the hike to Grinnell Glacier, please click here

If you do plan to visit Glacier this year, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your vacation planning.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Annual Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex Public Meeting

The public is invited to the annual Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (BMWC) Public Meeting on Saturday, March 29, 2014 starting at 10 AM at the Choteau Library in Choteau, Montana.

“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 managers and public participants will be focusing on the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. All of the participants will be asked to share their connection to the wilderness as we have this celebration. In addition, updates will be provided on specific activities and projects, and ongoing monitoring across the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. The monitoring and actions are a piece of the Limits of Acceptable change for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (BMWC).”

The BMWC plan was developed by interested individuals, partners and agency representatives. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is comprised of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Great Bear Wilderness, and Scapegoat Wilderness and jointly they are 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).

Recently the Forest managers and Fish and Wildlife staff prepared the annual BMWC newsletter which is available on the Flathead National Forest Web page under Special Places. This newsletter gives background and highlights of information that will be shared at the public meeting.

For additional information, please contact the Spotted Bear Ranger District at (406) 387-3800.

For more information on the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, please click here.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yellowstone Seeks Information on Illegal Bison Shootings

Yellowstone National Park is asking for the public’s help in identifying who was responsible for illegally shooting and killing three bison inside the park last week.

Park rangers determined the bison were likely shot between the evening of March 13 and morning of March 15 alongside the road in the Blacktail Plateau area of northern Yellowstone.

A reward of up to $5,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the crime. Anyone with information is requested to call the Yellowstone National Park Tip Line at 307-344-2132.

The Lacey Act and the Code of Federal Regulations strictly prohibit the killing or removal of any animal from inside Yellowstone. This includes animals shot legally outside the park that cross into and die within the park boundary. Taking and removing any animal parts, including shed antlers, is also prohibited.

Violators are investigated and aggressively prosecuted, and are subject to penalties including fines, restitution, and the forfeiture of vehicles, equipment and personal property associated with the violations.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Snow Removal on the Teton Park Road to Begin Next Week

Grand Teton National Park road crews will begin their annual spring plowing of the Teton Park Road from Taggart Lake parking area to Signal Mountain Lodge on Monday, March 24, 2014. As plowing operations get underway, recreation on this winter trail will cease for the season. Visitors may continue to use other winter trails, and/or areas adjacent to the Teton Park Road, for skate-skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing until conditions are no longer favorable. Snow removal will also begin on the Moose-Wilson Road, once work is concluded on the Teton Park Road.

For safety reasons, park visitors may NOT access the Teton Park Road while rotary snow removal equipment and plows are working; the roadway is closed to ALL users during this time. Park rangers will enforce the temporary closure to all visitors to ensure safe conditions for plow operators and recreationalists.

Skiers and snowshoers using areas adjacent to the Teton Park Road are cautioned to avoid the arc of snow being blown from the rotary equipment because pieces of ice and gravel can be mixed with the spray.

Depending on weather, snow conditions and plowing progress, the roadway should become accessible to traditional springtime activities by mid-April. After the Teton Park Road opens to non-motorized use, people should be alert for park vehicles that occasionally travel for administrative purposes and for snow plowing operations that continue as a result of late-season snowstorms.

The Teton Park Road will open to vehicle traffic on Thursday, May 1, 2013.

You may also want to note that Grassy Lake Road in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway is currently closed to all vehicles, and will remain so from April 1 to May 31, due to springtime grizzly bear activity.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tent Rocks

If you’re ever in the Santa Fe or Albuquerque area, be sure to take the one-hour drive to visit Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. This is truly a remarkable place. The best way to see this unique landscape is to hike the Cave Loop / Slot Canyon Trail. This short video will give you an idea of what this magical place is all about. For more detailed information on the hike, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Glacier National Park Conservancy Announces Grants to Fund Trail Work and More

The Glacier National Park Conservancy announced on Monday that more than $225,000 in grants will be awarded to a variety of projects in Glacier National Park this year. The Conservancy, along with Park administration officials, have identified key priorities for 2014 to protect and preserve the majestic landscape and natural beauty of Glacier.

Some of the projects to be funded, that directly impact hikers, include:

* $32,200 for the rehabilitation of the Nyack Loop Trail

* $9,800 to repair the Historic Loneman, Huckleberry, and Swiftcurrent fire lookouts

* $20,000 towards the replacement of the Camas Creek Patrol Cabin.

In all, $227,655 will be granted to the park to benefit a variety of projects. A second round of grants from the Conservancy are expected to be awarded this summer. With your help, the Conservancy will continue its work in preservation, research and education for the park. For more information on all the projects being awarded grants, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Backcountry Skier Injured in Avalanche Gets Aerial Rescue

A skier was caught in an avalanche and seriously injured about 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 9 in Grand Teton National Park's backcountry. Greg Epstein, 43, from Wilson, Wyoming was preparing to descend one of the Air Force chutes within Granite Canyon with two companions at the time of the avalanche. Epstein was reportedly carried over 1000 feet by the slide. No other members of the party were injured.

Just after 2 p.m., Teton County Sheriffs' Office received a 911 call reporting the avalanche and injured skier. Shortly after, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center was notified and Grand Teton National Park rangers began coordination of the rescue operation with Teton County Search and Rescue personnel. Jackson Hole Ski Patrol initially responded to the scene, stabilized Epstein, and transported him 300 to 400 feet down to the bottom of the chutes. A Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter flew two park rangers to the area and Epstein was placed inside the ship with an attending park ranger and flown to the base of Teton Village and a waiting ambulance.

Due to the proximity of Granite Canyon to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Jackson Hole ski patrollers are often the first rescuers to respond to winter emergencies within the canyon. Ski patrol reached Epstein about an hour after the incident. They subsequently delivered him to the responding park rangers and rescue helicopter at 4:20 p.m. Epstein was transferred to a Jackson Hole Fire/EMS ambulance and transported to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming for further care.

This was the second backcountry ski run of the day for Epstein and his companions. All three are expert skiers with extensive knowledge of backcountry skiing and avalanche danger. The ski party was well equipped for their plan and they were carrying all the appropriate safety gear, including avalanche beacons and probes.

The Air Force chutes are one of many popular backcountry ski areas accessible from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Rangers remind skiers and snowboarders who leave the resort boundary that neither their safety nor a rescue is guaranteed. Parties should be equipped with appropriate avalanche gear and know how to use it. Backcountry users should also carry extra food and water in the event they have to spend any unplanned nights the park's remote terrain.

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center listed the avalanche danger on March 9 at mid and high elevations as moderate in the morning and considerable in the afternoon. A general avalanche advisory noted that "Skiers…who venture into steep avalanche terrain could trigger dense surface slabs and in isolated areas, very destructive deep hard slabs. These slabs could be triggered during the morning hours and will become more sensitive to human triggers as temperatures increase."

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Sunday, March 9, 2014

IBMP Partners Conclude Bison Population Management Efforts Around Yellowstone

Approximately 600 bison have been removed this year from Yellowstone’s herd of approximately 4,600 bison.

The Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) partners use an adaptive management strategy to manage population abundance and distribution. Last summer the partners determined that the removal of approximately 600 bison from the northern range herd should be conducted through harvest by state and tribal hunters or culled directly through capture and consignment to slaughter or research.

Federal, state, and tribal members of the IBMP agreed to use hunting as the primary method for removing bison from the population. This year half of the removal was conducted through capture and consignment from the Stephens Creek capture facility in Yellowstone National Park. This management approach was adopted in the 2014 IBMP Winter Operations Plan approved by all of the partner agencies in December 2013.

As of Monday, March 3, state and tribal permitted hunting outside the park boundary in Montana had removed 199 bison from the north boundary area and an additional 64 bison from the west boundary area.

The National Park Service has concluded bison population management operations at the Stephens Creek facility after consigning 258 bison to tribal partners for nutritional and cultural purposes and transferring 60 bison to UDSA-APHIS for an ongoing research project.

The Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior and the Governor of Montana signed a court-mediated agreement in 2000 that included guidelines to limit the bison population in Yellowstone to around 3,000 to 3,500 animals.

The cooperating agencies operating under the IBMP are the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Montana Department of Livestock, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, and the Nez Perce Tribe.

Information on the IBMP is available online. Additional information about Yellowstone bison and their management can be found here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Permit for Emergency Avalanche Mitigation on Glacier's Southern Boundary

BNSF Railway has requested and received a special-use permit from Glacier National Park to conduct emergency avalanche hazard mitigation activities in an area along the southern boundary of the park. Avalanche mitigation activities will take place in the John F. Stevens Canyon area along the US Highway 2 Corridor. Recent avalanche activity in this area prompted the railroad to request the permit due to the safety of BNSF Railway employees and passengers aboard trains.

Glacier National Park Superintendent said, “We are working with BNSF Railway to create safe conditions for their employees and passengers along the southern boundary of the park, and will continue to work with them to find long-term solutions.”

The permit only allows the use of hand charger devices, an avalauncher or explosive charges delivered by a helicopter, and only during daylight hours. The planned mitigation activity is the use of a Daisy Bell. This avalanche mitigation technique uses a cylinder suspended from a helicopter that can be accurately positioned above the snowpack. It uses a small, controlled pressure wave from the sudden combustion of hydrogen to trigger the snow.

Mow said that BNSF Railway plans to initiate activities on Friday, which will include closing US Highway 2 to through traffic during this time. For updated information on avalanche hazard mitigation activities and related activities along the southern border of Glacier National Park, please contact the railroad at 406-589-6891. Visit the Montana Department of Transportation website for road closures.

Mow said, “This year's highly variable weather conditions are resulting in an unstable snowpack and several uncommon events across Montana." It is anticipated that recent weather has contributed to snow slides throughout the park, including one near the Goat Lick area south of the park. Blocked drainages are of concern and the park plans to begin some monitoring throughout the park to identify these situations. If anyone has any information on any snow slides or related activities within the park, please contact park headquarters at 406-888-7800.

Please visit the Flathead Avalanche Center website for information about advisories, avalanche, snow pack and mountain weather information, as well as basic avalanche awareness and education.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, March 7, 2014

Save the Date: Sperry & Granite Park Chalets Celebrate Centennial

Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet have announced on their website that they would like for you to join them in their Centennial Celebration later this year. The two historic chalets will be hosting a public reception in West Glacier on August 20, 2014.

The event will be held at 2:00 pm at the Glacier Outdoor Center in West Glacier. The public is invited to help celebrate with refreshments and a birthday cake.

For more information on the two historic chalets, as well as fate of the other 7 backcountry chalets that once occupied Glacier National Park, please click here

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Yellowstone Bears Emerging From Dens

Grizzly bears are emerging from hibernation in the Greater Yellowstone Area, so hikers, skiers and snowshoers are advised to stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray.

The first confirmed reports of grizzly bear activity in the Park were reported on March 4th. Guides and visitors observed and photographed a grizzly bear along the road in the Hayden Valley area. The first black bear of the year was observed on February 11 near the south end of the park.

Bears begin looking for food soon after they emerge from their dens. They are attracted to elk and bison that have died during the winter. Carcasses are an important enough food source that bears will sometimes react aggressively when surprised while feeding on them.

Updated bear safety information is available on the Yellowstone bear safety web page and in the park newspaper, which is distributed at all park entrances. The park also implements seasonal bear management areas closures to reduce encounters between bears and humans in areas where elk and bison carcasses are in high density. A listing of these closures can be found here.

Yellowstone regulations require visitors to stay 100 yards from black and grizzly bears at all times. The best defense is to stay a safe distance from bears and use binoculars, a telescope or telephoto lens to get a closer look. All visitors traveling in the park away from developed areas should stay in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, keep an eye out for bears and carry bear spray. Bear spray has proven to be a good last line of defense, if kept handy and used according to directions when a bear is approaching within 30 to 60 feet.

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm is a violation of park regulations. The park’s law enforcement rangers who carry firearms on duty rely on bear spray, rather than their weapons, as the most effective means to deal with a bear encounter.

Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe.

The park also notes that bear sightings should be reported to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

A Yosemite Classic: The Vernal Fall / Nevada Fall Loop

The spectacular Mist Trail at the eastern end of the Yosemite Valley leads to some of the most popular destinations in Yosemite National Park. Although the mileage is relatively moderate, this is still a fairly tough hike. It’s all worth it though; you’ll visit star attractions such as Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall and the Emerald Pool. For more information on this “bucket list” hike, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Artwork Contest for Glacier's Annual Park Pass

Glacier National Park and the Glacier National Park Conservancy are accepting art submissions from sixth through twelfth grade students for the annual park pass artwork contest. The winning art will be displayed on the 2015 Glacier National Park Annual Park Pass.

Students are encouraged to submit art that focuses on the natural resources protected and preserved in the park. Each entry must include original artwork. Entries will be judged on the use of color, and design and accuracy of a scene that depicts one or more natural resource of the park. The deadline to submit artwork is April 11. Visit the park’s webpage for more information and an application, or contact the park at 406-888-7800.

The purpose of the annual pass artwork contest is to get students engaged with Glacier National Park, while creating an awareness of stewardship and increase an understanding about resources protected in the park.

The pass featuring the winning artwork will be available in January 2015, and more than 14,000 passes will be issued during the year. The top three winners will receive a gift certificate from the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Last year Glacier High School Student Valarie Kittle submitted the winning entry. Kittle’s image of the historic Lake McDonald Lodge is highlighted on this year’s annual park pass.

Annual Glacier National Park passes are available for $35. It allows unlimited access to the park for one year from time of first use. Passes are available at park headquarters, staffed entrance stations or by calling the park at 406-888-7800.

For more information about the Glacier National Park Conservancy click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, March 3, 2014

Glacier Creates $172 Million in Economic Benefit

A new National Park Service report shows that approximately 2.2 million visitors to Glacier National Park in 2012 spent $172 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 2,754 jobs in the local area.

“We are honored and proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world to Glacier National Park,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “Glacier is a special place and many times visitors travel to Montana specifically to visit Glacier, and are introduced to the many other wonderful amenities that Montana, and Northwest Montana have to offer.”

National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service. National park tourism is a large factor in the local economy as well. Mow said, “We are fortunate at Glacier National Park to be greatly supported by our partners, neighbors and local communities. We appreciate this partnership and support, and believe the presence of the park helps sustain local communities.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service. The report shows $14.7 billion of direct spending by 283 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally, with 201,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the United States’ economy of $26.75 billion.

According to the report, most visitor spending supports jobs in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores (39 percent), hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast locations (27 percent), and other amusement and recreation (20 percent).

To download the report, please click here. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

Hiking in Glacier National Park