Saturday, June 24, 2017

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delists grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem

In the final step marking a remarkable recovery effort, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Thursday that grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will be removed from the Endangered Species List.

“The delisting demonstrates Montana’s long-standing commitment to the recovery of grizzly bears,” said Martha Williams, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “FWP takes its public trust responsibility seriously and we intend to follow through in sustaining grizzly bears in Montana as well as all other species that we manage.”

Grizzly bears were put on the Endangered Species List in 1975. At that point as few as 136 bears remained in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Today the population is estimated at more than 700.

Management of bears in Montana’s portion of the GYE will be guided by the interagency Conservation Strategy, which will ensure a recovered grizzly bear population and that FWP and the other states continue to meet the criteria in the recovery plan. This Conservation Strategy was approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee in December. The strategy along with the Southwest Montana Grizzly Management Plan and a Memorandum of Agreement between Idaho, Montana and Wyoming will ensure a healthy grizzly population is maintained in the GYE.

Also, the three states have agreed to manage bears conservatively and not down to a minimum number. The goal for state management is to maintain a healthy grizzly bear population in the GYE.

“The grizzly bear population in the GYE has met all the recovery goals and the necessary safeguards are in place. This is an amazing success story,” said Ken McDonald, FWP wildlife division administrator.

FWP remains committed to continue its monitoring of females with cubs, genetic variation, bear distribution and mortalities.

In addition, FWP staff will monitor and respond to instances of human-bear interaction, livestock conflicts and provide grizzly bear outreach and education.

Thursday’s announcement only applies to the GYE. Grizzlies in the rest of Montana, including the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, will remain on the Endangered Species List.



Jeff
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Friday, June 23, 2017

USDA Announces $20 Million for Jobs for Young People, Veterans

USDA and partners committed $20 million in 21st Century Conservation Service Corps partnership agreements to provide 4,000 work opportunities for youth, young adults and veterans up to 35 years old, a move that will help the U.S. Forest Service accomplish mission-critical infrastructure and landscape restoration projects on the ground. The U.S. Forest Service is one of seventeen USDA Agencies.

The funding represents investments by USDA of $13 million and $7 million from partner organizations. Contributions by the Forest Service and partners are expected to reach $40 million by the end of 2017 and provide 11,000 work opportunities. Some funds are already placed with 21st Century Conservation Service Corps partnership agreements; other funds will continue to be obligated throughout the summer.

“The 21st Century Conservation Corps is not merely a summer jobs program,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “This is about nurturing our public lands as well as our veterans, youth and young adults through a variety of opportunities to develop leadership potential and professional and personal connections through work across many diverse landscapes.”

The work accomplished by participants will include hundreds of miles of trail maintenance and improvements, watershed protection, removal of vegetation as part of wildfire prevention, improvements to recreation facilities, and other essential work on lands managed by the Forest Service.

Since the program started in 2014, the Forest Service generated nearly 30,000 opportunities for youth and veterans to work on projects that benefit public lands. Corps partners provide hands-on service and job training while working with the Forest Service and other land management agencies to build America’s rural and urban economies, strengthen America’s infrastructure, and modernize the way government works.

Involving veterans in these opportunities helps them learn new skills while continuing to serve their nation and local communities. In FY 2016, 910 veterans were engaged on Forest Service volunteerism and service projects, of which 170 participated in 21st Century Conservation Corps projects. In FY 2017, the agency expects to hire 186 veterans.

About 20 percent of the 4,000 opportunities funded by this year’s commitment will be for Youth Conservation Corps jobs, a summer employment program on public lands that employ high school-aged youth. About 25 percent of the dedicated resources will support high-priority trail maintenance and improvements.

Projects will be on public lands in rural communities from coast to coast and will include diverse work experiences.

Annually, the Forest Service engages about 100,000 volunteers and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps participants. As part of an emphasis on strengthening and deepening connections with the public through outdoor experiences, the agency is committed to expanding its capacity for greater volunteerism and community service. The goal is to increase engagement to 115,000 volunteers by 2020 mostly through individual and partner organizations committed to the conservation of the public lands legacy.

To participate in the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps contact a member organization.

For additional information about funded projects, jobs, volunteering and other opportunities for young people, visit the Forest Service online Working with Us page.



Jeff
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Snow Climber Rescued After Fall on Disappointment Peak

Grand Teton National Park rangers conducted a rescue for a snow climber who fell after slipping and falling on snow Monday afternoon. Robert Henderson, 68, of Wilson, WY was descending the Southeast Ridge of Disappointment Peak when he fell. Rangers responded quickly to the scene and transported Henderson to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, WY.

Henderson’s fall, which took place just before 1:30 p.m. was witnessed from below by two hikers in the Amphitheater Lake area. Those hikers were the first to call Teton Interagency Dispatch Center and report the accident. Shortly thereafter, Henderson’s climbing partner, Dan Matzke of Moose, WY, called the dispatch center and reported that Henderson had lost his footing and slid on the snow before disappearing from view. Henderson’s fall carried him a total of 400 feet downhill, including a 60-80 foot cliff, to a location amongst snow and trees approximately 300 feet above Amphitheater Lake.

A ranger who was climbing on Disappointment Peak met up with Matzke, assisted him on the technical descent to Amphitheater Lake, and reached Henderson’s location at about 3:00 pm. The ranger assessed Henderson, who was alert but had suffered leg and shoulder injuries. Matzke continued downhill with a bystander.

At 4:20 p.m., the Teton Interagency Contract Helicopter inserted two rangers to Henderson’s location via short-haul. The rangers loaded Henderson into a rescue litter and prepared him for extraction by short-haul. One ranger attended Henderson during the short flight out to the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache at 5:11 p.m. He was transferred to a park ambulance and transported to St. John’s. The helicopter returned to retrieve the remaining two rangers.

Though Henderson and Matzke were planning to climb on snow and had all the necessary gear to do so, park rangers recognize that many visitors to the Tetons may not be expecting wintertime conditions in June. Rangers advise that elevations above 9,000 feet are mostly still snow-covered, and appropriate knowledge and experience using an ice ax and crampons is necessary for traversing steep terrain.

Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual or gear is suspended below the helicopter on a 150 to 250 foot rope. This method allows a rescuer more direct access to an injured party, and it is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain.



Jeff
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Avalanche Creek Trail Temporarily Closed Due to Bear Activity - closure likely to last several days

The Avalanche Creek Trail is temporarily closed from the trailhead to the head of the lake for bears frequenting the area. The closure does not include the Trail of the Cedars.

Over the past week, the park has received reports of up to six different grizzly bears in the Avalanche area, coming close to people. The bears are exhibiting some signs of habituation, meaning they appear more comfortable than is natural around humans.

On Saturday, the park rangers received a credible report of a group of people nearly completely surrounding a grizzly bear along Avalanche Lake, causing the bear to swim out into the lake to create distance between itself and the crowd.

The temporary closure will likely last several days, and will give park managers the opportunity to assess bear behavior and movement, allow the bears to move to more remote areas, and identify any needed additional actions. The closure is in accordance with the park’s Bear Management Plan.

“It is exciting to see bears here at the park,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “One of the best things people can do if they see a bear is to make sure they back up, and create 300 feet of distance. That helps reinforce natural bear behavior, and keeps both people and bears safe.”

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

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 participating in recreational activities in bear country is highly encouraged to have bear spray. The bear spray should be readily accessible, and hikers should know how to use it. Visitors should store food, garbage and other attractants 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.

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 further updates on the Avalanche Lake Trail, and other trails within the park, please visit: https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/trailstatusreports.htm



Jeff
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Glacier to Expand Visitor Use Research

This summer, Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest are expanding visitor use monitoring efforts to better understand use along the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River.

For the past five years, Glacier National Park has been collecting data on trail, and road use along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and surrounding trails. This year, with a donation from the Glacier National Park Conservancy, monitoring will expand to the river and several other places within the park. The Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park both manage segments of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River. The other locations to be monitored include the North Fork, Two Medicine, Many Glacier, Goat Haunt, and Belly River.

The data, collected by the University of Montana, has been valuable to Glacier National Park as visitation has increased dramatically. With several years of data in hand, the park can now better inform visitors about how to plan their trips with crowding in mind, and also make educated decisions about where to station staff to best meet park needs.

“For the last few years, we have heard at our annual meetings with North Fork residents that river use seems to be increasing,” said Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Webber. “This information will allow us to better understand how much, where and when use is occurring. It will help us to better plan for proper facilities and management.”

“This is the sort of thing we could not do alone,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “With the expertise from the University of Montana and the financial support of the Glacier National Park Conservancy, we are conducting cutting edge research about the way our public lands are used here in northwest Montana.”

Monitoring technology used in the park and now expanded to the Flathead National Forest along the Flathead Wild and Scenic River include: tube counters placed along roads and trails, and camera counters that enable the calibration of mechanical counters and estimation of river use levels.

The data collected will better help the park and forest understand visitor use outside the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor, including the Flathead Wild and Scenic River. This information will establish baseline visitor use numbers which in turn will inform future planning efforts such as a Backcountry/Wilderness Stewardship plan for the park, and a joint Flathead Comprehensive River Management Plan for the park and forest.



Jeff
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Kayak guide dies attempting to rescue client in Yellowstone Lake

A 23-year-old kayak guide, Timothy Hayden Ryan Conant from Salt Lake City, Utah, died while attempting to rescue a client who capsized on Wednesday, June 14. The incident occurred in the West Thumb area of Yellowstone Lake. The kayaking group consisted of nine clients and three guides.

After receiving a call through the park’s dispatch center, rangers responded to the scene in a patrol boat and found Mr. Conant in the water. They brought him on board and immediately started CPR while in route back to the dock. CPR continued as Mr. Conant was transported to the helipad at Grant Village via ambulance (approximately ½-mile from the dock). A Life Flight landed to assist, but Mr. Conant was pronounced dead before taking off.

The client, who Mr. Conant attempted to save, was rescued by other guides in the group and brought to shore before rangers arrived on scene to help Mr. Conant. The client was transported to the park clinic and treated for hypothermia. The incident is still under investigation.

“Our hearts are with the Conant family after this terrible loss,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk.

Mr. Conant worked as a guide for Oars, a company based out of Angel Camp, California. Oars has offered non-motorized boat tours in Yellowstone under a permit since 1996. This was Mr. Conant’s first season working for Oars as a guide.

Since 1894, there have been 41 deaths in Yellowstone Lake. The most recent was in 1997 when two people died while canoeing.

With a surface area of 132 square miles, Yellowstone Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the United States that is above 7,000 feet. It is roughly 20 miles long and 14 miles wide with 141 miles of shoreline. The average year-round temperature of the lake is 43F. Survival time is estimated to be only 20 to 30 minutes in water of this temperature.



Jeff
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Friday, June 16, 2017

Public Comments Encouraged on Telecommunications Plan

Grand Teton National Park is developing an environmental assessment to address existing and future telecommunications services within developed areas of the park to meet mission critical park operations, safety and emergency services, and visitor information needs and expectations. Public comments regarding the document are encouraged and requested by July 14, 2017.

The purpose of the assessment is to analyze the impact of potential design and locations of telecommunication proposals received from providers to date, appropriateness of facilities, and any telecommunication infrastructure needs the park anticipates within the next 20 years and more.

The proposal includes installation of a fiber optic cable network and wireless telecommunications facilities at strategic developed locations within the park and potentially connecting to Yellowstone National Park’s south entrance. The focus would be on developed areas in the park that currently support critical operations and/or see a high volume of park visitors. Examples of these areas include Moose, South Jenny Lake, Jackson Lake Lodge, Signal Mountain, Colter Bay, and Flagg Ranch. A scoping newsletter contains more information about the proposed project and is available at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/telecommunications.

During the scoping period for this environmental assessment, the National Park Service seeks input from the public on relevant issues, potential alternatives, concerns, opportunities, or topics that should be addressed during the planning effort. Additional opportunities for public involvement will also be provided later in the planning process.

Comments on the telecommunications plan are encouraged to be submitted online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/telecommunications, or can be mailed to the park.



Jeff
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Man Severely Burned in Hot Spring

A 21-year-old man, Gervais Dylan Gatete from Raleigh, North Carolina, sustained severe burns after falling into a hot spring late on Tuesday, June 13. The incident occurred in the Lower Geyser Basin off of Fountain Flat Drive just north of the Old Faithful area. Mr. Gatete, currently an employee with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, was with seven other people when he fell.

After the incident, the group attempted to evacuate Mr. Gatete by car. Just before midnight, they flagged down a ranger near Seven Mile Bridge on the West Entrance Road. Park staff provided immediate medical assistance and transported the patient via ambulance to the airport in West Yellowstone. From there, he was flown to a hospital.

Since rangers were not at the scene of the incident last night, it is not yet clear exactly where and how it occurred. Investigations continue today and additional information will be provided when it is available.

“Yellowstone’s thermal features are dangerous,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk. “We continually stress that people must stay on trails and boardwalks in geyser basins, not only to protect resources, but for their own safety.”

The ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin, and there is scalding water just below the surface.

This is the first serious injury in a thermal area this year. Last June, a man left the boardwalk and died after slipping into a hot spring in Norris Geyser Basin. In August 2000, one person died and two people received severe burns from falling into a hot spring in the Lower Geyser Basin.

Learn about safety in thermal areas at go.nps.gov/yellsafety.



Jeff
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Monday, June 12, 2017

Hiker Fatality Near Yellowstone's North Entrance

On Friday, June 9th, Yellowstone park search crews located the body of Jeff Murphy who was missing near the park’s North Entrance. Mr. Murphy’s death appears to have resulted from a fall on Turkey Pen Peak.

Mr. Murphy, 53, from Batavia, Illinois went for a day hike on the Rescue Creek Trail on June 7th. The park initiated the search on June 8th when Mr. Murphy’s wife reported that he failed to check in. “All of us at Yellowstone extend our sympathy to the Murphy family for their tragic loss,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk.

At its peak, the search involved eight hiking teams, five dog teams, four horse teams, and a helicopter.

The Rescue Creek Trail, which had been closed due to this search, is open. However, visitors should anticipate temporary closures in the area until the investigation is complete.



Jeff
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Friday, June 9, 2017

Montana's wolf population still strong, report shows

Wolf numbers in Montana remained healthy in 2016 and more than three times the federally-mandated minimums.

Montana’s annual wolf report shows a minimum of 477 wolves were counted for 2016. This is down from 536 wolves counted in 2015, but doesn’t necessarily reflect a reduction in wolf numbers, but rather a reduction in counting effort. Included in this number is a minimum number of 50 breeding pairs. This compares to a minimum count of 32 breeding pairs in 2015, and 34 breeding pairs in 2014.

“Though the minimum count is down, we’ve long held that these minimum counts are useful only in ensuring Montana’s wolf population stays above the federally-mandated minimum threshold. The minimum count is not a population count or an index or estimate of the total number of wolves,” said Bob Inman, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks carnivore and furbearer program chief.

The actual wolf population in Montana is hard to pin down, but FWP employs another counting method that get closer. The Patch Occupancy Model, or POM, incorporates data on territory and wolf pack sizes, along with hunter observations and known wolf locations to get to a more accurate estimation of wolf populations.

The most recent POM estimate from 2014 was 892 wolves in Montana, about 61 percent higher than the minimum counts from that year. Data for 2015 and 2016 POM counts of Montana’s wolves are being compiled and will be analyzed this summer.

The other benefit of the POM method is it’s a much cheaper undertaking since it incorporates data analysis rather than direct counting efforts.

During the 2016/2017 wolf hunting and trapping season, 246 wolves were harvested – 163 by hunters and 83 by trappers. This is the highest harvest to date, but only 16 wolves higher than the 2013/2014 season.

2016 also saw 57 confirmed wolf livestock depredations – 52 cattle, five sheep. This is down from 64 in 2016.

The recovery of the wolf in the northern Rockies remains one of the fastest endangered species comebacks on record and a real success story. Montana’s wolf population remains healthy, well distributed and genetically connected. In the mid-1990s, to hasten the overall pace of wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 66 wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. FWP began monitoring the wolf population and managing livestock conflicts in 2004. After several court challenges wolves were successfully delisted in 2011.

The delisting of wolves in 2011 allows Montana to manage wolves as it does any other game species, which is guided by state management plans, administrative rules and laws.

To learn more about Montana’s wolf population and read the FWP 2016 Annual Wolf Report, visit FWP online at fwp.mt.gov. Click Montana Wolves.



Jeff
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Significant and Accelerated Erosion Closes Portion of Gros Ventre Kelly Road

Approximately 4.5 miles of the Gros Ventre/Kelly Road in Grand Teton National Park is closed from the Gros Ventre Junction with US Highway 26/89/191 to the Gros Ventre Campground due to significant erosion along the Gros Ventre River that is threatening the road. This closure includes all vehicle and bicycle traffic. Traffic to the community of Kelly and the Gros Ventre Campground, as well as other locations in the area, is rerouted via Antelope Flats Road. All detours are signed along the roadways.

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, “The large amount of water flowing in the Gros Ventre River is causing some significant and accelerated erosion that may soon compromise the road.” He said, “The safety of anyone traveling that road is our first priority due to how fast the erosion has progressed in the last two days.” The river bank has eroded more than 10 feet in the last 36 hours. An area closure has been implemented around the affected location.

The National Park Service will continue to monitor the situation and allow the dynamic system of the river to respond to the increased water flow. At this time, it is unknown how long the closure will be in effect and what the extent of the damage will be. It is anticipated the erosion will continue as the water flow remains high and fast.

The Gros Ventre Campground is open and available for first-come, first-served overnight camping. During the road closure, access to the campground is via the Antelope Flats Road, which is approximately ½ mile north of Moose Junction. The Antelope Flats Road provides access to Mormon Row as well. There is no through vehicle traffic on Mormon Row or Warm Ditch Roads, although, bicycles are allowed.



Jeff
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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dust Abatement Application on Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton National Park

A temporary travel closure will be in place on the unpaved section of the Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton National Park June 6-8, for a dust abatement application. The temporary closure will begin at approximately 4 a.m. Tuesday, June 6 and the road will reopen by 8 a.m. Thursday, June 8.

The temporary closure is only on approximately two miles of the road, on the unpaved section of the road. Motorists and bicyclists should plan to use an alternate route during this temporary closure. This is the first of three scheduled dust abatement treatments for the 2017 season.

For those wishing to reach the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve or Death Canyon Trailhead, access will be possible by heading south from the Teton Park Road junction near the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.

Electronic signs will be placed on Wyoming Highway 390 to alert park visitors and local residents of the scheduled road closure. For travelers heading south to Teton Village from the Moose area, signs will also be placed near the junction of the Teton Park Road.

The product used for dust abatement is a slurry of magnesium chloride, the same product that is used to treat dirt roads in and around Jackson Hole. This product coats the road surface, but it can also adhere to the undercarriage of vehicles. Motorists who drive the unpaved portion of the Moose-Wilson Road after it reopens on Thursday may want to rinse off their vehicles to eliminate any residue.

Roadwork schedules may change, or be delayed, due to weather conditions, equipment malfunction, or other extenuating circumstances.



Jeff
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