Sunday, September 24, 2017

Back in the USA!

Last week Kathy and I returned from our hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies. Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks have been on my bucket list for a long time, and we finally got a chance to visit them this year. Despite heavy smoke on some days from all of the wildfires plaguing the area, the Canadian Rockies did not disappoint. We saw some absolutely stunning scenery during our trip, including Lake O'Hara. We were simply extremely lucky in obtaining bus tickets months in advance for this highly coveted trip, as well as having a beautiful bluebird day on the day of our visit. Over the next several days I'll be posting photos from our hike around Lake O'Hara, as well as most of our other hikes.

Despite missing the beautiful mountain scenery already, it's still great to be home!



Jeff
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Friday, September 22, 2017

Glacier National Park Prepares for Winter Season

The park has begun winterizing procedures to prepare for the fall and winter season.

The Sprague Fire has impacted some closures already this year, including the early closure of the Lake McDonald Lodge and Village Inn. All other hotels operated by Glacier National Park Lodges inside the park are also now closed for the season. Guided horseback rides with Swan Mountain Outfitters inside the park and guided boat tours with Glacier Park Boat Company have also ended.

Sun Tours will operate through mid-October, and red buses will continue operating until October 8th. Glacier Guides will continue offering guided hikes through October.

Glacier Institute classes will end on October 8, though they typically resume in late winter or early spring.

Park visitor centers and ranger stations close at various times throughout the fall. The Logan Pass Visitor Center will close on October 1. The St. Mary Visitor Center will close on October 9. The Apgar Visitor Center will move to weekend hours on October 10.

Shuttle service (currently only operating on the east side of the park due to fire) will end September 24.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is currently closed at the foot of Lake McDonald on the west side of the park due to ongoing firefighting activities. In the event that there is an opportunity to reopen to Logan Pass, the road will still close on the west side on October 9 as previously scheduled due to construction. If weather conditions allow, road access to Logan Pass will continue through the St. Mary entrance until October 16, which is the third Monday of the month and typically the day that Logan Pass access ends for the winter.

The road construction on the west side beginning October 9 will facilitate a significant culvert replacement project approximately four miles up Lake McDonald. The culvert has washed out several times over the last five years including twice last year, and once this year causing temporary road closures. For the two-week culvert replacement project, the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be closed at Apgar Loop Road.

Hiker-biker access beyond the culvert worksite will likely not be possible during this period. On Oct. 21, the Going-to-the-Sun Road will reopen again as far as Avalanche to vehicles, as is typical for the fall season. Hiker-biker access will resume above the Avalanche gate. Standard hiker-biker restrictions will be in place as road winterizing procedures begin. The gate closure will move from Avalanche to Lake McDonald Lodge on December 15.

There is also currently a detour in place through Apgar Village due to road work along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the Apgar area. The park expects that detour to remain in place through mid-spring.

Aquatic invasive species boat inspection stations will also be closing for the season, and with them, lakes will close to boating for the winter.

The last dates to receive a boat inspection and access park lakes by watercraft for the season are as follows:

Two Medicine and Many Glacier: September 29
 St. Mary: October 13
 Lake McDonald (also serving the North Fork): October 31

Current information about park roads, weather conditions, and visitor services can be found by visiting Glacier National Park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/glac/ or by calling park headquarters at 406-888-7800.



Jeff
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stage II Fire Restrictions Rescinded Today Across Northwest Montana

Stage 2 Fire Restrictions will officially be rescinded at 12:01am Wednesday, September 20, 2017 across Northwest Montana. Federal, State, and Private jurisdictions rescinding restrictions include:

* Glacier National Park
* Flathead National Forest
* Kootenai National Forest
* Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
* Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
* US Fish and Wildlife Service Stimson, Stoltze, and Weyerhaeuser Companies
* Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, and Sanders Counties will each be rescinding restrictions independently and effective immediately upon signature of resolutions by respective county commissioners.

Cooperating agencies would like to sincerely thank the public for their vigilance in fire prevention this season and remind residents that, while recent rain across the area has affected forest fuel conditions and aided fire suppression efforts, long term forecasts predict a warm dry fall. Please continue to take care, as it will take time for critically dry forest fuels to rebound from the historically low moistures of this summer.

Northwest Montana was in very high to extreme fire danger and Stage 2 Fire Restrictions for 53 days, and many people across the region have been affected by wildfire. Be aware that many large fires continue to burn across the landscape, fire suppression and rehabilitation efforts will continue, and local closures may be in place. Contact the local unit or district office for more information.

While campfires, internal combustion engines, and off-road travel are once again allowed, open burning does not start until October 1. Please wait until Open Burn season to burn piles of brush and yard debris. Open burn seasons are a great time to prepare your home and property for the next fire season. For more information, go to www.firewise.org.



Jeff
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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Grizzly Bear Research Trapping to be Conducted in Grand Teton

Biologists with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team will conduct grizzly bear research and trapping operations within Grand Teton National Park Tuesday, September 19 through November 15. This research is part of on-going efforts required under the 2016 Conservation Strategy for the Grizzly Bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to monitor the population of grizzly bears.

When bear research and trapping activities are being conducted, the area around the site will be posted with bright warning signs to inform the public of the activities occurring. For bear and human safety, the public must respect these signs and stay out of the posted areas.

Trained professionals with the interagency team will bait and trap grizzly bears in accordance with strict protocols. Once trapped, the bears are sedated to allow wildlife biologists to collar the bears and collect samples and data for scientific study.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team was established in 1973 to collaboratively monitor and research grizzly bears in the ecosystem on an interagency basis. The gathering of critical data on the bears is part of a long-term research effort and required under the 2016 conservation strategy to help wildlife managers devise and implement programs to support the ongoing conservation of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bear population. The team includes representatives from the National Park Service, U. S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department, and the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.



Jeff
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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Yellowstone kills aggressive bear near Heart Lake

On September 8, 2017, National Park Service biologists captured and killed a bear near Heart Lake in the southern part of Yellowstone National Park. The immature, male grizzly was repeatedly involved in conflicts with humans.

This bear began exhibiting bold behavior around people in 2015. At that time, Wyoming Game and Fish personnel captured the bear, tagged it, and relocated it to the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. In 2016, the same bear entered campsites in the Heart Lake area of Yellowstone and destroyed backpackers’ tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads. National Park Service staff attempted to change the bear’s dangerous behavior through the use of electric decoy tents, electric food sack decoys, and by hazing with bean bag rounds, rubber bullets, and cracker shells. These efforts failed. Attempts to trap the bear also failed.

Hikers reported observing the bear around campsites and investigating tents in the Heart Lake area in 2017. On the evening of August 26, the bear forced a group of three backpackers out of their campsite near Heart Lake and consumed all of their food. In response, Yellowstone closed the area to backcountry camping on August 27 and set traps for the bear on September 1. The bear was captured and killed on the morning of September 8.

This incident serves as an unfortunate reminder that "a fed bear is a dead bear." Allowing bears to obtain human food even once often leads to them becoming aggressive toward people. All of us play a role in keeping both bears and people safe. Learn more about what you can do at go.nps.gov/yellbearsafety.



Jeff
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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Secretary Zinke Announces Urgent Stabilization Work Has Begun at Sperry Chalet

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that Glacier National Park has begun urgently needed stabilization work at the Sperry Chalet dormitory building to prepare for winter. This is a critical first step in preserving the original structure and rebuilding the historic building.

On August 31, the building burned when the Sprague Fire significantly expanded and surrounded the Sperry complex. Earlier this week, Secretary Zinke ordered an independent investigation into the disaster and expedited the inspection of the remaining structure.

"Rebuilding Sperry is one of my top priorities, today's announcement is the first step in that process," said Secretary Zinke. "I'm grateful to the Conservancy and the Park for their quick work to preserve and rebuild Sperry."

While most of the buildings in the Sperry Chalet complex including the Dining Room and a trails and utility cabin weathered the extreme fire behavior with sprinkler systems, fire resistant wrap, and wildland firefighters defending the exteriors of the buildings, the dormitory building suffered extensive damage.

The purpose of the stabilization work is to protect the walls and chimneys from excessive snow and weather damage throughout the winter. Next spring and summer, the park will conduct additional structural analysis and a review of the site area to help inform decisions about the future of the chalet complex.

The stabilization recommendations come from DCI + BCE Engineers out of Missoula, and were paid for by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The engineering firm had previously done work at the chalet when it was heavily damaged in a 2011 avalanche.

“The Glacier Conservancy was able to get an engineering crew up there with our staff practically the day after we asked for help,” said Superintendent Jeff Mow. “With winter approaching, we could never have moved fast enough without the support of our private philanthropic partner to get this critical work done.”

Donations to the Glacier National Park Conservancy have funded the work of the engineering firm and will fund initial stabilization materials and needed labor this fall.

This is not the first time that the Glacier National Park Conservancy has stepped forward to provide immediate assistance for urgent park needs. In 2013, it supported expanded plowing efforts to open the Going-to-the-Sun Road after heavy winter snow. This year, it supported a significantly enhanced aquatic invasive species inspection program after zebra and quagga mussels were detected in the State of Montana last fall.

“As the park grapples with an array of challenges from serving an ever increasing number of visitors to wildfire to deferred maintenance, we are deeply thankful for our public-private partnership with the Glacier National Park Conservancy and the support of our local and worldwide Glacier community for whom the park is a cherished second home,” said Superintendent Mow.



Jeff
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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Glacier National Park Conservancy: Trail Keepers Society

I wanted to take a quick minute to let you know about a relatively new program called the Trail Keepers Society that's been launched by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. This organization will be helping to maintain the more than 740 miles of trails that traverse through Glacier National Park. With more and more people "discovering" Glacier in recent years, this new program will be extremely important in helping to maintain the trails in the park. It appears that the Hidden Lake Trail at Logan Pass will be the first project under the new program. Here's more information from the GNPC website:
Wear and tear and the combined contributions of both Mother Nature and Glacier National Park visitors can take a heavy toll on Glacier's trails. If deteriorating trails are not repaired and maintained on a regular basis, habitat damage and safety concerns can require their closure.

Much work needs to be done on an on-going basis to preserve and maintain trails - clearing of heavy brush, repairing broken walkways, rehabilitating eroded and fire-damaged trails and in some cases, rerouting or rebuilding entire segments. The National Park Service devotes significant monetary and human resources to trail maintenance, but it is not enough.

We hope you will agree that annual funding for trails in Glacier National Park offers a unique opportunity for you to show your support. Thank you very much for caring about Glacier National Park, for all, forever.
For more information on the Trail Keepers Society, and to donate, please click here.



Jeff
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Friday, September 8, 2017

Glacier Temporarily Suspends Backcountry Permit Issuance

Glacier National Park announced today that no new overnight backcountry permits are being issued at this time due to developing critical fire weather conditions.

Isolated dry thunderstorms are possible tonight and Saturday, followed by gusty winds Saturday afternoon into Sunday associated with a cold front passage.

There are no backcountry evacuations at this time, and there is no immediate threat at this time to backcountry users.

The intent of this action is to reduce the number of people overnighting in the backcountry. In the event of a new fire start or rapid growth of existing fires, the park has significantly fewer resources available, due to ongoing fire operations, to assist a large number of people out of the backcountry.

The duration that no new overnight backcountry permits will be issued is unknown due to ongoing dry conditions, extremely high fire behavior, and the extended fire season outlook.

The park is currently fighting three large fires and is preparing for the potential of a fourth, the Kenow Fire coming down from Canada near Goat Haunt.

Information on the Sprague and Adair Peak Fires is available on Inciweb.

Elder Creek Fire lies on the Montana and British Columbia border, and started on the Canadian side on September 2nd. It is currently 2,055 acres, with 260 acres on the US side. Firefighters have begun implementing structure protection around the Kishenehn Patrol Cabin and surrounding areas.

The Kenow Fire burning in Canada could potentially impact Waterton Lakes National Park and northern portions of Glacier National Park. As a precaution, firefighters have started on some structure protection in the Goat Haunt area of Glacier National Park.

Due to these fires, trail and road closures change frequently. Please check the park’s website to monitor trail and road closure status. https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/conditions.htm



Jeff
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Glacier National Park Proposes Revised Fee Structure

Glacier National Park is soliciting public comment for a proposal to change the price of the Glacier National Park Annual Pass from $50 to $60. No other entrance fees are proposed for change.

Entrance fees are not charged to persons under 16 years of age or holders of the America the Beautiful-The National Parks and Federal Recreational Annual, Senior, Access, Military, or Volunteer Passes. These passes may be obtained at the park.

“The funds raised through entrance fees including passes are critical to improve facilities and infrastructure, and to provide an enhanced level of visitor service,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow.

Park entrance and campground fees have supported a number of important projects in the park including a portion of the Many Glacier Hotel restoration, new interpretive exhibits at visitor centers, trail repairs, and winter snowshoe walks.

Glacier National Park is a strong economic engine for the surrounding area. In 2016, more than 2.9 million park visitors spent $250 million in the local economy and supported over 4,000 jobs related to tourism.

The public can submit comments at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/GNP_fee_proposal_2017. Comments may also be submitted via mail to Glacier National Park, Attention: Glacier National Park Annual Pass Fee Increase, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, MT 59936. The comment period will be open until September 30.

This fee structure review and civic engagement process is part of a 2017 review of Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act fees at parks nationwide. Following the public comment period, feedback will determine how, or if, a fee increase would be implemented.



Jeff
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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Main Sperry Chalet Building Lost Due to Sprague Fire

This is a little dated, but in case you didn't hear, the historic Sperry Chalet on the west side of Glacier National Park was lost as a result of the Sprague Fire. At this time it's still unknown what the future holds for the popular hiker destination. Here's the park press release:

Thursday afternoon at approximately 6:00 pm, the main building at Sperry Chalet was lost to the Sprague Fire. The two story stone structure included guest rooms and staff housing. A highly skilled group of firefighters have been working at Sperry Chalet since the fire began in August, installing an extensive hose lay, sprinkler, and pump system to protect all of the structures associated with the chalet. Portions of the chalet were also wrapped with fire resistant material.

Firefighters on scene first observed fire activity at the chalet coming from the interior of the building.

The Sprague Fire was under a Red Flag Warning for the past two days. The high winds, combined with the hot weather, low relative humidity, and extreme terrain pushed the fire to the north and east, causing the fire to more than double in acreage yesterday to 4,646 acres. The firefighters, supported by four helicopters that flew until last light, made a valiant stand to save the structures. They were unsuccessful in saving the main building at the Sperry Chalet. They worked through the night to protect the four remaining structures. The firefighters are safe. That team will be supported by additional firefighters today while they recuperate.

According to Glacier National Park Superintendent, Jeff Mow, the structures at Sperry Chalet are iconic historic structures that are widely loved by park employees and visitors from all over the world. The park is deeply saddened by this loss but is thankful for the safety of the firefighters. “The Fire Team has worked tirelessly to contain this fire and protect structures and infrastructure. The environmental conditions were absolutely extreme yesterday, as high as anything we’ve seen so far this summer,” said Mow.

Sperry Chalet has been operated by concessioner Belton Chalets, Inc. since 1954 and accommodated 40 – 50 overnight visitors per night. The chalet was originally constructed by the Great Northern Railway as part of the system of grand hotels and picturesque chalets in Glacier National Park soon after the park was established in 1910. Construction was completed in 1913. Since then, the chalet has provided backcountry travelers a traditional service by providing hearty meals in a rustic mountain setting. “This event is an important moment in the history of Sperry Chalet and Glacier National Park,” said Sperry Chalet Coordinator Kevin Warrington. “I have been around Sperry for my entire life and I have never expected to see anything like this. It has been a privilege to share Sperry with the great many people that love it, and it is a sad day to share the loss.” Belton Chalets, Inc. also operates the Granite Park Chalet, in another area of the park.

As more details are known about the extent of damage to the main Sperry Chalet building and any fire damage to the secondary structures the park will evaluate the next steps about future visitor services in the chalet location.

The Avalanche Lake Trail has been closed as fire managers evaluate the Avalanche Creek Drainage for possible spot fires from yesterday’s extreme fire activity, and evaluate the current and planned suppression efforts in the Mt. Brown area.

Firefighters are bracing for another critical fire day based on predicted weather.

The Sprague Fire started on August 10th and has been the number one fire suppression priority in the park this summer. In addition to structural protection measures for the Sperry Chalet complex, the fire managers have also put in structural protection measures at the Mount Brown Lookout. Due to the lookout’s location, a watering system or having firefighters remain on site has not been feasible. The lookout has been wrapped with fire resistant material due to its small size to provide some additional fire protection, in addition to helicopter resources. Over the last month, firefighters have also been conducting mitigations and creating structure protection plans for buildings in the Lake McDonald area.

The park has seen 20 fire starts this summer, and has employed ground and air resources to suppress them. The park has seen one new fire start in the last two days in the North Fork region of the park. Air and ground resources are fighting that fire today, in addition to the Sprague Fire.



Jeff
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Glacier Fire Updates and Closures

Fire status in Glacier National Park continues to evolve as the season progresses. This is a summary update of current visitor services, fire related closures, and a brief snapshot of each fire.

Three large fires are currently burning in Glacier National Park: the Sprague Fire, Adair Peak Fire, and the Elder Creek Fire. All three fires experienced high gusty winds from the east on Sunday evening, with both the Sprague and Adair Peak fires having significant increases in acreage. Fire growth moderated on Monday with lighter winds. Lower temperatures and slightly higher relative humidity is forecast.

The Adair Peak Fire, was started by lightning on August 10, was detected on August 12, is located in a remote area of the park on the south side of Logging Lake, and is 1,335 acres. Structure protection is being implemented for two National Park Service (NPS) cabins located at the head and foot of Logging Lake, along with the Logging Ranger Station. The fire is not posing an immediate threat to any of these structures. An area closure has been implemented for the surrounding area. Fire managers expect the fire behavior to moderate as this fire enters old fire scars, including the 2001 Moose Fire scar.

The Elder Creek Fire lies on the Montana and British Columbia border, and started on the Canadian side on September 2nd. It is currently 1,853 acres, with approximately 80 acres on the US side. Communication between the British Columbia Wildfire Service in Cranbrook and the NPS is ongoing.

The Sprague Fire is now 13,343 acres. Heavy localized smoke is causing a reduction in fire behavior which has allowed firefighters more suppression opportunities. Yesterday two helicopters dipped water out of Lake McDonald and worked to cool the fire in the Mt. Brown area and the ridge above the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Overnight firefighters monitored activity on Snyder Ridge and patrolled the Lake McDonald Lodge complex.

Lake McDonald Lodge closed for the season on August 30th due to air quality concerns. An evacuation notice was issued on September 3rd for the Lake McDonald area due to fire activity, forcing the closure of the Going-to-the-Sun Road between Apgar Village and Logan Pass; concessions operations in the Lake McDonald Lodge area including boat tours and rentals and guided horseback rides have also closed as a result of this evacuation. Horseback rides and boat rentals are still available in the Apgar area and on the east side of the park.

All interpretive programs in the Lake McDonald Lodge and Avalanche areas are cancelled until further notice.

Some trails and backcountry campgrounds are closed due to fire activity. Many areas of the park remain OPEN including some areas of the North Fork, Apgar Village, the Going-to-the-Sun Road between St. Mary and Logan Pass, Granite Park Chalet, Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier. Please check the park website for current conditions including closures at https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Smoke from all of the fires in Northwest Montana will continue to settle into low-lying areas when air temperatures cool at night and in the early morning hours. Because of the high pressure system, dense smoke is predicted to impact Lake McDonald. Concentration of smoke is expected to increase over the next few days in the Lake McDonald and West Glacier areas. You can monitor current conditions on the park’s webcams at http://go.nps.gov/glacwebcams.

If you encounter smoke while driving, slow down, turn on your headlights, and watch out for people and wildlife.

Montana Wildfire Smoke Updates are available on http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/. If it’s smoky in one area of the park, there are often other areas of the park with better visibility. Smoke conditions vary in intensity, location and duration with fire activity.



Jeff
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Monday, September 4, 2017

National Park Service Ends Effort to Eliminate Sale of Disposable Water Bottles

In its commitment to providing a safe and world-class visitor experience, the National Park Service is discontinuing Policy Memorandum 11-03, commonly referred to as the “Water Bottle Ban.”

The 2011 policy, which encouraged national parks to eliminate the sale of disposable water bottles, has been rescinded to expand hydration options for recreationalists, hikers, and other visitors to national parks. The ban removed the healthiest beverage choice at a variety of parks while still allowing sales of bottled sweetened drinks. The change in policy comes after a review of the policy’s aims and impact in close consultation with Department of the Interior leadership.

“While we will continue to encourage the use of free water bottle filling stations as appropriate, ultimately it should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park, particularly during hot summer visitation periods,” said Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds.

Currently only 23 of the 417 National Park Service sites have implemented the policy. The revocation of the memorandum, which was put in place on December 14, 2011, is effective immediately. Parks will continue to promote the recycling of disposable plastic water bottles and many parks have already worked with partners to provide free potable water in bottle filling stations located at visitor centers and near trailheads.



Jeff
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