Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fire Danger has Increased to Very High: Exceptionally Dry Conditions Exist in Grand Teton

The fire danger rating has been elevated to very high for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, National Elk Refuge, and remaining portions of the Teton Interagency Dispatch area.

The area has seen exceptionally dry conditions since the last appreciable rain in late August, and fuel conditions are at their driest of the season. In addition, several days of red flag warnings have elevated local fire conditions. A red flag warning is issued by the National Weather Service when relative humidity is expected to be at or below 15% and strong gusty winds are anticipated, and conditions are ideal for wildland fire combustion and rapid spread. Red flag warnings have been issued for the Teton Interagency and surrounding areas each day since late last week. Under these conditions, local residents and visitors alike should practice heightened fire safety at all times.

When the fire danger is very high, fires can start easily from both human-caused and natural causes and, immediately after ignition, spread rapidly and increase quickly in intensity. Small fires can quickly become large fires and be difficult to control. They often become longer-lasting fires, exhibiting extreme fire behavior and requiring more personnel and resources. When determining fire danger, fire managers use several indicators such as the moisture content of grasses, shrubs, and trees; projected weather conditions including temperatures and possible wind events; the ability of fire to spread after ignition; and availability of firefighting resources across the country.

Over the past several days, multiple fires have started on the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park. The two largest fires are the Roosevelt Fire on the Big Piney District and the Marten Creek Fire on the Greys River District, both located on the national forest. Additional fires are burning in Grand Teton National Park and the Blackrock and Pinedale Districts of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. For current information and media releases on any fires in the area, check the Teton Interagency Fire website at tetonfires.com.

At this time of the season, fire resources are stretched thin as employees finish their seasons and crews are released for the year. Many visitors and recreationists may drop their guard as nights get colder and fires season seems to wane. As hunting season picks up in the area, it is especially important to extinguish warming fires and campfires before leaving the area. Ensure all campfires are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before leaving your site. Visitors should never leave a fire unattended. The fine for an abandoned campfire is $225, but campers can also be held liable for suppression costs if their campfire becomes a wildfire.

To report a fire or smoke in the immediate area, call the Teton Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 307.739.3630.



Jeff
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Monday, September 17, 2018

Going-to-the-Sun Road Temporary Road Closure at Apgar Scheduled this Fall for Culvert Project

A new culvert construction project is scheduled for this fall along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, four miles up Lake McDonald. Fire conditions permitting, the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be temporarily closed from Apgar Loop Road at the foot of Lake McDonald to Avalanche from October 15-19, 2018. Access to Apgar Village and the Apgar Visitor Center will still be available during the week. The closure is timed to coincide with the third Monday of October, the day the Going-to-the-Sun Road typically closes in the alpine section for the winter.

Hiker-biker access between October 15 and 19 is not anticipated. Administrative and local resident traffic will be permitted from 7:00 am-7:30 am, from 3:30 pm-4:00 pm, and after 6:00 pm daily during construction.

Last year the park undertook a significant culvert replacement initiative at the same location, successfully installing two large culverts. However, drainage is not behaving as anticipated, and the park is installing a third large culvert to continue to address this frequent flooding issue on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

On October 20, access to Avalanche will once again reopen, fire conditions permitting, and will remain open until the gate closes at Lake McDonald Lodge for the winter on or before December 15. Hiker-biker access will resume above the Avalanche gate on October 20. Standard hiker-biker restrictions will be in place as road winterizing procedures begin to ensure pedestrian and work crew safety.

October 14 will be the last day that visitors are able to drive to Logan Pass from both the east and west side as the park road crew begins to winterize the road, including removing log barriers to protect them from avalanche hazards, removing directional signs, and installing snow poles.

This project is a part of the larger rehabilitation efforts along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in partnership with the Federal Highways Administration. Other road rehabilitation projects underway in 2018 include slump improvements on the Many Glacier Road, road grading/gravel replacement on Bowman Lake Road, and Avalanche Campground Road, which will be closed for approximately two weeks beginning September 17 for repairs, fire conditions permitting.

In the fall, construction on the roads in front of the Many Glacier Hotel and the upper parking lot will begin. This is part of the larger rehabilitation project for the section of the Many Glacier Road from Babb, MT, to the park boundary, and from the Many Glacier entrance station into the Many Glacier Valley.

The St. Mary Entrance Station will also undergo additional changes this fall and into the spring following its construction last year to extend the building height for oversized vehicles. No significant traffic delays are expected with that work.

Looking ahead to 2019, the park expects to undertake a significant routine pavement preservation project. Pavement preservation lays layers of a protective coating over the road, extending the life of the pavement substantially. The preservation work includes the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road, Chief Mountain Road, a portion of the Camas Road, Apgar Village Loop, and other minor areas. The work requires dry and moderately warm conditions to cure. The park expects some Going-to-the-Sun Road closures related to this work. Further details about pavement preservation in 2019 will be released this winter.

The park will also repair portions of the Inside North Fork Road. The Anaconda area in need of substantial repair will not be addressed within the scope of this more minor repair. However, construction will occur at “Lover’s Leap” and Logging Creek. When completed, visitors will be able to drive the Inside North Fork Road to just north of Anaconda Creek from the Polebridge Entrance, and the Dutch Creek Trailhead from the Fish Creek Entrance. Note that the Inside North Fork Road is not the main “North Fork Road” that provides access to Polebridge and other neighboring communities.

Funding dependent, sections of Camas Road may also undergo rehabilitation. Additional details will be available in 2019 if this project is scheduled.

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.

Please note that as of the writing of this press release, the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road has been temporarily closed due to Howe Ridge Fire activity adjacent to the Going-to-the-Sun Road.



Jeff
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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Interagency Firefighters Respond to Leigh Canyon Fire in Grand Teton National Park

Teton Interagency firefighters responded to the Leigh Canyon Fire Saturday afternoon after reports of smoke in the area. Fire management staff are monitoring the fire and assessing management options for the long term management of the fire. The fire is located about one mile above Leigh Canyon from the west side of Leigh Lake at about 7,600 feet in elevation in Grand Teton National Park. As of Saturday evening, the size of the fire is estimated to be around three and a half acres with some spotting of downed logs in avalanche debris which caused smoke to be visible from the roads. The fire cause is unknown.

The Leigh Canyon Fire is being closely monitored by both ground and aerial resources. The fire is in a remote area and priority is firefighter and public safety. Monitoring of the fire will continue overnight.

Grand Teton National Park has evacuated three Leigh Lake backcountry campsites including 16, 14A, and 14B on the west shore of Leigh Lake. Backcountry permits are not being issued for the CMC camp on Mount Moran, campsites near Leigh Lake, Bearpaw Lake and Trapper Lake, Bearpaw Bay, and Little Grassy Island as a precautionary measure. Campers and hikers using Paintbrush Canyon and to southern Leigh Lake should be alert and prepared to modify their plans if fire behavior changes.

Grand Teton National Park was under Red Flag warning until 7 p.m. today due to high winds and low humidity. Tomorrow, lighter winds, slightly cooler temperatures, and more humidity is expected.

Fire plays a vital role in the ecosystem reducing fuel loads, allowing future fires to not grow as rapidly. Fire management objectives include firefighter and public safety, park, and forest infrastructure; while monitoring the fire as it fulfills its natural role on the landscape. Management strategies will adjust to changing conditions.



Jeff
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Friday, September 14, 2018

Grizzly Bear Killed in Train Collision Near West Glacier

A male grizzly bear was killed in a train collision earlier this week on the railroad tracks near West Glacier.

The 2-year-old bear was wearing a GPS radio collar, which notified Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks of the animal’s location near Nyack Flats. The collision occurred on the evening of Sept. 10, 2018. FWP personnel retrieved the carcass the next morning and confirmed the cause of death through a necropsy. FWP notified BNSF Railway and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The bear was originally captured and fitted with a radio collar at the end of May east of Bigfork and it was translocated to the east side of Hungry Horse Reservoir.

So far this year, 33 grizzly bear mortalities have been identified in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem due to a variety of circumstances, including management action, collisions, and augmentation. Bears are classified as mortalities if they die, are taken to an accredited zoo or research facility if possible, or euthanized. One-to-two bears are annually targeted for relocation to the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem as part of an augmentation program.

The NCDE is home to more than 1,000 grizzly bears. The NCDE is a designated grizzly bear recovery zone that spans Glacier National Park, parts of the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian Reservations, parts of five national forests and a significant amount of state and private lands.

FWP maintains a population monitoring program and follows protocols and management objectives that are designed to maintain a healthy grizzly bear population in the NCDE. This includes tracking known mortalities, whether bears are killed or removed from the population for a variety of circumstances, and notifying the public.

Right now bears are actively seeking food sources before the winter denning season, and residents are urged to reduce or secure attractants. FWP Region 1 has recently seen an uptick in reports of bears approaching food sources, such as fruit trees and garbage.

More safety information is available on the FWP website, fwp.mt.gov. Residents can call FWP regional offices to learn more about bears or to report bear activity. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.



Jeff
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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Grand Teton To Observe National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 22

This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Public Lands Day, and in recognition, Grand Teton National Park entrance fees will be waived and volunteer opportunities will be available on Saturday, September 22. Established in 1994 and held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest single-day volunteer effort. It celebrates the connection between people and green space in their community, inspires environmental stewardship, and encourages use of open space for education, recreation, and general health.

Volunteers are invited to join park staff to work on the Taggart Lake trail from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 22. Work will include construction of buck and rail fencing and trail de-compaction and maintenance with light to moderate physical activity. All ages and skill levels are encouraged. Volunteers will need to bring water for the day, snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, sturdy and comfortable hiking shoes, and clothing to match the weather. Those interested in volunteering should register by contacting Angela Timby at 307-739-3379 or angela_timby@nps.gov in order for tools and vehicles to be coordinated. Work gloves, tools, and safety equipment will be provided and all volunteers will receive a voucher that can be used for a one-time entry into any public land site that charges an entrance fee. Participants should meet at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center at 9:45 a.m.

National Public Lands Day is organized annually by the National Environmental Education Foundation, in cooperation with Department of the Interior, Department of the Army, and Department of Agriculture. The National Park Service is one of the event’s largest providers of sites and volunteers. Other participating federal agencies include the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, US Forest Service, and US Army Corps of Engineers. National Public Lands Day is celebrated across the country to encourage enjoyment and volunteer opportunities on public lands.



Jeff
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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Grand Teton Publishes Fall Closing Dates for Park Facilities and Services

The closing dates for seasonally operated facilities in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway were published yesterday, and are available here.



Jeff
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Monday, September 10, 2018

State Trails Advisory Committee Meeting in Great Falls -Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Montana State Parks (stateparks.mt.gov) announced today that the citizen Montana State Trails Advisory Committee (STAC) will hold a meeting on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 from 8:30am-3:30pm at the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 4 Headquarters, located at 4600 Giant Springs Road, Great Falls, MT.

The committee will advise on a number of trail issues, including FY2019 Recreational Trails Program guidelines and miscellaneous trail-related topics. State Trails Advisory Committee members represent both motorized and non-motorized trail user groups and provide advice and assistance for the Recreational Trails Program.

The meeting is open to the public. For more information contact Michelle McNamee, Recreational Trails Program Manager at (406) 444-7642 or michelle.mcnamee@mt.gov.

The Montana Recreational Trails Program provides grant funding to support trail construction, trail maintenance and grooming efforts, as well as trail-related education so enthusiasts can enjoy trails throughout Montana.

What: Montana State Trails Advisory Committee Meeting

When: Wednesday, September 12, 2018 from 8:30am to 3:30pm

Where: Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 4 Headquarters, 4600 Giant Springs Road, Great Falls, MT



Jeff
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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Glacier National Park Offering Limited Shuttle and Tour Access From West Side of Going-to-the-Sun Road beginning September 7

Glacier National Park, in coordination with the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 1 has begun preparations to allow limited visitor access on the currently closed west side portion of the Going-to- the-Sun Road.

Based on information from fire managers on the Howe Ridge Fire, the park will offer limited shuttle and tour access from the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road beginning September 7. The road was originally closed for public safety on August 12 when the Howe Ridge Fire on the west side of Lake McDonald threatened the area due to extreme fire behavior, resulting in structure loss, evacuations, and significant fire traffic on the road.

Visitors will be required to use shuttle or tour services to travel through the closed area in order to provide for visitor safety and firefighter access in the fire closure area. Shuttles will not stop between Apgar and Logan Pass. Currently, private vehicles will not be allowed due to significant ongoing fire traffic operating in the closed area. Shuttle and tour services will provide visitors with access to the popular Logan Pass Visitor Center via the West Glacier Park Entrance. Shuttle capacity will be limited.

Visitors will be able to ride the park shuttle system with a free park shuttle pass, available beginning at 7:30 am each day at the Apgar Visitor Center Shuttle Stop. The passes will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis. Shuttles will depart every 30 minutes. The last shuttle will depart at 1:30 pm. The last returning shuttle from Logan Pass will depart at 4 pm.

Concessioner operated Sun Tours and Red Bus Tours will also operate in the closure area. Visitors who would like to make reservations with Sun Tours should visit the Sun Tours website. Visitors who would like to make reservations for a Red Bus Tour should visit the Glacier National Park Lodges website.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open to private vehicles from St. Mary to Logan Pass, accessible from the east side of the park. Since the Howe Ridge Fire began on August 11, visitor services have continued in all other areas of the park, and numerous visitors continue to access the park via the St. Mary Entrance as well as the Many Glacier and Two Medicine park areas.



Jeff
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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Conquering A Granite Goliath

Below is an outstanding short film by Christopher R. Abbey on what it's like to climb 14,505-foot Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48. The film has recently become an official selection for the Highlands Park Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles. Enjoy!


CONQUERING A GRANITE GOLIATH - Summiting Mount Whitney from Christopher R. Abbey on Vimeo.




Jeff
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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Evacuation Warnings Lifted for Apgar and North Fork Park Areas

Effective immediately, Glacier National Park, at the recommendation of the Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team, has lifted the evacuation warning that was in place for the Apgar and Grist Road areas of the park.

Firefighters have completed significant work to reinforce containment lines on the south side of the fire. Coupled with the recent rainfall which moderated fire activity, the park is removing these areas from warning status.

Fish Creek Campground remains closed. Due to anticipated shoulder season visitation levels and the logistics involved in reopening the campground, the campground will be closed for the duration of the season. It was originally scheduled to close for the season the morning of September 4. Fish Creek Campground Road also remains closed.

Trails along the Camas Road will reopen with the exception of trails off of McGee Meadow.

The north end of the Howe Ridge Fire remains active. The fire is within 150 feet of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in places. Crews are maintaining extensive sprinkler systems at the Upper McDonald Creek stockbridge, throughout the Avalanche developed area, at the Red Rocks overlook, and at the Logan Creek patrol cabin, should the fire spot across the road. In addition, an extensive sprinkler system has been placed along the Upper McDonald Creek trails, with the goal of containing that edge of the fire before it reaches the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

An evacuation order remains in effect between the foot of Lake McDonald and Logan Pass along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Other park roads including the Going-to-the-Sun Road between St. Mary and Logan Pass remain open.

Rain fell in the fire area yesterday, and additional storms are predicted for later this week. While the amount of rain calmed fire behavior, the rain was not significant enough to substantially penetrate thick foliage prevalent in the fire area.

At the recommendation of the incident management team, the park is also lifting the evacuation warning for the area north of the Bowman Lake Road junction with the Inside North Fork Road. The warning was put in place due to Whale Butte Fire activity, currently burning on Flathead National Forest land adjacent to the park boundary. Containment lines along the Whale Butte fire are holding and recent moisture has moderated fire activity.

Trail closures are still in place in the northeast Goat Haunt area of the park due to the Boundary Fire burning in the park along the Canadian border. Boat tours operated by Waterton Shoreline Cruise Company are once again landing at Goat Haunt. Visitors will be limited to the boat dock pavilion and restroom area. Visitors should be aware that firefighters and structural protection equipment such as hoses will be in place.

For additional details about trail status in Glacier National Park, visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Most of Glacier National Park, the Flathead National Forest, and tourism opportunities throughout northwest Montana are open and operating as usual



Jeff
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Cell Tower to Mar View of Glacier National Park

Earlier today I received an email from one of our long-time advertisers, Great Northern Resort, asking us to oppose a proposed cell tower that would mar the view of Glacier National Park from their business in West Glacier. In particular, the 108-foot proposed tower would stand in the direct view of the park from the wedding ceremony site on their property. Additionally, the tower will also be in direct view of park visitors driving into the park from the south. Undoubtedly this will likely impact the views of other tourist and lodging businesses in the area as well.

If you are against cell towers marring the views of our national parks, as I am, Great Northern Resort asks that you contact the Flathead County Planning and Zoning Department to voice your opinion. You can phone them at (406) 751-8200, email them by clicking here, or write them at:

Flathead County Planning and Zoning Department
40 11th Street West, Suite 220
Kalispell, MT 59901

You can also attend the Flathead County Board of Adjustment meeting on September 4th, beginning at 6:00 P.M. in the 2nd floor conference room of the South Campus Building, 40 11th Street West, Kalispell, MT 59901.



Jeff
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USDA Forest Service Announces New Strategy for Improving Forest Conditions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (USFS) recently announced a new strategy for managing catastrophic wildfires and the impacts of invasive species, drought, and insect and disease epidemics.

Specifically, a new report titled Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes: An Outcome-based investment Strategy outlines the USFS’s plans to work more closely with states to identify landscape-scale priorities for targeted treatments in areas with the highest payoffs.

“On my trip to California this week, I saw the devastation that these unprecedented wildfires are having on our neighbors, friends and families,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We commit to work more closely with the states to reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires. We commit to strengthening the stewardship of public and private lands. This report outlines our strategy and intent to help one another prevent wildfire from reaching this level.”

Both federal and private managers of forest land face a range of urgent challenges, among them catastrophic wildfires, invasive species, degraded watersheds, and epidemics of forest insects and disease. The conditions fueling these circumstances are not improving. Of particular concern are longer fire seasons, the rising size and severity of wildfires, and the expanding risk to communities, natural resources, and firefighters.

“The challenges before us require a new approach,” said Interim USFS Chief Vicki Christiansen. “This year Congress has given us new opportunities to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with state leaders to identify land management priorities that include mitigating wildfire risks. We will use all the tools available to us to reduce hazardous fuels, including mechanical treatments, prescribed fire, and unplanned fire in the right place at the right time, to mitigate them.”

A key component of the new strategy is to prioritize investment decisions on forest treatments in direct coordination with states using the most advanced science tools. This allows the USFS to increase the scope and scale of critical forest treatments that protect communities and create resilient forests.

The USFS will also build upon the authorities created by the 2018 Omnibus Bill, including new categorical exclusions for land treatments to improve forest conditions, new road maintenance authorities, and longer stewardship contracting in strategic areas. The agency will continue streamlining its internal processes to make environmental analysis more efficient and timber sale contracts more flexible.

The Omnibus Bill also includes a long-term “fire funding fix,” starting in FY 2020, that will stop the rise of the 10-year average cost of fighting wildland fire and reduce the likelihood of the disruptive practice of transferring funds from Forest Service non-fire programs to cover firefighting costs. The product of more than a decade of hard work, this bipartisan solution will ultimately stabilize the agency’s operating environment.

Finally, because rising rates of firefighter fatalities in recent decades have shifted the USFS’s approach to fire response, the report emphasizes the agency’s commitment to a risk-based response to wildfire.

The complete strategy is available at www.fs.fed.us/sites/default/files/toward-shared-stewardship.pdf. Photographs of the event are available at: https://flic.kr/s/aHskGkVYkN



Jeff
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Monday, August 27, 2018

Suspect in Yellowstone Bison Incident Pleads Guilty

Raymond Reinke, 55, from Pendleton, Oregon, appeared Thursday, August 23, 2018, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming.

Reinke, scheduled for a trial, entered a change of plea on August 23. He pleaded guilty to four charges in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The charge of under the influence of alcohol on July 28 in Grand Teton and a disorderly conduct charge on July 31 in Yellowstone were dismissed.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Carmen accepted the terms of the plea agreement for the Class B misdemeanors. Sentencing included:

• 130 days of incarceration
• $70 in court fees and assessments, with no additional fines incurred
• 5 years of unsupervised probation
• Alcohol and bar ban
• Substance abuse evaluation and successful treatment if required by the evaluation
• Alcohol testing upon reasonable suspicion
• Submit to searching for alcohol and/or controlled substances upon reasonable suspicion

Additionally, the U.S. Magistrate added as a condition of Reinke’s probation a five-year ban from entering Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Glacier National Park, where the incidents and subsequent warrant arrest occurred on August 2.

“The judge’s decision today reinforces the park’s commitment toward protecting wildlife and other natural resources as well as our visiting public,” said Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney. “We encourage everyone to commit to stewardship of our public lands while enjoying our national parks and respecting the experiences of others.”

On August 8, Reinke pleaded not guilty to charges in Yellowstone National Park that included disturbing wildlife, disorderly conduct, and carrying an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. Additionally, charges in Grand Teton National Park included being under the influence of alcohol to a degree that endangers self or other, interfering with agency functions/resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace, which resulted in an arrest and ultimately a revocation of bond conditions.



Jeff
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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Public Invited to Participate in Monitoring of Teton Range Glaciers

Grand Teton National Park staff will host a citizen science glacier survey Labor Day weekend, September 1 and 2. The effort is the first of its kind in the park and will give citizen volunteers the opportunity to participate in glacier monitoring efforts in the Teton Range. Options for participation are flexible—people may join both days, or for just a couple hours. Those interested should contact grte_glacier_monitoring@nps.gov for more information and to make arrangements.

Working alongside park experts, participants will photograph the Schoolroom Glacier to create a digital three-dimensional model of its surface. This model will be used to track changes in the glacier’s volume over time. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn about glacial change in the Teton Range and the science behind other monitoring efforts.

This event is free and open to the public. Participants should be able to hike the strenuous trail to the head of the South Fork of Cascade Canyon, a one-way distance of 10 miles with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Participants should also bring a camera or smartphone if they have one.

Limited backcountry campsites have been reserved in the nearby camping zone for participants. These sites can be reserved by contacting grte_glacier_monitoring@nps.gov.

Grand Teton National Park’s iconic glaciers have retreated, some significantly, since they were first surveyed in the 1950s. They play a critical role within the park as they provide a year-round cold water source for mountain streams and the plants and animals that rely on them. They are also an unforgettable part of the mountain experience in the park, with several prominent glaciers visible from roadside overlooks and accessible to hikers and climbers.



Jeff
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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Boy Injured by Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone

A young boy was injured by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park on Thursday. Law enforcement and bear management staff investigated the incident and determined that an adult female grizzly bear injured the 10-year-old boy from Washington.

Tracks observed by staff indicated the grizzly bear was with at least one cub-of-the-year or yearling bear. The bears were likely foraging next to the trail when the encounter occurred.

Park rangers do not intend to search for the bear since this incident was a surprise encounter with a female grizzly bear defending its cub.

“This incident could have been more serious. We applaud the family for traveling in a group, carrying bear spray, and knowing how to effectively use it during their emergency,” said Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney. “We wish their son a full recovery from his injuries.”

The Divide and Spring Creek trails remain temporarily closed. They will reopen after the trails have been inspected for recent bear activity.



Jeff
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Friday, August 24, 2018

Fish and Wildlife Commission Advances Proposed Grizzly Bear Population Objectives for Public Comment

The Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved language for a proposed administrative rule that would codify population objectives for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE).

The decision on August 9, 2018 sets into motion a public comment period that will run from Aug. 24 through Oct. 26. Public hearings will be held in Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls, and Conrad. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff will explain and answer questions about the proposed population objectives at the hearings and take public comment.

The population objective is for NCDE, which is one of six designated recovery areas for grizzly bears in the lower-48 states. Grizzly bears in the NCDE are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, although they have met their recovery criteria and may be proposed for delisting in the future.

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

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

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

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

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

FWP would work with the NCDE subcommittee to incorporate any potential changes resulting from this public process.

Public Hearings:

Sept. 18 – Great Falls, Great Falls College-MSU, 2100 16th Avenue S., 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 19 – Conrad, High School, 220 North Wisconsin St., 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 26 – Missoula, Holiday Inn Downtown, 600 S. Pattee St., 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 27 – Kalispell, Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building, 777 Grandview Drive, 6:30 p.m.

Comments can be submitted either orally or in writing during the hearings. Comments can also be submitted by mail to Karen Speeg – Wildlife Division, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701; or e-mail FWPGRIZZLYBEARARM@mt.gov, and must be received no later than Oct. 26, 2018.



Jeff
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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Researchers Study Park Visitors at String and Leigh Lakes

Grand Teton National Park managers are learning from research and field staff observations to improve visitor use management and provide high quality visitor experiences in the popular String and Leigh lakes area. Social scientists from Oregon State, Penn State, and Utah State universities are nearing completion of a two-year study to better understand visitor use, experience, and behaviors in this scenic area as well as the related resource impacts.

Informed by research data collected in 2017 as well as observations made by the String Lake volunteer crew, park managers made minor changes to the String Lake area earlier this summer. A new mobile information trailer is staffed periodically by the volunteer crew to relay information to visitors. Parking areas and travel lanes were re-striped to improve clarity of legal parking areas and ensure emergency access, and signage was improved to provide visitors with clear directions. These changes were made to improve the visitor experience.

The results from the 2017 data collection effort can be found in a technical report at go.nps.gov/StringLeigh2017. Many of the key findings provide quantifiable data for trends that were previously understood only through anecdotal evidence. For example, the report shows peak visitation occurs between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and parking usually spills onto the roadside around noon. Researchers also found that visitation along the east shore of String Lake has created 51,000 square feet, or about one football field, of disturbed vegetation and compacted soil.

Given the high density of visitor use on the east shore of String Lake, study technicians also recorded ‘behaviors of interest’ in this area. These include any person breaking park regulations, violating Leave No Trace principles, or engaging in behavior that may negatively affect another visitor’s experience. The most frequently observed behaviors of interest were improper food storage, making loud human-caused noise, hiking off-trail, and lacking a visible personal flotation device while on a watercraft.

In addition to the quantitative data collection, researchers conducted qualitative interviews with visitors to the area and found that nearly half reported being crowded. Interestingly, many visitors reported changing the time of their visit in response to crowding. Others reported moving from Jenny Lake to String Lake, and from String Lake to Leigh Lake in response to crowded conditions.

Researchers also asked visitors about the reasons for their visit to String Lake. The primary motivations visitors mentioned included enjoying nature, solitude, relaxation, and quiet. The warm water temperature, being together with friends and family, and safety also play a prominent role in people’s desire to visit.

After data collection is completed this summer, a final report will be presented to park managers in spring 2019. Managers will use the information to make future management decisions in the String and Leigh lakes area.



Jeff
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Monday, August 20, 2018

Howe Ridge Fire Update, August 20

A weather system in the area will produce erratic winds, impacting fire behavior throughout today. The system is predicted to bring slightly cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity, as well as possible showers and thunderstorms.

With the use of heavy equipment such as masticators, firefighters continue to secure the southwestern flank of the fire along the edge of the Inside North Fork Road. Crews will continue to implement structure protection in the Fish Creek Campground area with the use of sprinkler systems, while utilizing hotshot crews to create and secure containment lines. On the northeastern flank, north of Lake McDonald, firefighters are utilizing pumps and hose lays to aid in suppression efforts and limit fire spread towards the Going-to-the-Sun Road, while patrolling to protect structures and suppress any new fire activity. Fire managers continue to proactively plan for protection of other areas as the fire progresses and assure objectives align with the suppression tactics.

The Howe Ridge Fire is active on the southern and southwestern flanks of the fire with backing and flanking fire. In the evening and overnight, the fire has been driven by down-valley winds in heavy dead fuels, primarily from the 2003 Robert Fire. Isolated single tree torching was observed within the fire perimeter, but spotting did not contribute to fire growth.

Due to fire activity, all campers, NPS employees and the Fish Creek Ranger Station have been ordered to evacuate the Fish Creek Campground. Fish Creek Campground Road is closed from the Camas Road junction. The Camas Road was briefly closed during the night as a precautionary public safety measure, but daylight showed it could be reopened. The Camas Road is now open again.

An Evacuation Warning from the Quarter Circle Bridge Road north has been issued. This includes Apgar, the Grist Road, and all areas accessed from Quarter Circle Bridge Road. An Evacuation Warning means people need to be ready to leave but are not being evacuated at this time. Trails off the Camas Road are now closed.

Evacuations: The Fish Creek Campground area is now under an evacuation order. Evacuation orders remain in place for the North Lake McDonald road (private residences and the Lake McDonald Ranger Station), Lake McDonald Lodge area (all businesses, employees, and private residences), private residences along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and Sprague Creek and Avalanche Campgrounds.

Road and Trail Closures: The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open between St. Mary and Logan Pass. It is closed between the foot of Lake McDonald (near Apgar) and Logan Pass. The Inside North Fork Road and the Fish Creek Road are closed. Multiple trail closures are associated with this fire. As of Sunday Morning, all trails off of the Camas Road are closed. Please see full trail closures on the park’s website: www.nps.gov/glac.

Fire Restrictions: Glacier National Park and most of western Montana are under Stage II Fire Restrictions. No campfires will be permitted in Glacier’s frontcountry or backcountry. Smoking is also prohibited except within an enclosed building, vehicle, developed recreation area, or barren area three feet in diameter. Propane stoves that have an on/off switch are permitted.

A temporary flight restriction is in effect in the fire area.

Smoke monitoring information is available at:http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/

For a recorded Howe Ridge Fire update, call (406) 888-7077.

For general Glacier National Park information, visit www.nps.gov/glac or call (406) 888-7800.



Jeff
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Public Invited to Participate in Fall Raptor Migration Study In Glacier

In celebration of the Year of the Bird, Glacier National Park is launching a new Hawk Watch Program where park biologists will teach volunteers how to count migrating raptors. A training will be held at the Apgar Education Center in Apgar Village on Thursday, August 23, 2018 from 9 am to 12 pm to learn more about this opportunity.

Fire and road closure status dependent, the field study will be held this fall. Volunteers can choose specific dates in September and October to hike approximately 4.5 miles up the Mount Brown trail (roughly 4,000 feet in elevation gain) to collect data from 10 am to 4 pm. The second site near Lake McDonald Lodge is accessible by road and will focus on counts of migrating golden eagles during October from 12 to 4 pm daily. If fire conditions do not allow access to these areas, alternate sites may be identified.

Each year, golden eagles migrate from northern breeding grounds to warmer climates. One of the most important North American golden eagle migration routes passes directly through Glacier National Park along the Continental Divide. Large numbers of other raptors also use this migration corridor during the fall and spring months.

In the mid-1990’s biologists documented nearly 2,000 golden eagles migrating past Mount Brown annually. Recent data from outside Glacier National Park indicate significant declines in golden eagle numbers. Due to this concern, the park initiated a Citizen Science Raptor Migration Project in 2011 to investigate possible locations for a Hawk Watch site. Hawk Watch sites are part of an international effort to track long-term raptor population trends using systematic migrating raptor counts. Observers also record data on sex, age, color morph and behavior of raptors, as well as weather and environmental conditions. To see a map of Hawk Watch sites around the world go to https://www.hawkcount.org/sitesel.php

The Year of the Bird marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the important roles birds play in our ecosystems. The National Park Service has joined in with the National Audubon Society, National Geographic, Bird Life International, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and 200 other organizations to celebrate this momentous anniversary. The MBTA has protected billions of birds since its inception. The U.S. and Canada first signed it into law in 1918. In 1936, international governments expanded the MBTA to include Mexico, followed by Japan and the former USSR (1970s).

Glacier National Park Volunteer Associates, the Glacier National Park Conservancy donors provide support for this program. Contact GLAC_citizen_science@nps.gov or call (406) 888-7986 for more information or to sign up for the training session.



Jeff
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Friday, August 17, 2018

Biologists set to begin grizzly and black bear trapping for research purposes in Yellowstone

As part of ongoing efforts to monitor the population of grizzly bears and black bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Yellowstone National Park and the USGS would like to inform the public that biologists with the National Park Service and Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) will be conducting scientific grizzly bear and black bear research operations in Yellowstone National Park from August 21 through October 31.

Team members will bait and capture bears at several remote sites within Yellowstone National Park. Once captured, the bears are anesthetized to allow wildlife biologists to radio-collar and collect scientific samples for study. All captures and handling are done in accordance with strict protocols developed by the IGBST.

None of the capture sites in the park will be located near any established hiking trails or backcountry campsites, and all sites will have posted warnings for the closure perimeter. Potential access points will also be posted with warning signs for the closure area. Backcountry users who come upon any of these posted areas need to heed the warnings and stay out of the area.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team was established in 1973 to collaboratively monitor and manage ecosystem bears on an interagency basis. The gathering of critical data on bears is part of a long-term research and monitoring effort to help wildlife managers devise and implement programs to support the ongoing conservation of Yellowstone’s grizzly bear and black bear populations.

The IGBST is composed of representatives of the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department, and the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.



Jeff
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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Howe Ridge Fire Update, August 16

Fire burned actively through the night, with single tree torching and spotting producing growth to the southwest. Additional spotting and growth were observed on the north edge of the fire on the southern slope of Mount Stanton, as well as the northwest edge of the fire toward Rogers Lake.

A “K-Max” Type 1 helicopter and “Huey” Type 2 helicopter dropped water on the edges of the fire throughout yesterday afternoon and evening in order to slow fire growth. Fixed-wing aircraft were prevented from flying due to low visibility.

Due to favorable fire conditions yesterday morning, evacuated landowners were permitted to access their properties. Some areas were deemed unsafe due to conditions and those landowners were not able to extensively access their property area, but were able to view it.

Structural protection crews continued to work to reduce risk to buildings at the head of Lake McDonald and Kelly’s Camp.

An overnight infrared overflight provided updated mapping of the fire perimeter measuring 3500 acres. There are approximately 78 personnel assigned to the fire.

Today’s weather forecast anticipates the current ridge of high pressure to begin breaking this afternoon, resulting in increased atmospheric instability. Wind directions will change, resulting in potential for the fire to expand to the southwest and northeast.

Today’s firefighting efforts will include structural protection and ground crews will continue to establish a hose lay at the north end of Lake McDonald. Air support will continue to be used to control fire spread as conditions allow.

The Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team, under the command of John Pierson, is onsite and will be taking over management of this fire at 6:00 am tomorrow.

Area closures and evacuations remain in place:

· Avalanche Campground and Sprague Campground

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

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

· Private residences along the Going-to-the-Sun Road

The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open between St. Mary and Logan Pass. It is closed between the foot of Lake McDonald (near Apgar) and Logan Pass. Apgar Village, Apgar Campground and Fish Creek campground remain open. Most other areas of the park are open as well including hundreds of mile of trails. The Inside North Fork road is closed and multiple trail closures are associated with this fire. Please see full trail closures on the park’s website.

The Logan Pass Star Party planned for September 7 remains scheduled. The Logan Pass Star Party previously scheduled for Friday, August 17 has been cancelled due to logistical considerations including west side access and visibility.

The park has established a Fire Information Line at 406-888-7077. Recorded information is available if a fire information officer is not available to answer the phone. The number is expected to change when the Type 1 Incident Management Team assumes control of the fire tomorrow. The latest Howe Ridge Fire information and photos can be found on Inciweb.

Glacier National Park and most of western Montana are under Stage II Fire Restrictions. No campfires will be permitted in Glacier’s frontcountry or backcountry. Smoking is also prohibited except within an enclosed building, vehicle, developed recreation area, or barren area three feet in diameter. Propane stoves that have an on/off switch are permitted.



Jeff
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Cattle Drive in Grand Teton Scheduled for Saturday Morning

A traditional cattle drive will take place early Saturday morning, August 18, in Grand Teton National Park. While the cattle drive is underway, a two-mile stretch of US Highway 26/89/191 will be temporarily closed to vehicle traffic from Moran Junction to the Elk Ranch Flats area that lies just one mile south of the junction in the northern area of the park. Motorists should expect a travel delay between approximately 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. as cattle are herded from their summer pasture at Elk Ranch Flats to their pastures on the Pinto Ranch east of Moran. Park rangers will provide traffic control on the highway during this cattle drive.

Pinto Ranch wranglers will drive a herd of approximately 280 cattle eastward from the Elk Ranch Flats summer pasture to their ranch using a right-of-way along US Highway 26/287. As the cattle are herded towards Moran Junction, the animals must cross the Buffalo Fork Bridge on the highway.

Efforts will be made to minimize any inconvenience to travelers driving along the highway near Moran Junction early Saturday morning. To avoid the travel delay, motorists may choose to use an alternate route and drive the Teton Park Road between Jackson Lake Junction and Moose Junction.

Several years ago, Grand Teton officials requested that the Pinto Ranch shift their cattle from an historic, free-range Pacific Creek grazing allotment north of Moran to the fenced Elk Ranch Flats pastures to minimize potential conflicts with predators in the Pacific Creek drainage. The Pinto Ranch is grazing spayed heifers only, rather than running a cow/calf operation allowing for reduced potential predator conflicts.

In accordance with the 1950 Grand Teton National Park enabling legislation, certain historic grazing privileges were retained. Since that time, the fenced and irrigated Elk Ranch Flats pastures have been used for grazing each summer season.



Jeff
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Howe Ridge Fire Update

Fire behavior increased yesterday yet there was minimal fire growth under smoky skies. The fire is estimated at 2,600 acres. Visibility hampered the CL-215 “Super scoopers” from working on the fire, however the Type I helicopter effectively cooled spot fires slowing the fire’s growth. Ground crews utilized existing trails to create fire breaks, continued to pump water for sprinklers for structure protection, and cooled hot spots at the residences on North Lake McDonald Road. Structure protection continued at remaining buildings at Kelly’s Camp.

Fire behavior is expected to be more active today with increased winds and the potential of smoke lifting earlier in the day. The aircraft will extinguish spot fires and cool the head of the fire towards Stanton Mountain. Structure protection is the priority for ground crews and firefighters will continue to mop up hot spots along the North Lake McDonald road. Growth is expected on all sides of the fire today.

Terrain, vegetation type, and the potential of falling large trees prevent the ground crews from constructing direct fire line safely. Crews heard gunfire-like sounds of snags crashing down throughout the night. Existing trails and water sources aid fire line construction and fire control.

A Type I team from the Southwest has arrived for an in-briefing today and will assume control of the fire later in the week.

Apgar area residents are reminded of Ready, Set, Go! This wildfire ready program helps residents be Ready with preparedness understanding, be Set with situational awareness when fire threatens, and to Go, acting early when a fire starts. The Apgar area was put in the “Ready” status, which entails creating defensible space around structures, assembling emergency supplies and belongings in a safe place, and planning escape routes, and make sure all residents in a home know the plan.

Area closures and evacuations remain in place:

· Sprague Campground and Avalanche Campground

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

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

· Private residences along the Going-to-the-Sun Road

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed between the foot of Lake McDonald (near Apgar) and Logan Pass. The road remains open between St. Mary and Logan Pass. Apgar Village, Apgar Campground and Fish Creek campground remain open. Most other areas of the park are open as well. The Inside North Fork road is closed and multiple trail closures are associated with this fire, including The Loop trail. Please see full trail closures on the park’s website.

The park has established a Fire Information Line with updated recorded information: 406-888-7077. The latest Howe Ridge information and photos can be found on Inciweb.

Glacier National Park is under Stage II Fire Restrictions. No campfires will be permitted in the frontcountry or backcountry. Smoking is also prohibited except within an enclosed building, vehicle, developed recreation area, or barren area three feet in diameter. Propane stoves that have an on/off switch are permitted.



Jeff
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Fire Danger Increases to Very High in Grand Teton: Fire Activity and Drones Do Not Mix

The fire danger rating for Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest and Teton Interagency Dispatch Area has increased to very high. Conditions in the area are drying quickly and a fire may start easily, spread quickly and burn intensely. There are no fire restrictions at this time, but everyone is asked to practice heightened fire safety at all times.

Fire managers use a variety of factors to determine fire danger ratings including the moisture content of grasses, shrubs and trees, projected weather conditions (including temperatures and possible wind events), and the ability of fire to spread after ignition.

Recent hot temperatures, low humidity and lack of measurable precipitation have combined to increase the potential for fire activity across the Teton Interagency fire area.

The national fire preparedness is at the highest level. This means that firefighting resources are responding to numerous incidents across the western United States. Many Teton Interagency fire-fighting resources are available for initial response in the local area, and some resources are supporting large fires in other areas.

Teton Interagency fire personnel have extinguished almost 50 unattended or abandoned campfires this summer. Abandoned campfires can quickly escalate into wildfires, and it is extremely important that all campfires are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before campers leave their site. Visitors should never leave a fire unattended and can be held liable for suppression costs if their campfire becomes a wildfire.

Operators of unmanned aircraft systems, UAS or drones, are reminded that flying near a wildfire is prohibited, and illegal. Drones can shut down fire-fighting operations which may put firefighters, residents and property at risk. Aerial resources recently had to be stopped on a wildlife fire in Idaho due to a near-miss midair collision.

Visit the Teton Interagency Fire web site at tetonfires.com to learn more about fire safety and what fire regulations may be in place. To report a fire or smoke in the immediate area, call the Teton Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 307.739.3630.



Jeff
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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Howe Ridge Fire Update: Details on Structures Lost in Lake McDonald Area

Fire behavior moderated on Monday following more favorable weather conditions. Crews on the ground, supported by aerial resources worked to limit the spread of the fire to the north. Crews worked throughout the night Monday to suppress spot fires.

The fire is estimated at 2,500 acres. The weather forecast for the fire area is calm today but conditions remain hot and dry. Today, firefighters will continue to suppress spot fires along the north end of Lake McDonald. CL-215 “Superscoopers” and a K-Max helicopter will again be used to drop water, focusing on the north and southwest edges of the fire.

The lightning-caused Howe Ridge Fire made a significant run on Sunday night, despite active air and ground firefighting efforts earlier in the day. The fire activity prompted multiple evacuations on the North Lake McDonald Road, the Lake McDonald Lodge Complex, Avalanche and Sprague Creek Campgrounds, nearby hiking trails, including The Loop Trail, and a portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

A structural protection task force from Flathead County responded immediately Sunday evening to protect private residences and National Park Service buildings along the north shore of Lake McDonald. While multiple buildings were saved, a number of structures were lost due to the extreme fire behavior. The National Park Service has not completed a full inventory of all infrastructure impacted by this fire run, and additional losses may be documented once crews are able to fully access the area. Fire is still very active in the area and crews continue to work to protect the remaining structures along North McDonald Road.

Approximately seven private summer residences and additional outbuildings were lost at Kelly’s Camp at the end of North Lake McDonald Road. Additionally, the main Kelly’s camp house, a second cabin, and other structures under National Park Service ownership were destroyed. One Kelly’s Camp home did survive the fire, as did multiple other privately owned homes and structures in other areas of North McDonald Road.

The National Park Services believes that three outbuildings of the National Park Service-owned Wheeler residence, the Wheeler boat house and the boat house at the Lake McDonald Ranger Station were lost. The main Wheeler cabin did survive, after valiant firefighting efforts that saved it after it caught fire.

The Lake McDonald Ranger Station was also saved, following a fire on its roof.

Kelly’s Camp, located along the west shore of the north end of Lake McDonald, began as a cabin resort developed by Frank and Emmeline Kelly in the early years of the park. Homesteaded by Frank Kelly in 1894, by 1931 it had become a popular summer cabin resort. In the 1960s cabins were sold to individual owners, many of whom were longtime Kelly’s visitors, continuing the cabin community.

The Wheeler Complex, east of Kelly’s camp, was owned by Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler, and was used by Senator Wheeler and his family as their summer home starting in 1916. The National Park Service acquired the property in 2014.

“This is a heartbreaking time at the park,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “We’ve lost extremely important historic buildings that tell a piece of the park’s story, and multiple people have lost homes that have welcomed their families to the shores of Lake McDonald for generations.”



Jeff
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Monday, August 13, 2018

Howe Ridge Fire Update: Structures Lost

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

· Avalanche Campground

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

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

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

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

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

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

All visitor services at Lake McDonald Lodge are closed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Jeff
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Saturday Lightning Starts Multiple Fires in Glacier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Jeff
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Friday, August 10, 2018

Hidden Falls and Lower Inspiration Point Reopen

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

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

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

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

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



Jeff
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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Flathead National Forest’s September Trails Initiative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Jeff
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

FWP proposes rule outlining grizzly bear population objectives in NCDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Jeff
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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Suspect in Yellowstone Bison Incident Arrested in Glacier National Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Jeff
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