Saturday, April 21, 2018

Montana State Trails Advisory Committee to Meet in Helena - April 25 & 26

Montana State Parks (stateparks.mt.gov) announced this past Wednesday that the citizen Montana State Trails Advisory committee (STAC) will meet on Wednesday, April 25 from 9 am to 5 pm and Thursday, April 26 from 8 am to 4 pm at the Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Commission Rooms located at 1420 E. 6th Avenue, in Helena.

The committee will advise staff on a number of trail issues, including 2018 Recreational Trails Program project proposals 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 Samantha Erpenbach at (406) 444-5898 or samantha.erpenbach@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.




Jeff
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sperry Chalet Next 100 Years Environmental Assessment Available for Public Comment

Glacier National Park’s Sperry Chalet, The Next Hundred Years environmental assessment (EA) and associated documents are available online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/SperryChalet2018. The EA will be available for public review for 20 days; comments are due on May 7, 2018.

A public meeting to provide comment on the environmental assessment and ask questions about the project will be held on Monday, April 23 from 5:30 pm-7:30 pm at Flathead Valley Community College in the Arts and Technology Building, Room 139 in Kalispell, MT.

The National Park Service (NPS) is proposing to rebuild the Sperry Chalet Dormitory Building that was badly burned in the Sprague Fire in 2017. Specifically, the NPS is proposing to rebuild the Sperry Chalet Dormitory at its original site within the original walls. The design would restore the chalet dormitory reflecting its period of significance (1914-1949). Some critical updates would be included including current building codes where applicable, and improvements to life safety features including seismic bracing and fire resistant materials. The visitor experience would be very similar to what it has been for decades by using as much of the remaining historic fabric, and replicating historic finishes where practicable. Construction would be completed in two phases, proposed for the summers of 2018 and 2019. Cost considerations and other unforeseen events or conditions could affect the construction schedule.

Public scoping was conducted from February 28, 2018 to April 2, 2018 to provide for early public participation, assist with identifying important features of the Sperry Chalet experience, and identify resource issues and concerns. The park received 403 comments; suggestions and concerns raised during scoping were considered in the EA.

Comments can be submitted online at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/SperryChalet2018, or sent by mail to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Sperry Chalet, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, Montana 59936. The EA may also be requested by calling 406-888-7898.




Jeff
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Monday, April 16, 2018

Yellowstone National Park changes entrance fee to address infrastructure needs & improve visitor experience

The National Park Service (NPS) announced today that Yellowstone National Park will modify its entrance fees beginning June 1, 2018 to provide additional funding for infrastructure and maintenance needs that enhance the visitor experience. Effective June 1, the park entrance fee will be $35 per vehicle or $30 per motorcycle. An annual park pass will cost $70.

The NPS last October proposed a plan to adopt seasonal pricing at Yellowstone and 16 other national parks to raise additional revenue for infrastructure and maintenance needs. The fee structure announced today addresses many concerns and ideas provided by the public on how best to address fee revenue for parks.

Revenue from entrance fees remains in the National Park Service and helps ensure a quality experience for all who visit. Here in Yellowstone, 80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park and are devoted to spending that supports the visitor. We share the other 20 percent of entry fee income with other national parks for their projects.

“Yellowstone uses revenues from entrance fees collected to improve visitor facilities,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk. Visitors benefit when park roads, trails, and boardwalks are maintained and provide access to the park’s treasures.”

National parks have experienced record breaking visitation, with more than 1.5 billion visitors in the last five years. Throughout the country, the combination of aging infrastructure and increased visitation affects park roads, bridges, buildings, campgrounds, water systems, bathrooms, and other facilities. Maintenance deferred on these facilities amounts to an $11.6 billion nationwide backlog.

Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199.9 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million.

Yellowstone National Park has had an entrance fee since 1916. The current rate of $30 per vehicle or $25 per motorcycle has been in effect since 2015. The park is one of 117 in the National Park System that charges an entrance fee. The remaining 300 sites are free to enter.

The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks have not yet determined how this new fee structure will affect the combined parks’ seven-day entrance pass.

The National Park Service has a standardized entrance fee structure, composed of four groups based on park size and type. Yellowstone is one of 10 sites in group 4.




Jeff
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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sharing the Wild with Fellow Travelers

The following is a guest post by Shepard Humphries, owner of the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience, the newest advertiser on our Things To Do page on TetonHikingTrails.com:

Many of the great hiking trails across the country go through areas in which other people are enjoying activities, including mountain biking, photography, long range shooting, rock climbing, ATV riding and other adventures. I love that well-intentioned, peaceful people can joyfully share space with others.

It is heartwarming to watch people interact with each other in the wild and it is wonderful how polite and respectful most people are of others and their preferred style of recreation. While there are sometimes some bad eggs that make the people in their particular sport look like jerks, the vast majority of people get along well with each other.

I recall coming down a mountain trail with a friend on our mountain bikes about 20 years ago, and because of the incline and the single track it was difficult to stop quickly in that area. Some people out walking their dogs were near the trail and stepped to the side to let us go by -- however, they did not call their dogs off of the trail. My friend wrecked his bike as a result.

We were all wrong in this case. My friend and I should have been bicycling more slowly so that we could keep control of our bikes and the hikers should have been more empathetic and taken proactive steps to clear the trail for two guys having a great time getting their adrenaline kicks. This incident was a great lesson for me, and now I am more courteous when I am out walking my own dog. I have not cycled for many years now, but if I pick it up again, I will be more careful around others.

My current favorite outdoor sports are long range shooting and ATV riding, frequently enjoyed together. I encourage other ATV riders to slow down when passing hikers or other recreators. The dust from ATVs and their weight and speed make it much safer and more polite to slow down and be respectful. While I am not a hunter, I appreciate that many conservationists do enjoy hunting big game or waterfowl and I make special efforts not to unnecessarily annoy them by the noise of my vehicle.

Long range precision rifle shooting is a detail-oriented sport enjoyed by some of the brightest shooters. It is considered to be “the golf of shooting sports.” Unlike the sometimes reckless target shooters with shotguns, pistols or hunting rifles shooting cans and old microwaves at close range, long range precision shooting is almost always done by experienced people with a contemplative nature. Just as a car driving 70 miles an hour can pass within a couple feet of another car driving 70 miles an hour in the opposite direction, it is also safe for long-range shooters to enjoy their sport near other recreational activities.

Long range precision rifle shooters can usually be identified by their posture and the gear they have with them. If you see a person lying down to shoot or a tripod with a spotting scope beside a shooter, there is a very good chance that the shooter is experienced and responsible. This is not always the case, however, but if you see this you will have a good indication that you will be safe. On the other hand, if you see people throwing beer cans while loud music is playing and people are yelling, it would be wise to change your course to get around that group as they will frequently be a higher risk.

Whether or not a group looks responsible, they are probably decent folks that do not want to purposely injure anyone else. This is why it is important, just like hiking in grizzly country, to make yourself known! A long-range shooter, even at 1 mile away, will probably not miss the target by more than 10 yards. When I am instructing clients or friends, I am always sure to remind them to frequently scan the area for other people that might be enjoying other activities. Our long range school also uses sound suppressors with most of our rifles.

As long as shooters can see you, almost all of them will stop shooting until you have passed by the danger area. If they see you and continue shooting in your direction, be as wary of them as you would be of a teenage boy with a new sports car and stay away from the area! Most long range shooters are careful planners and will probably have extra hydration with them as well as a GPS, so if you are ever running low on water or are lost, come up and chat with them and I bet they will offer you some water and directions.

When photographers are shooting photos, they are used to other people walking by. Most photographers would prefer that you keep walking right down the path normally rather than doing unpredictable things like trying to stay out of their frame by walking through the woods right behind them. Just keep doing your normal thing and make eye contact and perhaps they will squint and send you the universal human signal of, “Would you mind waiting just a moment to walk through here please?”

It would, of course, be in poor form for you to take longer than necessary to be in the area that they are shooting. If you can move out of their shot and find a different place to set up your picnic lunch, they would probably very much appreciate you.

There are other etiquette guidelines beyond the few mentioned here that outdoor users should follow, including allowing the uphill walker or bicyclist the right of way and using good common sense in general. We are all human critters out trying to enjoy a good time in nature in our own ways, and while we might not understand or appreciate other users’ recreation preferences, good people treat other people well and that is what I choose to do.

I hope to see you on the trail and make a new friend, but be careful… if you ask a question about long range ballistics, I will likely blabber away for many minutes sharing my excitement for my preferred activity with you!


By Shepard Humphries

The millionaire’s shooting coach Shepard Humphries is a Wyoming long range shooting instructor, husband, father, grandfather, philosopher, entrepreneur and friend to just about everyone he meets. Based in Jackson Hole Wyoming, Shepard serves on the board of the non-profit Jackson Hole Shooting Sports Foundation and is the President of the firm he founded in 2010, the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience. He serves UHNWI with his shooting experiences on private properties throughout the western US. His hobby is performing voluntaryist work in the human rights arena, and his passion for fine wine, peace, Austrian economics and excellence in life and livelihood make for fun conversations with friends new and old.




Jeff
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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Grand Teton National Park Changes Entrance Fee

The National Park Service announced yesterday that Grand Teton National Park will modify its entrance fees beginning June 1, 2018 to provide additional funding for infrastructure and maintenance needs that enhance the visitor experience. Effective June 1, the park entrance fee will be $35 per vehicle, $30 per motorcycle or $20 per person, and an annual park pass will cost $70.

Last October, the National Park Service proposed a plan to adopt seasonal pricing at Grand Teton and 16 other national parks to raise additional revenue for infrastructure and maintenance needs. The fee structure announced today addresses many concerns and ideas provided by the public on how best to address fee revenue for parks.

Revenue from entrance fees remains in the National Park Service and helps ensure a quality experience for all who visit. At Grand Teton, 80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park and are devoted to spending that supports the visitor. The other 20 percent of entry fee income is shared with other national parks for their projects.

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, “We will continue to use our fee revenue towards a quality visitor experience that would include improvements to visitor facilities and services.”

National parks have experienced record-breaking visitation, with more than 1.5 billion visitors in the last five years. Throughout the country, the combination of aging infrastructure and increased visitation affects park roads, bridges, buildings, campgrounds, water systems, bathrooms, and other facilities. Maintenance deferred on these facilities amounts to an $11.6 billion nationwide backlog.

Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199.9 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The National Park Service estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million.

Grand Teton National Park is one of 117 in the National Park System that charges an entrance fee. The remaining 300 sites are free to enter.

The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks have not yet determined how this new fee structure will affect the combined parks’ seven-day entrance pass.




Jeff
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Friday, April 13, 2018

National Park Service Announces Plan to Address Infrastructure Needs & Improve Visitor Experience

As part of its ongoing efforts to address aging park infrastructure and improve the visitor experience, the National Park Service (NPS) announced today changes to the entrance fees charged at national parks. The changes, which come in response to public comments on a fee proposal released in October 2017, will modestly increase entrance fees to raise additional revenue to address the $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance across the system of 417 parks, historic and cultural sites, and monuments.

Most seven-day vehicle passes to enter national parks will be increased by $5 and will be implemented in many parks beginning June 1, 2018. Yosemite National Park for example will increase the price of a seven-day vehicle pass to the park from $30 to $35. More than two-thirds of national parks will remain free to enter. A complete list of park entrance fees may be found here.

All of the revenue from the fee increases will remain in the National Park Service with at least 80 percent of the money staying in the park where it is collected. The funds will be used for projects and activities to improve the experience for visitors who continue to visit parks at unprecedented levels. Increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the last five years, means aging park facilities incurring further wear and tear.

“An investment in our parks is an investment in America,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Every dollar spent to rebuild our parks will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality. I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original fee proposal. Your input has helped us develop a balanced plan that focuses on modest increases at the 117 fee-charging parks as opposed to larger increases proposed for 17 highly-visited national parks. The $11.6 billion maintenance backlog isn’t going to be solved overnight and will require a multi-tiered approach as we work to provide badly needed revenue to repair infrastructure. This is just one of the ways we are carrying out our commitment to ensure that national parks remain world class destinations that provide an excellent value for families from all income levels.”

The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.

“Repairing infrastructure is also about access for all Americans,” Secretary Zinke said. “Not all visitors to our parks have the ability to hike with a 30-pound pack and camp in the wilderness miles away from utilities. In order for families with young kids, elderly grandparents, or persons with disabilities to enjoy the parks, we need to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors centers.”

Fees to enter national parks predate the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916. For example, Mount Rainier National Park began charging an entrance fee in 1908. Factoring in inflation, the $5 entrance fee the park charged in 1914 would be the equivalent of a $123 entrance fee today—more than four times the price of the new seven-day $30 vehicle pass.

Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million.

In addition to implementing modest fee increases and enhancing public-private partnerships aimed at rebuilding national parks, Secretary Zinke is working closely with Congress on proposed bipartisan legislation to use revenue derived from energy produced on federal lands and waters to establish a special fund within the Treasury specifically for “National Park Restoration”. The billfollows the blueprint outlined in Secretary Zinke and President Trump's budget proposal, the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund.

The National Park Service has a standardized entrance fee structure, composed of four groups based on park size and type. Some parks not yet aligned with the other parks in their category will raise their fees incrementally and fully incorporate the new entrance fee schedule by January 1, 2020.




Jeff
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Monday, April 9, 2018

Sperry Chalet, the Next 100 Years Project Updates Planning, Stabilization Schedule

The public comment period for Sperry Chalet, The Next 100 Years Project closed on April 2. The park received nearly 400 comments. Approximately 72% percent of commenters favored some combination of concepts one and two proposed by the National Park Service in February. Those concepts outlined scenarios to use the existing remnant walls of the Sperry Chalet dormitory building to rebuild the chalet with some modernization, while retaining defining historic features and character. The Sperry Chalet dormitory building was badly burned during the 2017 Sprague Fire in late August.

Approximately 5% favored concept 3, which proposed to build a new dormitory building in a different location, and 5% favored concept 4, which proposed tent-like structures to provide overnight accommodations. Some people also wrote in suggesting other ideas not identified in the scoping newsletter, including approximately 4% of commenters who favored allowing the area to return to a natural state. An additional 14% of comments offered slightly different concepts including such things as further fire or avalanche protections, or a hostel-type dormitory.

Overall, public comments expressed strong interest in retaining the historic character of the Sperry experience.

The National Park Service is accelerating its environmental assessment schedule for the Sperry Chalet project. The objective behind acceleration is to complete required environmental compliance in advance of the summer season, in order to achieve additional stabilization before next winter. That stabilization includes additional seismic bracing and roofing.

The public can expect to review and comment on the draft environmental assessment in mid-April for a 15-day review period. The park plans to issue a final decision by mid- May.

The environmental assessment will be posted on the National Park Service Planning Website and the park will issue another press release when the comment period opens. The initial project newsletter released in late February outlining the four preliminary concepts is still available online.




Jeff
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Friday, April 6, 2018

Plowing Begins in Glacier National Park

Spring plowing operations have begun in Glacier National Park. Last week crews plowed to the camp store in Two Medicine and through Chief Mountain Road on the east side of the park. This week, plows will work on Many Glacier Road on the east side of the park, and Camas Road on the west side of the park, as weather conditions allow. The park is also using other snow removal equipment to remove snow from campgrounds and other visitor areas to speed spring melt.

This week, crews are also conducting routine plowing operations for areas typically open all winter, due to a spring season snow storm that arrived this past weekend. More snow is forecast for later this week.

Crews working in Two Medicine last week noted that snow drifts were up to 15-20 feet deep, including road and picnic areas. The bathroom was completely covered. On average, plows encountered snow depths of 7-10 feet. The east side of the park saw significant snow this winter. Numerous communities saw record or near record snowfalls.

Next week, west side crews expect to begin plowing the Going-to-the-Sun Road between Lake McDonald Lodge and Avalanche, weather permitting.

The park has received a significant amount of snow over the winter and early spring. The Flattop Mountain SNOTEL station shows observations that are about 125% of a 30-year average. According to data recorded at the Flattop SNOTEL station, this is the most significant snow year since 2011. The West Glacier Weather Station is showing approximately 127% of a 30-year average as of March 30, with this winter (in West Glacier) thus far being the eighth highest snowfall year since 1964.

An annual manual snow survey conducted near Logan Creek in late February showed more snow than has been recorded anytime over the last 30 years, including years of heavy snow like the winter of 1997.

As plows move up the Going-to-the-Sun Road, avalanche forecasters and technicians will monitor snowpack for possible avalanches to provide for crew safety. Due to the depth of this year’s snowpack and current weather patterns, the potential exists for wet slab and glide avalanches continuing later into the spring. While dry slab avalanches are often triggered by victims or someone in the victim’s party, wet slab avalanches are typically naturally occurring from prolonged melt or rain.

Visitors to avalanche country in and around Glacier National Park should continue to be alert to the possibility of avalanches, which are common in spring. Visitors are most likely to encounter dangerous avalanche conditions during spring storms (rain or snow events) or during periods of intense or prolonged warmups. Visitors hiking or biking up the Going-to-the-Sun Road in later spring should be aware as they enter avalanche country that they may be exposed to overhead avalanche hazards and should be aware of weather conditions that raise the possibility of avalanches including rain and rapid warming.

The park will continue to monitor road conditions and the rate of spring melt. If present conditions continue, campgrounds or individual campsites, roads, and other visitor areas and trails could open later in the year than average, depending on the rate of snow melt as spring progresses.

As crews begin work on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, photos will be posted on the park’s Flickr page. Photos from prior years are also available on Flickr.




Jeff
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Monday, March 26, 2018

Backpacking 101 Classes at Lone Pine State Park - April 6, 13, and 20, 2018

Montana State Parks (stateparks.mt.gov) will host a series of Backpacking 101 classes covering the basics of camping in the backcountry at Lone Pine State Park on April 6, 13, and 20, 2018. All classes start at 5:30 p.m.

The Flathead Valley provides easy access into Montana’s wonderful backcountry and knowing the proper techniques for packing your pack, cooking, first aid, and sleeping in bear country can make the experience safer and more enjoyable. Lone Pine State Park will offer 3 courses covering different aspects of backcountry camping. Course offerings include:

Friday, April 6 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. - Organization and Planning
Friday, April 13 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. - Leave No Trace and Gear Repair
Friday, April 20 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. - Camp set up and Cooking


Classes will be held at the park visitor center. Full series attendance is recommended, but single class attendance is welcome. Class sizes are limited, and registration is required. For more information call the park visitor center at (406) 755-2706 ext. 2.

Registration available at Eventbrite.com

Where: Visitor Center, Lone Pine State Park, 300 Lone Pine Rd, Kalispell, MT http://stateparks.mt.gov/lone-pine/

Lone Pine State Park is located 5 miles southwest of Kalispell and offers one of the most vivid views of the valley, 7.5 miles of trails, and a beautiful interpretive center that provides information on living in a wildlife urban interface. Additional amenities include a picnic shelter and a community room, which are both available to rent, as well as a volleyball court, horseshoe pit, and an archery range. Furthermore, Lone Pine offers a fantastic variety of educational and interpretive programs.




Jeff
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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spring Road Clearing Operations Underway in Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park road crews have begun spring plowing of the Teton Park Road between Taggart Lake Trailhead and Signal Mountain Lodge. The plowing operations mark the end of over-snow access on the 14-mile stretch of road for the season. Visitors may continue to use other areas of the park for winter recreation such as cross-country skiing, skate skiing, and snowshoeing until snow conditions are no longer favorable.

For safety reasons, visitors may not access the Teton Park Road while plowing operations are underway. Rotary snow removal equipment and plows may be working at any time, and the roadway is therefore closed to all users at all times until further notice. Skiers and snowshoers using areas adjacent to the roadway are cautioned to avoid the arc of snow blown from the rotary equipment because pieces of ice and gravel can be thrown great distances.

The roadway is anticipated to be accessible to activities such as cycling, roller skating, skateboarding, roller skiing, walking, jogging, and leashed pet-walking within the next few weeks. The road will open to motor vehicles on Tuesday, May 1, 2018.

Other park roads such as Moose-Wilson Road, Signal Mountain Summit Road, Antelope Flats Road, East Boundary Road, Mormon Row Road, Two Ocean Road, and Grassy Lake Road remain closed to vehicle traffic when posted or gated in the spring. These roads may also close for short periods of time to recreationists to accommodate snow removal similar to the clearing on Teton Park Road. The opening dates of these roads vary from year to year and are dependent on weather, snow conditions, plowing progress, wildlife activity, and road conditions. For the most up-to-date information on park roads, visit https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/roads.htm.

In addition to the road plowing operations, the segment of Moose-Wilson Road between Murie Ranch Road and the Death Canyon Road will be closed to all users, including cyclists, for two weeks to accommodate road drainage improvements. From April 30 through May 13, a contractor will replace drainage culverts to prevent future flooding on the road in the area south of Sawmill Ponds. This section of road experienced significant groundwater flooding for much of last summer, and was limited to one-lane of alternating traffic for a few weeks.

During the closure, crews will also install roadside barriers to minimize future damage to roadside vegetation and formalize an existing roadside turnout for wildlife viewing opportunities and safety. Access to Granite Canyon Trailhead will be possible from the south during the closure. As the gravel portion of the Moose-Wilson Road typically opens in early to mid-May depending on road conditions, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and Death Canyon Road junction parking areas may be accessible from the south as well. The schedule is subject to change due to weather conditions and other factors.

The paved multi-use pathways in the park are open whenever they are predominately free of snow and ice. As an exception, the pathway segment between the Gros Ventre River Bridge and a point one-quarter mile north of Gros Ventre Junction will be closed through May 15 due to construction of the Gros Ventre Junction roundabout. Cyclists may travel on the road shoulder through the area during the closure.




Jeff
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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Rangers Rescue Two Backcountry Recreationists on Monday

Monday, March 19 proved to be a busier-than-usual winter day for rangers in Grand Teton National Park. Park rangers worked in concert with Teton County Search and Rescue volunteers to conduct a helicopter-based rescue of an injured skier who was caught in an avalanche in Death Canyon early in the afternoon. Later in the afternoon, rangers completed a ground-based rescue of a snowshoer who became injured while jumping off boulders near Taggart Lake.

The first search and rescue effort began just before 1:00 p.m. when Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a report that a skier was caught in an avalanche in an area known as “Son of Apocalypse Couloir” on the south side of Death Canyon.

Two separate parties of two individuals were skiing the couloir at the same time when a natural avalanche of fresh snow began above them. The sliding snow swept past one skier before gaining momentum, picking up snow, and hitting the remaining three. The first two were able to stop themselves, but the last skier, Yuki Tsuji, 37, of Louisville, Colorado, was knocked down and tumbled a few hundred feet down the lower portion of the couloir and onto the apron of snow at its base.

The three uninjured individuals, which included two emergency medical providers, skied down to Tsuji’s location and discovered she had suffered a leg injury and was unable to ski out. Tsuji’s partner carried a satellite communicator device and was able to send a text message for help. Meanwhile, one of the medical providers skied out to Phelps Lake where he was able to make a broken call to rangers and discuss the patient’s condition.

Based on the patient’s condition, rangers requested assistance from the Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter and prepared for short-haul evacuation. The helicopter flew one search and rescue volunteer into the patient’s location. The volunteer then fitted Tsuji into a screamer suit and flew with her back to Sawmill Ponds Overlook along the Moose-Wilson Road. Tsuji was transferred to a park ambulance and transported to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming. The remaining three individuals skied out on their own.

Rangers observe that the coming of spring conditions in the Teton Range mean that backcountry skiers and riders tend to push higher into the mountains onto steeper terrain. Even the smallest of avalanches in steep terrain can sweep skiers off their feet leading to serious, and sometimes fatal, injuries. Fresh snowfall intermixed with sun and warm temperatures can increase the risk of this type of avalanche.

The second search and rescue effort of the day involved a party of two individuals who snowshoed around Taggart Lake before heading a few hundred feet above the lake. Cody Dumont, 24, of Lexington, Kentucky, suffered leg injuries after jumping off a 10-foot boulder around 3:30 p.m. Cody’s partner sent a text message for help to a friend at the Taggart Lake Trailhead, who in turn contacted the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center.

One ranger skied into the area to locate the party and assess the patient’s condition. Based on this assessment, four additional rangers skied into the area with a toboggan and medical gear. The rangers skied with Dumont in the sled back to Taggart Lake Trailhead, where Dumont and his partner chose to drive themselves to the hospital.




Jeff
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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Park County Men Plead Guilty to Bison Poaching

Three Park County men were sentenced Tuesday in Justice Court for the illegal hunting and wasting of three bull bison in the Gardiner area on February 28.

Jesse Darr, Ryley Heidt, and Peyton Simmons pled guilty to unlawful possession, waste, and hunting during a closed season.

The dead bison were discovered March 2 by agency personnel in Beattie Gulch, an area of U.S. Forest Service land near the border of Yellowstone National Park. All three bison had their heads removed and all usable meat was left to waste. The bison skulls had been skinned and hidden nearby.

Solving the case was a matter of a collaborative enforcement effort. U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and National Park Service (NPS) officers aided FWP game wardens in the identification of the suspects.

“We’re thankful for the help of our enforcement partners,” said Warden Sgt. Coy Kline. “The value of extra sets of eyes and ears on the ground can’t be overstated.”

Also significant in this case, was the use of FWP canine, Kikka, who was integral in the discovery of evidence linking the men responsible to the case.

The FWP enforcement division is currently engaged in a research and trial period using trained canines in very limited applications. FWP currently only has two canine teams as part of this statewide trial program.

Enforcement Chief Dave Loewen said using canines to detect critical evidence at wildlife crime scenes is an incredible tool that can greatly reduce staff time and increase the chances of locating evidence.

“It is doubtful the evidence in this case would have been detected and located without the canine.”

The judge in this case ordered each of the men to pay $2,605 in fines and restitution with a 18-month suspended jail sentence. The men also lost their fishing, hunting and trapping privileges for 54 months with the added restriction of not being able to apply for permits for an additional five years after their privileges are reinstated. Remedial hunter education was also ordered.




Jeff
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Monday, March 12, 2018

Safety Improvements with Gros Ventre Roundabout Begin in April

Construction of a roundabout and other safety improvements located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 26/89/191 and Gros Ventre Road and Sagebrush Drive in the southern area of Grand Teton National Park will begin on Monday, April 2. Construction activities are planned to continue through the end of November.

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, “There will be traffic impacts related to this safety improvement project, and we highly encourage travelers to plan ahead for minimal delays and to be aware of the construction schedule for related impacts.” Vela said the park is coordinating with Teton County and others to work together to best minimize impacts and provide for safe access for all users as multiple road improvement and safety projects may be occurring this year.

The primary construction activities at the intersection of U.S. Highway 26/89/191 and Gros Ventre Road and Sagebrush Drive will include:

• construction of a roundabout with a landscaped center island,
• creation of a temporary two-lane bypass road with a pathway for use during construction,
• relocation of the existing north-south pathway along U.S. Highway 26/89/191,
• addition of a quarter-mile pathway segment to connect with Sagebrush Drive,
• installation of a formal parking area on the Gros Ventre Road near the intersection,
• installation of a snowplow turnaround on the north side of the intersection, and
• repavement on a short section of the highway south of the intersection to the Gros Ventre Bridge.

During construction, a two-lane bypass with a separated pathway will be maintained to reduce congestion on the highway. Due to reduced speed through the construction zone, travelers should plan for approximately 15-minute delays between 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. and approximately 30-minute delays at night between 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

During the construction of the temporary bypass, the Gros Ventre Road may be closed for up to five nights in the late spring to early summer from approximately 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. The Gros Ventre Road may also be closed up to two weeks after September 15, 2018, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to complete final roadway improvements. Gros Ventre Road traffic will be rerouted via the Antelope Flats Road during these times.

There will be a temporary pathway closure between the Gros Ventre River Bridge and north of the Gros Ventre Intersection through May 15, and again in late September. Pathway traffic may travel on the roadway shoulder through the Gros Ventre Junction area during the closures.

Any road or pathway closure dates will be confirmed approximately one week in advance of the closure via media release, roadside signs, park road information phone line, park website and park social media.




Jeff
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Monday, March 5, 2018

National Park System Sees More Than 330 Million Visits

The National Park Service (NPS) today announced 330,882,751 recreation visits in 2017 – almost identical to the record-setting 330,971,689 recreation visits in 2016. While numbers were steady, visitors actually spent more time in parks during their 2017 visits compared to 2016.

Increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the last five years, also means aging park facilities are incurring further wear and tear. President Trump has proposed legislation to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would help address the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park System. The fund would take new revenue from federal energy leasing and development and provide up to $18 billion to help pay for repairs and improvements in national parks, national wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education funded schools.

“Our National Parks are being loved to death," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. "As visitor rates continue at a high level, we must prioritize much-needed deferred maintenance including aging facilities, roads and other critical infrastructure. President Trump's proposal to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund is a step in the right direction. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue, and the President and I remain ready to work with anyone in Congress who is willing to get the job done.”

National Park System 2017 visitation highlights include:

• More than 1.44 billion recreation hours in 2017, an increase of 19 million hours over 2016

• Most – 385 of 417 parks in the National Park System – count park visitors

• 61 of the 385 reporting parks set new visitation records (about 16 percent of reporting parks)

• 42 parks broke a record they set in 2016

• 3 parks had more than 10 million recreation visits – Blue Ridge Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

• 10 parks had more than 5 million recreation visits

• 81 parks had more than 1 million recreation visits – one more million-visitor park than 2016

• Half of national park visitation occurred in 27 parks

• The total solar eclipse last August brought visitors in record numbers to several parks


Top 10 Visitation National Parks: Recreation Visits (Deferred Maintenance Amount)

1) Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 11,388,893 ($215,451,902)

2) Grand Canyon National Park: 6,254,238 ($329,437,054)

3) Zion National Park: 4,504,812 ($65,291,893)

4) Rocky Mountain National Park: 4,437,215 ($84,234,245)

5) Yosemite National Park: 4,336,890 ($582,670,827)

6) Yellowstone National Park: 4,116,524 ($515,808,707)

7) Acadia National Park: 3,509,271 ($59,858,099)

8) Olympic National Park: 3,401,996 ($120,719,515)

9) Grand Teton National Park: 3,317,000 ($178,630,525)

10) Glacier National Park : 3,305,512 ($153,838,276)




Jeff
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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center to Open March 5

Grand Teton National Park’s Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose will open its doors to visitors Monday, March 5. The visitor center will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through April 28. Beginning April 29, the visitor center will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The visitor center’s exhibits will be open, and interpretive park rangers will be available to provide information, orient visitors to the park’s resources and recreational opportunities, and answer questions. The 24-minute park orientation film, Grand Teton: Life on the Edge, will be shown upon request.

Permits are required for any overnight stay in the park’s backcountry. From March 5 through April 30, free winter backcountry camping permits can be obtained at the visitor center permits desk each day, while boat permits and entrance passes will be available Monday through Friday. Beginning May 1, backcountry permits will require a fee and boat permits and entrance passes will be available at the permits desk seven days a week. Entrance passes can also be obtained at entrance stations at any time.

Ranger-guided snowshoe hikes continue to be available Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The two-hour guided hikes on historic wooden snowshoes are a great introduction to winter ecology and snow science. The hikes, which begin at Taggart Lake Trailhead, will continue through mid-March as conditions allow. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 307.739.3399.

Grooming of the Teton Park Road for classic and skate skiing will continue through mid-March. The road is groomed on Tuesday and Friday, though the schedule is dependent on snow and weather conditions. Grooming status is recorded daily on the park’s road information line at 307.739.3682.

A schedule of operating hours for each of the park’s visitor centers and ranger stations can be found at https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/hours.htm.




Jeff
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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Bear Awareness Montana FWP

Do you trail run or mountain bike? Hike or backpack? Camp, hunt or fish? Float or trail ride?

Join Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks at MT WILD on March 14 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for an update on the latest in bear awareness. You’ll learn new information about grizzly presence in our region, new state-of-the-art bear safety products, and the latest research on defense against bear attacks. Hands-on instruction on how to use bear spray will be offered the last half hour of program.

This program is free, and no registration is required. To learn more online go to the Montana WILD Calendar at http://fwp.mt.gov/education/montanaWild/ or call 406-444-9944.

The Montana WILD Education Center is located at 2668 Broadwater Ave, next to Spring Meadow Lake State Park off Highway 12 West in Helena.




Jeff
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Strategic Direction for Grand Teton Historic Properties Approved

The National Park Service has reached a decision on the Historic Properties Management Plan/Environmental Assessment regarding the stabilization and improvement of historic properties in Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. The plan provides strategic direction for the rehabilitation and re-use of historic properties that tell the park’s story.

“We are incredibly grateful for the time and effort put into this plan by park staff, individuals interested in the affected properties, our partners in the historic preservation community, and the general public,” said Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela. “We developed a strategic path forward which will protect our important cultural assets for enjoyment by current and future generations.”

The decision is documented in a Finding of No Significant Impact signed by the National Park Service’s Intermountain Regional Director. The plan may be viewed at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/hpmp. The timeframe for implementation of the plan will vary from property to property and is dependent on availability of funding and staffing.

The decision calls for implementation of a modified “Alternative B,” which had previously been identified as the preferred alternative for the plan. The changes from the preferred alternative to the final decision were made in response to public comments and stakeholder input received after the plan was released for public review and comment in January 2016.

The changes include retaining and stabilizing-in-place Aspen Ridge Ranch, McCollister Residential Complex, and Sky Ranch, instead of removing these properties as had originally been proposed. Additionally, adaptive reuse of Mormon Row for seasonal employee housing will be limited to just one of the homesteads, instead of the four originally proposed.

The decision includes continuing current management of 32 in-use historic properties such as Jackson Lake Lodge, Murie Ranch, Cunningham Cabin, and Jenny Lake Ranger Station. The plan also identifies preservation treatments for previously underused properties. Priority will be given to rehabilitating three properties for adaptive reuse. The former Snake River Land Company Office will be rehabilitated for use as a ranger station, Beaver Creek #10 will be rehabilitated for an administrative use, and 4 Lazy F Dude Ranch will be rehabilitated for seasonal park employee housing. Work on the Snake River Land Company Office will likely begin in 2019.

The plan calls for improved maintenance of the Luther Taylor Cabins and Lucas Homestead/Fabian Place as interpretive sites and the Hunter Hereford Ranch and Manges Cabin for park storage. Stabilization of 25 out of 32 structures at Bar BC Dude Ranch will be completed while the remaining seven will be allowed to decay naturally. Accessible parking and use at White Grass Dude Ranch will be increased to better support its function as a training center.




Jeff
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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Planning Tips for a 2018 Glacier Trip - Expect Some Trail Closures

The park is preparing for the 2018 season. Visitors should plan ahead to maximize their trip to Glacier.

Visitation:
The park expects that visitation will remain high. Last year 3.3 million people visited the park, a new record and an increase of 12% over 2016. June, July, and August will likely continue to see very crowded conditions. Visitors should plan ahead and identify several day-trip options in case they encounter full areas in various portions of the park, particularly in the North Fork, Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Avalanche, and Logan Pass. Trip planning resources are available on the park’s website. Additionally, abundant local, state, and federal public lands surround Glacier National Park and offer spectacular scenery and often quieter experiences.

Sprague Fire Rehabilitation:
Following the Sprague Fire and the loss of the Sperry Chalet dormitory building in August of 2017, the park and the Glacier National Park Conservancy launched a stabilization effort to protect the remnant Sperry Chalet dormitory walls from winter wind and snow loads. The park also completed flood mitigation efforts in the Sprague and Snyder Creek drainages to prepare for the possibility of increased flood risk following the fire.

As the snow melts this spring and summer, the park will begin rehabilitation efforts on trails impacted by the Sprague Fire. Those efforts will likely continue for two or more years. Significant work, including clearing many downed trees, will need to be completed next summer before some trails can reopen to the public. Other trails may close intermittently while trail work occurs within the Sprague Fire burn area. Trails impacted by fires include the North Boundary Trail (north of Goat Haunt), Sperry Trail (to Gunsight Pass), Snyder Lake, Mt. Brown Trail, Fish Lake, Lincoln Lake Trail, and the Waterton Lake shore trail from Goat Haunt to Waterton. Three backcountry campgrounds (Snyder Lake, Sperry, and Lincoln Lake) were significantly impacted by the fire and will likely open much later in the 2018 summer season. Visitors interested in hiking trails within the burn area should consult the park’s trail status page for updates as conditions and closures may change throughout the summer season.

Road Rehabilitation, Maintenance, and Closures:
The park will complete the decade-long Going-to-the-Sun Road rehabilitation between 2018-2019. On the west side, vehicles will continue to detour through Apgar Village during the early 2018 season, while the road is reconstructed along a portion known as the Apgar Curve. Additional pullout work along the Going-to-the-Sun Road will occur that was delayed due to road closures related to the Sprague Fire. Visitors can expect 30 minute cumulative delays throughout the summer, and many of the turnouts along Lake McDonald and Upper McDonald Creek will be closed while upgrades occur. Additionally, in the spring, park crews will continue boardwalk construction between the existing Trail of the Cedars and the newly constructed footbridge across Avalanche Creek. In St. Mary, modifications to the recently constructed entrance station will occur in the fall of 2018.

Routine pavement preservation may also occur in 2018 or 2019, funding and scheduling dependent. 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 Going-to-the-Sun Road closures related to this work. If funding is secured for 2018, the park will update the public about the scope of the closures, which would likely be scheduled in mid-June and mid-September.

In 2019, a contract will be awarded to finalize the multi-year rehabilitation work on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Final repairs will occur to masonry features, some log rails will be replaced, and some signing improvements will be installed.

Aquatic Invasive Species and Boating Inspections:
This last year saw the discovery of invasive zebra or quagga mussels within the State of Montana. The park temporarily closed its waters in accordance with its Aquatic Invasive Species Emergency Action Plan. Waters reopened to hand-propelled watercraft in May of 2017 following an inspection, and Lake McDonald reopened to motorized watercraft following 30 day quarantine in mid-summer.

Park waters were surveyed for the presence of the invasive mussels (as they have been annually since 2011) and tests using environmental DNA as well as more standard juvenile mussel sampling all indicate park waters remain free of these species.

General:
Last year, partnership played an essential role in the park’s ability to respond to significant challenges. In 2018, the park expects that partnership with local, state, federal, and private partners will be increasingly imperative as it continues to respond to high visitation, fire, and changing weather and climate conditions. “This last summer tested us all as a community,” said Acting Park Superintendent Eric Smith*. “We welcomed a tremendous number of visitors to Glacier Country, battled wildfires on our public lands and in local towns, and saw just how generous our little corner of the world can be in the face of adversity. I make no predictions for what 2018 will bring, but am so thankful to have this community to celebrate all that Glacier offers, and to also step in and help the park in times of great need.”

If you plan to visit the park this year, be sure to check out our Accommodations and Things To Do listings to help with your trip planning.




Jeff
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Friday, February 23, 2018

Sperry Chalet Overflight Shows Walls Standing

Glacier National Park in partnership with the Glacier National Park Conservancy has completed an initial fixed-wing overflight of the Sperry Chalet dormitory building to check on its status. The chalet dormitory building was badly burned during the Sprague Fire on August 31, 2017.

The preliminary overflight indicates that the dormitory walls are still standing, and appear to be in good condition.

Last fall, with the financial support of the Glacier National Park Conservancy, the park completed a significant stabilization effort to protect the remnant dormitory walls from snow loads and high winds expected this winter.

It appears that thus far those efforts have been successful, and that no extreme events like avalanches have occurred.

The park has received funding through the Conservancy to complete two more flights, planned for March and April. Those flights will be scheduled when weather conditions allow.

“We are very pleased to see that the dormitory walls are standing,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “This information helps us significantly as we plan next steps for the chalet.”

The flight made possible by donations to the Glacier National Park Conservancy, the park’s official philanthropic partner.

For more information about the flight and to view photos, visit glacier.org.



Jeff
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Thursday, February 22, 2018

USDA Secretary Announces Infrastructure Improvements for Forest System Trails

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the selection of 15 priority areas to help address the more than $300 million trail maintenance backlog on national forests and grasslands.

Focused trail work in these areas, bolstered by partners and volunteers, is expected to help address needed infrastructure work so that trails managed by USDA Forest Service can be accessed and safely enjoyed by a wide variety of trails enthusiasts. About 25 percent of agency trails fit those standards while the condition of other trails lag behind.

“Our nation’s trails are a vital part of the American landscape and rural economies, and these priority areas are a major first step in USDA’s on-the-ground responsibility to make trails better and safer,” Secretary Perdue said. “The trail maintenance backlog was years in the making with a combination of factors contributing to the problem, including an outdated funding mechanism that routinely borrows money from programs, such as trails, to combat ongoing wildfires.

“This borrowing from within the agency interferes with other vital work, including ensuring that our more than 158,000 miles of well-loved trails provide access to public lands, do not harm natural resources, and, most importantly, provide safe passage for our users.”

This year the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Systems Act which established America’s system of national scenic, historic, and recreation trails. A year focused on trails presents a pivotal opportunity for the Forest Service and partners to lead a shift toward a system of sustainable trails that are maintained through even broader shared stewardship.

The priority areas focus on trails that meet the requirements of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016, which calls for the designation of up to 15 high priority areas where a lack of maintenance has led to reduced access to public land; increased risk of harm to natural resources; public safety hazards; impassable trails; or increased future trail maintenance costs. The act also requires the Forest Service to “significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in trail maintenance” and to aim to double trail maintenance accomplished by volunteers and partners.

Shared stewardship to achieve on-the-ground results has long been core to Forest Service’s approach to trail maintenance, as demonstrated by partner groups such as the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Each year, more than 84 million people get outside to explore, exercise and play on trails across national forests and grasslands and visits to these places help to generate 143,000 jobs annually through the recreation economy and more than $9 million in visitor spending.

The 15 national trail maintenance priority areas encompass large areas of land and each have committed partners to help get the work accomplished. The areas are:

Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and Adjacent Lands, Montana: The area includes the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Great Bear Wilderness Areas and most of the Hungry Horse, Glacier View, and Swan Lake Ranger Districts on the Flathead National Forest in northwest Montana on both sides of the Continental Divide. There are more than 3,200 miles of trails within the area, including about 1,700 wilderness miles.

• Methow Valley Ranger District, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington: Methow Valley is a rural recreation-based community surrounded by more than 1.3 million acres of managed by the Forest Service. The area includes trails through the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Areas and more than 130 miles of National Pacific Crest and Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trails.

• Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Eagle Cap Wilderness, Idaho and Oregon: This area includes more than 1,200 miles of trail and the deepest river canyon in North America as well as the remote alpine terrain of the Seven Devil’s mountain range. The area also has 350,000 acres in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the largest in Oregon.

• Central Idaho Wilderness Complex, Idaho and Montana: The area includes about 9,600 miles of trails through the Frank Church River of No Return; Gospel Hump; most of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness areas; portions of the Payette, Salmon-Challis, Nez Perce and Clearwater national forests; and most of the surrounding lands. The trails inside and outside of wilderness form a network of routes that give access into some of the most remote country in the Lower 48.

• Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico: The trail’s 3,100 continuous miles follows the spine of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada, including more than 1,900 miles of trails across 20 national forests. The trail runs a diverse route with some sections in designated wilderness areas and others running through towns, providing those communities with the opportunity to boost the local economy with tourism dollars.

• Wyoming Forest Gateway Communities: Nearly 1,000 miles of trail stretch across the almost 10 million acres of agency-managed lands in Wyoming, which include six national forests and one national grassland. The contribution to the state’s outdoor recreation economy is therefore extremely important in the state.

• Northern California Wilderness, Marble Mountain and Trinity Alps: There are more than 700 miles of trails through these wilderness areas, which are characterized by very steep mountain terrain in fire-dependent ecosystems that are subject to heavy winter rainfall and/or snow. As such, they are subject to threat from flooding, washout, landslide and other erosion type events which, combined with wildfires, wash out trails and obstruct passage.

• Angeles National Forest, California: The area, which includes nearly 1,000 miles of trails, is immediately adjacent to the greater Los Angeles area where 15 million people live within 90 minutes and more than 3 million visit. Many of those visitors are young people from disadvantaged communities without local parks.

• Greater Prescott Trail System, Arizona: This 300-mile system of trails is a demonstration of work between the Forest Service and multiple partners. The system is integrated with all public lands at the federal, state and local level to generate a community-based trail system.

• Sedona Red Rock Ranger District Trail System, Coconino National Forest, Arizona: About 400 miles of trail provide a wide diversity of experiences with year-round trail opportunities, including world-class mountain biking in cooler months and streamside hiking in the heat of the summer.

Colorado Fourteeners: Each year, hundreds of thousands of hikers trek along over 200 miles of trail to access Colorado’s mountains that are higher than 14,000 feet. The Forest Service manages 48 of the 54 fourteeners, as they are commonly called.

• Superior National Forest, Minnesota: The more than 2,300 miles of trail on this forest have faced many catastrophic events, including large fires and a major wind storm downed millions of trees in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 1999. A similar storm in 2016 reached winds up to 85 mph and toppled trees on several thousand acres and made the western 13 miles of Kekekabic Trail impassible.

• White Mountain National Forest Partner Complex, Maine and New Hampshire: Approximately 600 miles of non-motorized trails are maintained by partners. Another 600 miles of motorized snowmobile trails are adopted and maintained by several clubs. Much of that work centers on providing safe public access to the mountain and valleys of New Hampshire and Maine.

• Southern Appalachians Capacity Enhancement Model, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia: The more than 6,300 miles of trails in this sub region include some of the most heavily used trails in the country yet only 28 percent meet or exceed agency standards. The work required to bring these trails to standard will require every tool available from partner and volunteer skills to contracts with professional trail builders.

• Iditarod National Historic Trail Southern Trek, Alaska: In southcentral Alaska, the Southern Trek is in close proximity to more than half the state’s population and connects with one of the most heavily traveled highways in the state. The Chugach National Forest and partners are restoring and developing more than 180 miles of the trail system, connecting the communities of Seward, Moose Pass, Whittier, and Girdwood.



Jeff
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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sperry Chalet Public Presentation and Open House Planned

The National Park Service will host a community event entitled “The Sperry Chalet Experience: Past, Present, and Future” to engage with the public, explore the nature of the Sperry Chalet visitor experience, and hear about what pieces of that experience are important to retain as the National Park Service rebuilds Sperry Chalet.

The program will be held on February 28 from 6:30 -8:30 p.m. at the Flathead Valley Community College Arts and Technology Building, Room 139 in Kalispell, MT.

“Rebuilding historic Sperry is a priority, and I’m excited the work is moving along,” said Secretary Zinke. “The Conservancy and the park put in a lot of work to stabilize the building for winter, and now we can start to rebuild for future family adventures at Sperry.”

“We’re excited to kick off our schematic design process for the Sperry Chalet rebuild,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “This is the first of several opportunities for the public to engage and comment and we hope it will be informative to our selected architects as they engage in the design process. Come and tell us your Sperry Chalet story.”

The first part of the program will feature a 20 minute informative conversation about the park’s chalets, their national historic significance, and the Great Northern Railroad’s influence on tourism and park infrastructure, still in evidence today, with Park Museum Curator Deirdre Shaw.

Following the history program, the park will introduce preliminary concepts to rebuild the Sperry Chalet dormitory building and host a question and answer session with Park Superintendent Jeff Mow and Deputy Superintendent Eric Smith. Glacier National Park Conservancy Executive Director Doug Mitchell will share an update on fundraising efforts and opportunities in support of rebuilding the Sperry Chalet.

After the presentation, attendees will be able to share their Sperry Chalet stories in written comment form or with park staff, and offer input about the concepts shared during the program.

On February 28, the park will also post a newsletter on the National Park Service Planning Website describing preliminary rebuilding concepts with an opportunity for public comment either online or via written letter.

Anderson Hallas Architects, PC out of Denver, Colorado has been selected to lead the Sperry Chalet concept design effort. Additional public outreach and an opportunity to meet with the architects will be planned for later this spring. Anderson Hallas most recently led the design for the multi-year Many Glacier Hotel rehabilitation which was completed in 2017.



Jeff
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Monday, February 19, 2018

More than 7,000 Acres Near Whitefish Conserved Through Public-Private Partnership

More than 7,000 acres of forestland north of Whitefish is being permanently protected thanks to a public-private partnership devoted to sustainable forest management, public access for recreation and habitat conservation.

The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (DNRC), has announced the conservation of 7,018 acres of forestland east of U.S. Highway 93 near Olney. The groups worked together to acquire the land and a conservation easement that will permanently restrict commercial and residential development, protect important fish and wildlife habitat, ensure sustainable forest management, and secure public access for recreation.

The land, spanning nearly 11 square miles, will be added to Stillwater State Forest, the largest state forest in Montana with more than 90,000 acres.

A series of transactions and the support of Montana’s congressional delegation made this significant conservation achievement possible. The Trust for Public Land purchased the property from Weyerhaeuser and FWP purchased a conservation easement on the property to ensure it will be permanently managed for sustainable forestry and natural resource benefits. DNRC bought the conservation easement encumbered property from The Trust for Public Land.

In one of the fastest growing regions in the Northern Rockies, this conservation project protects local forestry jobs, clean water, public access for outdoor recreation and important habitat for fish and wildlife, including grizzly bears, Canada lynx, and westslope cutthroat trout.

The agreement represents the successful completion of the first phase of the multi-phased Whitefish Lake Watershed Project, which encompasses a 13,398-acre block of forestland surrounded on three sides by Stillwater State Forest. The first phase focuses on the Lazy Creek portion of the property.

State, federal and private partners jointly funded the $15.5 million conservation easement. Federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund was provided to the project through the USDA Forest Legacy Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund program. The Land and Water Conservation Fund uses a small fraction of revenues generated from offshore oil and gas royalty payments to protect and enhance outdoor recreation and natural resources; it is not supported with general taxpayer dollars.

The Forest Legacy Program is ideally suited to projects such as this. The program was established by Congress in 1990 to protect environmentally important forestlands that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses.

Additional partners include the Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust, established by Congress to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and promote public access, and FWPs’ Habitat Montana program which is funded by hunter license dollars and used to protect vital wildlife habitat.

Philanthropic support was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America Program, the Whitefish Community Foundation and several individuals.

The project was strongly supported by Montana U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D) and Steve Daines (R).

Senator Jon Tester, D-MT, added, “This project increases public access to public lands, allows for responsible timber harvest, protects wildlife, helps bolster the local economy, and provides clean water to folks across Northwest Montana. It’s a win-win-win-win-win. That’s why I’m fighting to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, because it makes projects like this possible.”

“It’s good to see federal, state, and private partners come together to protect public access and timber management,” said Senator Steve Daines, R-MT.



Jeff
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Monday, February 12, 2018

President Trump’s proposed $2.7 Billion Budget for NPS includes legislation to address $11.6 Billion in deferred maintenance

President Donald J. Trump has proposed a $2.7 billion budget for the National Park Service (NPS) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, which includes legislation to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would help address the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park System. The fund would take new revenue from federal energy leasing and development and provide up to $18 billion to help pay for repairs and improvements in national parks, national wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education funded schools.

"President Trump is absolutely right to call for a robust infrastructure plan that rebuilds our national parks, refuges, and Indian schools, and I look forward to helping him deliver on that historic mission," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. "Our Parks and Refuges are being loved to death, but the real heart break is the condition of the schools in Indian Country. We can and must do better for these young scholars. This is not a republican or democrat issue, this is an American issue, and the President and I are ready to work with absolutely anyone in Congress who is willing to get the work done."

"This budget reflects President Trump’s call for a robust infrastructure plan that rebuilds our national parks and public lands to ensure they may be enjoyed by future generations of Americans,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith. “Focusing on addressing the maintenance backlog now is critical to our core mission of preserving our parks and the world-class experience our visitors expect. The infrastructure proposals included in this budget offer innovative solutions to restoring our parks while fulfilling our duty to curb spending and in some cases make tough but necessary decisions to save tax dollars on other programs.”

Infrastructure – The National Park Service estimates that in FY 2017 there was more than $11.6 billion in backlogged maintenance and repair needs for the more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 17,000 miles of trails and 24,000 buildings that service national park visitors. In 2017 330 million people visited the 417 NPS sites across the country. The NPS retired over $650 million in maintenance and repair work in FY 2017, but aging facilities, increased visitation, and resource constraints have kept the maintenance backlog between $11 billion and $12 billion since 2010.

In addition to the proposed Public Lands Infrastructure Fund proposal, the President’s budget provides $241 million to fund construction projects, equipment replacement, project planning and management, and special projects. This includes $157 million for specific line-item construction projects like reconstructing an unsafe cave trail at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and replacing the roof of the Eielson Visitor Center at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

The budget provides $99 million for repair and rehabilitation projects to address the deferred maintenance backlog as well as $113 million for cyclical maintenance projects to ensure maintenance is done in a timely manner and does not become “deferred” in the first place.

These discretionary fund sources are critical to help address the deferred maintenance backlog in the National Park System. Additionally, the recreation fee program allows the NPS to collect recreation fees at selected parks to improve visitor services and enhance the visitor experience. In 2017, NPS leveraged $107 million in recreation fees to address priority maintenance projects to improve the visitor experience. The budget includes a legislative proposal to permanently authorize the recreation fee program.

Park Operations – The FY 2019 NPS budget requests $2.4 billion for park operations, which includes $900,000 for NPS’s role in the Department of the Interior’s reorganization to common regional boundaries to improve service and efficiency.

State Assistance – The budget proposes a continued shift from discretionary funding to mandatory funding from oil and gas leases for state conservation grants. These grants provide funding to states to acquire open spaces and natural areas for outdoor recreation and access purposes, and develop outdoor recreation facilities. Permanent funding for these grants in 2019 is estimated to be $89 million.

NPS's FY 2019 Budget Justification is available here, and additional details on the President's FY 2019 Budget proposal are available on the Department of the Interior’s website.



Jeff
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