Saturday, March 30, 2019

Winter Wildlife Closures Extended to Protect Bighorn Sheep

Grand Teton National Park has extended two existing wildlife closures of important winter ranges to protect bighorn sheep due to severe winter conditions of significant snowfall and cold temperatures during the month of February. The existing closure near the summit area of Static Peak and the Mount Hunt/Prospectors Mountain Complex within the park is extended from April 1 to April 30, 2019.

Recreational use in these areas is prohibited during this time. These winter closures have been in effect since the late 1990s and early 2000s to mitigate the loss of low elevation winter ranges and address the reduction in available winter habitat for bighorn sheep.

Winter is a difficult time for bighorn sheep to survive. The sheep live off their fat reserves built up during the summer. Additional energy expenditures resulting from recreational disturbance can cause sheep to burn unnecessary calories that could compromise their ability to survive and reproduce.

Albright Peak and Buck Mountain are accessible for winter backcountry recreationists.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, March 29, 2019

Planning Ahead for a 2019 Trip to Glacier - Expect Road Work Delays

Glacier National Park has begun preparations for the 2019 summer season. Summer is not only the time when most of the public comes to visit the park, but also the opportunity to complete important maintenance projects on roadways and facilities. “A little bit of planning can help visitors maximize their time in Glacier and be prepared for some of this year’s projects they may encounter,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow.

Pavement Preservation Project
This spring, the park will begin a two-year pavement preservation project on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Chief Mountain Road, a portion of Camas Road, and in parking lots and other smaller roads throughout the park. Most work will occur before July 1 or after September 2, 2019 to avoid periods of extremely high visitation. The project requires warm, dry conditions for success which will be challenging given typical Glacier weather conditions in the late spring and early fall. Hiker and biker access along the Going-to-the-Sun Road is expected on weekends during the spring plowing season, unless weather conditions cause significant project delays at the beginning of the season. Hiker and biker access on weekday afternoons is not anticipated. Any adjustment to the schedule will be posted on the park’s road status website.

Significant pavement preservation work will occur on the following schedule:

• Spring 2019-June 22: Avalanche Creek to Jackson Glacier Overlook
• Spring 2019-June 30: Chief Mountain Road (night work with traffic control in place)
• Spring 2019-early July: West Entrance Station to Avalanche Creek (with traffic control)
• After September 3, 2019: West Entrance Station to Avalanche Creek (with traffic control)
• September 2-September 15: Avalanche Creek to Logan Pass (night work with traffic control)
• September 16-September 30 (likely): Avalanche to Logan Pass hard closure - Logan Pass will be accessible from the St. Mary Entrance.

The park will also conduct pavement preservation in other areas throughout the summer, including Apgar Campground, Apgar Loop Road, Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald Lodge parking lot, Logan Pass parking lot, Rising Sun Motel parking lot, St. Mary Visitor Center parking lot, St. Mary Campground, and the Swiftcurrent area. Portions of parking lots and campgrounds will be temporarily unavailable while this work occurs.

Boating Season
This year, park waters will open on May 11 on the west side of the park, and on June 1 on the east side of the park. All hand-propelled watercraft are required to receive an aquatic invasive species (AIS) inspection and free permit prior to launch. Gas-powered motorized boats will be allowed on Lake McDonald following a 30-day “dry time”. Similar to last year, boaters can have their boat sealed to their trailer at the Apgar AIS Inspection Station or an inspection station run by the State of Montana, Whitefish Lake, Blackfeet Nation, or the Confederated Salish-Kootenai. Non-trailered boats with electric trolling motors with less than 10 horsepower will be allowed on Bowman, Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Swiftcurrent Lakes. These vessels will not require a 30-day “dry time” because the non-water-cooled motors are classified as a lower risk, similar to hand-propelled watercraft. The park is currently developing plans to reopen additional lakes to gas-powered motorboats with a 30-day “dry time” later this summer. More details on the logistics of these opportunities will be released as they are developed.

North Lake McDonald Road
Following the 2018 Howe Ridge Fire, park and private landowner activity is anticipated to occur throughout the summer along North Lake McDonald Road. Significant portions of the road were impacted by the fire. Fire recovery activities, including restoring telephone service, installing electrical line, and removing logs and other debris will be ongoing, with trenching and heavy equipment moving in and out of the area. This work will begin in the spring. The park expects this minor road to be closed to visitor traffic for the 2019 summer. The park will update the trail status page with additional information about the Trout Lake Trailhead and Upper McDonald Creek Trail as more details, the timing of these activities, and potential local impacts to trail use are known.

Sperry Chalet
The phase 2 rebuild for Sperry Chalet will continue once the snow melts. The bid opportunity for phase 2 construction is anticipated for release this spring. Phase 1 was completed by Dick Anderson Construction last fall. The second and final phase of this reconstruction effort will include stone masonry work and all other finishes necessary to complete the chalet. The Sperry Chalet dormitory building was badly burned during the 2017 Sprague Fire.

Similar to 2018 phase 1 construction, the park will mitigate possible impacts to grizzly bears during the construction season. A closure will be in place in the Snyder Lake and Lincoln Lake drainages from mid-July to the end of October to allow bears additional uninterrupted space to forage. The trail to Sperry Chalet may be intermittently closed while helicopter or mule trains deliver supplies to the construction site. Concessioner Swan Mountain Outfitters will offer guided horseback trail rides to Sperry Chalet on Saturdays and Sundays. The Sperry Chalet Dining Room is anticipated to begin operating in early July to serve construction crews and visitors to the area. Lunch and a la carte services will be available from 11 am - 5 pm. Breakfast and dinner will be available to the public via reservation with Belton Chalets, Inc. by calling (888) 345-2649.

Goat Haunt and Two Medicine
The park is experiencing a critical staffing shortage on the east side of the park, particularly for water utility operators. Frontcountry areas like St. Mary and Many Glacier are being prioritized for opening so that visitor and commercial services can begin operations.

Goat Haunt may not have an operational water or hydroelectric power system for a portion of the summer as a result of staffing shortages. Backcountry users can still hike through Goat Haunt. Until water systems and restroom facilities are operational, the Goat Haunt Shelters backcountry campground will be unavailable and tour boat landings may not be possible. These measures are being implemented to reduce human waste impacts while the water system is not operational.

Crews expect to have the Two Medicine public water system reassembled and operational by the end of May, which is later than last year due to staffing levels. Depending on snow conditions, the park expects that the Two Medicine Road will open to vehicles prior to that date. Visitors can expect to use available vault toilets in the early season. The Two Medicine Campstore will open May 27. The road to Two Medicine opened in its entirety on May 18 last year, and often opens in mid-May based on plowing conditions and staffing levels available to operate the area.

The park is actively seeking interim solutions by recruiting applicants for important utility operator positions. A job announcement with a $10,000 recruitment bonus is currently posted on USAJobs.

Trip Planning
Glacier National Park has experienced extremely high visitation over the last several years, particularly mid-June through mid-September. 2018 visitation of 2,965,309 people was the second highest on record, despite wildfires and area closures on the west side of the park. Visitors to the park should plan ahead and identify several possible destinations in the event that they find an area already full and need to adjust their itinerary. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is currently closed from Lake McDonald Lodge on the west side of the park to the gate just past the entrance at St. Mary on the east side of the park. It typically opens between mid-June and mid-July each year, depending on spring snow and plowing conditions. This year, it will not open to Logan Pass before June 22 due to the parkwide pavement preservation project.

There are many other great hikes outside of the most popular hiking destinations normally cited in social and mass media. To help disperse hikers, and for a bit of solitude, seek trails away from the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor and the Many Glacier area. This list of hikes, sorted by location within the park, will help provide some ideas for your hiking itinerary. As you make plans for your trip this year, be sure to visit the listings on our Accommodations and Things To Do pages, which will help with your vacation planning needs, and help to support the advertisers on our site.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Wetlands And Floodplains Impact Analysis (Statement Of Findings) Open For 15 Day Public Review For Rehabilitation Of Many Glacier Road

Glacier National Park will continue evaluation and work on the Many Glacier Road this year. The roadway was originally built between 1927 and 1931 and, according to the 2007 National Park Service (NPS) Cycle 3 Road Inventory Program, is in a “fair to poor” condition. The roadway surface and parking infrastructure at the Many Glacier Hotel have significant asphalt cracking, rutting, potholes, and some slumping—all of which indicate inferior road base material. In addition, there are numerous active slide areas that intersect with the road.

Last year the park used a durapatcher donated by the Glacier National Park Conservancy to temporarily fix some significant potholes that caused motorists difficulty. The park in partnership with Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) is also piloting a horizontal drain system to evaluate drainage solutions at some portions of the road that experience significant hydrologic issues.

Minor work will continue this summer. Next year, the FHWA will begin rehabilitating other sections of the Many Glacier Road that are outside the horizontal drain areas.

The project includes the road from Babb to the Swiftcurrent Developed Area in the park. A portion of the project is outside the park on the Blackfeet Reservation but within a NPS right-of-way.

The FHWA, at the request from the park and the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife, prepared a Wetland/Floodplains Statement of Findings in accordance with Executive Orders 11990 and 11988. The Statement of Findings determined that there would be no impacts on floodplains. Less than 1/10th of an acre of wetlands would be impacted inside the park and about .5 acres of wetlands would be impacted on the Blackfeet Reservation. To mitigate the impacts to wetlands, the park is preparing a project to restore wetlands on the Poia Lake Trail. FHWA is working with the Tribe to identify projects to mitigate the wetland impacts on the Blackfeet Reservation.

A categorical exclusion will be prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the project. Road rehabilitation is covered by CE: 3.3. C. 9 “Repair, resurfacing, striping, installation of traffic control devices, repair/replacement of guardrails, etc., on existing roads. This CE also applies to road maintenance, rehabilitation, repaving and reconstruction on existing roads with the existing road prism. Actions taken under this CE may also include repair or replacement of culverts, signs, surfacing……” (NPS NEPA Handbook 2015). The impacts to wetlands does not rise to the level requiring an environmental assessment.

As required by NPS policy, Glacier National Park is making this Wetland/Floodplains Statement of Findings available for public review and comment. It is available online at The SOF will be available for public review for 15 days; comments are due April 2, 2019.

If you require a hard copy of this 257 page document, please contact Mary Riddle at 406-888-7898 or to obtain a copy.

Comments can be posted online at: or sent by mail to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Many Glacier SOF, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, Montana 59936.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Governor Bullock Announces Grizzly Bear Advisory Council, Calls for Applicants

Montana governor Steve Bullock announced Tuesday that he will establish a Grizzly Bear Advisory Council to help initiate a statewide discussion on grizzly bear management, conservation and recovery. The Council will be selected through an application process that ends April 12th.

“The recovery of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems is a great conservation success. Still, official federal delisting has yet to come to fruition,” Bullock wrote in a memo to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Martha Williams.

“Legal uncertainty has created a void requiring our leadership,” Governor Bullock said. “As bears continue to expand in numbers and habitat, we must identify durable and inclusive strategies to address current issues and prepare for the future. This advisory council represents a key step toward Montana embracing the tremendous responsibility and opportunity of long-term Grizzly Bear recovery and management.”

Montana is home, in whole or in part, to four grizzly bear recovery zones designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE); the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE); the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem; and the Bitterroot Ecosystem. While grizzly bear numbers have surpassed recovery objectives in the GYE and NCDE, they have yet to reach recovery levels in the Cabinet-Yaak and Bitterroot.

Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are officially under the jurisdiction of the FWS, but much of the day-to-day management of bears in Montana is done by FWP in partnership and with oversight of the FWS. The FWS delisted the GYE grizzly bear population under the Endangered Species Act in 2017, but a federal court decision last fall relisted the population. This delayed the delisting process for the NCDE and resulted in an appeal of the GYE decision by the State of Montana and others.

Grizzly bear populations continue to expand, in some cases into areas they have not occupied for decades. Management challenges and conflicts have increased. FWP, along with partner agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the FWS, work together to respond to conflicts as they occur. However, the situation has become increasingly complex as bears move into areas of Montana outside of existing recovery zones, such as the Big Hole Valley, Little Belt Mountains, and the plains east of the Rocky Mountain Front.

Developing strategies to ensure a timely and appropriate response to these conflicts and addressing the needs of communities and landowners most impacted in these areas are key priorities identified for the advisory council’s deliberations.

“We’re excited to work with this advisory council, and we see this as a great opportunity to find a way forward that reflects the values and needs of Montana as it relates to grizzly bear management,” FWP Director Williams said. “A council that is inclusive in its composition will allow for the balanced discussion we need to have.”

The Grizzly Bear Advisory Council will be tasked with considering broad strategic objectives, such as:

• Maintaining and enhancing human safety;
• Ensuring a healthy and sustainable grizzly bear population;
• Improving timely and effective response to conflicts involving grizzly bears;
• Engaging all partners in grizzly-related outreach and conflict prevention; and
• Improving intergovernmental, interagency, and tribal coordination.

The Council will focus on providing recommendations to the Governor’s Office, FWP, and the Fish & Wildlife Commission that are clear and actionable on how to move forward with grizzly bear management, conservation and recovery. It will consider several pressing issues including bear distribution, connectivity between ecosystems, conflict prevention, response protocols, outreach and education, and the role of hunting and necessary resources for long-term population sustainability.

Governor Bullock is looking for a broad cross-section of interests to serve on the Council, including livestock producers, wildlife enthusiasts, conservation groups, hunters, community leaders, Tribal Nation representatives and outdoor industry professionals.

Council application information can be found online at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, March 18, 2019

Top Hikes and Expert Tips in Glacier National Park

The following is a guest post by Ted Chase, owner of Summit Mountain Lodge:

So your wanting to hike some of the top trails in Glacier National park?

Imagine as your driving up to Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park, Montana on a beautiful day, blue skies and no clouds. You get excited just thinking about getting out on the trail. The chance to see spectacular views, gin clear rivers, and walk among the top north American predators is a dream come true. Then as you round the last corner to Logan pass you witness the unthinkable.

The parking lot is full, there are tourists everywhere, you cant even find a place to park. Suddenly your palms start to sweat, you become agitated, you feel a bit dizzy and then it hits you, a full blown panic attack! You can’t believe it, your supposed to be on vacation and here you are just trying to park to get to the trail head. Now what? You just plan a little bit better.

Most of the hikes recommended are day hikes. Some of the tips are to help you avoid the crowds without all of the stress. The number one tip for most of the top hikes in Glacier National Park? Get to the trails heads early to avoid the crowds, especially in July and August!

Top Trails on West Side of Glacier National Park:

Avalanche Lake Trail and Trail of the Cedars

Driving in from Kalispell, Columbia Falls or Whitefish on the west side to get to “Going to the Sun road” you will likely go into Apgar village. If you want to buy a shot glass, t-shirt or key chain that says “I love Glacier” or you simply love people, pets and lots of traffic, head here anytime of day, anytime of the season.

Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful view’s from McDonald Lake. You can drive past the crowds farther up the lake and can get spectacular view with a bit more peace. This is the busiest place in Glacier and this season will be a mess on the west side. There will be a lot more traffic and road construction will test your patience. * Expert tip: Take the side route on the trail of the cedars boardwalk and sit at Avalanche Gorge.

Hidden Lake and Highline Trail

“Going to the Sun road” will lead you to both trails which start at Logan Pass. During the months of July and August you need to arrive early, sunrise if possible. If you get a late start you may want to go to a different area in the park as you will find it almost impossible to park at the top of Logan Pass. Plan your next day better so you can enjoy Logan pass its spectacular and some great hikes start from there. Including Highline and Hidden lake trails. *Expert tip: Do not head up to Logan pass around lunch time or you will be overwhelmed with the crowds.

Bowman and Kintla Lakes

Take the north fork road towards Pole bridge. These lakes have been discovered and have been getting crowded as well. Coming in from the west entrance the 2 lane dirt road will take up to 2 hours to drive. They are both great places to hit before sunrise, especially if your wanting to canoe, kayak or paddle board. The wind tends to show itself mid day. * Expert tip: Bring a cooler full of goods as there are limited services but Pole bridge mercantile is a great stop.

Top Trails on East Side of Glacier National Park:

Upper Two Medicine Lake

The two medicine area isn’t has busy as St.Mary and Many Glacier and offers great hiking. The hikes in this area may not be on many radars but they are some of my favorites! This area has it all, especially if your a wildlife photographer and hope to catch the big boys in their own environment. Nothing frustrates a photographer more than thinking someone else got out on the trail before us and this hike is no exception, start early. Its a moderate hike but is simply stunning, especially in the fall. *Expert tip: Spectacular waterfalls await.

Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Tunnel

Yes, this is truly a beautiful trail and cram packed with the city folks with bear bells strapped to their feet. If you get annoyed from too many people yelling “hey bear” or waiting to pass others on a trail you better hit this trail before day break. This assures that your only seeing the lines of tourists on the way back from the trail.

If you go to early in the season you may not see the icebergs but will see a frozen lake which isn’t as spectacular. As you move past the turn off to Iceberg you will head to Ptarmigan tunnel and enter a huge metal door, as you go through the door and look on the other side to the Belly river area its like the “Gates to Heaven”. *Expert tip: When rounding blind corners pay attention, bears are more than frequent here, wont hurt to talk or sing and solo hiking can be a bit risky!

Grinnell Glacier Trail

This is a great hike in the Many Glacier area and yet another popular hike for good reason. The hike will make you work a bit but the rewards are around every corner. You will see magnificent wildflowers in July and August. This trail gives you a chance to see a lot of wildlife at a close distance like big horn sheep. The parking lot fills up quick and it can be a bit chaotic so make sure you take your medications if necessary to avoid a panic attack! *Expert Tip: Take your time, you can visibly see 3 glaciers on this trail.

These are just a few hike you may see while you visit Glacier National Park and they are stunning but remember “the early bird gets the worm” especially during July and August. All of the hikes recommended are in bear country so keep your head on your shoulders. If you see a bear with cubs or another wild animal and decide to approach it remember most of the spectators are inadvertently rooting for the bear!

Author Biography:

Born and raised in Montana Ted Chase is a life long fly-fisherman and wildlife photographer.

Ted and his wife own the Summit Mountain Lodge on the border of Glacier National Park They provide premier lodging, fine dining and are known for their destination weddings. The lodge offers a great launching point for anyone looking to hike, backpack, fish or search for wildlife around Glacier National Park.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, March 15, 2019

Grand Teton Proposes to Update Inadequate and Outdated Telecommunication Services to Meet Critical Needs

Grand Teton National Park encourages public comment on an environmental assessment regarding improved telecommunications infrastructure in developed areas of the park. The purpose of the assessment is to consider a right-of-way permit request for updating and expanding telecommunication capabilities in developed areas of Grand Teton National Park, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, and connecting to Yellowstone National Park’s south entrance.

The environmental assessment analyzes the impacts of potential locations, design, and future needs of telecommunication facilities. Fiber optic and wireless telecommunication services addressed in the environmental assessment include internet, voice over internet protocol, and cellular phones. The proposal would improve cellular and broadband services to meet mission-critical park operations, safety and emergency services, and visitor information needs and expectations in developed areas.

Park management, concessioners, and partners are increasingly relying on modern communications technology for daily operations; however, existing telecommunications services are limited or nonexistent, inadequate and outdated.

The park’s lack of suitable telecommunications infrastructure in developed areas affects visitors and park residents as well. Visitor expectations for connectivity include park-developed educational websites, interactive mobile applications and other online tools that inform and connect them to park and local resources. Employees and families living in the park do not have reliable telecommunication services that are expected and necessary for work and personal email, school responsibilities, banking and other routine needs.

A fiber optic cable network would be installed to connect telecommunications infrastructure and provide reliable high-speed internet access in developed areas. The cable would be installed underground in conduit adjacent to existing roads or other existing disturbed areas and would have the capacity for future expansion.

The proposal also includes installation of wireless telecommunications facilities and associated infrastructure at nine developed areas in the park that currently support critical operations and/or see a high volume of park visitors, as well as a connection to the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The proposed locations are Flagg Ranch, Colter Bay, Jackson Lake Lodge, Signal Mountain, North Jenny Lake, South Jenny Lake, Beaver Creek, Moose, and Kelly. The facilities would be constructed in a manner compatible with the character of the surrounding structures, or otherwise made unobtrusive with best available technologies, screening with vegetation or existing topography and/or other means.

The intent of this plan is to provide these services in the developed areas of the park, although some spillover of wireless signals may extend into backcountry/wilderness areas. The plan is not intended to provide coverage to all road sections within the park.

The park is hosting two public open houses for individuals to learn more about the proposal and provide comment. Park staff will be at the Kelly School in Kelly, Wyoming on Tuesday, March 19, from 5-6:30 p.m. and at the Wort Hotel in Jackson, Wyoming on Wednesday, March 20, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. The public is invited to stop by anytime during those hours.

The document is available at and public comments are encouraged to be submitted via this website. Comments on the proposal should be provided to the park by April 10. For more information about the proposal, please contact the park at 307-739-3393.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Proactive Road Preservation Scheduled in Grand Teton This Year

A large pavement preservation project is planned in Grand Teton National Park this summer in an effort to proactively protect and preserve asphalt road surfaces throughout the park. The work will take place on U.S. Highway 89 and in other highly visited locations and include some temporary delays and closures. Work is anticipated to begin in early May and completed in September, but it is dependent upon weather conditions. The project will be funded and managed in partnership with the Federal Lands Highway Program.

The initial work will include patching holes and sealing cracks in the pavement surface. A contractor will then apply a chip seal or micro seal on the road surface, followed by a fog seal to reduce airborne gravel. Striping will be the final action.

Chip sealing is a cost-effective way to provide an improved road surface and preserve the underlying pavement. When proactive preventative maintenance activities are completed on park roads, more serious and costly damage to the pavement structure will be averted.

Road work will generally occur between 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, including weekends. No work will be permitted Saturday through Monday of Memorial Day Weekend, May 25-27, or over the Independence Day Holiday, Wednesday afternoon through Sunday, July 3-7.

The chip sealing work is a rolling construction operation that will gradually proceed from south to north on U.S. Highway 89. Visitors can expect temporary delays and reduced speed limits in these mobile construction zones. Work at parking lots will be managed by sections so that a portion of the lot will always be accessible.

You can view the entire schedule here.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Why are dogs allowed on trails in national forests, but not in national parks?

Why are dogs allowed on hiking trails in national forests, but not in national parks? To state it more bluntly, why are the two federal government agencies at odds with each other? Either way, it’s a question that deserves an answer. The case for not allowing dogs on most backcountry trails in most national parks seems compelling, at least on the surface. Most parks publish their policies regarding pets on backcountry trails on their websites. Before digging deeper into this subject I assumed that these policies were developed by wildlife biologists, and were therefore backed by at least some science. But are these truly valid reasons? This blog post will attempt to answer that question.

Overall, the justifications for banning dogs on backcountry trails by the various national parks are fairly similar. Immediately below is a composite listing of these reasons from a sampling of park websites. The second section of this post cites data and research that support many of the claims by the National Park Service:

• Dogs may become prey for larger predators such as bears, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, bobcats and even great horned owls. Moreover, if your dog disturbs and angers a bear or a moose, it may lead the angry bear or moose directly back to you. Wild canines are also highly territorial, especially during the summer denning season, and will kill loose dogs they encounter in their territory.

• Dogs can carry diseases into the park's wildlife populations. Conversely, they can also contract diseases from wildlife.

• Dogs are predators that can threaten, chase and even kill wildlife. They can also scare birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding and resting sites.

• The scent left behind by a dog can signal the presence of a predator, which disrupts or alters the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog, and may not venture out to feed.

• Dogs can encounter insects that bite and transmit disease, or plants that are poisonous or full of painful thorns and burrs.

• Pets may dig or trample fragile vegetation, and pollute water sources.

• Dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the wilderness. Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dog, causing them to behave unpredictably, bark excessively or even bite someone. Park visitors should be able to enjoy native wildlife in their natural environment without disruption from other visitors’ pets.

• Many people, especially children, are frightened by dogs, even small ones. Uncontrolled dogs can present a danger to other visitors.

As already mentioned, there are several published studies that support many of these assertions. The following are a few examples:

In 2008 the National Park Service published the results of a field research study, titled, “The Effects of Dogs on Wildlife Communities”, which discusses many of the points mentioned above in much more detail; in particular, how dogs impact wildlife. Conducted near Boulder, Colorado, the study found that the “presence of dogs correlated with altered patterns of habitat utilization for mule deer, small mammals, prairie dogs, and bobcats”. The assertion here is that dogs force animals to move away from trails, or force them to hide for extended periods of time. The paper also asserted that “Recreational trails with abundant dog scent could appear to carnivores to be linear dog territories, necessitating increased vigilance and activity”, meaning that the presence of dogs on trails is associated with increased activity of carnivores (bears, wolves, coyotes and mountain lions) in areas that are frequented by hikers.

A comparable study, conducted by Peter B. Banks and Jessica V. Bryant from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia found that “dog walking in woodlands leads to a 35% reduction in bird diversity and 41% reduction in abundance, both in areas where dog walking is common and where dogs are prohibited.” This was also reported in Science News.

Even more troubling, an article published in The Conversation (and Newsweek) by Dr. Al Glen from Landcare Research, New Zealand and Dr. Abi Vanak from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, India, claims that “dogs are implicated in the extinction of at least 11 species”… and are “also a known or potential threat to 188 threatened species worldwide: 96 mammal, 78 bird, 22 reptile and three amphibian species. This includes 30 critically endangered species”, many as a result of predation, but also through disturbance and disease transmission.

A recent BBC article also asserts that dogs threaten almost 200 species worldwide (the article also includes a video of dogs harassing two bull elk).

The very first point in the list above states that dogs can become prey for predators such as bears, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes. Problems also arise for pet owners when a dog disturbs or angers a bear or a moose. These issues are also specifically addressed by scientific research. According to a study conducted by Stephen Herrero and Hank Hristienko, both leading authorities on bear behavior, dogs were involved in more than half of all black bear attacks on humans between 2010 and 2013. “The study found that in most of those cases, the dogs were running off leash and drew the bears to their owners.”

In October of 2018, Colorado Parks and Wildlife issued a press release warning Coloradoans about the increase in moose encounters throughout the state. The release quoted District Wildlife Manager Elissa Slezak of Summit County, who stated that “moose react to dogs as they would to wolves - one of their primary predators. Moose will often attack even the most gentle dog as if it were a wolf, especially if the dog barks at or chases the moose. Unfortunately, the dog typically runs back to its owner bringing an angry, 1,000-pound moose back with it. The dog often gets away but the owner cannot escape and ends up injured instead. We've seen several instances where that exact scenario played out and the dog owner was seriously hurt."

In order to formulate the policies of the 17,000 acres of parks and natural areas managed by the City of Portland, Oregon, the Metro Government compiled and examined “54 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and several research reports relating to the impacts of dogs in natural areas, including numerous literature reviews on the impacts of various types of recreation on wildlife and habitat”, which ultimately led to the banning of dogs on most trails within those spaces. What they found was categorized under four broad categories:

Physical and temporal displacement: “Displacement may be the most significant impact due to the amount of habitat affected. The presence of dogs causes wildlife to move away, temporarily or permanently reducing the amount of available habitat in which to feed, breed and rest. Animals become less active during the day to avoid dog interactions. Furthermore, the scent of dogs repels wildlife and the effects remain after the dogs are gone. The research is clear that people with dogs disturb wildlife more than humans alone. These effects reduce a natural area’s carrying capacity for wildlife, and also reduces wildlife viewing experiences for visitors.”

Disturbance and stress response: “Dogs cause wildlife to be more alert, which reduces feeding, sleeping, grooming and breeding activities, and wastes vital energy stores that may mean life or death when resources are low, such as during winter or reproduction. Animals release stress hormones and their heart rates elevate in response. When stress becomes too high, animals may flush, freeze, or hide. Repeated stress causes long-term impacts on wildlife including reduced reproduction and growth, suppressed immune system and increased vulnerability to disease and parasites.”

Indirect and direct mortality: “Dogs chase and kill many wildlife species including reptiles, small mammals, deer and foxes. A Canadian study found that domestic dogs were one of the top three predators that killed white-tailed deer fawns. In northern Idaho winter deer grounds, an Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer witnessed or received reports of 39 incidents of dogs chasing deer, directly resulting in the deaths of at least 12 animals (several other examples of wildlife deaths due to dogs are cited here). Dogs transmit diseases to wildlife and vice versa, including rabies, Giardia, distemper and parvovirus. Large carnivores such as cougars are especially vulnerable to domestic dog diseases including canine distemper.”

Human disease and water quality impacts: “Dog waste pollutes water and transmits harmful parasites and diseases to people. A Clean Water Services DNA study found that dog waste alone accounts for an average of 13% of fecal bacteria in stream study sites in the Tualatin River Basin. The City of Gresham found extremely high levels of E. coli bacteria in water quality samples of a very specific stretch of a stream, where dog feces were found along stream banks behind several yards with dogs.” In 1991 dog waste was labeled as a non-point source pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to it being the host to an array of diseases, as well as fecal coliform bacteria.

The Portland, Oregon Metro Government document cites many other statistics from an array of studies that supported their decision making.

So, if most, if not all of the reasons cited by the National Park Service are valid, many of which are backed by science, why does the U.S. Forest Service continue to allow dogs on backcountry trails, especially in designated Wilderness Areas where the land is supposed to remain in a natural state in perpetuity, and where impacts from human activities are supposed to be minimal? Seeing wildlife in their natural environment is one of the highlights of venturing into the woods and mountains for many hikers. This privilege should be vigorously protected. By no means am I advocating for the complete banning of all dogs on all national forest lands. However, I do believe we need more balance; more consideration for wildlife, and more protection of sensitive water sources. Doesn’t the U.S. Forest Service have a fundamental responsibility to protect the habitat and the long-term sustainability of wildlife? I believe the U.S. Forest Service and wildlife biologists should conduct studies to determine where dogs are appropriate and inappropriate on trails in our national forests and other wilderness areas. I also believe that stricter enforcement is needed for those who blatantly break existing rules, or any new rules. Certainly the fines that could be collected would pay for the increase in backcountry rangers who could be used to patrol sensitive areas.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Spring Road Clearing Operations Begin Next Week in Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park road crews will begin spring plowing of the Teton Park Road between Taggart Lake Trailhead and Signal Mountain Lodge on Monday, March 18. 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 once plowing operations are underway. Rotary snow removal equipment and plows may be working at any time, and the roadway will be 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 Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

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

The paved multi-use pathways in the park are open whenever they are predominately free of snow and ice.

The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose will open Monday, April 1. It will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, March 11, 2019

Budget Prioritizes Improvements to Critical Park Infrastructure while Saving Tax Dollars

President Donald J. Trump has proposed a $2.7 billion budget for the National Park Service (NPS) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, which includes funding that would help address the $11.9 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park System.

"This budget reflects President Trump’s commitment to protecting and rebuilding our national parks and public lands to ensure they may be enjoyed by future generations of Americans,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. “The President's request provides funding that will allow the National Park Service to repair an aging infrastructure, protect America’s scenic wonders and iconic historic sites, and provide rangers to greet the more than 300 million visitors who visit each year.”

Infrastructure – The NPS estimates that in FY 2018 there was more than $11.9 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 2018, more than 318 million people visited the 418 national parks across the country. The NPS retired more than $600 million in maintenance and repair work in FY 2018, but aging facilities, high visitation, and resource constraints have kept the maintenance backlog between $11 and $12 billion since 2010.

The President’s budget provides $246.3 million to fund construction projects, equipment replacement, project planning and management, and special projects. This includes $152.7 million for specific line-item construction projects like rehabilitating the Eagle Lake Carriage road at Acadia National Park in Maine, and rehabilitating the Kennecott Leach Plant foundation at Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska. It also includes $4.0 million for demolition and disposal of obsolete facilities, and another $4.0 million to implement safety and environmental mitigation or remediation of abandoned mines.

For other facility maintenance and improvement needs, the budget proposes $134.1 million for cyclic maintenance projects to ensure maintenance is done in a timely manner and does not become “deferred”. To address other facility needs such as deferred maintenance and code compliance, the budget proposes an additional $132.0 million for repair and rehabilitation projects.

These discretionary fund sources are critical to help address the deferred maintenance backlog in the NPS. 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 2018, NPS leveraged $148.7 million in recreation fees to address priority maintenance projects to improve the visitor experience. The NPS estimates that in both FY 2019 and FY 2020, $165.8 million in fee revenues will be available for similar deferred maintenance projects.

Park Operations – The FY 2020 NPS budget requests $2.4 billion for park operations, which includes $5.7 million for NPS’s role in the Department of the Interior’s reorganization to help implement unified regions to improve service and efficiency. The budget proposes $10.0 million to support and enhance recreational access opportunities, including building accessible hunting blinds and fishing piers, and establishing a traditional trades apprenticeship program for veterans. The proposed budget also includes $4.0 million for Active Forest Management efforts to mitigate the fire risk to the public and NPS infrastructure assets.

State Assistance – The budget proposes a continued shift to use of the 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 FY 2020 is estimated to be $113 million.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, March 9, 2019

$671 million of backlogged maintenance projects completed in national parks during FY18

The National Park Service (NPS) estimates that during Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, over $671 million in needed repair work was completed at national parks across the country, one of the the largest amounts of deferred maintenance needs retired in a single year. This leaves, at the end of FY18, more than $11.9 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 visitors to America’s 418 national parks.

“Improvements to visitor facilities, campgrounds, trails, and backbone infrastructure are essential to providing a world-class experience to our more than 300 million annual visitors and a safe work environment for our employees, volunteers, and partners,” National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith said. “Addressing the deferred maintenance in our national parks is critical to our core mission and remains a top priority.”

The NPS saw 318.2 million recreation visits in 2018, the third highest total since record keeping began in 1904. The deferred maintenance figure increased by $313 million (2.7 percent) over FY 2017. Aging facilities, increased visitation, and resource constraints have kept the maintenance backlog between $11 billion and $12 billion since 2010.

Among the $671 million of backlogged maintenance projects the NPS successfully completed last year were a new roof over the visitor center at Gateway Arch National Park, a 26-mile pavement preservation project in Yosemite National Park, the restoration of native grasses at Nez Perce National Historical Park, and new paved trail surfaces at Independence National Historical Park.

Fiscal Year 2018 Deferred Maintenance Achievements:

$213 million in transportation DM was retired on over 1,000 transportation assets such as paved and unpaved roads, parking areas, bridges, and tunnels.

$201 million in buildings deferred maintenance (DM) was retired across 272 park units.

$92 million in utility systems, dams, constructed waterways, marinas, aviation systems, railroads, ships, monuments, fortifications, towers, and interpretive media and amphitheaters DM was retired across 169 park units.

$56 million in water and wastewater systems DM was retired across 108 park units.

$52 million in trails DM was retired across 146 park units.

$28 million in maintained landscapes DM was retired across 176 park units.

$18 million in housing DM was retired across 136 park units.

$11 million in campgrounds DM was retired across 57 park units.

Fiscal Year 2018 Reports:

Deferred maintenance and asset inventory reports are available online.

Additional information about NPS deferred maintenance is on

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

National Park Service visitation tops 318 million in 2018

Visitation to America’s national parks in 2018 exceeded 300 million recreation visits for the fourth consecutive year. The 318.2 million recreation visits total is the third highest since record keeping began in 1904.

“America’s national parks are national treasures that tell the story of our nation and celebrate its beauty, history and culture,” said Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “I am pleased that so many Americans and visitors from around the world continue to take advantage of the affordable and accessible recreational opportunities provided by these sites.”

“The visitation to our national parks continues to affirm that Americans are in love with their public lands and hold dear the stories of our nation embodied in the natural, cultural and historic landscapes we protect in the National Park System,” National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith said.

The 418 national parks throughout the country provide a vast array of opportunities for recreation and inspiration for visitors of all ages. With at least one located in every state, national parks are easily accessible and affordable destinations. In the past five years there have been about 1.6 billion recreational visits to national parks.

In 2018, Golden Gate National Recreation Area reclaimed the top spot for highest visitation in the National Park System from the Blue Ridge Parkway. These two parks have been trading places at one and two since 1979. In the national parks category, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (11.4 million) and Grand Canyon National Park (6.4 million) continue to hold the top two spots, as they have since 1990.

Here's a look at the numbers:

By The Numbers around the National Park System

• 318,211,833 recreation visits (385 of 418 parks report visitation figures)

• 1,401,420,191 recreation visitor hours

• 13,950,759 overnight stays

• 28 parks set a new record for visitation (about 7% of reporting parks), including Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains and Rocky Mountain National Park

• 17 parks broke a record they set in 2017

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

• 9 parks had over 5 million recreation visits

• 77 parks had over 1 million recreation visits (about 20% of reporting parks)

Top 10 - National Parks

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - 11,421,200
Grand Canyon National Park - 6,380,495
Rocky Mountain National Park - 4,590,493
Zion National Park - 4,320,033
Yellowstone National Park - 4,115,000
Yosemite National Park - 4,009,436
Acadia National Park - 3,537,575
Grand Teton National Park - 3,491,151
Olympic National Park - 3,104,455
Glacier National Park - 2,965,309

Top 10 - All Parks in the National Park System

Golden Gate National Recreation Area – 15,223,697 
Blue Ridge Parkway – 14,690,418
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 11,421,200
Gateway National Recreation Area – 9,243,305
Lincoln Memorial – 7,804,683
Lake Mead National Recreation Area – 7,578,958
George Washington Memorial Parkway – 7,288,623
Grand Canyon National Park – 6,380,495
Natchez Trace Parkway – 6,362,439
Vietnam Veterans Memorial – 4,719,148

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Glacier National Park Volunteer Associates Winter Speaker Series Continues March 25th

The annual Winter Speaker Series, a tradition in the Flathead Valley for decades, is sponsored by the Glacier National Park Volunteer Associates (GNPVA). Each 4th Monday of January, February, and March a guest speaker presents subjects of interest related to Glacier National Park. The final presentation will occur on March 25th. The event is free and open to the general public.

The March 25th presentation will be given by Travis Neil, the Project Manager for the Dick Anderson Construction Co. Travis will provide insight into the rebuilding of Glacier National Park’s Sperry Chalet. He will be joined by Rob Terrio & TJ Lashley, Superintendents who will share pictures taken during Phase I of the reconstruction.

Please note the change in venue for the March 25th presentation, which will take place in the large Community Room (room 139) of the Arts and Technology Building at the Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell at 7:00 pm. If you have any questions please call Teri at 406-261-1840 or Mike at 406-548-8949.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Don’t Miss Out on One of the Northeast’s Most Epic Hikes: Franconia Ridge

The following is a guest blog from Max Desmarais, founder of Hiking and Fishing:

New England has some pretty incredible hiking between New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, but there are a few in particular that stand out from the rest. Franconia Ridge is one of those. It features gorgeous waterfalls at the base, easy access from the highway, over 3,700 feet of elevation gain, and 360 degree ridgeline views into the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

The few mountains that make up the ridge are among the most hiked mountains in the northeast, making avoiding the weekend crowds a good idea.

Hikers can take a clockwise, or counter-clockwise approach to the ridge hike, and can make the trip 8.5 to 15 miles, depending on how many mountains you would like to summit.

The trail begins relatively flat during the first quarter mile where hikers make the choice to climb the largest mountain first, or view the gorgeous waterfalls (lets take on the bigger mountain first).

Ascending the Old Bridal Path for just under 3 miles, hikers will experience steep and rugged terrain that ascends to the AMC’s Greenleaf Hut. This steep terrain goes by quick, taking care of heavy elevation gain in a relatively short amount of mileage.

The views become rewarding around 2.5 miles into the hike along the Old Bridal Path where a spur ridge of Lafayette creates beautiful views into the valley below, and towards the ridgeline you're heading towards.

The AMC hut provides food, water, and camping options for backpackers. Hikers will pass right by the hut and descend to a small mountain pond, where you begin the last heavy 1 mile, 1,500-foot ascent to the Mount Lafayette Summit.

Quickly above treeline, hikers are exposed to incredible views of Franconia Notch, but also the weather, which in winter months, or storms, can be brutal. The climb passes over a well traveled rocky path to the summit.

The summit features incredible views year round of the Pemi Wilderness, Mount Washington, Franconia Ridge, and a vast portion of the White Mountains. Here you will begin your exposed ridge walk for 1.6 miles - ascending and descending Mount Lincoln, and heading over to Little Haystack Mountain. You will not want to leave this ridge, it is stunning from all angles.

Finally reaching Little Haystack Mountain, hikers can choose to further their hike, or head back down via the Falling Waters Trail (rightfully named so).

The trail descending Lincoln is technical, steep, a little dangerous on the legs and knees, but an absolute blast. Descending quickly, hikers begin to parallel streams that create gorgeous waterfalls, and eventually encounter the largest of the waterfalls near the base, which attracts large amounts of visitors on warm days.

From here, it's only a short trip back out to the parking lot, where you can quickly access the highway, and on to your next trek.

If you are headed to the northeast, and looking for all the information you need to hike Franconia Ridge, simply click this link.

For another outstanding hike option in NH, you may also want to check out this video of the popular Mt. Lincoln / Mt. Lafayette loop:

Author Bio:

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking and Fishing, a website aimed to provide individuals with useful information to enjoy outdoor experiences in New Hampshire and beyond.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, March 1, 2019

Rescue in Granite Canyon

Grand Teton National Park conducted a search and rescue operation Thursday evening, February 28, into early morning, Friday, March 1, in Granite Canyon north of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Two individuals were rescued with no reported injuries. The search and rescue was in cooperation with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Teton County Search and Rescue.

At approximately 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 28, Teton Interagency Dispatch received a call from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort regarding two skiers that were lost in Granite Canyon, an area of Grand Teton National Park that is located north of the resort.

Initial investigation indicates that four individuals: 24-year-old male from Jackson, Wyoming, 28-year-old female from Jackson, Wyoming, 24-year-old male from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and 31-year-old female from Breckenridge, Colorado, rode the Teton Chairlift for a final downhill ski for the day. The group exited the ski area boundary by going under the boundary rope and entered an area closed due to hazardous conditions. As they skied down, two of the individuals got lost and the other two individuals were able to ski back to the Resort boundary.

The lost skiers had cell phone access and were able to contact a friend who in turn contacted ski patrol and then park dispatch. A Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter conducted an aerial reconnaissance, using location information communicated by the lost individuals. Due to sunset and diminished light, it was challenging to confirm the location.

At approximately 8:30 p.m. the Resort transported three rangers to location near the top of the Teton Chairlift, allowing the rangers to initiate a ground search by skiing into Granite Canyon. Rangers had GPS coordinates provided by the lost individuals via cell phone. The area is in a high avalanche and hazard area, including steep terrain, numerous trees and cliffs. The rangers utilized safety practices that involved ropes and belay systems as they moved down the canyon.

The rangers were able to verbally communicate with the lost individuals and at approximately 11 p.m. they located the skier and snowboarder in the Spock Chutes area. The individuals were not injured, and the entire group then climbed back up the mountain to the ski area boundary. They reached the boundary at approximately 2:30 a.m. and skied to the base of the Resort by 2:45 a.m.

The incident is under investigation by the Grand Teton National Park19-09 S, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Bridger-Teton National Forest.

All recreationists are reminded to respect current backcountry conditions and make informed decisions regarding any recreational endeavors. All rules and regulations should be followed, including exiting the resort at designated access points and respecting any closures. Please do not create a situation that may put rescuers at unnecessary risk.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking