Friday, January 31, 2020

Outdoor Foundation Study: Half of the US population does not participate in outdoor recreation at all

The Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), released the latest Outdoor Participation Report this week, showing about half the U.S. population participated in outdoor recreation at least once in 2018, including hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing and biking among many more outdoor activities. Unfortunately, the report highlights an alarming trend that just under half the U.S. population does not participate in outdoor recreation at all.

The report, available here, also highlighted the following troubling trends:

* Less than 20 percent of Americans recreated outside at least once a week.

* Americans went on one billion fewer outdoor outings in 2018 than they did in 2008.

* Kids went on 15 percent fewer annual outings in 2018 than they did in 2012.

Additionally, the report shows a continued gap between the diversity of outdoor participants and the diversity of the U.S. population, specifically where non-Caucasian ethnic groups reported going on far fewer outings in 2018 than they did just five years ago.

Interestingly, there is a strong trend toward close-to-home recreation. The report indicates that of the people who report they participate in outdoor activity, 63 percent report they go outside within 10 miles of their home. Some bright spots from the report showed that female outdoor participation increased by an average of 1.7 percent over the last three years and Hispanic participation in the outdoors was the strongest among ethnic groups.

“We know from study after study that recreating outside, even at minimal levels, greatly benefits an individual’s physical and mental health and also increases academic outcomes and community connections. But unfortunately, the barriers to getting outside are greater for Americans living in cities or in areas with fewer transportation options,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director at Outdoor Foundation. “This is why Outdoor Foundation, along with OIA and other like-minded organizations, is working to reach new populations of Americans who don’t get outdoors often or at all or don’t see themselves in the outdoors and encouraging them to get – and thrive – outside.”

OIA and its member companies have been concerned about the growing trends and gaps in outdoor recreation for some time, and the report confirmed those worries. That is why OIA and Outdoor Foundation have committed to getting all of America outside more often through a two-pronged approach that includes community-based initiatives and local, state and federal policy work.

In 2019, Outdoor Foundation shifted its focus to underserved communities and now provides larger multi-year grants to build lasting change at the community level. Outdoor Foundation Thrive Outside Community grants bring together partners such as The Trust for Public Land, community organizations, environmental organizations, YMCA, Boys & Girls Club and local leaders in Oklahoma City, Atlanta, San Diego and Grand Rapids.

“Currently, 90 cents of every health care dollar is spent on treating people with chronic disease,” said Jeff Bellows, vice president, corporate citizenship + public affairs, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “We need to attack the root causes of these diseases, for example, by helping people adopt healthier lifestyles to make sure they are giving themselves and their families the best chance at a healthy life. Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies have programs around the country that are addressing social determinants of health and are providing people and communities with resources to improve their health and prevent diseases.”

OIA is working with Congress, state and local governments, community leaders and businesses to get people and their communities better access to the outdoors and instill a habit of getting outside regularly. For example, at the federal level, OIA, along with other outdoor groups, is pushing for the full $900 million in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (HR. 3195/S. 1081). Over 90 percent of LWCF funding is used to increase recreation access to the public. OIA is also pressing Congress to approve the Transit to Trails Act (H.R. 4273/S. 2467) that would support connector transit options in underserved communities to and from public lands. Closer to home, OIA has long supported state and local programs like Colorado’s Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) program, which helps to conserve land and provide increased opportunities for outdoor recreation. The key to GOCO’s success so far has been its ability to balance protection of iconic awe-inspiring lands as well as open spaces within or adjacent to communities so that more people have more options to get outside.

Outdoor Foundation has developed the Outdoor Participation Report for over 10 years. The survey reflects data gathered during the 2018 calendar year and garnered a total of 20,069 online interviews consisting of people ages six and older.

Hikers may want to note that this report continues to show a steady and significant increase in hiking. My book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, includes a long discussion on the exponential growth rates of hiking since the 1950s as shown in this study, as well as in studies conducted by the U.S. Government through the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. My book also discusses the ramifications this growth is already having on our parks, trails and wildlife, and what trends government officials are predicting for the future.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Skier bitten by coyote in Yellowstone

On Tuesday, January 28, at approximately 9:50 a.m., park dispatch received a call that a coyote bit a woman in the Canyon Village area. The individual was cross-country skiing on the Grand Loop Road near the South Rim Drive when the incident occurred.

Witnesses took the 43-year-old woman to the Canyon Visitor Education Center, where rangers provided initial treatment for puncture wounds and lacerations to her head and arm. Rangers transported her to Mammoth Hot Springs by over-snow vehicle, and then she continued on to a medical facility.

Park staff temporarily closed the road, then positively identified and killed the coyote. The coyote is being necropsied and will be tested for rabies.

“Encounters like these are rare, but they can happen. We suspect this coyote may have been starving due to having porcupine quills in its lower jaw and inside its mouth. Its young age likely led to its poor condition and irregular behavior,” said wildlife biologist Doug Smith.

Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are wild and unpredictable. Be aware of your surroundings. Never feed wildlife. Animals that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. Keep all food, garbage, or other smelly items packed away when not in use. Stay 25 yards (23 m) away from all large animals - bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves.

You can read more about safety in the park, including how to behave around wildlife.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Shoshone National Forest soliciting interest in outfitting and guiding services

In an effort to enhance rural communities and facilitate greater access to National Forest Lands, the Shoshone National Forest is interested in providing new activities and services to help visitors enjoy the outdoors through permitted recreational activities. The Shoshone National Forest is soliciting interest from businesses and individuals wishing to offer new outfitting and guiding services near the communities of Cody, Dubois, and Lander, Wyo.

Activities being considered for new service permits include:

* Climbing activities such as mountaineering, sport climbing and ice climbing in the following areas: Wild Iris, Sinks Canyon, Little Popo Agie, and Gannett Peak as well as other areas within the Wind River Ranger District, the South Fork of the Shoshone River corridor, and the Clarks Fork area;

* Non-motorized trail based activities such as mountain biking and trail running on the Washakie and Wapiti Ranger Districts;

* Motorized activities limited to Forest Service roads and motorized trails, such as ATV/UTV/OHV activities or shuttle services to transport individuals on/off the Shoshone National Forest;

* Non-motorized water sports such as day-use fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, or canoeing.

Additional activities may be considered beyond those listed above. For more information on the solicitation process please contact: Paul Rau (307) 578-5140 or Mike LaFrentz (307) 578-5117. Proposals will be accepted through March 9, 2020.

As America’s first national forest, the Shoshone National Forest has 2.4 million acres of diverse terrain and a mission to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the forest to meet the needs of present and future generations.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, January 27, 2020

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Smashes Visitation Record in 2019

Great Smoky Mountains National Park set another visitation record in 2019, and in the process, smashed the previous record set during the prior year. The park counted 12,547,743 visits last year, a 9.9% increase over the prior year. 2019 also marked the 4th year in a row that the Smokies surpassed 11 million visits, and the 6th year in a row in which it exceeded 10 million visits.

Below is a graph showing total visitor counts since the park's inception:

The ramification to the park, the wildlife and visitor enjoyment will be profound if this growth isn't checked at some point.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Make Better Informed Decisions about Winter Backcountry Activities

Backcountry recreationists are encouraged to visit the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center website to make better informed decisions about winter backcountry activities in Grand Teton National Park. The avalanche center website includes a new weekly discussion that highlights backcountry conditions in the park.

With the support of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, a National Park Service snow ranger is assessing the snowpack in the park and making professional-level observations throughout the park. This information is being shared weekly on the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center’s website and complements the weekly summary for the forecast region. The collection of summaries will be a source for historical reference and will help mountain travelers create a general idea of the snowpack in the park's complex terrain.

The snow ranger assists the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center with daily forecasts, maintains weather stations, educates backcountry users and collects snowpack observations, as well as assists National Park Service rangers with backcountry patrols. The Grand Teton National Park Foundation also supports two winter weather stations located in the Surprise Lake area of Grand Teton National Park. Data from the sensors on these stations support the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center’s daily forecast. This data is located with the weather station information on the avalanche center’s website and listed as Surprise Pinnacle and Surprise Meadow.

The strong interagency relationship between the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park, as well as the support of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, has enhanced the capabilities of the forecast center, with the ultimate goal of providing the best possible data for skiers and riders to make informed and safe backcountry travel decisions.

Visit the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center web site at for the most up-to-date information regarding backcountry and avalanche conditions in Grand Teton National Park and throughout the Teton Range.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, January 24, 2020

Grand Teton National Park Visitation Surpasses 3.4 Million in 2019

Grand Teton National Park surpassed 3.4 million visits in 2019 for the second time in park history. The park counted 3,405,615 visits last year, a decrease of 2.45% compared to the prior year. The park set the record for its highest visitation in 2018 when it received 3,491,151 visits.

Below is a graph showing total visitor counts since the park's inception:


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Glacier National Park Visitation Surpasses 3 Million in 2019

Glacier National Park surpassed 3 million visits last year for the second time in park history. The park counted 3,049,839 visits last year, an increase of 2.85% over the prior year. The park set the record for its highest visitation in 2017 when it received 3,305,512 visits. Between 1983 and 2012 the park averaged roughly 2 million visits; however, that number has rocketed upward by roughly 50% since then.

Below is a graph showing total visitor counts since the park's inception:


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Grand Teton Acquires Parcel of Land

The National Park Service, in collaboration with The Conservation Fund, recently acquired a 35-acre parcel located within the administrative boundary of Grand Teton National Park. The parcel is located near the south boundary of the park on the west side of the Snake River near the park’s Granite Canyon entrance station. The acquired parcel preserves the iconic landscape of the Teton Range, prevents residential development and protects important habitat for a variety of wildlife.

Grand Teton National Park Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said, “We greatly appreciate the work and leadership of The Conservation Fund to help protect national park lands.”

The protection of this property was made possible by funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established by Congress in 1964 to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. Using zero taxpayer dollars, the fund invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help strengthen communities, preserve our history and protect our national endowment of lands and waters. It is used to acquire lands, waters, and interests therein necessary to achieve the natural, cultural, wildlife, and recreation management objectives of federal land management agencies.

Dan Schlager, Wyoming State Director for The Conservation Fund, said, “Conservation work often involves both urgency and patience. In this case, the Fund acquired the property to accommodate the landowner’s needs and worked with the National Park Service to secure funding for its ultimate purchase.”

The National Park Service, The Conservation Fund and the former landowners have been working together for more than two decades to protect inholdings at the park’s southwest entrance. This property is the third parcel successfully transferred to the park, collectively protecting more than 100 acres.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, January 13, 2020

National Park Service Announces Fiscal Year 2019 Accomplishments to Reduce Wildfire Risks

National Park Service (NPS) Deputy Director David Vela recently announced that the NPS successfully treated 230,308 acres of public land in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, helping to reduce wildfire risks in America’s national parks and safeguarding nearby communities, natural resources and infrastructure.

Prescribed fire was used to treat nearly 207,000 acres, and an additional 24,000 acres were treated by mechanical and other methods. In support of recently issued Executive and Secretary’s Orders calling for an increase in active management, 17,000 acres were treated through active vegetation treatments. A robust vegetation management program improves the resiliency of landscapes to wildfires and preserves public lands for a variety of uses and enjoyment by the public.

“The accomplishments of our fire and aviation programs are vital to meeting our mission as well as the Secretary’s priorities,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “We are proud of the dedication and hard work completed over the past year by the men and women of the aviation, structural and wildland fire programs.”

In FY 2019, the bureau reached a milestone with over 90% of the 31,339 structures listed in the NPS Wildland Fire Geodatabase now surveyed for threats from wildland fire. Also in 2019, the areas adjacent to more than 6,000 structures were treated and the potential of risk from wildfire was reduced.

Research in wildland fire to better inform and fuels management is another high priority for the NPS. In 2019, the following five research projects were funded totaling $157,000:

• Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, California: Effectiveness of Fuel treatments on Wildfire in a Chaparral Community

• Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico: Identifying Activity Periods of an Endangered Salamander to Facilitate Fuels Treatments

• Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina: Changes in Woody Fuel Loading and Ericaceous Shrub Cover from 2003 to 2019 in Great Smoky Mountains NP

• Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Alaska: Fire and Ice – integrated fire research to inform managers on the short and long term impacts of fire and climate on ice-rich permafrost soils, water resources, vegetation and wildlife habitat

• Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier national parks, Wyoming and Montana: Drivers of Early Postfire Tree Regeneration and Indicators of Forest Resilience in National Parks of the Northern Rocky Mountains

Within the NPS Structural Fire Program, NPS revised and updated all structural fire classes and added a hazardous materials class; this provides bureau structural firefighters with all the multi-faceted training needed for certification. More than 150 NPS employees were trained in structural firefighting, including 41 new firefighters, 26 new driver operators and 92 at firefighter refresher classes. In addition, 34 new park structural fire coordinators were trained during 2019. The program has also developed cancer awareness and prevention procedures and a grant to support structural firefighter gear cleaning for cancer prevention in parks.

Aviation continues to be an important multidisciplinary program for the NPS. In 2019, aviation resources supported wildland fire, search and rescue, law enforcement, and natural resources studies, surveys, and research missions. Approximately 11,000 hours of flight time, from 7,400 flights were conducted in 2019.

In addition to treatment projects conducted domestically, the DOI and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which is a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, continue to support ongoing efforts to combat the wildfires in Australia. At the request of the Australian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, DOI and the USFS have deployed 150 firefighters thus far, 10 total from the NPS.

“The loss of life, property and environment are devastating in Australia,” said U.S. Secretary David Bernhardt. “The United States stands with our partners, and we will continue to support Australia in sending our world class personnel to contain these blazes and help protect Australian communities and wildlife.”

The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have been exchanging fire assistance for more than 15 years as the Australian and New Zealand personnel filled critical needs during peak wildfire season in the United States. The last time the U.S sent firefighters to Australia was in 2010.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Two men sentenced to ten days in jail for Yellowstone thermal trespass violations

Two men were recently sentenced for trespassing on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser, a closed thermal area. Eric Schefflin, 20, of Lakewood, Colorado, and Ryan Goetz, 25, of Woodstock, New York, appeared in court on December 5, 2019, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming.

Schefflin and Goetz pleaded guilty to the violation of thermal trespass. On September 10, 2019, at about 8:30 p.m., employees and visitors witnessed two individuals walking on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser and reported it to park dispatch. A ranger contacted and cited Schefflin and Goetz.

Sentencing for each included:

• 10 days of incarceration
• $540 in restitution
• Five years of unsupervised probation
• Five year ban from Yellowstone National Park

“Visitors must realize that walking on thermal features is dangerous, damages the resource, and illegal. Law enforcement officers take this violation seriously. Yellowstone National Park also appreciates the court for recognizing the impact thermal trespass can have on these amazing features,” said Chief Ranger Sarah Davis.

The ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin, and there is scalding water just below the surface. Visitors must always remain on boardwalks and exercise extreme caution around thermal features. Learn more about safety in thermal areas at


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Headed to Grand Teton National Park?

Are you planning to visit Grand Teton National Park this summer - or anytime down the road? I wanted to let you know that I just published a new eBook that provides hikers with access to trail information while hiking in the park.

Exploring Grand Teton National Park is the mobile version of, the most comprehensive website on the internet for hiking trail information in Grand Teton National Park. This book was published to provide readers with convenient access to the information contained on while in the park, or on the trail, where internet access is most likely unavailable. Additionally, the format of this book will provide a much better experience for smartphone users.

Exploring Grand Teton National Park covers 44 hikes. This includes 41 hikes within Grand Teton National Park, as well as 3 hikes in the Teton Pass area, located just south of the park boundary. Like the website, the book includes driving directions to each trailhead, detailed trail descriptions, key features along the route, difficulty ratings, photographs, maps and elevation profiles, which provide readers with a visual representation of the change in elevation they’ll encounter on each hike. Some hikes will also include historical tidbits related to the trail. Whether you're looking for an easy stroll in the park, or an epic hike deep into Grand Teton's backcountry, this book provides all the tools you'll need to make your hiking trip as enjoyable as possible.

As with our four websites, this book also contains several directories that will help you choose the best hikes suited to your preferences and abilities. This includes hikes listed by location within the park, hikes listed by key trail feature, and hikes sorted by difficulty rating. I’ve also included lists of our top 10 hikes, the best easy hikes, the top fall hikes, and the top early season hikes.

The book is now available at Amazon.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Areas of Central Teton Range in Park Temporarily Closed For Nonnative Mountain Goat Management

Grand Teton National Park will implement a temporary area closure for public and operational safety during nonnative mountain goat removal activities January 5-12, 2020. The closure area is bounded on the south by South, Middle and Grand Tetons, Mount Owen and Teewinot Mountain peaks; bounded on the west by the park boundary; bounded on the east by the western shores of Jackson, Leigh, String and Jenny Lakes; and bounded on the north by Rolling Thunder Mountain and Eagle Rest Peaks. No public access will be allowed in the area during this time. Signs will be posted at main access locations and a map of the temporary closure area can be viewed here.

In order to aid in the conservation of a native and vulnerable population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Teton Range, the National Park Service is implementing a recently finalized management plan to remove nonnative mountain goats from the park via lethal and nonlethal means.

The National Park Service has a responsibility to protect native species and reduce the potential for local extinction of a native species and therefore intends to reduce the number of nonnative mountain goats in the park as quickly as possible. Mountain goats are not native to Grand Teton National Park. Mountain goats threaten the native Teton Range bighorn sheep herd through increased risk of pathogen transmission and the potential for competition. Aerially-based lethal activities are the most efficient and effective methods to remove nonnative mountain goats.

Beginning Monday, January 6, helicopter-based lethal removal efforts will be initiated, as weather conditions and mountain goat distribution allow. Removal activities will be performed by a qualified contractor. Timing of the activities is planned when park visitation is low, and will be concentrated in the area between Cascade Canyon and Snowshoe Canyon where the majority of the mountain goats are located. Without swift and active management, the mountain goat population is expected to continue to grow and expand its distribution within the park. The mountain goat population is currently at a size where complete removal is achievable in a short time, however, the growth rate of this population suggest that complete removal in the near future may become unattainable.

The Teton Range is home to a small herd of native bighorn sheep currently estimated at approximately 100 animals. This herd is one of the smaller and most isolated in Wyoming, and has never been extirpated or augmented. The Teton Range herd of native bighorn sheep is of high conservation value to the park, adjacent land and wildlife managers, and visitors.

Currently the nonnative mountain goat population within the park is estimated at approximately 100 animals. Resident mountain goats within the park are likely descended from a population that was introduced outside the park.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council to Meet in Polson

The Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council is meeting in Polson for its next meeting.

The advisory council, made up of 18 citizens from across Montana, will gather Jan. 14-15, at the KwaTaqnuk Resort in Polson. The meeting will start at 8 a.m. on Jan. 14 and 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 15. The meetings are open to the public and opportunities for public engagement will be available both days. The public is also encouraged to provide input to council members online at

The public meeting in Polson will be the council’s fourth gathering. Additional meetings will be held across the state to provide more people the opportunity to interact with the council.

Over the last few months, the council has reviewed the history of grizzly bear recovery and conservation in Montana, interagency management efforts, legal considerations, and grizzly bear distribution. Presentations have focused on the current state of grizzly bear populations across the state and the core questions and considerations that wildlife managers and others face as these populations continue to expand in Montana, including into some areas that they have not occupied for decades. Councilors have heard from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks management staff, as well as tribal and federal managers, who respond to conflicts and develop prevention measures. Non-profit organizations have also presented information on education and outreach efforts across the state.

At the upcoming meeting in Polson, the council with review transplant protocols, livestock loss compensation, the status of the Bitterroot ecosystem, and more.

Grizzly bears in Montana are native, iconic carnivores that have high value to people and cultures across the state and around the world and play important roles in Montana ecosystems and economies. At the same time, they can and do injure or kill people and livestock, and cause property damage and economic loss, which may disproportionately affect individuals living and working in bear country. Their potential presence is both valued and feared.

After 40 years of hard work by all Montanans, grizzly bear populations have reached and surpassed federal recovery goals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem is below recovery goals with approximately 55-60 grizzly bears, and the Bitterroot Ecosystem does not currently have a resident population of grizzly bears.

In the GYE and NCDE, densities of grizzly bears are increasing, and they are now expanding into areas where they haven’t been for decades, including connectivity areas between recovery zones. These areas include a greater percentage of working private lands and places where the human population is expanding, creating a greater potential for conflicts. Existing management plans and agency communication built public expectations on where bears would occur and do not reflect recent changes to bear distribution.

Montana remains committed to maintaining the long-term viability of grizzly bears, consistent with FWP’s long history of wildlife conservation. The challenge is balancing conflicting values and addressing diverse needs, especially in newly-recolonized areas. Federal protected status currently governs Montana’s ability to address distribution and abundance. However, many challenges would remain regardless of federal protections.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock appointed the council and tasked the diverse group with producing a final report with discrete, actionable recommendations that provide clear and meaningful guidance to the Governor’s Office, the Fish and Wildlife Commission, and other entities with responsibility for grizzly bear management and conservation in Montana.

For more information on the council, visit

Ramble On: A History of Hiking