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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Montana WILD Hosts Free Wild Film Series

A series that explores the wild in you, by exploring wild life, places, culture, and waterways through captivating short films.

No matter what the forecast says, spend some time exploring the wild this winter and early spring at the Montana WILD Film Festival. Montana Fish Wildlife and Park’s Montana WILD Education Center will host a four evening, once a month series of short films February through May 2018.

Each series features recent films from independent filmmakers coupled with local and regional experts and a short discussion about the films’ themes. Each evening focuses on a new topic: Wild Animals (Feb. 22), Wild Places (March 22), Wild Culture (April 26), and Wild Rivers (May 24).

Montana WILD, The Montana Wilderness Association, The Montana Wildlife Federation, The International Wildlife Film Festival, Montana Trout Unlimited, and a host of community partners and regional filmmakers bring you an inspiring series to get you out of the house and into an exploration of the wild gifts we enjoy in the Rocky Mountain West.

Join us to see captivating films like: Running Wild by award winning director and filmmaker Danny Schmidt about ultra runners and their contribution to wolverine conservation research; Elk River, by Pongo Media filmmaker Jenny Nichols, about the elk migration across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem; and short films by Montana FWP’s very own Winston Greely about the pallid sturgeon recovery, and swan habitat restoration in the Madison Valley.

When: Thursday evenings at 7pm: February 22, March 22, April 26, and May 24, 2018

Where: Montana WILD Education Center, 2668 Broadwater Ave. Helena, MT


Friday, February 2, 2018

Digital Entrance Passes Now Available for Yellowstone

Starting Thursday, February 1, visitors to Yellowstone National Park can purchase digital annual and seven-day entrance passes online at YourPassNow. The National Park Service (NPS) partnered with NIC Inc. to develop and administer YourPassNow to better serve visitors to Yellowstone.

“We are pleased to offer a digital option to purchasing passes at entrance gates and to usher in a new era of online convenience for our visitors,” said park superintendent Dan Wenk.

YourPassNow provides an alternative to the traditional paper-based, in-person purchase method while also providing the park with a tool to help manage the visitor experience. Using a personal device, visitors can purchase park entrance passes from www.yourpassnow.com at no additional cost. Once purchased, passes are emailed and can be used immediately, stored on a personal device, or printed for future use.

In 2016, Acadia National Park (Maine), Colorado National Monument (Colorado), Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota), Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (California), Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Florida), Everglades National Park (Florida), and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area (California) made online entrance passes available with YourPassNow.

Yellowstone uses entrance fees to invest in critical improvements that directly benefit visitors, including maintaining and enhancing visitor facilities.

Yellowstone National Park 2018 annual and seven-day fees include:

• $60 annual entrance pass fee
• $30 seven-day entrance passes for a private vehicle
• $25 seven-day entrance passes for a motorcycle or snowmobile
• $15 seven-day entrance passes for an individual
• Persons under age 16 are admitted free