Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sperry Chalet Next 100 Years Environmental Assessment Available for Public Comment

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

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

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

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

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




Jeff
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Monday, April 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Jeff
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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sharing the Wild with Fellow Travelers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Shepard Humphries

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




Jeff
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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Grand Teton National Park Changes Entrance Fee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Jeff
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Friday, April 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Jeff
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Monday, April 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Jeff
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Friday, April 6, 2018

Plowing Begins in Glacier National Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Jeff
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