Thursday, March 15, 2018

Park County Men Plead Guilty to Bison Poaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, March 12, 2018

Safety Improvements with Gros Ventre Roundabout Begin in April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, March 5, 2018

National Park System Sees More Than 330 Million Visits

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

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

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

National Park System 2017 visitation highlights include:

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

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

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

• 42 parks broke a record they set in 2016

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

• 10 parks had more than 5 million recreation visits

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

• Half of national park visitation occurred in 27 parks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center to Open March 5

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

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

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

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

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

A schedule of operating hours for each of the park’s visitor centers and ranger stations can be found at


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Bear Awareness Montana FWP

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

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

This program is free, and no registration is required. To learn more online go to the Montana WILD Calendar at or call 406-444-9944.

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


Strategic Direction for Grand Teton Historic Properties Approved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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