Friday, May 25, 2018

Glacier National Park To Rebuild Sperry Chalet

Glacier National Park announces the completion of the environmental analysis and review process for the Sperry Chalet, Next 100 Years Project. The Finding of No Significant Impact, or FONSI (the decision document), was signed by the NPS Intermountain Regional Director on May 13, 2018. The National Park Service (NPS) reached the decision after careful analysis of the environmental impacts associated with the project and serious consideration of public comments on the environmental assessment (EA) released in April 2018.

The NPS will rebuild the Sperry Chalet Dormitory Building that was badly burned in the 2017 Sprague Fire. Specifically, the NPS will rebuild the Sperry Chalet Dormitory at its original site within the original stone masonry walls. The design will rehabilitate the chalet dormitory reflecting its period of significance (1914-1949). Some critical updates will include meeting current building codes where applicable, and improvements to life safety features including seismic bracing and fire resistant materials. The visitor experience will 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 will be completed in two phases, proposed for the summers of 2018 and 2019. Cost considerations and other unforeseen events or other conditions could affect the construction schedule.

"Rebuilding historic Sperry is a priority, and I applaud the quick efforts of the Glacier Conservancy, the park, and the park community to move this project forward," said Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. "We are one significant step closer to celebrating future Sperry adventures."

“Today we are one significant step closer in restoring the Sperry experience for the next 100 years of park visitors,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “We discovered many important design and resource considerations in our conversations with the public throughout the planning process this spring, and look forward to carrying many of them forward.”

The park received 72 comment letters during the EA review period; 58 supported the park’s preferred alternative. One supported rebuilding the chalet in an alternate location, and six supported the No Action alternative. Seven letters contained substantive comments that were responded to in the FONSI.

In general, comments strongly stated their support for rebuilding the chalet and restoring the Sperry Chalet experience in Glacier. A few commenters expressed concerns about impacts on recommended wilderness, wildlife and visitors from the helicopter activity and increased noise levels. Others expressed concerns about the cost of rebuilding a structure that serves a relatively small percentage of visitors annually.

This month, the NPS, in conjunction with Anderson Hallas Architects, will move forward with preparing for the first phase of the project, including announcing bid solicitations for associated construction contracts and continuing work on design and construction drawings for subsequent phases of the project.

The FONSI is available online on the NPS planning website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/SperryChalet2018.




Jeff
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Wolf numbers remained strong in 2017

According to the 2017 Montana Gray Wolf Program Annual Report, population estimates suggest there are approximately 900 wolves in Montana. This marks the 13th consecutive year that Montana has far exceeded wolf recovery goals.

FWP now estimates wolf numbers using a method called POM, or Patch Occupancy Modeling. The old way of trying to count wolves from an airplane became a less and less accurate picture of wolf numbers as the wolf population grew beyond anyone’s ability to count it. Additionally, the old method was expensive and took up a lot of staff time.

FWP has used POM estimates along with the old minimum counts for several years. POM uses wolf sightings reported to FWP during annual deer hunter surveys, known wolf locations, habitat variables and research-based wolf territory and pack sizes to estimate wolf distribution and population size across the state. The most recent POM estimates were 961 wolves in 2015 and 851 in 2016. Data has been gathered for 2017 estimates and analysis will take place during summer 2018.

Montana’s wolf population has remained relatively stable with an annual wolf harvest that averages about 225 animals per year. During the 2017-2018 wolf season, 255 wolves were harvested: 65 percent hunting, 35 percent trapping. Approximately, $380,000 was generated for wolf conservation and management by wolf license sales.

Livestock depredation by wolves during 2017 was approximately 25 percent of what it was in 2009, when it was at a peak. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services confirmed 80 livestock losses to wolves in 2017, which included 49 cattle, 12 sheep, and 19 goats during 2017. One dog was also killed by wolves. This total was up compared to 53 livestock losses during 2016. During 2017 the Montana Livestock Loss Board paid $64,133 for livestock Wildlife Services confirmed as probable or certain wolf kills.

To learn more about Montana’s wolf population, visit FWP online at fwp.mt.gov. Click Montana Wolves. This 2017 Montana Gray Wolf Program Annual Report is available at: http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/management/wolf/.




Jeff
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Interagency Team Conducting Grizzly Bear Research Trapping

Biologists with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team will conduct grizzly bear research and trapping operations within Grand Teton National Park from now through the end of July. This research is part of on-going efforts required under the 2016 Conservation Strategy for the Grizzly Bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to monitor the population of grizzly bears.

When bear research and trapping activities are being conducted, the area around the site will be posted with bright warning signs to inform the public of the activities occurring. For bear and human safety, the public must respect these signs and stay out of the posted areas.

Trained professionals with the interagency team will bait and trap grizzly bears in accordance with strict protocols. Once trapped, the bears are sedated to allow wildlife biologists to collar the bears and collect samples and data for scientific study.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team was established in 1973 to collaboratively monitor and research grizzly bears in the ecosystem on an interagency basis. The gathering of critical data on the bears is part of a long-term research effort and required under the 2016 conservation strategy to help wildlife managers devise and implement programs to support the ongoing conservation of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bear population. The team includes representatives from the National Park Service, U. S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department, and the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.




Jeff
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Seven-day two-park pass (Yellowstone and Grand Teton) to end on May 31st

The combined seven-day entrance pass to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks will end May 31. Starting June 1, a seven-day entrance pass for each park will be:

Private, non-commercial vehicle $35

Motorcycle $30

Individual (by foot, bicycle, etc.) $20

For more information, visit the Fees & Passes webpage.




Jeff
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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Recreational Trails Grant Awards Open for Public Comment - Comments due Friday, June 8, 2018

Montana State Parks (stateparks.mt.gov) is seeking public comment on proposed Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant awards for the current grant cycle which closed on February 1, 2018. Montana’s Recreational Trails Program has awarded approximately $1.57 million in grant funds to 50 trails projects located across Montana. Public comment on the proposed RTP grant awards is open through Friday, June 8 at 5pm.

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a federally funded program administered by Montana State Parks. RTP projects include development and rehabilitation work on urban, rural, and backcountry trails; planning and construction of community trails; snowmobile and cross-country ski trail maintenance and grooming operations; and a variety of trail stewardship and safety education programs.

For a list of all successful trails grant applicants, visit stateparks.mt.gov/recreation and click on ‘Recreational Trails Program’. For more information or to request copies of individual RTP applications contact Tom Reilly at (406) 444-3752.

Public Comments must be received by 5pm on Friday, June 8, 2018. To comment online visit stateparks.mt.gov and click on “Public Comments” or by email to treilly@mt.gov.

Comments by regular mail should be sent to: Recreational Trails Program, Montana State Parks, PO Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.




Jeff
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Glacier Travel Information for 2018

The park has begun preparations to open roads and facilities for the summer season. This winter, some areas of the park saw record or near record snowfall amounts. This spring, cool temperatures and continued snow have created challenging conditions as crews plow roads, parking areas, campgrounds, and access utilities to turn them on for the season.

Early Season Tips:

The park expects that some campgrounds or campsites, including some reservation campsites, will not be available by their projected opening dates. Campground staff will contact visitors with campground reservations about moving to alternate spaces if necessary. Early season hikers should consult the park’s trail status page to see trail clearing activity and projected trail clearing start dates.

The spring hiker-biker shuttle will run on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) from 9 am to 5 pm beginning May 12, and will continue until the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens through Logan Pass to vehicles. It will also run on May 28, Memorial Day. The shuttle will depart from the Apgar Visitor Center and drop off at both Lake McDonald Lodge and Avalanche Creek (once open to vehicle traffic).

Construction:

Spring and summer construction on the Going-to-the-Sun Road has begun, including work that was previously anticipated for last fall, but was rescheduled due to the Sprague Fire.

In May, crews will be working on paving and road bed work between the West Entrance Station and the area east of the four-way intersection in Apgar known as the Apgar Curve. Traffic will detour through Apgar Village while that work is completed. A pilot car will be used beginning May 14 between the West Entrance Station and the four-way intersection at Apgar.

Crews have also begun work on a section of North McDonald Road between the Going-to-the-Sun Road and the bridge over McDonald Creek, including culvert installation and road bed replacement. While that work is completed, no vehicle or pedestrian access will be permitted during the week. On the weekends, pedestrians should use caution to avoid holes and other hazards marked with cones as they navigate through the construction area. The work is expected to last until mid-May. Trailhead access impacted by this temporary closure includes Trout Lake, McDonald Lakeshore, and McDonald Creek. These trails can be accessed from the Rocky Point Trailhead as an alternate.

At the end of May, North McDonald Road and associated trailhead access will again be closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic for two additional days while paving that section of the road. That work is tentatively planned for the week of May 21, weather permitting. No pedestrian or vehicle access will be available along that road while paving is completed. Windows for local administrative travel will be scheduled.

Many turnouts between Apgar and Avalanche Creek will be unavailable this season while they are rehabilitated. Those turnouts will be marked with traffic cones and drums.

In late summer, crews will work above Triple Arches for approximately one week to install veneer on the removable railing sections that were completed last summer. Traffic delays are anticipated to be minimal for this work.

A maximum thirty minute traffic delay will be in effect for the west side of the park this summer due to scheduled construction between the West Entrance Station and Avalanche Creek.

In September, the park will start on a road repair roughly 1.5 miles west of Avalanche Creek. Once Avalanche Campground is closed for the season, Avalanche Campground Road will close for approximately two weeks beginning September 17 for rehabilitation.

A modification to the St. Mary Kiosk roof will begin this fall. Traffic delays are anticipated to be minimal for this work.

Park Regulations:

In response to congestion and resource impacts, the park has updated several park regulations for the 2018 season.

Visitors will not be permitted to hold campsites for other parties not yet present. People with hammocks should ensure that the webbing they use to attach their hammock to a tree is at least one inch in width to avoid harming tree bark. The area around Big Bend will be closed to off-trail travel to reduce trampling, though climbing access will be available. A 21-foot vehicle limit will be in place on all North Fork roads due to road width and increasing use, in accordance with the North Fork Plan that identified this action should roads become significantly more congested. Llamas are no longer included in the list of permitted pack animals to reduce the spread of domestic diseases to wild bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, moose, elk, and caribou. The full 2018 Superintendent’s Compendium can be found on the park’s website.

Other Visitor Updates:

Construction is complete on the Many Glacier Hotel following more than a decade of rehabilitation to improve critical life-safety elements and restore historic finishes. All rooms and public areas are now available for use.

In 2017, the park welcomed 3.3 million visitors. This is a one million person increase over 2015 visitation levels. This summer, some areas again may temporarily fill, and visitors will be asked to return when congestion clears and parking spaces and roadways become available for use. This year, the park will be using its Twitter page to communicate live congestion updates throughout the season.




Jeff
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Monday, May 7, 2018

Wild Treasures: A Campaign for Grand Teton’s Wildlife

Grand Teton National Park Foundation recently announced Wild Treasures: A Campaign for Grand Teton’s Wildlife. Funding from this campaign will allow the park to be more strategic than ever before in prioritizing wildlife and natural resource research, conservation, and education efforts. Longer-term certainty of funds has already enabled the development of new partnerships with universities and agencies that will increase capacity, provide additional expertise, and leverage additional funding.

To learn more and support this $2.5 million campaign, visit gtnpf.org/wildtreasures or call 307-732-0629. You can also check out this video:


Wild Treasures: A Campaign for Grand Teton's Wildlife from GTNP Foundation on Vimeo.





Jeff
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