Tuesday, February 18, 2020

USDA Forest Service seeks help to expand access to national forests and grassland areas

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is seeking public assistance to help identify national forest and grassland areas where the agency can provide greater access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities.

The agency today posted a draft list of about 90,000 acres of Forest Service land where hunters, anglers, and other recreationists are allowed but have limited or no legal access to the areas. The outreach is tied to agency efforts to implement the John D. Dingell, Jr., Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 that mandates federal land management agencies work to evaluate how to expand access to public lands.

The Forest Service is seeking nominations that describe federal lands not on the list. The lands identified must be managed by the Forest Service, be a minimum of 640 contiguous acres, and be unreachable by foot, horseback, motorized vehicle or nonmotorized vehicle because there is no public access over non-Forest Service land, or the access is significantly restricted.

“National forests and grasslands play host to some 300 million hunters, anglers, and other recreationists each year,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The input we receive will go a long way toward helping the Forest Service provide even greater access and opportunity for the people we serve.”

The public nomination period to identify parcels for inclusion on the agency’s priority list will close on March 12, 2020. A final priority list will be published soon after and will be updated at least every two years until 2029.

To nominate a parcel of Forest Service land for consideration, email SM.FS.nominations@usda.gov or write to Lands and Realty Management, ATTN: Access Nominations, USDA Forest Service, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250-1111. Nominations must include the location of the land or parcel, total acreage affected (if known), and a narrative describing the lack of access.

Background

The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 is a broad-based law that sets provisions for various programs, projects, activities, and studies in the management and conservation of federally managed natural resources. The law includes steps agencies must take on how federal acres that are now essentially inaccessible may be opened to the public. The collective work of the Forest Service and interested citizens will help the agency decide how to reasonably provide access through such measures as easements, rights-of-way, or fee title from a willing landowner.






Jeff
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Monday, February 17, 2020

3-month closure of MacGregor and US 34 (Wonderview Avenue) intersection in Estes Park

On March 2, the intersection of US 34 (Wonderview Avenue) and MacGregor will be closed for three months to allow the Colorado Department of Transportation to build a roundabout in the area and make other safety improvements to the area.

There will be an open house for the public to ask questions of the project team on Feb. 20 from 5-7 p.m. at the Estes Park Town Hall, but all the information for the project will be housed at the project website: https://www.codot.gov/projects/us-34-macgregor-improvements. No new information will be presented at the meeting, and there will be no formal presentation.

During the closure, traffic from US 34 (Wonderview) will be detoured to US 34 Business (Elkhorn) and traffic from MacGregor will be detoured to Big Horn Drive. Minor delays are expected.

This project is one that has been discussed for years, including a public meeting in December of 2018 to discuss design options for the intersection. The roundabout design that was the overwhelming choice of those in the meetings and the design team, was Option 1 (picture below). This option connects sidewalks on the north and was better for pedestrian safety while maintaining the access points for residents in the area.

All of this work came about because of operational and safety concerns with the intersection which led to a CDOT study on the area. The goals of the study were:

* Accommodate current and future traffic volumes
* Improve safety for vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and other users
* Cost savings for construction, maintenance, traveler delay and crashes

While the study looked at a number of options, the roundabout was easily the best choice. The study looked at how the intersection operates, safety concerns and cost over the next 20 years.







Jeff
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Friday, February 14, 2020

Genetics tests confirm presence of wolves in Colorado

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) biologists have received notification back from a genetics lab confirming that four scat samples collected near a scavenged elk carcass in Moffat County in early January came from wolves. This is the first official documentation of a pack of wolves in the state since the 1940s.

Of the four samples, DNA results indicate three are female and one is male. The testing was also able to determine that all the wolves were related, likely as full siblings.

“The DNA doesn’t tell us the age,” said CPW Species Conservation Program Manager Eric Odell. “We don’t know where or when they were born. We can’t say. But that there are closely related wolves is a pretty significant finding.”

Odell also noted that “although previous reports had mentioned sightings of up to six wolves, this doesn’t do anything to alter that estimate. Just because we only collected four scat samples doesn’t mean there were only four animals.”

CPW is still waiting to receive results back from scat samples collected at a potential wolf sighting in Moffat County on January 19.

CPW would like to remind the public that wolves are a federally endangered species and fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, killing a wolf can result in federal charges, including a $100,000 fine and a year in prison, per offense.

The public is urged to contact CPW immediately if they see or hear wolves or find evidence of any wolf activity. The Wolf Sighting Form can be found on the CPW website.

For more information about wolves, visit the CPW website.







Jeff
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Thursday, February 13, 2020

USDA Forest Service announces challenge to increase focus on problems facing nation’s largest public trail system

USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen emphasized the need to find innovative ideas to tackle the nearly $300 million maintenance backlog on the nation’s largest public trail system. Christiansen called on individuals and organizations to work with the agency to address trail maintenance and sustainability to improve access, keep people safe, and support local economies.

“In 2019, organizations and individuals contributed more than 1.5 million hours on the maintenance and repair of more than 28,000 miles of trail, and we are extremely grateful for their continued support and hard work,” Christiansen told trail advocates during a meeting at Forest Service Headquarters. “However, we must find more ways to erase the backlog. We still have much more work to do, and this is our call to organizations and individuals to share with us innovative ideas and boots-on-the-ground help.”

The agency hopes to expand its employee, grassroots, nonprofit and corporate support as part of a 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge. Roughly 120,000 miles of the 159,000 miles of trails are in need of some form of maintenance or repair. Working within current appropriations, the agency has strategically focused its approach to trail maintenance, increasing trail miles improved from 48,800 miles in 2013 to 58,300 miles in 2019.

Christiansen shared the multi-layered challenge with agency partners visiting Washington, D.C., to attend the weeklong 23rd annual Hike the Hill, a joint effort between the Partnership for the National Trail System and the American Hiking Society. Hike the Hill helps to increase awareness and highlight other needs of the National Trails System. The National Trails System consists of 30 national scenic and historic trails, such as the Appalachian National Trail and the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail, both of which pass through lands managed by the Forest Service.

The agency manages about 10,000 miles of national scenic and historic trails that cross forests and grasslands. More than 32,000 miles of trail are in wilderness areas. The remainder range from simple footpaths to those that allow horses, off-highway vehicles, cross-country skiing and other types of recreation.

The trail maintenance backlog limits access to public lands, causes environmental damage, and affects public safety in some places. Deferred maintenance also increases the costs of trail repair. When members of the public stop using trails, there could be a residual effect on the economics of nearby communities. Recreation activities on national forests and grasslands support 148,000 jobs annually and contribute more than $11 billion in annual visitor spending.

In addition to trails, the agency is working to address more than $5.2 billion in infrastructure repairs and maintenance on such things as forest roads, bridges, and other structures that are critical to the management of agency lands and that benefit visitors and communities. The backlog on forest roads and bridges alone is $3.4 billion.

To get involved with the Trail Challenge you may:

* Contact the nearest forest or grassland office to get more information on what they are doing locally.
* Join or organize a coalition of citizens and work with the agency to address the issues.
* Be mindful of how you use the trails by using Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly outdoor ethics standards.

For more information, email fstrailmanagement@usda.gov. National organizations or corporations can get more information about becoming a Forest Service partner by contacting Marlee Ostheimer, National Forest Foundation Conservation Partnership Manager, at 406-542-2805 or mostheimer@nationalforests.org.



Jeff
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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Additional 2,500 Acres of R Lazy J Ranch Conserved

With support from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and in partnership with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT), another phase of a project to conserve the R Lazy J Ranch, located just 10 miles south of Meeker, was completed in January of 2020. It ensured that an additional 2,500 acres of the ranch, known as the Ranch Estates Parcel, will be protected from future development.

This is the latest accomplishment in a multi-phase conservation effort between landowner James Ritchie, CPW, and CCALT. After acquiring the property in 1989, Mr. Ritchie could see that the land was being utilized for more than just its agricultural operation and quickly recognized its wildlife habitat value. Beginning in 2012, Mr. Ritchie worked with CPW to place the northernmost 2,598 acres, known as the Homestead Parcel, in a conservation easement. For phase two of the project, Mr. Ritchie worked with CPW and CCLAT to conserve the Ranch Estates Parcel.

Lying along Flag Creek and stretching up to the Grand Hogback (the western boundary of the Rocky Mountains), the R Lazy J Ranch provides appealing habitat for big game and lies in one of the bigger deer and elk migration corridors. Additionally, bordered by Bureau of Land Management land, White River National Forest and several other conservation easements, the property forms a significant block of undeveloped land for wildlife to thrive in; including the greater sage grouse, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, bald eagle, and greater sandhill crane - all state species of special concern.

“CCALT commends Mr. Ritchie and CPW for their dedication to this project,” said CCALT Director of Conservation Transactions Molly Fales. “Without their patience, determination, and flexibility, this project would have fallen apart years ago. Their persistence has resulted in a spectacular benefit for the wildlife and people of northwest Colorado.”

“CPW can’t thank CCALT and Mr. Ritchie enough for helping us see this through,” Area Wildlife Manager Bill de Vergie said. “They’ve been a fundamental part of this project and steadfast partners helping us with our mission of perpetuating the wildlife resources of our state. Together, we’ve secured over 5,000 acres of key habitat that will support wildlife for years to come.”

Mr. Ritchie has gone to great lengths to protect and improve this habitat, planting the hayfields with seed mixes specially designed by CPW and working with Trout Unlimited and the Natural Resource Conservation Service to update the irrigation system to increase productivity and improve the health of the Flag Creek corridor. Under his stewardship, beaver and willows have returned to Flag Creek. Now, with 2,500 additional acres of his ranch in a conservation easement, those very qualities will be protected into perpetuity.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

President Proposes $2.8 Billion FY21 Budget for National Park Service

President Trump has proposed a $2.8 billion Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the National Park Service (NPS) prioritizing core mission capacity, increasing recreational and public access and infrastructure improvement.

The Public Lands Infrastructure Fund would help address billions of dollars’ worth of backlogged maintenance, including structures, trails, roads, and utility systems across the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture. The proposal would allocate $6.5 billion over five years, supported by the deposit of 50 percent of all Federal energy development revenue that would otherwise be credited or deposited as miscellaneous receipts to the Treasury over the 2020–2024 period.

"President Trump’s budget supports our ongoing efforts to rebuild, restore, and reinvigorate park facilities and infrastructure for this and future generations,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “The President’s request provides funding to modernize our aging facilities, increase accessibility to our public lands for all visitors, and improve our resilience and response to fires and natural disasters.”

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee stated yesterday, “I am also glad to see the budget continues to include the president’s proposal to rebuild our national parks. The Restore Our Parks Act, legislation that I introduced with Senators Portman, Warner, and King, is based on the president’s proposal and will cut in half the maintenance backlog at our national parks. This legislation is the only way to address the deferred maintenance backlog in our 419 national parks, and the Trump Administration agrees."


Budget Highlights

Infrastructure
The President’s budget continues to emphasize infrastructure and asset management. The NPS asset portfolio includes more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 21,000 miles of trails and 25,000 buildings that serve more than 300 million annual national park visitors. To manage NPS assets, the budget proposes $844.2 million for facility operations and maintenance. Aging facilities and high visitation have created a significant need for infrastructure and facility recapitalization and modernization. To address those needs, the facility operations and maintenance funding includes $188.2 million for cyclic maintenance projects and $121.1 million for repair and rehabilitation projects.

In addition to operations funding, the President’s budget provides $192.6 million for the construction appropriation, which funds construction projects, equipment replacement, project planning and management, and special projects. This includes $127.8 million for line-item construction projects.

These discretionary fund sources are critical to help address the significant maintenance requirements across the NPS. 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 2019, NPS leveraged $175 million in recreation fees to address priority maintenance projects to improve the visitor experience. The NPS estimates that in FY 2020 and FY 2021, $200 and $205 million in fee revenues respectively will be utilized for similar facility and infrastructure projects.

Park Operations
The FY 2021 NPS budget requests $2.5 billion for park operations. The budget proposes $44.2 million to support and enhance diverse public access and recreational opportunities, including $1 million for the Veterans Trades Apprentice Corps, $7.5 million for trail rehabilitation and $1.2 million for family camping experiences and education. The budget also proposes $7 million for increases in operational funding for new and critical responsibilities, including $223,000 for the life home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and $300 thousand for Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site.

To mitigate wildfire risk to visitors, staff and park infrastructure, the budget proposes an increase of $3 million ($4 million in total) for infrastructure resiliency projects at the most urgent sites.

The President’s budget also proposes $11 million to support large-scale wildlife conservation efforts focused on leveraging collaboration between parks and neighboring communities, tribes and states with the goal of implementing all state and local conservation Action Plans.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Colorado Aerial Survey: Though Declining, Spruce Beetle Remains Top Priority for State and Federal Agencies

Forest managers are working together to address continued outbreaks of insects and disease on Colorado’s forests, including spruce beetle, which remains the most damaging forest pest in the state for the eighth consecutive year, based on a 2019 aerial detection survey led by the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, and Colorado State Forest Service.

Every year, the agencies aerially monitor forest health conditions on millions of forested acres across the state. This week the agencies released the results of last year’s aerial survey and survey map.

Impacts from Native Bark Beetles

In 2019, spruce beetle affected 89,000 acres of high-elevation Engelmann spruce across Colorado. Although the number of acres affected by this beetle declined for the fifth year in a row, it continues to expand its footprint by spreading to previously unaffected areas. Last year, it affected 25,000 new acres of forest.

Primary areas impacted by spruce beetle include forestlands in and around Rocky Mountain National Park and portions of the San Juan Mountains, West Elk Mountains and Sawatch Range.

Since 2000, spruce beetle outbreaks caused tree mortality on roughly 1.87 million acres in Colorado, and about 41 percent of the spruce-fir forests in the state have now been affected. Blowdown events in Engelmann spruce stands, combined with long-term drought stress, warmer temperatures and extensive amounts of older, densely growing trees, contributed to this ongoing epidemic.

Roundheaded pine beetle, along with associated native bark beetles, continued to affect ponderosa pine forests in Dolores County in southwest Colorado. This insect affected 22,000 acres in 2019. While this is a slight decline from 2018, when 26,900 acres were affected, record-low precipitation levels in 2018 in this part of the state have weakened tree defenses, providing an environmental window that continues to favor an increase in beetle populations in southwest Colorado.

From Dry and Hot to Wet and Mild

The amount of precipitation and daily temperature patterns affect how well trees in the state’s forests can ward off pests to remain healthy and resilient. Colorado experienced near-average temperatures from October 2018 to September 2019. During that same period, precipitation levels rebounded from the prior year, which was the second driest on record since 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This was good for Colorado’s trees impacted by bark beetles. Adequate precipitation in 2019 bolstered their defenses by helping trees produce enough sap to resist insects attempting to enter through the bark. However, this precipitation, coupled with mild temperatures, caused heavy snowpack to persist later than usual, delaying tree symptoms from insect attacks. This made aerial detections difficult, which may explain the decline in acres affected by spruce beetle.

Wet spring conditions in 2019 also created favorable conditions for several species of leaf fungi, which can cause early leaf drop and spotting on leaves of cottonwood, aspen and poplar trees. Defoliating insects may also cause damage. Surveyors detected disturbance on 73,600 acres of aspens in 2019, although these insects and diseases rarely cause significant tree decline unless trees are severely defoliated over multiple years.

Most Widespread Forest Defoliator

The aerial survey also revealed that western spruce budworm continues to be Colorado’s most damaging and widespread forest defoliator. The insect affected 147,000 acres of Douglas-fir and spruce trees in 2019, mostly in central and southern areas of the state. This is up from the 131,000 acres impacted by the western spruce budworm in 2018. Defoliation that occurs over several years may weaken a tree to the point where bark beetles can easily overcome the tree and kill it.

In addition, the aerial survey showed the effects on forests from other insects. Douglas-fir beetle affected numerous pockets of forestland covering 7,400 acres, down from 14,000 acres in 2018, and the mountain pine beetle affected only 720 acres statewide. While it remains at natural, endemic levels, the aerial survey found a slight uptick in mountain pine beetle activity in the Taylor River drainage in Gunnison County.

The aerial survey exemplifies the agencies’ continued support for shared stewardship and the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding, which establishes a framework for federal and state agencies to collaborate better, focus on accomplishing mutual goals and respond to ecological, natural resource and recreational challenges and concerns for our 24.4 million acres of forestlands in Colorado.

This past year for the aerial survey, pilots use a tailored, web-based application that allows the USDA Forest Service to share data during flights in real time with partners and the public. By capitalizing on this technology, the agency can proactively and quickly respond to outbreaks that surveyors detect on forestlands, share data more collaboratively and cover more area efficiently.

For more results from 2019 aerial survey, please visit https://bit.ly/38xkk3y.

For more information on the insects and diseases of Colorado’s forests, and support for landowners seeking to achieve healthier forests, contact your local CSFS field office or visit csfs.colostate.edu.



Jeff
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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

CPW sets meeting in Delta to discuss mountain lion management, Feb. 13

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is seeking input on a new management plan for mountain lions in southwest Colorado. A meeting to discuss the proposal is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Feb. 13 at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center 531 N. Palmer St, in Delta.

At the meeting, CPW wildlife managers will discuss the new proposed plan for mountain lion management. Biologists have been reviewing research on mountain lions from Colorado, Wyoming and Montana that is helping them evaluate populations and harvest objectives to better meet public desires. The plan could be put in place for the lion hunting season that starts in November.

Those interested in mountain lion management should attend the meeting, especially hunters, outfitters, farmers, ranchers and landowners.

Big game management plans provide guidance to wildlife managers who attempt to balance the biological capabilities of animals, their habitat and public requests for wildlife-related recreation opportunities. The management plans drive important decisions, which include the license-setting process, and strategies and techniques to reach population and harvest objectives.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
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Saturday, February 1, 2020

Colorado Trail Foundation is hiring

The Colorado Trail Foundation is currently seeking to hire a Field Operations Manager for Salida/Poncha Springs area. Duties for this position include planning and support of the CTF Volunteer Trail Crew program, and to coordinate the CTF Adopt-A-Trail program. If interested, please click here.



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

Thursday, January 30, 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.






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

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Moonlight Skiing at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Join National Park Service rangers and the Gunnison Nordic Club for a moonlight ski at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on February 8.

From 5 pm until 8:30 pm the South Rim visitor center will host an evening of skiing and camaraderie. Bring your Nordic ski gear, classic or skate, and enjoy a ski under the full moon. Stop by the visitor center to chat with rangers, meet fellow skiers, and enjoy a few light refreshments. Carpooling is encouraged as parking is limited.

For more information please visit www.nps.gov/blca and www.gunnisonnordic.com







Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
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Monday, January 27, 2020

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approves 13 Colorado the Beautiful Trail Grants at its January meeting

At its January 15 meeting, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved trail-funding allocations for the 2019-2020 Colorado the Beautiful Trail Grants as recommended by the Colorado Recreational Trails Committee. The Committee recommended funding 13 grants for a total award amount of $2,988,006.81.

Statewide Trails Program Manager Fletcher Jacobs highlighted the Committee’s wildlife review process and the importance of “balancing wildlife and habitat needs with recreation needs in Colorado. These trail projects will connect Coloradans to the outdoors with new and improved trails that provide more places for everyone to get outside.”

Background 
Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) Trails Program administers grants for trail-related projects on an annual basis. Local, county, and state governments, federal agencies, special recreation districts, and nonprofit organizations with management responsibilities over public lands may apply for and are eligible to receive non-motorized and motorized trail grants.

Colorado the Beautiful Grant Program 
The Colorado the Beautiful Grant Program funds construction or planning projects to increase access to public lands for Coloradans and visitors alike. The program is a unique opportunity that has goals, objectives, and criteria independent of the normal motorized and non-motorized CPW grants that run each fall.

Construction grant applications prioritized connections to existing outdoor recreation opportunities, proximity and benefit to local communities, wildlife/resource mitigation, and improved links to other trail systems.

Planning grant applications prioritized large-scale trail and resource planning efforts, collaborative multi-agency and organization approach, and a holistic balance and evaluation of trail system improvements and wildlife/resource conservation and mitigation.

The Colorado the Beautiful Grant Program is a partnership between CPW and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). This was the final grant cycle of the program.

Grant Stats 
Construction - 7 grants totaling $2,365,816
Planning - 6 grants totaling $634,082

At the January 15 meeting, Parks and Wildlife commissioners praised the considerations given to wildlife in the grant application process.

Suzanne O’Neill, Executive Director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, commended Colorado Mountain Bike Association’s Outside 285 project in the Northeast Region, saying their master plan did a great job of balancing the demand for recreational needs with wildlife. “We’re satisfied this could be a very good spot and a model,” she said.

The Outside 285 project seeks to complete a regional planning effort to connect areas of interest along the US-285 corridor in a sustainable and environmentally conscious manner. Connections include areas near Staunton State Park, Buffalo Creek and the North Elk Recreation Areas.

Commissioners concurred that the Outside 285 Plan was a great example of the mountain bike community working to balance trails and wildlife habitat. A complete list of the Colorado the Beautiful Trail Grants is available on CPW's website.






Jeff
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TetonHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

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

Friday, January 24, 2020

Rocky Mountain National Park Sets Visitation Record in 2019

Rocky Mountain National Park set another visitation record in 2019. The park counted 4,678,804 visits last year, a 1.9% increase over the prior year. 2019 also marked the 5th year in a row that Rocky surpassed 4 million visits. Between 1975 and 2011 the park averaged roughly 3 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:





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

Thursday, January 23, 2020

US 36 Between Lyons and Estes Park To Close For 30 Days

US 36 will be completely closed for roughly 30 days near Mile Post 8, located between Lyons and Estes Park. The closure is scheduled to begin in March 2020. As soon as the exact dates of the closure are set, they will be posted on the CDOT website.

During the project the roadway will be removed and large drainage culverts will be installed beneath the highway. These permanent repairs are a follow-up to emergency repairs made after the September 2013 Flood, and will improve the roadway’s resilience to future flood events. Ultimately, the project will force the Little Thompson River back into its natural alignment through Muggins Gulch.

Initial road work is scheduled to begin this month, and is expected to finish sometime in early 2021.



While US 36 is closed, drivers will need to use State Highway 7 or US 34 to travel to and from Estes Park. The project team is coordinating with emergency service providers in the area and the Estes Park School District to ensure continuity of emergency response and bus operations.

Hikers should note that The Lion Gulch Trail will remain open to the public except during rock blasting operations.



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Colorado Parks & Wildlife officers confirm latest wolf pack sighting in NW Colorado

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officials are confirming they have additional evidence that a group of wolves is now residing in northwest Colorado.

On Jan. 19, CPW wildlife officers investigated the discovery of an animal carcass surrounded by large wolf-like tracks in the northwest corner of Moffat County. While conducting their investigation in the field, they made an attempt to locate the wolves. In their search, they heard distinct howls in the area. Officers used binoculars to observe approximately six wolves about two miles from the location of the carcass.

“This is a historic sighting. While lone wolves have visited our state periodically including last fall, this is very likely the first pack to call our state home since the 1930s. I am honored to welcome our canine friends back to Colorado after their long absence,” said Governor Jared Polis. “It’s important that Coloradans understand that the gray wolf is under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. While the animals have naturally migrated to our state and their presence draws public interest, it’s important that people give them space. Due to their Protected status, there are severe federal penalties for anyone that intentionally harms or kills wolves in our state.”

"Right after our two officers heard the howls from the wolves, they used binoculars to observe approximately six wolves about two miles from the location of the carcass," said JT Romatzke, Northwest Region Manager for CPW. "After watching them for about 20 minutes, the officers rode in to get a closer look. The wolves were gone but they found plenty of large tracks in the area.”

According to the officers, the tracks measured approximately 4.5 to 5.5 inches and appear to have been made by at least six animals.

"As we have made clear, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will not take direct action in these cases," said Dan Prenzlow, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "We have the leading experts on wildlife management and species recovery working for our agency, but while wolves remain federally protected, they are under the jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. We will continue to work with our federal partners and monitor the situation."

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, killing a wolf can result in federal charges, including a $100,000 fine and a year in prison, per offense. The public is urged to contact CPW immediately and fill out a report if they see or hear wolves or find evidence of any wolf activity in Colorado. The Wolf Sighting Form can be found on the CPW website.



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
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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.



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
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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 TetonHikingTrails.com, 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 TetonHikingTrails.com 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.



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Eyewitness account plus scavenged elk carcass indicates likely presence of multiple wolves in northwest Colorado

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say an eyewitness report of six large canids traveling together in the far northwest corner of the state last October, in conjunction with last week's discovery of a thoroughly scavenged elk carcass near Irish Canyon - a few miles from the location of the sighting - strongly suggests a pack of gray wolves may now be residing in Colorado.

According to the eyewitness, he and his hunting party observed the wolves near the Wyoming and Utah borders. One of the party caught two of the six animals on video.

"The sighting marks the first time in recent history CPW has received a report of multiple wolves traveling together," said CPW Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke. "In addition, in the days prior, the eyewitness says he heard distinct howls coming from different animals. In my opinion, this is a very credible report."

After learning about the scavenged elk carcass, CPW initiated an investigation which is still ongoing. At the site, the officers observed several large canid tracks from multiple animals surrounding the carcass. According to CPW wildlife managers, the tracks are consistent with those made by wolves. In addition, the condition of the carcass is consistent with known wolf predation. (Photos below)

"The latest sightings add to other credible reports of wolf activity in Colorado over the past several years," said Romatzke. "In addition to tracks, howls, photos and videos, the presence of one wolf was confirmed by DNA testing a few years ago, and in a recent case, we have photos and continue to track a wolf with a collar from Wyoming’s Snake River pack.

Romatzke says from the evidence, there is only one logical conclusion CPW officials can make.

"It is inevitable, based on known wolf behavior, that they would travel here from states where their populations are well-established," he said. "We have no doubt that they are here, and the most recent sighting of what appears to be wolves traveling together in what can be best described as a pack is further evidence of the presence of wolves in Colorado." Romatzke adds CPW will continue to operate under the agency's current management direction.

"We will not take direct action and we want to remind the public that wolves are federally endangered species and fall under the jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. As wolves move into the state on their own, we will work with our federal partners to manage the species," he said.

The public is urged to contact CPW immediately if they see or hear wolves or find evidence of any wolf activity. The Wolf Sighting Form can be found on the CPW website. For more information about wolves, visit the CPW website.



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

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

Rocky Mountain National Park offers guided snowshoe excursions

Rocky Mountain National Park officials published this blurb on their Facebook page yesterday:
Join a beginner level winter snowshoe exploration to learn how to enjoy winter safely on snowshoes. No previous experience needed. Bring your own snowshoes. Ages 8 and up only. Reservations are required and cannot be made more than 7 days in advance. No more than six people per reservation.

Programs on the East Side (Estes Park) run Jan 10–Mar 22 and are offered Fridays and Sundays. Call 970-586-1223 to make a reservation. Programs on the West Side (Grand Lake) run from Dec 27-Feb 28 and are offered on Fridays. Call 970-586-1513 for reservations.
More info here.



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

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