Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Rangers Rescue Two Backcountry Recreationists on Monday

Monday, March 19 proved to be a busier-than-usual winter day for rangers in Grand Teton National Park. Park rangers worked in concert with Teton County Search and Rescue volunteers to conduct a helicopter-based rescue of an injured skier who was caught in an avalanche in Death Canyon early in the afternoon. Later in the afternoon, rangers completed a ground-based rescue of a snowshoer who became injured while jumping off boulders near Taggart Lake.

The first search and rescue effort began just before 1:00 p.m. when Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a report that a skier was caught in an avalanche in an area known as “Son of Apocalypse Couloir” on the south side of Death Canyon.

Two separate parties of two individuals were skiing the couloir at the same time when a natural avalanche of fresh snow began above them. The sliding snow swept past one skier before gaining momentum, picking up snow, and hitting the remaining three. The first two were able to stop themselves, but the last skier, Yuki Tsuji, 37, of Louisville, Colorado, was knocked down and tumbled a few hundred feet down the lower portion of the couloir and onto the apron of snow at its base.

The three uninjured individuals, which included two emergency medical providers, skied down to Tsuji’s location and discovered she had suffered a leg injury and was unable to ski out. Tsuji’s partner carried a satellite communicator device and was able to send a text message for help. Meanwhile, one of the medical providers skied out to Phelps Lake where he was able to make a broken call to rangers and discuss the patient’s condition.

Based on the patient’s condition, rangers requested assistance from the Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter and prepared for short-haul evacuation. The helicopter flew one search and rescue volunteer into the patient’s location. The volunteer then fitted Tsuji into a screamer suit and flew with her back to Sawmill Ponds Overlook along the Moose-Wilson Road. Tsuji was transferred to a park ambulance and transported to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming. The remaining three individuals skied out on their own.

Rangers observe that the coming of spring conditions in the Teton Range mean that backcountry skiers and riders tend to push higher into the mountains onto steeper terrain. Even the smallest of avalanches in steep terrain can sweep skiers off their feet leading to serious, and sometimes fatal, injuries. Fresh snowfall intermixed with sun and warm temperatures can increase the risk of this type of avalanche.

The second search and rescue effort of the day involved a party of two individuals who snowshoed around Taggart Lake before heading a few hundred feet above the lake. Cody Dumont, 24, of Lexington, Kentucky, suffered leg injuries after jumping off a 10-foot boulder around 3:30 p.m. Cody’s partner sent a text message for help to a friend at the Taggart Lake Trailhead, who in turn contacted the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center.

One ranger skied into the area to locate the party and assess the patient’s condition. Based on this assessment, four additional rangers skied into the area with a toboggan and medical gear. The rangers skied with Dumont in the sled back to Taggart Lake Trailhead, where Dumont and his partner chose to drive themselves to the hospital.


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 https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/hours.htm.


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 http://fwp.mt.gov/education/montanaWild/ 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.