Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sperry Chalet Public Presentation and Open House Planned

The National Park Service will host a community event entitled “The Sperry Chalet Experience: Past, Present, and Future” to engage with the public, explore the nature of the Sperry Chalet visitor experience, and hear about what pieces of that experience are important to retain as the National Park Service rebuilds Sperry Chalet.

The program will be held on February 28 from 6:30 -8:30 p.m. at the Flathead Valley Community College Arts and Technology Building, Room 139 in Kalispell, MT.

“Rebuilding historic Sperry is a priority, and I’m excited the work is moving along,” said Secretary Zinke. “The Conservancy and the park put in a lot of work to stabilize the building for winter, and now we can start to rebuild for future family adventures at Sperry.”

“We’re excited to kick off our schematic design process for the Sperry Chalet rebuild,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “This is the first of several opportunities for the public to engage and comment and we hope it will be informative to our selected architects as they engage in the design process. Come and tell us your Sperry Chalet story.”

The first part of the program will feature a 20 minute informative conversation about the park’s chalets, their national historic significance, and the Great Northern Railroad’s influence on tourism and park infrastructure, still in evidence today, with Park Museum Curator Deirdre Shaw.

Following the history program, the park will introduce preliminary concepts to rebuild the Sperry Chalet dormitory building and host a question and answer session with Park Superintendent Jeff Mow and Deputy Superintendent Eric Smith. Glacier National Park Conservancy Executive Director Doug Mitchell will share an update on fundraising efforts and opportunities in support of rebuilding the Sperry Chalet.

After the presentation, attendees will be able to share their Sperry Chalet stories in written comment form or with park staff, and offer input about the concepts shared during the program.

On February 28, the park will also post a newsletter on the National Park Service Planning Website describing preliminary rebuilding concepts with an opportunity for public comment either online or via written letter.

Anderson Hallas Architects, PC out of Denver, Colorado has been selected to lead the Sperry Chalet concept design effort. Additional public outreach and an opportunity to meet with the architects will be planned for later this spring. Anderson Hallas most recently led the design for the multi-year Many Glacier Hotel rehabilitation which was completed in 2017.



Jeff
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Monday, February 19, 2018

More than 7,000 Acres Near Whitefish Conserved Through Public-Private Partnership

More than 7,000 acres of forestland north of Whitefish is being permanently protected thanks to a public-private partnership devoted to sustainable forest management, public access for recreation and habitat conservation.

The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (DNRC), has announced the conservation of 7,018 acres of forestland east of U.S. Highway 93 near Olney. The groups worked together to acquire the land and a conservation easement that will permanently restrict commercial and residential development, protect important fish and wildlife habitat, ensure sustainable forest management, and secure public access for recreation.

The land, spanning nearly 11 square miles, will be added to Stillwater State Forest, the largest state forest in Montana with more than 90,000 acres.

A series of transactions and the support of Montana’s congressional delegation made this significant conservation achievement possible. The Trust for Public Land purchased the property from Weyerhaeuser and FWP purchased a conservation easement on the property to ensure it will be permanently managed for sustainable forestry and natural resource benefits. DNRC bought the conservation easement encumbered property from The Trust for Public Land.

In one of the fastest growing regions in the Northern Rockies, this conservation project protects local forestry jobs, clean water, public access for outdoor recreation and important habitat for fish and wildlife, including grizzly bears, Canada lynx, and westslope cutthroat trout.

The agreement represents the successful completion of the first phase of the multi-phased Whitefish Lake Watershed Project, which encompasses a 13,398-acre block of forestland surrounded on three sides by Stillwater State Forest. The first phase focuses on the Lazy Creek portion of the property.

State, federal and private partners jointly funded the $15.5 million conservation easement. Federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund was provided to the project through the USDA Forest Legacy Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund program. The Land and Water Conservation Fund uses a small fraction of revenues generated from offshore oil and gas royalty payments to protect and enhance outdoor recreation and natural resources; it is not supported with general taxpayer dollars.

The Forest Legacy Program is ideally suited to projects such as this. The program was established by Congress in 1990 to protect environmentally important forestlands that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses.

Additional partners include the Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust, established by Congress to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and promote public access, and FWPs’ Habitat Montana program which is funded by hunter license dollars and used to protect vital wildlife habitat.

Philanthropic support was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America Program, the Whitefish Community Foundation and several individuals.

The project was strongly supported by Montana U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D) and Steve Daines (R).

Senator Jon Tester, D-MT, added, “This project increases public access to public lands, allows for responsible timber harvest, protects wildlife, helps bolster the local economy, and provides clean water to folks across Northwest Montana. It’s a win-win-win-win-win. That’s why I’m fighting to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, because it makes projects like this possible.”

“It’s good to see federal, state, and private partners come together to protect public access and timber management,” said Senator Steve Daines, R-MT.



Jeff
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Monday, February 12, 2018

President Trump’s proposed $2.7 Billion Budget for NPS includes legislation to address $11.6 Billion in deferred maintenance

President Donald J. Trump has proposed a $2.7 billion budget for the National Park Service (NPS) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, which includes 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.

"President Trump is absolutely right to call for a robust infrastructure plan that rebuilds our national parks, refuges, and Indian schools, and I look forward to helping him deliver on that historic mission," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. "Our Parks and Refuges are being loved to death, but the real heart break is the condition of the schools in Indian Country. We can and must do better for these young scholars. This is not a republican or democrat issue, this is an American issue, and the President and I are ready to work with absolutely anyone in Congress who is willing to get the work done."

"This budget reflects President Trump’s call for a robust infrastructure plan that rebuilds our national parks and public lands to ensure they may be enjoyed by future generations of Americans,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith. “Focusing on addressing the maintenance backlog now is critical to our core mission of preserving our parks and the world-class experience our visitors expect. The infrastructure proposals included in this budget offer innovative solutions to restoring our parks while fulfilling our duty to curb spending and in some cases make tough but necessary decisions to save tax dollars on other programs.”

Infrastructure – The National Park Service estimates that in FY 2017 there was more than $11.6 billion in backlogged maintenance and repair needs for the more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 17,000 miles of trails and 24,000 buildings that service national park visitors. In 2017 330 million people visited the 417 NPS sites across the country. The NPS retired over $650 million in maintenance and repair work in FY 2017, but aging facilities, increased visitation, and resource constraints have kept the maintenance backlog between $11 billion and $12 billion since 2010.

In addition to the proposed Public Lands Infrastructure Fund proposal, the President’s budget provides $241 million to fund construction projects, equipment replacement, project planning and management, and special projects. This includes $157 million for specific line-item construction projects like reconstructing an unsafe cave trail at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and replacing the roof of the Eielson Visitor Center at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

The budget provides $99 million for repair and rehabilitation projects to address the deferred maintenance backlog as well as $113 million for cyclical maintenance projects to ensure maintenance is done in a timely manner and does not become “deferred” in the first place.

These discretionary fund sources are critical to help address the deferred maintenance backlog in the National Park System. 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 2017, NPS leveraged $107 million in recreation fees to address priority maintenance projects to improve the visitor experience. The budget includes a legislative proposal to permanently authorize the recreation fee program.

Park Operations – The FY 2019 NPS budget requests $2.4 billion for park operations, which includes $900,000 for NPS’s role in the Department of the Interior’s reorganization to common regional boundaries to improve service and efficiency.

State Assistance – The budget proposes a continued shift from discretionary funding to mandatory funding from oil and gas leases for state conservation grants. These grants provide funding to states to acquire open spaces and natural areas for outdoor recreation and access purposes, and develop outdoor recreation facilities. Permanent funding for these grants in 2019 is estimated to be $89 million.

NPS's FY 2019 Budget Justification is available here, and additional details on the President's FY 2019 Budget proposal are available on the Department of the Interior’s website.



Jeff
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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Montana WILD Hosts Free Wild Film Series

A series that explores the wild in you, by exploring wild life, places, culture, and waterways through captivating short films.

No matter what the forecast says, spend some time exploring the wild this winter and early spring at the Montana WILD Film Festival. Montana Fish Wildlife and Park’s Montana WILD Education Center will host a four evening, once a month series of short films February through May 2018.

Each series features recent films from independent filmmakers coupled with local and regional experts and a short discussion about the films’ themes. Each evening focuses on a new topic: Wild Animals (Feb. 22), Wild Places (March 22), Wild Culture (April 26), and Wild Rivers (May 24).

Montana WILD, The Montana Wilderness Association, The Montana Wildlife Federation, The International Wildlife Film Festival, Montana Trout Unlimited, and a host of community partners and regional filmmakers bring you an inspiring series to get you out of the house and into an exploration of the wild gifts we enjoy in the Rocky Mountain West.

Join us to see captivating films like: Running Wild by award winning director and filmmaker Danny Schmidt about ultra runners and their contribution to wolverine conservation research; Elk River, by Pongo Media filmmaker Jenny Nichols, about the elk migration across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem; and short films by Montana FWP’s very own Winston Greely about the pallid sturgeon recovery, and swan habitat restoration in the Madison Valley.

When: Thursday evenings at 7pm: February 22, March 22, April 26, and May 24, 2018

Where: Montana WILD Education Center, 2668 Broadwater Ave. Helena, MT



Jeff
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Friday, February 2, 2018

Digital Entrance Passes Now Available for Yellowstone

Starting Thursday, February 1, visitors to Yellowstone National Park can purchase digital annual and seven-day entrance passes online at YourPassNow. The National Park Service (NPS) partnered with NIC Inc. to develop and administer YourPassNow to better serve visitors to Yellowstone.

“We are pleased to offer a digital option to purchasing passes at entrance gates and to usher in a new era of online convenience for our visitors,” said park superintendent Dan Wenk.

YourPassNow provides an alternative to the traditional paper-based, in-person purchase method while also providing the park with a tool to help manage the visitor experience. Using a personal device, visitors can purchase park entrance passes from www.yourpassnow.com at no additional cost. Once purchased, passes are emailed and can be used immediately, stored on a personal device, or printed for future use.

In 2016, Acadia National Park (Maine), Colorado National Monument (Colorado), Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota), Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (California), Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Florida), Everglades National Park (Florida), and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area (California) made online entrance passes available with YourPassNow.

Yellowstone uses entrance fees to invest in critical improvements that directly benefit visitors, including maintaining and enhancing visitor facilities.

Yellowstone National Park 2018 annual and seven-day fees include:

• $60 annual entrance pass fee
• $30 seven-day entrance passes for a private vehicle
• $25 seven-day entrance passes for a motorcycle or snowmobile
• $15 seven-day entrance passes for an individual
• Persons under age 16 are admitted free



Jeff
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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2017 was second busiest year on record in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park experienced the second busiest year on record in 2017. The park recorded 4,116,525 visits, a decrease from 2016. Last year was a record year for visitation with 4,257,177 visits to the park.

Since 2008, annual visitation to Yellowstone has increased by close to 40 percent. This growth has caused park managers to consider many questions:

• How can the park prepare for a future in which visitation continues to increase?

• How does the increased visitation affect park resources and visitor experiences?

• What do people expect when they come to Yellowstone?

• How do people move through the park?

To begin answering these questions, the park commissioned two studies during the summer of 2016. “These studies mark the beginning of our efforts to understand visitation and develop strategies to meet the challenges it presents,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk. “In 2018 and 2019, we intend to gather more information in order to make informed decisions about visitation.”

Yellowstone is a place known and loved by local, regional, national, and international visitors. In this era of increased visitation, park officials remain committed to preserving Yellowstone’s resources and the experience of people who come here. Continued high levels of visitation at Yellowstone remind visitors how important it is to plan your visit.

More visitation statistics are available online at https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/Reports/Park.




Jeff
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Monday, January 29, 2018

Yellowstone initiates criminal investigation related to bison release

On the morning of January 16, 2018, park staff discovered 52 bison, held at the Stephens Creek facility for possible quarantine, had been released from the pens. The National Park Service has initiated a criminal investigation of this incident at the Stephens Creek facility in Yellowstone National Park.

Currently, park staff are making an effort to locate and recapture the bison. At this time, none of the animals have been located.

The missing bull bison were being held in two separate pens. A group of 24 animals have been in confinement since March 2016 and the other group of 28 animals, since March 2017. These animals were being held and tested for brucellosis at Stephens Creek as part of a plan being considered to establish a quarantine program. The purpose of that program would be to augment or establish new conservation and cultural herds of disease-free plains bison, enhance cultural and nutritional opportunities for Native Americans, reduce the shipment of Yellowstone bison to meat processing facilities, and conserve a viable, wild population of Yellowstone bison.

“This is an egregious criminal act that sets back bison conservation. It delays critical ongoing discussions about a quarantine program and the transfer of live Yellowstone bison to tribal lands. The park is aggressively investigating this incident,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk.

"I am absolutely heartbroken for the Fort Peck Tribes who have been working with the park, the state of Montana, and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for years to repatriate these bison," said Secretary Zinke. "The criminals who broke into a national park facility to release these bison put at risk the safety of the animals that are now at risk of being culled and our park rangers who are rounding them up. I will be working with Secretary Perdue to see if we can get back on track to transfer the brucellosis free bulls to the tribe this year."

The Stephens Creek facility is closed permanently to the public.

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to call the Yellowstone National Park Tip Line at 307-344-2132. For more information, visit http://go.nps.gov/tipline.




Jeff
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