GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

All posts tagged plan

Wolves and bison, oh, my!

Categories: News, Science, Wildlife
Comments Off on Wolves and bison, oh, my!

Just in time for National Park Week (April 16-24, 2011), when entry to Yellowstone and all other parks is free to all visitors, things have changed for the Northwest’s wolves and bison. First, the agreement between conservation groups and the U.S. Department of the Interior concerning the wolves (that I wrote about on April third) was rejected in the courts. Then this week, as broadcast in the national news, the budget agreement passed by Congress includes an unprecedented delisting of wolves from their endangered status—an act that has until now been the prerogative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency. Democratic senators Tester and Baucus from Montana signed on to the plan, stating that they had put aside their differences and worked on a responsible, common-sense plan.

Admittedly, the estimated 1700 wolves now living in the northwestern states exceeds by many times the goal stated when gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. They have restored ecological balance, and they appear to be resilient and adaptable, although in the interim their numbers have both grown and diminished, mostly from natural causes. Environmental organizations will now devote their energies to being sure that state management of wolves is “based on sound science and public involvement to ensure they continue to fill their ecological niche on the landscape,” to quote Mike Clark of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

Meanwhile:
An agreement on April 14th now gives Yellowstone bison access to 75,000 acres of land north of the park, although much of that land is not suitable for grazing. Says the National Park Traveler’s Kurt Repanshek: “Under the agreement laid out Thursday, park bison will be allowed to roam roughly 13 miles north of the park to Yankee Jim Canyon, a natural pinch-point in the landscape. There a cattle guard has been installed across the highway to discourage bison from moving further north along the road, while fencing is to be erected on U.S. Forest Service land abutting the road to keep the bison from moving around the cattle guard.”

The most desirable land for grazing from a big ungulate’s point of view is north of Yankee Jim Canyon, where ranchers irrigate many delectable acres, but any bison that somehow wanders around the fencing will be shot, according to the new plan. Still, this should be an improvement over previous arrangements for those bison who migrate north of the park in bad winters.

Share Button

Winter travel in Yellowstone is almost over

Categories: Transportation, Trip planning, Winter
Comments Off on Winter travel in Yellowstone is almost over

[March 2011] Wanting to keep my readers informed, I’ll pass on the fact that you have only six more days this season to enjoy going through Yellowstone by snowcoach or snowmobile. All such travel ends at 9 pm next Tuesday, March 15, and plowing the roads will begin when conditions make it feasible, readying the roads for their gradual opening to cars and buses, beginning on April 15.

Hotels and cabins are already closed at Old Faithful and Mammoth; they are the only in-park winter accommodations.

The long-term plan for oversnow travel should be coming out in Draft Environmental Impact Statement form in a few weeks, followed by a sixty-day comment period. The National Park Service intends to finish the plan and issue any new winter use regulations before the start of the 2011-2012 winter season. I’m very interested to see what they decide upon and will keep you informed when decisions are made. 


Plans for my own summer visit have been made for some time already and will include an all-day book-signing in Old Faithful Inn on Sunday, July third.

Share Button

Snow bikes

Categories: On the Web, Transportation, Winter
Comments Off on Snow bikes

Behold! Another mode of transportation I didn’t know existed: a snow bicycle, in particular one made by Surly Bikes. This is not a commercial, and I know very little about bikes, but it seems like an interesting idea to me. Here’s what I read about it:

Recently, 53-year-old Rick Buchanan was turned away when he tried to lead a group of snow cyclists into Yellowstone National Park.
Tim Reid, Yellowstone’s chief ranger, told Buchanan that the bike is not an approved means of winter travel, therefore, the group could not ride in the park. Under Yellowstone’s winter management plan, one can only enter the park by approved snowmobiles, snowcoaches, cross-country skis, or snowshoes. But the snow bike has actually been gaining popularity in the past 5 years.

My hope is that the park authorities will get in step with this new possibility and begin allowing them into the park during the winter season.
For more details, see “Snow Cyclists in Yellowstone.”

2011

Share Button

Wolves and grizzlies of Yellowstone again making the news

Categories: Wildlife
Comments Off on Wolves and grizzlies of Yellowstone again making the news

The top of the food chain is always the most controversial. Last week [August 2010], U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Montana overturned last fall’s decision by the Interior Department to remove the gray wolf’s Endangered Species protective listing. The previous decision had resulted in the states of Montana and Idaho holding wolf hunts that saw the deaths of several hundred wolves, while wolves in Wyoming (outside of the national parks) were still protected, since Wyoming’s delisting plan had been deemed unacceptable.

Judge Molloy’s August 5th decision centered around his ruling that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service cannot list only part of a species as endangered while another part is left on the list. As stated on the National Parks Traveler’s website: www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2010/08/federal-judge-overturns-federal-governments-delisting-gray-wolf-endangered-species-act-protection6366, “conservation groups . . . have maintained that a sound wolf recovery program couldn’t sustain itself, genetically, without two or three times the estimated 1,500 or so wolves loping about Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming,” but this latest ruling “surely will infuriate some groups that see wolves as nothing more than four-legged killing machines.”

Meanwhile, grizzly bears were returned to the Endangered Species Act list, also last fall, due to another ruling negating their delisting due to the adverse effects of global warming on the bears’ ability to find food. The terrible death and maulings by a grizzly sow in a campground near Cooke City, Montana this month might have been related to the sow being malnourished, but the direct cause was probably her associating people with easily obtained food. A photographer had been baiting the bear shortly before that tragedy occurred. The marauding bear is now dead and her three cubs placed in the Billings zoo.

Share Button

Thinking about a public transportation option for Yellowstone

Categories: Transportation
Comments Off on Thinking about a public transportation option for Yellowstone

An online forum message posted earlier this month [July 2009] on the New West website led to an extended discussion of how public transportation around Yellowstone and the Tetons could be managed.

Michael Pearlman began it, citing the propane-powered buses that shuttle visitors in Zion National Park and writing in part, “The public could also adapt to using public transportation in the Greater Yellowstone area during peak season, if it was offered. I’m not talking about traditional diesel-spewing school buses. I envision both parks embracing alternative fuel sources and green technology. Perhaps plug-in electric vehicles could be used, or the Park Service could work with emerging technology companies to showcase clean options. . . .”

Pearlman proposes: “In Yellowstone, buses could leave from West Yellowstone and make a loop following the interior roads of the park, allowing people staying in West Yellowstone motels, Old Faithful Inn and Yellowstone Lake Lodge to get out of their cars and take a bus to Old Faithful and the Upper Falls. In fact, I’d go further and completely ban private vehicles from Dunraven Pass, allowing only the bus service. You’d likely see a reduction in wildlife harassment within Yellowstone as well.

“Bus service in both parks could be operated by an outside concessionaire, but ideally, the cost of the bus ride would be included in park entrance fee. Even if there’s a small charge to passengers, there should be a strong incentive to use the service that should include access to areas where private vehicles are not allowed.”

I countered with the following post (slightly altered here):

I’m basically in agreement with Michael Pearlman’s plan for reducing the cars in Yellowstone and the Tetons, but something more is needed to create a plan that is both more effective and more palatable to tourists.
First, cars should not be banned (as some proposals suggest), since many people, especially locals, need to pass through or cannot easily use public transportation because of disabilities or because they are traveling with small children.
Second, what is needed is a really efficient shuttle service between Old Faithful and Norris Junction—or to cover the one hundred miles all the way north to Mammoth Hot Springs. This should be free or very inexpensive, perhaps financed with incentives to those who use it, such as asking families entering the park to pay ten dollars more for their park-entrance fee, for which they would receive a voucher good for shuttle travel. The schedule should provide a shuttle every twenty minutes in each direction, allowing people to get on and off at the thermal attractions all along the way.
As someone else pointed out, leaving cars in gateway communities would pose a burden to those towns, but some of that may be necessary, perhaps in paid parking lots or garages, part of whose profits could go toward support of the shuttle system. Other cars could be left in the existing in-park parking lots for people staying inside the park.

One knowledgeable person asked how many buses (or shuttles) it would take to run such a system. In doing a rough calculation, in which shuttles run every 20 minutes from 9:00 to 6:00 and take 3 hours for each run, I came up with about 20 vehicles (and perhaps twice as many drivers) needed to provide the service on the west side of the park.

Here’s the good news, according to Tim Young, who supplied this: “The future is closer than you think – an innovative Regional Transit option is underway, and it won’t cut into those that still choose (or must) drive.
“A Regional Transportation Co-Op has received $535,000 in funding from the Idaho Transportation Dept. via Stimulus ARRA funds. Led by the Yellowstone Business Council, with partners around the Greater Yellowstone, leaders will be gathering in West Yellowstone this week to map out the next steps.
“Look at the YBP website for more details – and get on board!”

I hope the park service, which has been tossing this subject around for years, will come up with a plan suited to the special needs of this very large area. It should eventually include visitors to the Tetons and should be appropriate to twenty-first century standards of green efficiency.

I’m about to leave for my favorite park, where, among many other things I”ll be doing, I’ll be celebrating the fact that this is the seventieth summer since I first lived in Yellowstone by spending July 25 and 26 (11:00 to 6:00) in the lobby of Old Faithful Inn, where I’ll be signing copies of Yellowstone Treasures for anyone who happens by.

Share Button