National Parks Impact Local Economies

National park visitors contributed $26.5 billion to the nation’s economy and supported almost 240,000 jobs in 2013, according to a peer-reviewed report.

salt flats at Badwarwe Basin
Walk onto the crusted salt flats at Badwarwe Basin (Death Valley National Park) for a short distance to enjoy the expansive views up and down the valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“National parks are often the primary economic engines of many park gateway communities,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, in a news release.

“While park rangers provide interpretation of the iconic natural, cultural, and historic landscapes, nearby communities provide our visitors with services that support hundreds of thousands of mostly local jobs.”

National park visitation for 2013 declined by 3.2 percent compared to 2012. The 16-day government shutdown last October accounted for most of the decline. National parks in the Northeast, closed for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs, were the other significant brake on visitation.

Visitor spending for 2013 was down by 1 percent. The number of jobs supported by visitor spending was off by 2.1 percent, and the overall effect on the U.S. economy was 1 percent lower than the previous year due to adjustments for inflation.

“The big picture of national parks and their importance to the economy is clear,” Jarvis said. “Every tax dollar invested in the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy because of visitor spending in gateway communities near the 401 parks of the National Park System.”

Just when you think you’ve seen as much color and sculptured rock for­mations Mother Nature can create, you enter Bryce Canyon for yet anoth­er brilliant and stunning display. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Just when you think you’ve seen as much color and sculptured rock for­mations Mother Nature can create, you enter Bryce Canyon for yet anoth­er brilliant and stunning display. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jarvis said visitation so far this year indicates a rebound from 2013 and he expects a steady increase as excitement grows in advance of the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service.

The annual report, 2013 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, was prepared by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. It includes information by park and by state on visitor spending within 60 miles of a national park, jobs supported by visitor spending, and other statistics.

According to the 2013 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent), and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent).

The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

Total recreation visits and total visitor spending ($000s) in selected National Park Service sites follow:

Arches National Park, Utah: 1,082,866; $120,171.7

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: 1,311,875; $105,705.8

Carlsbad Canyon National Park, New Mexico: 388,565; $23,589.7

Death Valley National Park, California: 951,973; $75,255.1

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona and Utah: 1,991,925; $115,593.6

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: 4,564,841; $476,194.8

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee: 9,354,695; $734,086.6

Joshua Tree National Park, California: 1,383,341; $62,929.9

Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California's southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation.
Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California’s southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona and Nevada: 6,344,714; $260,500.1

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado: 460,237; $45,089.8

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas: 515,381; $20,967.0

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, Texas: 521,705; $28,576.1

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia:1,136,505; $72,402.6

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming: 3,188,030; $381,762.7

Yosemite National Park, California: 3,691,192; $373,269.8

A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah: 2,807,387; $147,501.9

Details

National Park Service

Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, the park service is proud to safeguard these special places and to share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.

Website: www.nps.gov

Worth Pondering…

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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Best National Parks To Visit This Spring

Spring brings a fresh start, a chance to put away layers of clothes and roam free and easy.

Hikers trek into the forest along the more than 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail and are rewarded with some of the most scenic views of Shenandoah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hikers trek into the forest along the more than 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail and are rewarded with some of the most scenic views of Shenandoah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And there’s no better place to find renewal than a national park, our unbeatable natural treasures.

Spring brings a renewal, warmer temperatures, fields of wildflowers, and blessedly few crowds.

Following are four of the best national parks for springtime revelry, from Virginia to Wyoming to Arizona.

Now it’s your turn to start planning a trip.

Shenandoah National Park

As springtime helps Shenandoah National Park come to life, those who visit will take away a deeper appreciation for its diversity of flora and fauna. With nearly 200,000 forested acres, Shenandoah National Park is most popular during the fall foliage. Spring sees some of the fewest visitors, but perhaps the most unique beauty thanks to park’s 850 species of flowering plants.

While some visitors choose a scenic drive along Skyline Drive, others opt to explore meadows and forests by foot with every turn revealing a new color, new sound, and new sight.

The Smoky Mountains are among the oldest on Earth. Ice Age glaciers stopped their southward journey just short of these mountains, which became a junction of southern and northern flora. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Smoky Mountains are among the oldest on Earth. Ice Age glaciers stopped their southward journey just short of these mountains, which became a junction of southern and northern flora. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitor facilities and services re-open for the year in March, and the wildflower display begins in early April, continuing to summer. Pink azaleas bloom in May closely followed by mountain laurel in June.

Yellowstone National Park

The roads at Yellowstone National Park are first plowed in late March, and bit by bit the park opens up, ending with Beartooth Highway in early June. The road to Mammoth Springs near the north entrance is the first area to open up—usually in March. The road to Old Faithful is usually open by mid-April. This early in the spring, snow still covers the ground and night temperatures fall below freezing.

As the snow melts, the rivers swell, and the trails open up. If you go early in the season, you’ll have to play your choices by ear. But you’ll be in Yellowstone. The scenery will still be magnificent, and the world-famous wildlife-viewing opportunities will still abound. Watch out for elk, bears, deer, bison, smaller mammals, birds, and more.

Wildflowers, a favorite spring rejuvenator, are a major draw to the grasslands of Pelican Valley and Hayden Valley, as well as the desert sagebrush regions near the north entrance. And as the higher trails open up, early summer wildflowers appear in the higher climes.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, is both the most-visited national park in the country and the most abundantly blessed with 1,500 species of flowering plants, more than any other national park.

Springtime flowers include trilliums, phacelia, violets, lady’s slippers, jack-in-the-pulpits, and showy orchids. The viewing window for the latter is brief — mid-April to mid-May in the forests, mid-June to mid-July on the higher slopes — so go sooner rather than later.

The milder temperatures and reduced haze in spring make for ideal visiting conditions.

Saguaro National Park

The park is named after the Saguaro cactus, which blooms brilliant in the burgeoning heat of spring.

Halved by the city of Tucson, Saguaro National Park is really two parks in one. The Rincon Mountains are perhaps the most prominent wilderness on the east side of the park. The Tucson Mountains are where you go to get away from it all in the West.

Unique to the Sonoran Desert, the park’s giant saguaros sometimes reach as much as 50 feet in height – so it’s no wonder they’ve been described as the kings of the Sonoran Desert.
Unique to the Sonoran Desert, the park’s giant saguaros sometimes reach as much as 50 feet in height – so it’s no wonder they’ve been described as the kings of the Sonoran Desert. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro is a great hiking park. Some 128 miles of trail explore it, with the usual full range of difficulty levels and length.

Among the satisfyingly adapted plants to experience are the leguminous mesquites and paloverdes, pears, chollas, hedgehog cacti, creosote bushes, ocotillos, and catclaws. April to June is cactus flowering season with saguaro blooming at its peak in May and June.

Saguaro flowers bloom for less than 24 hours. They open at night and remain open through the next day.

Hundreds of bird species either pass through the park or live here year-round. The reptiles and small animals bring a close-to-the-ground dimension to the park. And close-to-the-ground is frequently the most fascinating place of all.

Worth Pondering…

Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?
―Neltje Blachan

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National Park Service Accused of Gestapo Tactics at Yellowstone

Pat Vaillancourt went on a trip last week that was intended to showcase some of America’s greatest treasures.

Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Instead, the Massachusetts resident said she and others on her tour bus witnessed an ugly spectacle that made her embarrassed, angry, and heartbroken for her country.

Vaillancourt was one of thousands of people who found themselves in a national park as the federal government shutdown went into effect on October 1, according to the Eagle Tribune (North Andover, Maine).

For many hours her tour group which included senior citizen visitors from Japan, Australia, Canada, and the United States, were locked in a Yellowstone National Park hotel under armed guard.

The tourists were treated harshly by armed park employees, she said, so much so that some of the foreign tourists with limited English skills thought they were under arrest.

When finally allowed to leave, the bus was not allowed to halt at all along the 2.5-hour trip out of the park, not even to stop at private bathrooms that were open along the route.

“We’ve become a country of fear, guns, and control,” said Vaillancourt.

“It was like they brought out the armed forces. Nobody was saying, ‘we’re sorry,’ it was all like — ” as she clenched her fist and banged it against her forearm.

Vaillancourt took part in a nine-day tour of western parks and sites along with about four dozen senior citizen tourists. One of the highlights of the tour was to be Yellowstone, where they arrived just as the shutdown went into effect.

Rangers systematically sent visitors out of the park, though some groups that had hotel reservations — such as Vaillancourt’s — were allowed to stay for two days. Those two days started out on a sour note, she said.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t “recreate.” The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking photos.

“She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.

The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park’s premier lodge located adjacent to the park’s most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site — barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.

“They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,” she said. “Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.”

By October 3 the park, which sees an average of 4,500 visitors a day, was nearly empty. The remaining hotel visitors were required to leave.

As the bus made its 2.5-hour journey out of Yellowstone, the tour guide made arrangements to stop at a full-service bathroom at an in-park dude ranch he had done business with in the past. Though the bus had its own small bathroom, Vaillancourt said seniors were looking for a more comfortable place to stop.

But no stop was made — Vaillancourt said the dude ranch had been warned that its license to operate would be revoked if it allowed the bus to stop. So the bus continued on to Livingston, Montana, a gateway city to the park.

The bus trip made headlines in Livingston, where the local newspaper Livingston Enterprise interviewed the tour guide, Gordon Hodgson, who accused the park service of “Gestapo tactics.”

“The national parks belong to the people,” he told the Enterprise. “This isn’t right.”

Calls to Yellowstone’s communications office were not returned, as most of the personnel have been furloughed.

Many of the foreign visitors were shocked and dismayed by what had happened and how they were treated, Vaillancourt said.

“A lot of people who were foreign said they wouldn’t come back (to America),” she said.

Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The National Parks’ aggressive actions have spawned significant criticism in western states.

The Washington Times quoted an unnamed Park Service official who said park law enforcement personnel were instructed to ‘make life as difficult for people as we can’. It’s disgusting.”

The experience brought up many feelings in Vaillancourt. What struck her most was a widely circulated story about a group of World War II veterans who were on a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II memorial when the shutdown began. The memorial was barricaded and guards were posted, but the vets pushed their way in.

That reminded her of her father, a World War II veteran who spent three years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

“He always said to stand up for what you believe in, and don’t let them push you around,” she said, adding she was sad to see “fear, guns and control” turned on citizens in her own country.

Worth Pondering…

The older I get, the more I learn to tolerate human shortcomings—and the less I tolerate bad attitudes.

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National Parks Lose $76M Per Day During Government Shutdown

The partial government shutdown’s toll on national parks can be measured in lost visitors, lost spending, and lost revenue to the US federal government.

When you find yourself surrounded by twisted, spiky trees straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, you will have met the park's namesake: Joshua tree. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
When you find yourself surrounded by twisted, spiky trees straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, you will have met the park’s namesake: Joshua tree. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost revenue to the federal government, in the form of entrance fees and rentals equals $450,000 a day, according to a USA Today special report.

As the government shutdown enters its 11th day, more than 7 million Americans have been kept out of national parks and $750 million in visitor spending has been lost, with huge repercussions for the economies of gateway communities and entire states that depend on national park tourism.

BY THE NUMBERS: THE SHUTDOWN

715,000: Average number of National Park visitors each day in October 2012

$76 million: Amount local economies lose per day from people not visiting national parks, based on October 2012 data

$450,000: Lost revenue per day from entrance fees ($300,000) and in-park activities, such as campground fees and boat rentals ($150,000) at national parks

11: Number of days parks have been closed

These numbers were compiled by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) and are based on October 2012 government park attendance data and an analysis of economic impacts by Headwaters Economics.

“These figures are mind-boggling, and they only begin to capture the full economic shock of the shutdown,” said Maureen Finnerty, CNPSR Chair and former superintendent of Everglades and Olympic National Parks.

“And it’s not just federal employees and visitors feeling the pain. Often, national parks support hundreds of hospitality jobs in surrounding communities.”

Almost 87% of the National Park Service’s 24,645 employees have been sent home during the shutdown, which started October 1 when Congress failed to enact a spending bill.

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The following is CNPSR-gathered data for the lost visitors, visitor spending, and jobs at risk for 12 leading national parks across the United States:

Acadia National Park (Maine): 68,493 lost visitors in first 10 days, $5,263,013 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 3331 total jobs at stake, including 3147 local/non-NPS jobs.

Badlands National Park (South Dakota): 26,767 lost visitors in first 10 days, $656,986 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 475 total jobs at stake, including 375 local/non-NPS jobs.

Boston National Historic Park (Massachusetts): 54,794 lost visitors in first 10 days, $2,032,876 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1019 total jobs at stake, including 904 non-NPS jobs.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio): 68,219 lost visitors in first 10 days, $1,545,205 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 819 total jobs at stake, including 599 local/non-NPS jobs.

Everglades National Park (Florida): 25,083 lost visitors in first 10 days, $3,857,534 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 2364 total jobs at stake, including 1951 local/non-NPS jobs.

Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania): 27,397 lost visitors in first 10 days, $1,796,712 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1141 total jobs at stake, including 1051 local/non-NPS jobs.

Glacier National Park (Montana): 60,273 lost visitors in first 10 days, $3,076,712 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1994 total jobs at stake, including 1632 local/non-NPS jobs.

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona): 120,000 lost visitors in first 10 days, $11,750,684 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 6825 total jobs at stake, including 6167 local/non-NPS jobs.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee): 257,534 lost visitors in first 10 days, $23,123,287 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 11,766 total jobs at stake, including 11,367 local/non-NPS jobs.

Olympic National Park (Washington): 77,808 lost visitors in first 10 days, $2,912,328 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1673 total jobs at stake, including 1395 local/non-NPS jobs.

Fruita Campground is located adjacent to the Fremont River (pictured above) in Capitol Reef National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Fruita Campground is located adjacent to the Fremont River (pictured above) in Capitol Reef National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado): 80,821 lost visitors in first 10 days, $4,821,917 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 3033 total jobs at stake, including 2641 local/non-NPS jobs.

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho): 98,630 lost visitors in first 10 days, $9,452,054 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 5572 total jobs at stake, including 4481 local/non-NPS jobs.

Yosemite National Park (California): 106,849 lost visitors in first 10 days, $10,021,917 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 5607 total jobs at stake, including 4602 local/non-NPS jobs.

Zion National Park (Utah): 72,876 lost visitors in first 10 days, $3,495,890 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 2401 total jobs at stake, including 2136 local/non-NPS jobs.

A note on data: Visitation, economic impacts, and job numbers for the 12 parks are drawn from Headwaters Economics, Land and Communities, National Parks Service Units, Economic Impacts of Visitation and Expenditures. Top line numbers for NPS daily visitation provided by Coalition of National Park Service Retirees using National Park Service data.

Worth Pondering…

We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in, for it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.

—Wallace Stegner

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Human Encounters with Bears Turn Deadly

Recent media reports detail numerous human encounters with black bears.

This black bear wants his food and he is waiting patiently. DO NOT FEED BEARS! (Source: Thomas J/travelooce.com)
This black bear wants his food and he is waiting patiently. DO NOT FEED BEARS! (Source: Thomas J/travelooce.com)

In most instances the bears became food-conditioned, lost their natural fear of humans, and become a threat as they roamed in search of an easy meal. These bear was either relocated or euthanized by rangers because they posed an obvious human safety risk to campers.

Several samples of these reports follow.

Black Bear Killed at Yellowstone Campground

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that a black bear that refused to leave a Yellowstone National Park campground after getting a taste of human food there was killed by park staff.

The 142-pound adult male black bear entered the Canyon Campground and came within six feet of a man and woman eating.

The campers backed off, and the bear ate some of the food off their table. It then went through their garbage and pawed at their tent.

As the bear left their campsite, it checked out tents, fire pits and bear-proof trash bins, and food-storage boxes at other campsites.

Rangers hazed the bear out of the campground, but it returned later in the day. Out of a concern for safety, the bear was shot and killed later that night.

Bear Aggression at Colorado Campgrounds

Remember: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear (Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Remember: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear (Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

The Aspen Times reported that a bear tried to break into a car less than 30 feet from a campsite, and set the car alarm off five times in one evening. The next day, a large black bear broke into a car in the Difficult day-use parking lot with several people watching. The bear bent a door and broke a window before leaving the lot with a bag of marshmallows in its mouth.

“People need to remember that black bears are smart, wild, and very strong,” said Roy Schoepf, a Difficult Campground camp host.

“The bear we’ve been seeing pushed over all four of our bear-proof dumpsters on one visit. They’re fearless and can do a lot of damage if they want.”

There have been multiple bear sightings at the Difficult Campground, as well as several surrounding campsites.

The public needs to be aware that dealing with bears is serious business and caution must be taken at every level.

Colorado has a “two-strike” policy under which bears may be tranquilized, ear-tagged, and relocated once if they are in an inappropriate location or they have engaged in episode(s) of “nuisance” behavior. If that same bear has to be physically dealt with again (tranquilized or trapped due to inappropriate location or nuisance behavior), the bear is put down. Bears that pose a public safety risk will be put down regardless of whether they have ear tags or not.

Bears are territorial and get into a habit of returning to where they find food.

Black Bear Killed at New Mexico State Park Campground

MyHighPlains reports that New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officers trapped and killed a black bear after it tore open a tent with two campers inside in the Lake Alice Campground at Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton.

The women in the tent were able to escape uninjured and set off their car alarm, which scared the bear away.

Department officers who responded to the call said the bear apparently was attracted to the campground by birdfeeders hung by campers. The bear went from campsite to campsite, knocking over birdfeeders and grills before raiding the women’s tent.

The women did not have any food in their tent. Most other campers in the campground were sleeping in camp trailers.

The black bear has an acute sense of hearing and smell but has relatively poor eyesight. (Source: oklahomawildlifecontrol.com)
The black bear has an acute sense of hearing and smell but has relatively poor eyesight. (Source: oklahomawildlifecontrol.com)

The bear was killed because it posed an obvious human safety risk to future tent campers.

“We can’t emphasize this enough: When you are camping, don’t put up birdfeeders or leave any other food sources out that may attract bears or other wildlife,” Conservation Officer Clint Henson said.

“In this case, putting out birdfeeders put everyone in that campground at risk and resulted in the bear’s death.”

Bighorn National Forest Visitors Urged to be Bear Aware

A USDA Forest Service news release reports that Wyoming Game & Fish Department game warden trapped a black bear in the Bighorn National Forest.

The 4-year-old male bear had received a food reward from a camper in the Dayton Gulch area earlier that morning. That evening, the bear returned for more. The bear was euthanized.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety.

Part 2: Being Bear Aware

Worth Pondering…

In many cultures, the bear was looked upon with such reverence that members of the culture were not allowed to speak the word for “bear “. Instead, they referred to the animal with varied and creative euphamisms. Several names were used by the Navajo and other native groups—Fine Young Chief, He Who Lives in the Den, and Reared in the Mountains.

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Nature Valley Supports National Parks through Preserve the Parks Program

Commonly referred to as “America’s best idea,” the national parks are awe-inspiring places that provide a deep connection to our country’s heritage, and to nature.

Nature Valley Celebrates the Third Year of Its Preserve the Parks Program

Nature Valley, a longtime supporter of national park preservation through its “Preserve the Parks” program—now in its third year—benefits the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). Over the course of the three-year relationship, the Preserve the Parks program will have helped raise more than $1 million to benefit restoration projects in support of America’s national parks.

This year, Nature Valley is continuing to help preserve America’s national parks while encouraging education, outdoor exploration, and support.

To kick-off the 2012 Preserve the Parks program, Nature Valley is donating $300,000 to the NPCA and is inviting consumers to help raise an additional $200,000 by entering the Universal Product Codes (UPC) from specially-marked packages of Nature Valley products at PreserveTheParks.com.

In celebration of National Park Week (April 21-29), consumers are invited to visit the Nature Valley Facebook page and “Like” designated posts during that week to help trigger additional donations to the NPCA—$1 per “Like,” up to $50,000.

How to Support America’s National Parks

Through the Preserve the Parks program, Nature Valley will raise funds this year in support of restoration projects benefiting six national parks, including Grand Teton National Park (shown here).

Most importantly, consumers can join Nature Valley in helping to preserve America’s national parks by getting outside and exploring all that the parks have to offer, especially during National Park Week (April 21-29), when admission to national parks is free.

Additionally, consumers can experience three iconic national parks through a new digital platform launched by Nature Valley in March 2012. Nature Valley Trail View encourages outdoor exploration and education with 300-plus miles of immersive national parks content through panoramic views and interactive guides, and is a great way to share favorite park views and sights to digitally inspire others to get outside.

To show support for the parks, consumers can:

  • Visit PreserveTheParks.com and enter UPCs from specially-marked packages of Nature Valley products to help raise funds to benefit restoration efforts in support of six national parks. For each UPC entered online now through December 31, 2012, $1 will be donated to the NPCA, up to $200,000.
  • Volunteer at a national park—visit PreserveTheParks.com for more information.
  • Visit the Nature Valley Facebook page and “Like” designated posts about Nature Valley Trail View. For each Facebook “Like” during National Parks Week (April 21-29), Nature Valley will donate $1 to the NPCA, up to $50,000.
  • Consider a personal donation to NPCA at PreserveTheParks.com.

Preserve the Parks Program Details

In its third year, the Preserve the Parks program continues to benefit the NPCA, whose mission is to help preserve America’s national parks for generations to come. Funds raised by Nature Valley this spring and throughout the year will support restoration projects benefiting six national parks, including:

  • Acadia National Park: Constructing a connector trail to provide better access to Acadia National Park.
  • Everglades National Park: Improving public access to, and providing greater awareness about the Everglades and Everglades National Park.
  • Grand Teton National Park: Protecting wildlife migration corridors near Grand Teton National Park.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Restoring land and wildlife habitats to benefit Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Joshua Tree National Park: Ensuring healthy ecosystems to benefit the wildlife of Joshua Tree National Park.
  • Yellowstone National Park: Restoring pronghorn migration routes around Yellowstone National Park.

Details

National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA)

Since 1919, NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its more than 600,000 members and supporters, and many partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.

Website: npca.org

Nature Valley

Nature Valley created the granola bar category in 1975 and brings great taste to active consumers looking for wholesome snacks. Nature Valley offers eight granola snack bars.

Website: naturevalley.com

Worth Pondering…
Wilderness needs no defense, only more defenders.
—Edward Abbey

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Five Things You Need to Know Today: March 9

Since I like things to come in fives (and tens), here are five things YOU need to know TODAY!

1. RV Catches Fire in Texas

This photo was taken approximately four minutes after a motorhome caught fire. It gives you an idea of how fast you need to get out of your coach if it ever catches on fire. (Source: http://rvtravel.com)

A man and a woman were temporarily stranded in Beaumont, Texas, Tuesday (March 6) after their recreational vehicle burst into flames, reports KIIITV.

The couple says they were traveling to Austin from Louisiana and got stuck in traffic on I-10 due to an overturned 18-wheeler. The driver says he was being re-routed onto Eastex Freeway when he and his wife smelled smoke and pulled onto the side of the road.

The man was trying to disconnect several batteries used to power appliances in the RV, when the vehicle caught fire.

2. Maintenance Tip

You’ve got a lot riding on your tires. The better you take care of them, the better they’ll take care of you.  Proper tire pressure:

  • Helps you get the most from every gallon of fuel
  • Helps maximize the life of your tires
  • Helps your motor home ride and handle the way it’s designed to
  • Helps ensure your coach can safely handle loads up to its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

So it’s important to check tire pressure at least once a week when you’re traveling. And since tires warm up as you drive, it’s important to check the pressure cold—before you start driving.

3. Flying J Opens Travel Center in Utah Dixie

Knoxville, Tennessee-based Pilot Flying J has opened a new travel center location in St. George, Utah. The new Flying J Travel Plaza is located at 113 Motel Drive at Exit 77 off Interstate 15 along U.S. Highway 78.

The 13,350-square-foot travel center features six gasoline islands, eight diesel lanes, and two RV lanes along with Diesel Exhaust Fluid at the pump. The facility also features high-speed fuel pumps that provide faster flow so customers can refuel quickly as well as a restaurant and a wide variety of convenience items.

The St. George location includes a Denny’s restaurant; food deli; restrooms; Western Union and check cashing; an ATM; laundry services; 108 parking spaces for cars and general merchandise.

RV customers have access to parking, bulk propane, and a dump station in addition to the two RV fuel lanes.

As with all other Pilot Flying J locations, the St. George Flying J Travel Plaza honors the Frequent Fueler Advantage card.

Pilot and Flying J merged in 2010, and both brands are still available on U.S. highways. Pilot Flying J has more than 550 retail locations across North America. The company is located in 47 states and eight Canadian provinces.

4. Yellowstone Campgrounds Start to Reopen May 4

Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the concessioner that runs lodges, restaurants, and activities in Yellowstone National Park, will start opening campgrounds there in early May, The Associated Press reports. Campgrounds start to open on May 4 with the Madison Campground, followed by Fishing Bridge RV Park on May 11.

The park itself reopens to automobiles in April when the major roads are cleared of snow.

The Old Faithful Snow Lodge Geyser Grill and gift shop will be first to open on April 20, followed by the Mammoth Hot Springs gift shop and grill on April 27. The major lodging facilities will open throughout May.

According to Xanterra Parks and Resorts all park operations will be up and running by mid-June.

5. Exploring Verde Valley

Pink Jeep tours are a popular way to venture into Red Rock Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At our core, we are explorers. It’s in our bones, our marrow, our guts to venture out and discover. Exploration and adventure are vital to the human soul. Called by distant voices or prodded by an inner whisper, we travel, we seek adventure.

During the past several years we have enjoyed months at a time RVing throughout southern Arizona, enjoying abundant sunshine, and a fascinating backdrop of mountain ranges. Whether we’re at Yuma, along the Colorado River at Lake Havasu or Bullhead City, Quartzsite, Catalina State Park, and Tucson, Ajo, and Organ Pipe National Park, Tombstone, Bisbee, Patagonia, Coronado National Memorial, or Ramsey Canyon in southeastern Arizona, or a Maricopa County Regional Park in the Phoenix area, there’s much to explore.

But, each spring finds us gravitating north to the scenic and historic wonders of Verde Valley.

To continue reading, click here.

Have a great weekend.

Until next time, safe RV travels, and we’ll see you on the road!

Worth Pondering…

Destination is merely a byproduct of the journey.
—Eric Hansen

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Yellowstone Grizzly Victim Identified

A grizzly bear killed a Michigan man whose body was found by hikers last week in Yellowstone National Park, officials said earlier today (August 29).

Grizzly bears are powerful, top-of-the-food-chain predators, yet much of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots. Bears also eat other animals, from rodents to moose. (Credit: talktocanada.com)

The victim was identified as John Wallace of Chassell, Michigan.

Wallace’s body was discovered along a trail about five miles from the nearest trailhead. Results of an autopsy concluded that he died as a result of traumatic injuries from a bear attack, reported the Associated Press.

It is the second time a visitor to the park has been killed by a bear this year.

Authorities say Wallace likely died Wednesday or Thursday.

He was traveling alone and had pitched a tent in a campground on Wednesday, park officials said. Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk has previously said that the hiker was found with a snack bar in his closed backpack, but that it appears the grizzly did not try to get at the food.

“We know of no witnesses to the event at all,” Wenk said today. “As far as we know, he was in good health and out enjoying the park.”

Grizzly bears have a distinctive muscular shoulder hump, and the claws on the front paws are large, strong and slightly curved. (Credit: edu.pe.ca)

Two trails and a section of the Hayden Valley west of Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road have been closed to hikers. Park officials asked hikers elsewhere in the park to stay on the trails, to hike in groups of three or more and carry bear spray.

Wallace’s death comes after a female bear attacked and killed a 57-year-old California man in July on the popular Wapiti Lake Trail, several miles away from where the Michigan man’s body was discovered Friday.

The female bear was not killed because officials said the sow was only defending its cubs and had not threatened humans before.

Rangers found grizzly tracks and scat, or bear droppings, near Wallace’s body.

The Mary Mountain Trail is closed from March to June because park managers list it as “high-density grizzly bear habitat.”

Park employees have been searching for the bear around the Mary Mountain Trail northeast of Old Faithful. That’s the area where hikers discovered Wallace’s body on Friday.

Traps have been set to try to capture the bear. Wenk said it would be killed if it can be linked

Bear Safety

The long guard hairs on their backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a grizzled appearance, hence the name grizzly. (Credit: firstpeople.us)

It’s important to be informed about bears and what to do when you come into contact with them.

Bears are not tame, gentle, or cuddly; they are unpredictable and potentially dangerous. The rule about bears is their unpredictability.

Note: A two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety was previously posted.

Worth Pondering…
Alive, the grizzly is a symbol of freedom and understanding—a sign that man can learn to conserve what is left of the earth. Extinct, it will be another fading testimony to things man should have learned more about but was too preoccupied with himself to notice. In its beleaguered condition, it is above all a symbol of what man is doing to the entire planet. If we can learn from these experiences, and learn rationally, both grizzly and man may have a chance to survive.
—Frank Craighead, Track of the Grizzly, 1979

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Bare Facts on Bears

Grizzly Bear Kills Hiker in Yellowstone National Park

A grizzly bear is shown in this undated photo. A grizzly bear killed a man hiking in Yellowstone National Park on July 6, 2011. (Credit: Getty Images)

A couple’s hike off South Rim Drive, south of Canyon Village and east of the park’s Grand Loop Road, Wednesday (July 6) morning, turned tragic when they surprised a grizzly bear sow and her cubs. Brian Matayoshi, 57, of Torrance, California, was hiking with his wife, Marylyn, on the Wapiti Lake Trail when they encountered the bears as the couple emerged from a forested area into an open meadow.

The hikers first spotted a bear about 100 yards away and began walking in the other direction, but when they turned to look back they saw the female grizzly charging at them down the trail, according to an account issued by park officials.

The couple began running, but the bear caught up to them and mauled the husband, then approached the wife, who had fallen to the ground nearby.

“The bear bit her daypack, lifting her from the ground and then dropping her,” the park statement said, but the woman remained still and the grizzly lumbered off.

Yellowstone and surrounding areas are home at least 600 grizzlies. Once rare to behold, grizzlies have become an almost routine cause of curious tourists lining up at Yellowstone’s roadsides at the height of summer season.

These tourists have been flooding into Yellowstone in record numbers: 3.6 million last year, up 10 percent from 2009’s 3.3 million, also a record.

It was the park’s first fatal grizzly mauling since 1986, but the third in the Yellowstone region in just over a year amid ever-growing numbers of grizzlies and tourists roaming the same wild landscape of scalding-hot geysers and sweeping mountain vistas.

Officials also issued recommendations for visitors to stay safe from backcountry bears:

  • Stay on designated trails
  • Hike in groups of three or more
  • Make noise in places where a grizzly could be lurking

Bear spray—pressurized hot-pepper residue in a can—can be effective in stopping aggressive bears, they said.

Bears in Canada

Grizzly bears have a distinctive muscular shoulder hump, and the claws on the front paws are large, strong and slightly curved. (Credit: edu.pe.ca)

Canada is home to approximately 380,000 black bears and 26,000 grizzly bears, half of whom are found in British Columbia, according to the Nature Conservacy of Canada.

Avoid Bear Attacks

To avoid unwanted encounters with bears adhere to the following precautions:

  • Obey all park regulations, stay on designated trails, and comply with posted warnings
  • Solo hiking is not advised; the risk of an attack is reduced hiking in a group
  • Always keep children nearby and in sight
  • If possible, keep pets at home. Free-running pets can anger a bear and provoke an attack
  • Make warning noises and loud sounds, e.g., attach bells to hiking boots
  • Pepper/bear spray has been effective in deterring some bear attacks; however, do not rely on it as a substitute for safe practices in bear country

Bear Facts

  • Bears are as fast as racehorses, on the flats, uphill, or downhill
  • Bears aggressively defend their food
  • All female bears defend their cubs; if a female with cubs is surprised at close range or is separated from her cubs, she may attack
  • Bears are strong swimmers
  • Bears have good eyesight and hearing, and an acute sense of smell
  • All black bears and young grizzlies are agile tree climbers; mature grizzlies are poor climbers but they have a reach up to 13 feet
  • All bears will defend a personal space; the extent of this space will vary with each bear and each situation; intrusion into this space is considered a threat and may provoke an attack

Know Your Bears

Are you able to tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear? Color is a poor indicator of bear species as both species can range in color from blond to black.

Black bears are North America's most familiar and common bears. They typically live in forests and are excellent tree climbers, but are also found in mountains and swamps. Despite their name, black bears can be blue-gray or blue-black, brown, cinnamon, or even (very rarely) white. be blue-gray or blue-black, brown, cinnamon, or even (very rarely) white. (Credit: canoe.ca)

Some unique grizzly features include a pronounced shoulder hump, silver or light-tipped guard hairs on their head, and ears that appear smaller and are rounded.

Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis Ord)

Color: Range in color from black to light blonde, mostly medium to dark brown in color; the long hair usually has a lighter tip, hence the grizzled look

Height: Approximately 3½ feet at shoulder; 6-7 feet when erect

Weight: Average 350-500 pounds; larger grizzlies can reach 800 pounds

Shape: Distinct shoulder hump

Face: Depression between the eyes and end of nose; short, round ears

Claws: Very long (2-4 inches)

Habitat: Prefers semi-open spaces; high country in late summer and early fall; valley bottoms late fall and spring

Black Bear (Ursus americanus Pallas)

Color: Range in color from black to light blonde, often with a lighter patch on the chest or at the throat; reddish-colored bears are common in the west

Height: Approximately 2½-3 feet at shoulder; about 5 feet when erect

Weight: Average 110-300 pounds; larger males can reach 600 pounds

Shape: No shoulder hump like the grizzly

Face: A straight line runs between the forehead and end of nose; roundish pointed ears

Claws: Shorter (about 1½ inches)

Habitat: Prefers forested areas with low-growing plants and berry-producing shrubs, small forest openings, streams, and lake edges

What to do if a Bear Attacks

Every encounter is unique and the following are offered as guidelines only to deal with an unpredictable animal and potentially complex situation.

Your response depends on the species and whether the bear is being defensive or offensive.

Bears sometimes bluff their way out of a confrontation by charging then turning away at the last moment. Generally, the response is to do nothing to threaten or further arouse the bear. Remain calm and avoid sudden movements.

Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. Remember that a standing bear is not always a sign of aggression. Many times, bears will stand to get a better view.

While fighting back usually increases the intensity of an attack, it may cause the bear to leave.

Note: This is the second of a two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety.

Previously posted: Are You Bear Aware?

Worth Pondering…
When a pine needle falls in the forest, the eagle sees it; the deer hears it, and the bear smells it.
—old First Nations saying

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Are You Bear Aware?

Wildlife is a huge part of the mountain and wilderness regions of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Deep snowpack, more grizzlies

Grizzly bears are powerful, top-of-the-food-chain predators, yet much of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots. Bears also eat other animals, from rodents to moose. (Credit: talktocanada.com)

Numerous encounters between grizzly bears and humans have been reported this spring, attributed to a growing bear population stuck in the low country as a result of the deep snowpack. High winter snowpack levels mean bears are moving to lower elevations and are likely to stay there longer than in previous winters.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but their numbers have been growing in recent years, increasing the chance for encounters with humans, according to Chris Servheen, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition, heavy snowfall this winter has taken longer to melt in cool spring weather.

“You have more bears, and then you have these high snow levels so the bears can’t be in the mountains where they want to be,” Servheen said.

In a nonfatal encounter, two hikers were mauled by a bear in the Gallatin National Forest (Montana) when they came across a young grizzly bear and a sow chasing an elk. The 36-year-old woman tried to climb a tree when the sow bit her in the leg. The man was bitten in the forearm when he tried to fight off the bear. Neither injury was life threatening. They were not carrying pepper spray.

Servheen said it served as a good reminder for people to be bear-aware and make noise and always carry pepper spray while hiking in Bear Country.

Bear Concerns near Yellowstone

The long guard hairs on their backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a grizzled appearance, hence the name grizzly. (Credit: firstpeople.us)

The Gallatin National Forest says grizzly bear experts have recommended banning tent camping in three campgrounds near Yellowstone National Park, including one where a Michigan man was mauled to death last July. The requirement for hard-sided recreational vehicles only is in effect for the Soda Butte, Colter, and Chief Joseph campgrounds just east of Cooke City because bears frequent those areas, reports the Associated Press.

Forest spokeswoman Marna Daley says the requirement is in place this summer while managers consider a long-range strategy. Hard-sided vehicles include those made of metal or strong composite plastic. Truck-box campers that have a 4-foot high hard side, in addition to a raised upper section, are permissible.

Bear Safety

It’s important to be informed about bears and what to do when you come into contact with them.

Bears are not tame, gentle, or cuddly; they are unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

Bears are naturally wary of people and are reluctant to come close to humans. However, if you do encounter a bear there are some important things to remember:

  • If the bear is spotted in the distance and has NOT seen you, back away (without running) the way you came while keeping the bear in view; remain calm and avoid direct eye contact
  • If the bear is at close range, back away slowly
  • If you need to move forward, give the bear as much space as possibly
  • If the bear is standing up, it is usually trying to identify you; talk softly so it knows what you are; if its snapping its jaws, lowering its head, flattening its ears, growling, or making ‘woofing’ signs, it is displaying aggression
  • Never come between a bear and its cubs or animal carcass, as the bear will protect them; slowly back away and leave the area the way you came
  • Carry pepper/bear spray when venturing into the wild
  • Report all sightings to Park Staff

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

Black bears typically have black fur over the main part of their body with a tan colored muzzle. (Credit: bearsforever.com)

Don’t be a contributor to food-conditioning.

Wildlife experts say having a bear wreck your campsite is not only bad for you, but potentially deadly for the bear.

Bears that scavenge for food begin to associate food with humans, and become food-conditioned. Food-conditioned bears lose their natural fear of humans and become a threat to park visitors as they roam through the park in search of an easy meal.

There is little or no chance of correcting a food-conditioned bear; Park Rangers are forced to destroy them when they become aggressive towards humans.

Avoiding Dangerous Encounters with Bears

Food-conditioning of bears can be prevented by heeding the following simple precautions:

  • Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife
  • Reduce or eliminate odors that attract bears
  • Store food in air-tight containers in RV or car trunk
  • Keep your campsite clean
  • Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease, or dish water lying around the campsite
  • Obey all closures and warnings

The rule about bears is their unpredictability.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety.

Worth Pondering…
Alive, the grizzly is a symbol of freedom and understanding—a sign that man can learn to conserve what is left of the earth. Extinct, it will be another fading testimony to things man should have learned more about but was too preoccupied with himself to notice. In its beleaguered condition, it is above all a symbol of what man is doing to the entire planet. If we can learn from these experiences, and learn rationally, both grizzly and man may have a chance to survive.
—Frank Craighead, Track of the Grizzly, 1979

Read More