100 Years of National Parks : Famous Yellowstone jumps in visitors equals concerns over wildlife and safety

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When things go well – and people connect with Nature – the unforeseen consequences can be hard to handle…isn’t that ironic!? For starters: the park has hired Mandarin-speaking park rangers to communicate with the increasing number of Chinese visitors.

Park rangers reassess how to manage tourist violations, staff burnout and ‘animal jam’ as number of national park guests peaked to four million last year  

The Guardian reports: Yellowstone national park is finding new ways to manage tourism after visits jumped by almost 600,000 between 2014 and 2015. After 15 years of steady growth, last year’s 4m visits was a tipping point, says park ranger Charissa Reid.

The park expects the number to rise in 2016. July is likely to be the first million-visit month in the park’s 144-year history.

However, extra visitors have increased accidents between humans, animals, and the park’s flora and fauna.

Park rangers issued more than 52,000 resource violations last year. People broke thermal features, interacted with protected wildlife and relieved themselves in the park. DUIs and domestic violence inside the park also increased.

The number of full-time staff at Yellowstone has remained static for over a decade, adding to problems. The NPS employed only 330 permanent and 406 seasonal Yellowstone staff last year.

Some incidents have made headline news – a man who strayed 225 yards off a designated path and fell to his death in Yellowstone’s Norris geyser basin and five people were gored by bison. However, dying in Yellowstone is unlikely.

“When you consider we had 4 million visitors, I think we’re doing pretty good,” says Reid.

Managing human behavior to maintain safety, prevent staff exhaustion and keep visitors happy is a daily challenge.

A common disruptive human behavior at Yellowstone is an “animal jam”. This happens when people see a bear or a buffalo, or any other animal, and come to a full stop to jump from their cars.

“We can always tell the difference between a bison jam and a bear jam, because at a bear jam doors are flung open,” says Reid. “People kind of lose it over bears in the park.”

Yellowstone needs better understanding of visitor behavior to help with management, says Reid.

Animal biologists, law enforcement and printers in Yellowstone’s sign shop are all involved in visitor management. “We are trying to engage everyone to find solutions,” says Reid.

Yellowstone has also hired a social scientist to study humans. He researches how visitors enter and exit through the park, and how they interact with park attractions.

“Our superintendent often says visitors are the least studied mammal in Yellowstone,” says Reid. “We know more about bison biology than we know about park visitors.”

Increasing international visitors, use of social media and varied cultural expectations among visitors have all caused problems.

The park has hired Mandarin-speaking park rangers to communicate with the increasing number of Chinese visitors. Animal warnings have been translated into 10 languages and more toilets have been installed. New barriers and signs stop tourists from wandering, and protections outside wolf and wildlife dens keep them safe.

Reid acknowledges these are short-term solutions. Effective long-term solutions remain beyond park management’s immediate control, buried in budgets, and stored in as yet unmined visitor data.

In the meantime, visitors are part of the solution….. read the full article here 

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100 years of National Parks: visit the US’s 59 parks for Free this Month!


The 100th birthday of the National Park Service (NPS) will be commemorated next week on August 25th. In honor of the centennial, the NPS will waive entrance fees at all 59 national parks across the country from August 25-28. Events will take place across the nation’s parks—including a U.S. citizenship and immigration service naturalization ceremony at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia and an evening of memorable performances at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Happy (almost) 100th birthday, National Park Service!

In honor of its big day, the federal government agency will waive entrance fees at all 59 national parks across the country from August 25-28.

Officially established on August 25, 1916—when President Woodrow Wilson signed an act that set up the agency within the Department of Interior to protect the then 35 national parks—the National Park Service is now also tasked with revitalizing communities, celebrating local heritages and educating the public on all things outdoors and green.

The centennial birthday week will also be marked by a slew of different events taking place across the nation’s parks—think Zumba lessons along Boston’s waterfront, a U.S. citizenship and immigration service naturalization ceremony at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia and an evening of memorable performances at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, among others.

But this isn’t the only way to get into a national park for free as this year’s new “Every Kid in a Park” program allows each American fourth grader to visit one alongside a parent or guardian completely gratis.

Need to narrow down your list of must-visit parks? Although we are partial to all green spaces across the country, we suggest you check out our list of best national parks in the U.S. for a bit of guidance.

Source: TIMEOUT 


Warming pushes wineries into clash with nature

English: Mountain meadow at Yellowstone Nation...
English: Mountain meadow at Yellowstone National Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For more than a decade, wine experts have discussed the impact of climate change on grapes. Now scientists are raising a new question: When grapes are transported to new areas, assuming climate change has made their former habitat unsuitable, what will the crop’s arrival do to the animals and plants already in residence?

Will there be a conflict between prosecco and pandas in China? Will the contentious wolf hunts near Yellowstone National Park be complicated by new vineyards that crowd out everything else – wolves, elk and hunters?

“One of the adaptation strategies for grape growers will be to move into areas that have a suitable climate,” said Rebecca Shaw, a scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and an author of a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said such move shave “the potential to threaten the survival of wildlife.”

Or, in the words of the new study, “Vineyards have long-lasting effects on habitat quality and may significantly impact freshwater resources.”

In addition to introducing sterilizing chemicals and fertilizer, mature vineyards “have low habitat value” for native species “and are visited more often by nonnative species.”

Dr. Shaw believes that the movement of agriculture of all types into land that was once cold and inhospitable should be guided to some extent by its impact on existing ecosystems.

The wine industry has undergone more than 15 years of climate-driven change, marked by newly rich vintages in once-chilly regions and the establishment of vineyards like Burrowing Owl Estate Winery in British Columbia in the Canadian west, or and Yaxley Estate in Tasmania, the island in southeastern Australia.


Warming pushes wineries into clash with nature

The paper’s authors predict that under most climate models,as much as 47 percent of land suitable for wine grapes will be lost in areas of Chile with a Mediterranean-like climate. In western North America – mostly in California – 59 percent of wine country will be severely stressed, and 74 percent of such land in Australia will no longer be compatible with viticulture.

The equivalent figure for Mediterranean areas of Europe is 85 percent of currently suitable lands becoming unfriendly to vineyards by 2050.

But it is the spread of wine country into wilder places that has conservationists most worried for the native animals and plants that may be displaced.

Lee Hannah, a scientist at the Arlington, Virginia-based Conservation International, predicts that “Western North America has the greatest area of increasing ecological footprint” suitable for wine grapes, especially in the Rocky Mountains near the border between Canada and the United States. Much of that area has been coveted by conservationists who want to create a Yukon-to-Yellowstone corridor for unimpeded migration of wildlife, like pronghorn.

Robert Pincus, an environmental scientist at the University of Colorado, noted that a decade ago, Austrian winemakers were talking about moving their crop to higher altitudes where land had been undisturbed. “The tension is, do you want your Gruner Veltliner, or do you want some wild lands left in Europe?” he said.

He added: “Chile and California are going to have it harder – this is hard to argue with, this is robust.”

The New York Times

USA National Trails Day …. One family’s experiences

English: Grand Tetons Barns The John Moulton B...
English: Grand Tetons Barns The John Moulton Barn on Mormon Row at the base of the Tetons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cover of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving...
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For Rosie and Ben Platt of Portland, Ore., the keys to a successful backpacking trip with kids are “trail treats” and short distances. For Michael Lanza and Penny Beach of Boise, Idaho, plenty of breaks, candy bars and word games are crucial.

And for Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” it doesn’t matter what parents bust out to motivate kids on the trail — just that they get outside together.

“What better way to connect with your kid than to get away from the electronic distractions and peer pressure, and just go for a walk in the woods,” Louv said.

Many parents have felt the joy and rewards of day hiking with wee ones, but far fewer have backpacked overnight into the wilderness, kids in tow (or in-pack, as the case may be).

With the right gear, planning and attitude, parents and kids alike can reap the benefits of backcountry adventures.

On June 2 — the 20th anniversary of National Trails Day — families have another incentive to hit the trails: dozens of (mostly free) outdoor workshops, trail maintenance projects and guided hikes will be offered in just about every state. To find out what’s happening near you, check out American Hiking Society and click on your state.

Another resource for trail tips and tricks is through classes and workshops atREI, which has stores in 31 states. The Washington Trails Association‘s website has a great section on hiking with kids, as well as car-camping tips and a free “Families Go Hiking” newsletter.

Michael Lanza is Northwest editor of Backpacker magazine and author of “Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks.” He and wife, Penny, have hiked with their kids, now 9 and 11, since they were babies, and began family backpacking trips when the kids turned 6.

“When you get out for a few days or more of backpacking,” Lanza said, “you shake off the stresses and distractions of civilization and enjoy plenty of time for conversation with your companions, which is incredibly energizing and a pleasure we enjoy too rarely in normal life.”

Some family backpacking tips from Lanza, who also runs the websiteTheBigOutside.com:

  • Buy modern, lightweight gear: light backpacks, tents and cookware can shave at least 10 pounds from a family of four’s gear weight.
  • Make sure gear for kids fits them well. (Lanza includes reviews of kids and adults outdoor gear at TheBigOutside.com.)
  • Until age 9 or 10, kids should wear only a daypack, according to Lanza, with a liter of water, a few snacks and a stuffed animal. “Better to let them get a bit stronger and have some trail experience before having them carry much more than that,” he said. “Even 10 pounds feels like a bag of lead to a kid who weighs only 50 pounds.”
  • Take only what you need on a trip: one or two changes of all-weather clothes, only the amount of food needed plus a bit extra for ravenous kids, and the amount of water needed to reach the next water source.
  • Let kids take their favorite stuffed animals and favorite candy bars to eat when they’re halfway through each day’s mileage.
  • Remember a small first-aid kit.
  • Make sure the trip includes a river, creek, lake or wilderness beach because water “has never failed to entertain kids endlessly.”

Lanza tells parents not to be discouraged by the amount of work involved in backpacking with kids.

“Don’t wait,” he said. “Start car camping and day hiking when your children are small, and backpacking once they’re ready for that. Nurture in your kids an enthusiasm for hiking and camping beginning when they’re very young, and you will turn them into outdoors rock stars.”

Rosie and Ben Platt, who have backpacked with their now 4- and 6-year-old since they were babies, offer these tips:

  • Invest in ultralight gear, including small kids’ packs that can be strapped to adults’ packs if they get tired of carrying them.
  • No toys! “We made a pact from the start to not bring a single toy on the trail,” Rosie Platt said. “I was reluctant at first but it was the best move. Immediately, they found a favorite stick or rock.”
  • Bring plenty of trail treats such as M&Ms, gummy bears and Goldfish crackers. And seek out “treat trees” or count out 100 steps until the next goody stop.
  • Flexibility keeps it fun, she said. “Even if we hike in one mile to a mediocre campsite, it is still a memorable trip. Most of all, pack lightly, stick together and learn the flowers.”

What’s next for the adventurous Lanza and Platt families?

The Lanzas head to Norway in July to trek hut-to-hut for nine days through Jotunheimen National Park, through the highest mountains in northern Europe.

And the Platts plan to hike and camp at Yellowstone National Park in June, then head to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming for four days of canoeing to backcountry lakeside campsites.

Louv, who has  written eight books and co-founded the Children & Nature Network, continues to fish and hike with his now grown sons. But he spends most of his time running down research about nature deficit in children.

He rattles off some unnerving statistics: American children spend 70-80 percent of their time in childcare being sedentary, not counting napping or eating; just 2-3 percent of their day is spent in vigorous activity. Only 17 percent of 15-year-olds get even an hour a day of vigorous activity. The result, partially at least: skyrocketing rates of asthma, obesity, vitamin D deficiency, anxiety and depression.

“Without direct physical contact with the natural world, children’s knowledge about the environment is abstract, for the most part, and they tend to see a world with problems that are overwhelming,” Louv said. “Being outside just for the joy of it is an antidote. In innumerable ways, it helps our children’s health and ability to think and create, and our own as well.”

Source : http://www.childrenandnature.org/news/detail/hit_the_trails_backpacking_with_kids

Climate change : Yellowstone wolves provide new insights

Scientists have developed a model to predict how various species will respond to climate change, after studying grey wolves in Yellowstone National Park. | http://twitter.com/#!/LearnFromNature via Environmental News Network. 

Grey wolf imageThe grey wolf is the largest wild canid in the world

Adapting to change

Data are already routinely collected from radio-collared grey wolves in Yellowstone, and scientists have used this information in their latest study to try to get a better picture of the species’ basic responses to a changing environment.

Information collected and analysed has provided insights into how certain aspects of the grey wolf population have altered with the changing environment, including population size, genetics, body size, and even the timing of key life cycle events, such as the age at which they first have pups. The genetics of coat colour was also studied, as the thick coat of the grey wolf in Yellowstone tends to be black or grey, unlike its relatives in Europe.

As well as helping researchers to predict how grey wolves may respond to future climate change, it is hoped that the discoveries made during this research, published in Science this week, could help scientists to predict which species are at an elevated risk of extinction as a result of climate change, and which are more likely to show resilience in the face of environmental alterations.

Grey wofl imageGrey wolves in Yellowstone tend to have grey or black coats

A reintroduced species

The wolves were tracked from the air by research scientists from the US Department of the InteriorUtah State University and the University of California, who flew across the park by helicopter in order to dart the large carnivores. Once the animals were tranquilised, the scientists descended to the ground to weigh them and take blood samples. In total, more than a decade’s worth of data was collected from the 280 wolves living in Yellowstone.

Despite now thriving in the area surrounding the park, with a total of approximately 1,700 individuals in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington states, grey wolves were driven to extinction in the area in the 1920s. In the late 19thand early 20th centuries, the federal government supported a wolf extermination effort, encouraging people to shoot, poison or trap wolves as a way of preserving livestock. The species was reintroduced to Yellowstone in the mid-1990s, and the recovery plan has been more successful than expected.

Grey wolf imageStudies of the grey wolf have helped scientists to develop a model to predict which species will be most at risk of extinction as a result of climate change

Applications for the future

For many years, scientists have been working on how to save species from a changing climate, finding that some may move to higher, cooler areas to find suitable homes, potentially running out of space and dying out, whilst others may successfully adapt to their new surroundings, becoming smaller or bigger to suit the changing conditions.

The computer model developed through this new study allows researchers to consider a number of key variables including growth rate, fertility and life span, and predict how these traits, both behavioural and genetic, will be altered as a result of climate change. Tim Coulson, a professor of life sciences at Imperial College London, and leader of the study, explains, “One of the ways people could take our framework is to ask whether animals that are able to adapt body size, or coat colour, are likely to change sufficiently fast so that the animals can cope with change.”

Professor Coulson explains that, although the study does not go into detail with respect to factors such as climate change-induced diseases or changes in prey numbers, the results of this study are not limited to wolf populations, and have far-reaching applications, “In reality we can apply the methods we developed across a range of animals and behaviours.”

Read more on this story at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/01/climate-change-scientists-wolves

Links : Environmental News Network http://twitter.com/#!/EnnNews and Arkive http://twitter.com/#!/ARKive

Source : http://blog.arkive.org/2011/12/yellowstone-wolves-provide-climate-change-insight/ and http://www.enn.com/wildlife/article/43651

Wildlife alert : Warning on loss of world’s top predators

Thermophiles produce some of the bright colors...
Image via Wikipedia

Humans – rather than work with and learning from Nature – continue to have a negative impact on the very web of life that sustains us, reports The Independent.  

The dramatic decline of the world’s top predators, from wolves and lions to sharks and tuna fish, represents one of the most destructive human influences on the natural world, a group of leading biologists has found.

Top predators are the “apex consumers” of the world’s ecosystems and their decline in numbers has powerful repercussions on animals and plants lower down the food chain, says in a study published in the journal Science. The decline, from such activities as hunting and habitat loss, has had diverse effects, from changes in vegetation and wildfire frequency to water quality and nutrient cycles, the scientists said.

“Apex consumers… have powerful effects on the ways ecosystems work, and the loss of these large animals has widespread implications,” said Professor James Estes of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The loss of wolves from Yellowstone National Park, for instance, led to serious woodland overgrazing by elk.