Outdoor News December 15, 2017 - Explore! Outdoor News December 15, 2017 - Explore!

Outdoor News December 15, 2017

Fee-Free National Park Days

On Tuesday, the National Park Service announced that the public will be invited to experience all national parks, without entrance fees, on four days in 2018.  There were 16 fee-free days in 2016 and 10 in 2017.  The four entrance fee-free days for 2018 will be:

  • Park Service LogoJanuary 15 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • April 21 – First Day of National Park Week
  • September 22 – National Public Lands Day
  • November 11 – Veterans Day

“National parks connect all of us with our country’s amazing nature, culture and history,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Michael T. Reynolds. “The days that we designate as fee-free for national parks mark opportunities for the public to participate in service projects, enjoy ranger-led programs, or just spend time with family and friends exploring these diverse and special places. We hope that these fee-free days offer visitors an extra incentive to enjoy their national parks in 2018.”

Normally, 118 of the 417 national parks charge an entrance fee. The other 299 national parks do not have entrance fees. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

First Day Hikes

First Day Hikes LogoOnce again, state parks across the U.S. are sponsoring free, guided, First Day Hikes on January 1.  The idea is to encourage families to get outside on New Year’s Day to experience state parks and to begin burning off the excess calories of the holiday season.

First Day Hikes originated more than 25 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation – a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. Last year, more than 62,000 people took part in guided hikes that covered over 114,165 miles (183,730 km) on 1,300 different hikes across the country.

“America’s State Parks provide havens for young and old alike to discover the tranquility and beauty of nature through outdoor recreation,” National Association of State Park Directors Executive Director, Lewis Ledford said. “Hiking offers inspiring ways to improve your physical and mental health, while exploring beautiful public lands in every state.”

It’s now time to plan your adventure!  America’s State Parks offers a website with more information and a map that links to planned hikes nation-wide.

Mining on the Grand Canyon Rim

Environmental groups and Native American tribes fighting uranium mining on the rim of the Grand Canyon are praising a federal court’s decision on Tuesday to uphold a 20-year ban on new mines, while acknowledging that the area still is at great risk.  A panel of judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban, which was designed to protect the air and watershed from mining waste pollution. However, Roger Clark, executive program director for the Grand Canyon Trust, says the decision isn’t all good news.

Grand Canyon“The court upheld the secretary’s authority to order the withdrawal, but it also leaves the withdrawal vulnerable for being overturned through the authority of the current secretary,” he points out.  The Trump administration has indicated a willingness to lift the ban, which covers more than 1 million acres on the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon, but environmental groups have vowed to challenge any such move.

Meanwhile also Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals held a hearing on the issue, where opponents of the ban testified that uranium is a critical strategic resource that should be mined in the U.S. to reduce dependence on foreign producers.

Carletta Tilousi, a member of the Havasupai Tribal Council, says her people have been fighting uranium mining on public lands near her ancestral home in the canyon since the 1980s.  She adds that she thinks unexplained cancers and miscarriages in her community may be linked to pollution from existing mines.  “Right above the Redwall Muav aquifer on the south rim are thousands of uranium claims waiting for exploratory drilling,” she points out. “We fear uranium contamination will not only poison my family, my tribe and myself but also millions of people that are living downstream.”

The court also ruled Tuesday that the existing Canyon Mine, which sits six miles south of the national park in the Kaibab National Forest, can start operations without updating its environmental review, which was done in 1986.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – AZ

Grand Staircase Escalante Act

Yesterday, the House Natural Resources’ federal lands subcommittee held a hearing on H.R. 4558 a proposal from Utah’s Representative Chris Stewart.   The “Grand Staircase Escalante Enhancement Act” would create Utah’s sixth national park, the Escalante Canyons National Park. This legislation also transfers “Hole in the Rock Road,” a historically important Mormon pioneer trail, to the state of Utah. H.R. 4558 also creates a management council comprised of local officials to draft and oversee a management plan for the new monuments and National Park. Finally, this bill would create three new separate and distinct national monuments; Grand Staircase, Escalante Canyons, and Kaiparowits. It put’s the President’s recent modifications of the monument into law and add the National Park.

Testifying were:

  • Former Utah Governor, Mike Leavitt,Grand Staircase
  • Garfield County Commissioner, Leland Pollock,
  • Outdoor goods buyer for Willow Canyon Outdoor (Kanab, UT), Susan Hand, and
  • Managing Director of Utah Office of Tourism, Film and Global Branding, Vicki Varela

Much of the hearing focussed on the history of the original monument designation by President Clinton and how some hearing participants saw it as inappropriate.

Mr. Pollock testified in favor of the bill saying that creating the monument led to a loss of residents that dropped school attendance by two-thirds.  He noted that the county is the best place in the world,  but visitors won’t come here to see sagebrush.  He suggested that the county needed resource development like grazing and mineral mining to be properly managed.

Ms Hand testified in opposition to the bill describing how her family moved to the area with the dream of growing their business.  Upon designation of the monument,  she testified that she had seen positive benefits including new hotels, with another now under construction, a new bakery and other evidence of an improving economy.  She said the the designation led to increased visitation, property values and incomes.  Transient room taxes have been increasing – 24% so far this year.  She noted that while grazing is an important historic use of the land,  it is marginal economically and requires subsidies to exist.

Ms Varela testified in support of the bill and the permanent designation of the National Park.  She said that National Park designation would attract more tourists and some would bring their businesses to the area, thus contributing greatly to the area’s economy.  Tourism is promoted in the area only in a limited way because the current BLM management and lack of facilities makes the monument unsafe for many visitors.  She added that the National Parks are severely under-funded and that funding must be restored.  She added that investing for visitation is a path to enhancing the area’s economy.

Spirit of the Mountain

On Wednesday, Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jennifer Flynn announced the release of “The Spirit of the Mountain,” a new web-based interactive curriculum designed to tell the complex story of the Park’s establishment and its effect on the local region.

Spirit of the Mountain“We are excited to offer this additional method for the public to understand the complex story of the Park’s establishment and to present this content in way that allows teachers across the country to use our story to teach important concepts in their Social Studies classes,” said Flynn. The curriculum aligns with state and national standards for history, government, civics, economics, and geography for middle and high school students. The program is also appropriate for the general public and will be used in a variety of Park programs.

The launch is the culmination of a two-year project led by the Park’s education division and largely shaped by local government teachers, Ginny Browne of Page County High School in Shenandoah, Virginia, and Kim Dean of East Rockingham High School in Elkton, Virginia. Dean brought a special perspective to the project; she is a descendent of several residents of the area that became Shenandoah National Park who were displaced by its creation. Dean captured her feelings about the impact she hopes the program she helped create will have: “The establishment of the Park, with all its accomplishments and heartaches is a story influenced by time and place. Through this program, we can better understand the perspectives, opinions, and motivations of all those who influenced and were impacted. We cannot ignore the spirit of those who once called the majestic Blue Ridge home. We cannot change the past; however, we must embrace history and move forward on the common ground we share.”

“The Spirit of the Mountain” was funded through fee revenue and donations to The Shenandoah National Park Trust. It includes numerous historic photos, primary documents, and video oral histories of displaced residents and descendants. The development team, including Browne and Dean, has conducted teacher workshops in Page and Rockingham counties, and teachers in those systems are already using the program in their classrooms. Schools that are interested in scheduling a workshop should contact the Park’s education department. “The Spirit of the Mountain” is the third web-based interactive in the Park’s cultural history series.  www.nps.gov/…/educ…/learning/spiritofthemountain.htm

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Video of the Week

Alabama has been in the forefront of the news this week.  Unlike the strange goings-on in the political world, Alabama offers some great outdoor adventures.  In this week’s video we meet Evan again.  This time he leads us on a hike in the Sipsey Wilderness on the Bankhead National Forest.  Enjoy!

This newsletter is compiled by Jerry Haugen and brought to you by
Global Creations EXPLORE!  The eMagazine for Adventure and Exploration

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