Outdoor News January 12, 2018 - Explore! Outdoor News January 12, 2018 - Explore!

Outdoor News January 12, 2018

Bundy Case Riles Public Land Users

Supporters of Nevada's public lands say they're outraged that a judge declared a mistrial, freeing rancher Cliven Bundy this week. Bundy was accused of ordering an armed standoff in 2014 against federal agents sent to remove his cattle from federal land after he defaulted on millions in grazing fees. Two of his sons also beat charges related to the armed seizure of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon that turned violent. 

Gold Butte National MonumentMaria-Teresa Liebermann, deputy director at Battle Born Progress, said this only emboldens those who break the law and threaten public lands.  "Twice they have decided to attack our federal public lands, attack the folks that are simply trying to do their job to protect them, and they got off scott free,” Liebermann said. “And it's not right. They're domestic terrorists, and they should have been held accountable."

The judge said prosecutors unlawfully withheld evidence of snipers and surveillance around the Bundy property. Cliven Bundy, who spent 700 days behind bars and cannot be retried, said he is innocent and thinks the federal government should have no jurisdiction over the land where he grazes his cattle. 

The Bundy ranch, about an hour outside Las Vegas, sits on the road that leads visitors to Gold Butte National Monument. Rudy Zamora is the director at Chispa Nevada, a program of the League of Conservation Voters. He said there was a big drop in visitation during and after the standoff. And he worries that once again, people won't feel safe. "If they were pointing guns at those federal agents back when the takeover happened, what doesn't guarantee us that they're not going to do that to everyday folks that are visiting the site,” Zamora said.

Two years ago, the Nevada state Senate approved a nonbinding resolution supporting the transfer of federal public land to the state. Then the Republicans lost their majority and the idea lost traction. In 2017, Congressman Mark Amodei backed off of a proposal to transfer more than 7 million acres of federal land to the state.

Story by: Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – NV

Volcanoes National Park Grows

On Wednesday, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) received a property that will help increase the size of Africa’s oldest park – Volcanoes National Park. Established in 1925, the park is home to mountain gorillas, the world’s most endangered ape, and is situated in the north of Rwanda bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

Mountain Gorilla by Craig SholleyMountain gorillas are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are only found in the Virunga Massif and in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda). They represent one of the four great apes that live in Africa and are the only great ape increasing in population. Their recovery amid ecological pressures is extraordinary, and the Government of Rwanda has distinguished itself as a leader in conservation.

According to the 2010 census of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Massif, there were an estimated 880 individuals: 480 in the Virunga Massif and 400 in Bwindi. This represents an increase of 26.3 percent over the previous seven years or an average growth rate of 3.7 percent per annum.

However, the increase in mountain gorillas has led to a key challenge: adequate habitat. In 2017, African Wildlife Foundation purchased a 69 acre property directly adjacent to the park. The public handover of the property to the Government of Rwanda aims to help tackle this challenge.

“Today’s donation to Volcanoes National Park is a major step in the consolidation of Rwanda’s conservation gains for the benefit of communities today and future generations. Through gorilla conservation and tourism, we are directly benefitting from these wonderful animals,” said Clare Akamanzi, RDB Chief Executive Officer.

She said mountain gorillas and Volcanoes National Park are an economic engine for the country, supporting social and community development, infrastructure, and other important protected areas in Rwanda.

“Last year over USD 600,000 was distributed by RDB to more than 158 community-based projects through the Rwanda Revenue Share Program. This support will increase this year following the Government’s decision in 2017, to increase the Revenue Share Program from 5 percent to 10 percent of all tourism revenues. In addition, in partnership with fellow conservationists, over 700 community-based projects providing housing, schools, health clinics, and water tanks have been provided for the communities living in the 12 sectors and four districts surrounding Volcanoes National Park,” she added.

In 2016, Volcanoes National Park generated USD 16.4 million from park entry fees, supporting employment, community engagement and empowerment, livelihood development, social services, and infrastructure development. Visitor numbers have increased 82 percent since 2007, proving that there is an increasing demand to view mountain gorillas. Ensuring the park is viable in the long term is a priority for the Government of Rwanda.

AWF President Kaddu Sebunya said:  “I am excited by the great strides Rwanda is taking to develop its natural heritage sustainably, and guarantee long-term socio-economic stability for its people. Through proactive government policies, community involvement, and open governance, Rwanda is demonstrating that development and conservation are not mutually exclusive. Such a win-win approach to conservation suggests that there is nothing inevitable about conservation challenges in Africa today.  With support from the Annenberg Foundation, AWF bought 27.8 hectares of land directly adjacent to the park to donate to the Government of Rwanda to be incorporated into Volcanoes National Park. AWF recognizes that if mountain gorillas are going to survive in the long term, this park must be strategically protected, and we are committed to supporting RDB in this endeavor.”


Midcoast Conservancy Acquires Land

On Monday, Midcoast Conservancy announced the permanent protection of one of the largest and most important parcels of land in the Midcoast of Maine. The property is land on which Hidden Valley Nature Center (HVNC) operates, almost 1,000 acres with over a mile of frontage on the Egypt Road in Jefferson, Maine.

Jody Jones, Midcoast Conservancy’s Executive Director, says, “This acquisition boldly confirms the driving force behind the merger in 2016 of four conservation organizations to form Midcoast Conservancy. A key aim of the merger was to enable large scale protection of land. The Hidden Valley Nature Center property is the largest single land conservation project ever completed by the organization or any of its four founding organizations. And it has been done in record time.”

Hidden Valley nature CenterBecause of its size and proximity to over 3000 acres of other permanently protected lands, it offers excellent habitat for native plants and animals including wildlife that require large areas, such as moose, coyotes, pileated woodpeckers, hawks, and migratory songbirds. Permanent protection will also ensure high water quality by providing buffers from contaminants contained in runoff flowing into Little Dyer Pond and its streams.

“From a community perspective,” adds Andy Bezon, Director of Community Programs, “the Hidden Valley Nature Center property has become a magnet for people of all ages who come to enjoy 25 miles of trails open to the public, sunrise to sunset.”  Keri Lupien, long-time user of the property agrees. “HVNC has been a part of our family for many years- we’ve enjoyed many hikes, runs, skis, overnights, and moments of peaceful solitude in the beauty of nature there. We’re so happy that this wonderful gift, right in the backyards of so many people here in the Midcoast, will be preserved for many more generations to come.”

Hidden Valley trails are open for hiking, trail running, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and mountain biking.  Over 15 miles of trail are groomed for cross country skiing, and community members and skilled experts lead ongoing clinics and classes focused on outdoor skill development and natural history exploration.  The property’s waterways are open for canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and fishing. Four rustic huts and two yurts at HVNC are available for overnight stays year-round.

The purchase was made possible by a grant of $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; generous contributions from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation and Jane’s Trust; and numerous private donors, including all of Midcoast Conservancy’s board members. The U.S.D. A.’s Forest Service ranked Midcoast Conservancy’s proposal as one of the top three in the nation last year. The fact that HVNC practices exemplary sustainable forestry, promotes wildlife habitat improvement, provides local jobs working in the woods, and has active outdoor recreation was part of what made the proposal so successful.

Outdoor Industry Invites Zinke

Dear Secretary Zinke,

For 50 years, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act has been one of the strongest tools available to protect outstanding, free-flowing rivers. Since its passage, local communities across the United States have used this vital tool to safeguard more than 12,000 miles of free-flowing Wild and Scenic Rivers and 3 million acres of riverside land. Even with this strong effort, less than one percent of America’s rivers remain wild and free from dams and development.

Secretary of Interior ZinkeWhen President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, he said: “Every individual and every family should get to know at least one river.” We couldn’t agree more. Wild rivers, like our public lands, are owned and enjoyed by every American.

We are a country built on the bedrock of our public lands and waters and we are alarmed and distressed by the actions taken by the current administration in recent months that roll back existing protections for the places we treasure. These wild places embody the spirit of adventure and freedom that beats in the heart of every American. At a time when more Americans than ever are visiting our public landscapes, and at a time when outdoor recreation generates $887 billion annually, supporting 7.6 million jobs, we need to be doing more — not less — to save these special lands and waters. River-related recreation alone contributes more than $97 billion annually to the U.S. economy each year and our community is one of the fastest growing sectors in the outdoor industry.

On October 2nd, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. In order to further our own commitment to the preservation of wild rivers, we have joined forces with several of our outdoor industry and conservation partners to launch 5,000 Miles of Wild℠ — an effort to protect 5,000 new miles of Wild and Scenic rivers in the next five years and share the stories of America’s rivers and the people who love them — everyone from whitewater boaters, to anglers and hikers, to veterans and families seeking nature beyond their backyards.

Wild and Scenic River LogoAdditionally, we are opening up the great outdoors to kids around the country by getting at least 500 underserved youth out on guided river trips in 2018 — free of charge. Our goal, of course, is to help create and extend the personal connections that people of all ages feel for their wild rivers. Everyone’s story is unique, and if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that the best way to get to know a river is by experiencing it for yourself. We firmly believe that once you know a river, you become a vital advocate for these precious waterways.

Your home state of Montana was where the idea for the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was hatched to protect the Middle Fork of the Flathead River from a dam. Whether it’s the Flathead or the Upper Missouri Breaks, Montana is a state defined by its incredible rivers and the deep cultural connection Montanans feel for them. We appreciate your championing the East Rosebud Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in the 114th Congress.

In 2018, we invite you to join OARS on a multi-day river expedition — down a Wild and Scenic River. Think of it as a time to connect with your family on an unplugged adventure, or to get away with your team to build camaraderie and strategize about how best to protect rivers. We would love to hear your river story, and share ours with you. We’d be grateful for an opportunity to discuss what the next 50 years for Wild and Scenic Rivers looks like.

Please join us in celebrating the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. We need your voice in support of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System as a critical model for balancing development interests with the clear mandate to ensure that certain special places are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations of Americans.    

We hope to see you on the river.


OARS – Tyler and Clavey Wendt, Brothers and Co-owners | Angels Camp, California
YETI – Joe Koehly, Outdoor Marketing Manager | Austin, Texas
NRS – Bryan Dingel, CEO | Moscow, Idaho
Chaco – Seth Cobb, President | Grand Rapids, Michigan
Chums – Colleen Gilligan, Marketing Director | Salt Lake City, Utah

New Deputy at Park Service

On Tuesday, the Department of the Interior announced Paul Daniel (Dan) Smith as a new Deputy Director of the National Park Service (NPS). Smith brings nearly four decades of public service experience, including serving as superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia.

As Deputy Director, Smith will have a crucial role in leading more than 20,000 National Park Service employees who care for America's 417 national parks and NPS programs that help communities across the nation preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.

Daniel Smith“Dan has a strong record of leadership in the National Park Service both in Washington and on the front lines as a superintendent of a park that tells the stories of some of the most consequential moments in American history,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “I can think of no one better equipped to help lead our efforts to ensure that the National Park Service is on firm footing to preserve and protect the most spectacular places in the United States for future generations.”

“It is an honor and a privilege to return to Washington D.C., with the invaluable perspective from the field that I gained during my time as Superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park,” said Smith.

Smith served as superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park from 2004 to 2015, where he managed a 23-mile parkway and three historic sites including the first permanent British colony in America at Jamestown and the site of the 1781 Revolutionary War victory of General George Washington over British General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. During his tenure at the park Smith oversaw the completion of a new visitor center and a new research center at Jamestown in preparation for the 400th anniversary commemoration of the settlement in 2007.

Smith’s other assignments in the National Park Service include serving as Special Assistant to the National Park Service Director and Assistant Director of Legislative and Congressional Affairs. He also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior, where he was responsible for the multi-billion dollar budgets and programs of the National Park Service and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in coordination with congressional representatives, state and local governments, and other important partners. Smith worked at the General Services Administration for ten years.

C&O Canal Lock 28For the most part Smith's career was unblemished, until 2004.  That year the Park Service improperly allowed the removal of trees from a scenic easement along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park and Smith was involved.  According to a report from the Department of Interior's Inspector General dated January 19, 2006, "Our investigation determined that the NPS failed to follow any of its established policies and procedures outlined in the NPS Director's Handbook and even disregarded the recommendations of their own Horticulture Advisory and Review Committee regarding the process in which a property owner on a NPS scenic easement can cut vegetation above the allowable limit."

The report goes on to say: "Our investigation also revealed that the unprecedented decision to allow Mr. Snyder to cut on the easement resulted from the undue influence of P. Daniel Smith.  Smith inappropriately used hs position to apply pressure and circumvent NPS procedures, on Mr. Snyder's behalf, through his personal communications with park officials and Mr. Snyder and his representatives."

To make matters worse,  Smith lied in telling investigators that NPS Director Fran Mainella asked him to step into the matter.  "Also, OIG agents found Smith contradicted himself during his two, separate interviews."  The U.S. Attorney's office declined to criminally prosecute Smith for providing false statements even though Mainella and several other witnesses told the OIG that they were false.  The Inspector General sent the report to the Park Service, so the agency could take administrative action against Smith – no action was taken.

Photo of Lock 28 on the C&O Canal by Brian M. Powell.


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Video of the Week

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is home to the mountain gorilla.  Visits to the gorillas are limited by the cost of the permit that is required, so it's a bit expensive.  Nonetheless,  there are several tour companies that will be happy to take you into the park to get up close to the gorillas.  This week's video takes you on one of those tours.  Enjoy!

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