Outdoor News January 26, 2018 - Explore! Outdoor News January 26, 2018 - Explore!

Outdoor News January 26, 2018

Vets Want Public Lands

Twelve hundred veterans are asking for better protection of national monuments and other public lands.  The vets have signed a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to "maintain the boundaries and protections" of public lands currently under review. Here is their letter:

Dear Mr. President:

We are men and women who have risked our lives to protect this nation, its people, and the values we all hold dear. We have had the great honor to train, lead, and serve alongside many of our 21.8 million fellow veterans who call this country home. Now, we respectfully call on you, our commander-in-chief, to protect the public lands and traditions for which we fought, specifically by maintaining the boundaries and protections of the national monuments currently under Secretary Zinke’s review, pursuant to your 26, April, 2017 Executive Order, “Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act.”

Vietnam MemorialAs you know, many of us who serve face profoundly personal challenges when we come home. Access to quiet and pristine landscapes such as Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is invaluable as we strive to leave the battlefield behind and train our eyes forward. These protected public lands, including our national monuments, offer a chance to heal from the stresses of service, reconnect with family and friends, and reintegrate into civilian life. Moreover, many such public lands protect key, historic military sites, preserving the legacies of those who served before us.

Along with our brothers and sisters in arms, we have dedicated our lives to the protection of this great nation. It is only right that we continue our service as advocates for and stewards of its public lands so that we, our fellow Americans, and visitors from around the world can experience the beauty, history, grandeur, and culture of our great country. The value of our public lands has been woven into the songs and stories of our nation since its founding, and we need your help to do our duty to preserve that greatness in honor of all who came before us and for the benefit of all who will come after.

As commander-in-chief, we ask that you ensure that all Americans, including veterans, continue to have opportunities to find solitude, hunt, recreate, and bond with their families on our protected public lands, including all of the national monuments currently under review. Generations to come will thank you for your wisdom in this moment. If you have interest in discussing further, we would be honored to meet with you or members of your staff to discuss our position in person.

Very Respectfully,
Too Many names to list here.

Reynolds to Lead Yosemite

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that he has selected Michael T. (Mike) Reynolds to be the superintendent of Yosemite National Park in California. Reynolds has been acting National Park Service director since January 3, 2017. 
Mike Reynolds, National Park ServiceReynolds, a 31-year NPS veteran and a third-generation NPS employee, grew up in Yosemite and later returned to the park as a resource manager, planner and division chief. Reynolds has served as the deputy director for operations of the NPS since 2016, and spent the majority of his tenure serving as NPS acting director. As Yosemite National Park superintendent he will oversee one of the nation’s oldest and most iconic national parks.
“Mike did an incredible job stewarding our parks through 2017,” said Secretary Zinke. “His leadership helping me combat sexual harassment and discrimination in the service as well as his big-thinking ideas to address the maintenance backlog is very much appreciated. I have all the trust in the world that Mike will bring his years of experience in field and in management to Yosemite."
“When I think about my family’s history in Yosemite, this feels like coming home—it’s an incredible honor that I take very seriously,” said Reynolds. “Times have changed since my grandparents served as 40-year concession employees in the park. However, we should still provide world-class service and experience to visitors in ways that sustain Yosemite into the next century. My focus will be on that, and on supporting our employees, repairing infrastructure and working closely with the communities and people around and associated with the park.”
Reynolds will begin his assignment at Yosemite National Park in early March. Located in the heart of the Sierra Nevada in California, parts of Yosemite National Park were first protected in 1864 through legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln. Yosemite was established as a national park in 1890. Today the park covers more than 750,000 acres, and is home to granite peaks, domes and waterfalls that overlook broad meadows, wildflowers and groves of ancient giant sequoias. The park receives millions of visitors each year who are served by 1,200 NPS employees during summer months in addition to 1,700 hospitality employees who work at park lodges, restaurants and provide recreational activities such as skiing and horseback riding.

Continental Divide Wilderness

A new bill introduced in both houses of Congress on Wednesday would further protect close to 100,000 acres of the White River National Forest in Summit and Eagle counties, Colorado. 

The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Act would create three new wilderness areas for the Tenmile Range, Hoosier Ridge and the Williams Fork Mountains. Josh Lautenberg, who owns a real estate company in Vail, said it's important to preserve the character of the area.

"What people love about Colorado is the open space,” Lautenberg said. “The majority of people that move to this area predominantly move because of the lifestyle, and beautiful lands and skiing and outdoor sports and activities. And all that, of course, depends on keeping our lands wild and beautiful."

Fletcher Group of the Tenmile Range by Wayne The bill also would establish the country's first-ever National Historic Landscape in the area surrounding Camp Hale, where the Famed Tenth Mountain Division trained in World War II. It would also add acreage to the Eagle's Nest, Holy Cross and Ptarmigan Peak wilderness areas. 

Opponents say they worry the designations could stifle some kinds of commercial development. The bill was timed to coincide with the opening of the Outdoor Retailer and Snow Show, which moved to Denver after many years in Salt Lake City, because of anti-public land sentiment expressed by many lawmakers in Utah.

The bill's sponsors are Rep. Jared Polis and Sen. Michael Bennet, who have brought up similar bills in the past. Bennet said this bill was written with input from the people who know the land best.

"We heard directly from the communities that ski, hike, mountain bike and hunt on these lands,” Bennet said. “And they count on public lands to drive their economies."

The bill also would create a special management area and recreational management areas that protect access for mountain biking in the Tenmile Mountains. And it creates important wildlife corridors near Loveland Pass and in the Williams Fork Mountains.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Pew Cheritable Trust
Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – Co. Tenmile Range Photo By Wayne L. Bart [CC BY-SA 2.5] 

State of the Rockies Poll

Mountain West voters weighed in on the Trump administration’s priorities for managing the use and protection of public lands in a new Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, Conservation in the West Poll released yesterday.

The poll, now in its eighth year, surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states on some of the most pressing issues involving public lands and waters, including proposals to eliminate or alter national monuments.

Underpinning the importance Western voters place on protecting public lands, 93 percent of Westerners surveyed view the outdoor recreation economy as important for the economic future of their state. 81 percent view the presence of public lands and their state’s outdoor recreation lifestyle as an advantage in attracting good jobs and innovative companies. Western voters are more likely to identify as a conservationist today than two years ago, with significant increases in every Western state. 

Voter Conservationists

Overall, voter approval for President Donald Trump and his administration’s handling of issues related to land, water and wildlife sits at 38 percent, with 52 percent disapproving. The administration’s approval rating on the issue was below 50 percent in every state surveyed — ranging from 34 percent in Nevada and New Mexico to 47 percent in Utah — with the exception of Wyoming.

Asked where the Trump administration should place its emphasis between protection and development, 64 percent of respondents said they prefer protecting water, air and wildlife while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands. That is compared to 23 percent of respondents who said they prefer the administration prioritize domestic energy production by increasing the amount of national public lands available for responsible drilling and mining.

Westerners hold national monuments in especially high regard. Eighty-two percent described them as helping nearby economies, 86 percent as national treasures, 90 percent as important places to be conserved for future generations, 90 percent as places to learn about America’s history and heritage, and 95 percent as places they want their children to see someday. Twenty-four percent said national monuments hurt the local economy and 27 percent said they tie up too much land that could be put to other uses.

Majorities in every state—and 66 percent overall—view the recent Trump administration’s decision to remove existing protections and reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah by 2 million acres as a bad idea. In Utah voters are divided on the national monument changes in their state, with a slightly higher percentage of voters (49 percent) saying President Trump’s action was a bad idea than those saying it was a good idea (46 percent).

A Trump administration decision to alter or eliminate additional national monuments would be unpopular with 69 percent of respondents across the Mountain West. Locally, 70 percent of Nevadans view changes to Gold Butte National Monument as a bad idea and 68 of New Mexicans think the same of changes two national monuments in their state, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

“Over the eight-year history of the Conservation in the West Poll, a passion for the outdoors and strong support for American public lands have remained constant in the Mountain West,” said Dr. Walt Hecox, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Colorado College and founder of the State of the Rockies Project. “Nearly all of the people surveyed said they visited national public lands in the past year and plan to go to a national park in 2018. Public lands drive our economy and define our way of life. A leadership agenda that does not recognize that reality is going to be met with strong disapproval in the West.”

Specifically, several actions recently undertaken or currently under consideration by the Trump administration are unpopular with voters in the Mountain West:

  •  37 percent of respondents support [49 percent oppose] raising fees to enter some of the country’s largest national parks during peak season;
  •  32 percent of respondents support [50 percent oppose] privatizing the management of campgrounds, visitor centers and other services provided at national parks and other national public lands;
  •  29 percent of respondents support [59 percent oppose] expanding how much public land is available to private companies which pay for the ability to drill for oil and gas on public lands;
  •  26 percent of respondents support [60 percent oppose] expanding how much public land is available to private companies which pay for the ability to mine for uranium and other metals on public lands;
  •  18 percent of respondents support [70 percent oppose] allowing mining on public lands next to Grand Canyon National Park, a practice that is currently banned;
  •  27 percent of respondents support [64 percent oppose] changing current plans to protect habitat for threatened sage-grouse in Western states;
  •  and, conversely, 75 percent of respondents support [15 percent oppose] requiring oil and gas producers who operate on public lands to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas during the extraction process and reduce the need to burn off excess natural gas into the air – a regulation the Trump administration is seeking to overturn.

With the Outdoor Retailer and Snow Show beginning this week in Denver, after the Outdoor Industry Association ended its 20-year partnership with Salt Lake City as a result of Utah politicians’ hostility toward land conservation and U.S. public lands, the impact of the Trump administration’s recent actions on local outdoor economies is top of mind for the outdoor recreation business community.

“Protecting public lands is a bipartisan issue with constituents across the West agreeing that public lands and waters should remain open and accessible for all to enjoy,” said Travis Campbell, chairman of the board for the Outdoor Industry Association and President of Smartwool. “Unfortunately, the current administration’s actions are not lining up with voters’ desires. We need people from both sides of the aisle to express their dissatisfaction with their legislators and let their voices be heard.”

The poll showed strong support for cleaner forms of energy in the Mountain West. Respondents in six of the eight states surveyed pointed to solar as the source of energy that best represents the future of energy in their state. Wind was the top choice in Montana and Wyoming, and the second-ranked choice in four other states.

With record-low snowpack in parts of the West, the drought remained a top concern this year, as low levels of water in rivers and inadequate water supplies were identified as serious issues facing their state by 82 percent and 80 percent of respondents respectively. 78 percent of respondents prefer addressing the water shortage by using the current water supply more wisely through conservation, reduction and recycling rather than by diverting more waters from rivers in less populated places to communities where more people live. 75 percent of respondents in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah view the Colorado River as “at risk.”

This is the eighth consecutive year Colorado College has gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. Idaho was added to the survey for the first time this year. The 2018 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT & WY) for a total 3,200-person sample. The survey was conducted in late December 2017 and early January 2018 and has a margin of error of ±2.65 percent nationwide and ±4.9 percent statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website

SORP Going to Vermont

The Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP) will present the 2018 National Outdoor Recreation Conference on April 23-26, 2018, in Burlington, Vermont.

SORP LogoThe National Outdoor Recreation Conference showcases innovative approaches to outdoor recreation research, planning, and management, and organizers believe that Vermont provides an ideal location to see how investments in local conservation and outdoor recreation have contributed to a thriving economy and vibrant community. The theme of this year's conference is "Building Resilient Communities, Environments and Economies." 

"We are very pleased to host this exciting event in Vermont later this year," said Vermont Governor Phil Scott. "As we work to grow our economy, our outdoor recreational opportunities and natural resources are some of our top assets, which is why I've committed to growing our outdoor recreation economy. Hosting this conference will be a great opportunity to learn from leaders in this sector, and showcase all this state has to offer."

The Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) created by Governor Phil Scott in 2017 is working toward strengthening and expanding Vermont's outdoor recreation economy. The private-public VOREC steering committee is represented by state agencies, Vermont businesses and non-profits organizations including outdoor manufacturers, retailers, brand representatives, trail and user groups, conservation organizations, and state government. Its purpose is to identify and support initiatives that grow the outdoor recreation economy while increasing access and participation and improving the quality and stewardship of Vermont's recreational resources.

"As chair of the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative, I'm thrilled to welcome the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals to Vermont for this exciting event, especially given this year's conference theme," said Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder. "Here in Vermont, we believe that there are no healthy communities or healthy economies without a healthy environment, and we look forward to offering visitors a chance to experience our resilient natural settings, local outdoor culture, and world-class recreational opportunities."

"Outdoor recreation is a primary catalyst for tourism in Vermont, an industry that generates $2.6 billion each year in spending," said Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing Commissioner Wendy Knight. "The breadth of our outdoor recreational activities, accessibility to private-public sector trail networks, waterways, mountains and state parks, and good stewardship of our natural resources not only attract 13 million visitors to Vermont each year, they also provide a compelling reason for people to live in Vermont, and for others to relocate."

Registration for the 2018 National Outdoor recreation conference is now open, and early bird rates are available until March 31. A full program itinerary for this year's conference can be found on the National Outdoor Recreation Conference website.


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Video of the Week

German photographer Florian Nick spent six weeks exploring the scenic landscapes of British Columbia and Alberta in Canada.  Along the way he shot time-lapse sequences of the most fantastic scenery he could find, including some outstanding sequences of the northern lights.  This week's video is the result. As you watch the video, "Alive", note that time-lapse photography doesn't come with audio attached.  Julian Lindenmann, Nick's sound designer, masterfully combined ambient sounds with music that wraps around the video. Enjoy!

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