Fatal Single Vehicle Rollover in GTNP

October 27, 2009

A 55-year-old man from Freedom, Idaho died this morning,
October 27, when he apparently lost control of his Chevy truck on icy conditions and slid off an embankment on Highway 26/89/191 just south of the Gros Ventre Bridge in Grand Teton National Park. After rolling over, the vehicle came to rest about 40 yards from the roadway. The single-occupant driver was ejected from his vehicle. It did not appear that he was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.

Other motorists witnessed the accident and called 911 for help. The Teton County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers then notified Teton Interagency Dispatch Center of the accident at 8:30 a.m. A member of Jackson Hole Fire/EMS arrived on the scene and park rangers, along with park emergency medical technicians, immediately responded from park headquarters at Moose. Although a passerby had initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), those efforts were terminated due to the fatal nature of injuries. Park medics confirmed that the gentleman was deceased.

Rangers believe that the gentleman was driving southbound on Highway 89 when he encountered black ice near the Gros Ventre Bridge. His vehicle crossed the northbound lane and came to rest on the east side of the highway, after rolling over.

A German shepherd dog riding in the truck with the man was taken to Spring Creek Animal Hospital for evaluation of possible injuries. The dog was determined to be in good condition.

Parks Forge International Ties through Trails

Los Glaciares NP employee Ari Aieta
Argentinean park employees Ari Aieta & “Juanjo” Landucci
with Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott, Max Ludington (L) &
Grand Teton's trail supervisor Brian Bergsma (R)
October 26, 2009
From August through September, employees from Argentina’s Parque Nacional Los Glaciares worked alongside Grand Teton National Park’s trail crews and other park employees as part of a new, innovative agreement. Two international volunteers, Aristides Aieta and Juan Jose “Juanjo” Landucci, traveled to Grand Teton to expand their knowledge of trail maintenance and park management as part of a cooperative partnership between the two parks. A UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Austral Andes near the border with Chile, Los Glaciares is similar to Grand Teton in that it is a mountainous park containing rugged granite peaks, glacially-carved valleys, and a history of ranching. In 2008, the two national parks developed a “sister park” agreement, authorizing a five-year program of technical exchange and cooperation with the goal of sharing expertise to build excellence in national park management for both agencies—the National Park Service and Argentine Administracion de Parques Nacionales.

The unique partnership between Grand Teton and Los Glaciares began in October 2004 when Los Glaciares served as the host site for an International Conference on Sustainability. Park Service employees attending the conference learned that the Argentinean park needed assistance to address severe impacts to its trail system and backcountry campsites. In March 2008, local resident and climbing guide Rolando Garibotti received funding from the American Alpine Club, via a grant received from Patagonia, Inc., making it possible for several Grand Teton employees to travel to Los Glaciares to share their professional expertise and guidance. The Grand Teton team helped to create a four-year work plan to address extensive erosion on numerous user-created trails, resulting from the impacts of stock animals, visitors (mainly climbers), water, and wind: conditions compounded by the loose morainal and glacial soils common throughout the park. Their recommended improvements, including relocation and rehabilitation of poorly located trails and campsites, were designed to mitigate the adverse impacts to resources and enhance visitors’ experiences in the South American park.

This winter, a Grand Teton trail supervisor and other staff will make a third trip to Los Glaciares with direction and assistance provided by project coordinator Garibotti. The budding partnership has become an educational and beneficial endeavor for all of the participants—on both continents.

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott cordially welcomed the Argentinean volunteers and looks forward to continuing a productive program between the two “sister” parks. “This international partnership is a wonderful outreach effort, allowing us to assist and educate a park with similar topography and management issues,” said Superintendent Scott. “The program also provides a valuable opportunity for Grand Teton’s staff to learn from our counterparts in Argentina about their particular management challenges and resource impacts. The lessons we learn from one another will improve park operations in these separate, but similar, parts of the world.”

New Winter Use Plan for Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway

October 15, 2009

A new plan to provide for limited, regulated snowmobile access in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway has been approved. This decision provides long-term direction for winter use management for these park units.

An environmental assessment (EA) and proposed rule were released for public review last fall. Comments received have been reviewed, and a Finding of No Significant Impact has been signed. It is available online at http://www.nps.gov/grte/parkmgmt/planning.htm and http://parkplanning.nps.gov/.

Twenty-five snowmobiles per day, with no best available technology (BAT) or guiding requirement, will be allowed to travel on the Grassy Lake Road to provide access to the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. On Jackson Lake, an initial daily limit of 25 BAT snowmobiles will provide access to ice fishing opportunities for persons possessing appropriate fishing gear and a valid State of Wyoming fishing license. The limit may be increased to 40 snowmobiles per day if monitoring of park resources indicates acceptable conditions. Grooming and motorized oversnow travel on the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail between Moran Junction and Flagg Ranch will be discontinued.

For Yellowstone, the plan is temporary and would be effective for the next two winters. The Yellowstone plan allows up to 318 commercially guided, BAT snowmobiles, and up to 78 commercially guided snowcoaches in a day for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 winter seasons. It also continues to provide for motorized oversnow travel over Sylvan Pass and the East Entrance road. During the next two years, the National Park Service will prepare a new Environmental Impact Statement and a new long term plan for winter use in Yellowstone National Park.

Rules to implement the decision will be published in the coming weeks in the Federal Register, to allow the parks to open for the winter season as scheduled on December 15, 2009.

Before operating a snowmobile in Grand Teton National Park, visitors should review current snowmobile regulations and approved BAT machines online at http://www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/current_batlist.htm or stop at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming.

Elk Reduction Program to Begin in Grand Teton

Bull elk with "harem" of cow elk during fall rut

October 2, 2009
The annual elk reduction program in Grand Teton National Park will begin on Saturday, October 10, 2009. Under its 1950 enabling legislation, Grand Teton is mandated by federal law to conduct an elk reduction program — when necessary — for the conservation of the elk population in Jackson Hole. Because the elk herd is above its management objective of 11,000 animals, intensive management (including the reduction program) is warranted.

The elk reduction program utilizes Wyoming-licensed hunters that apply for and receive limited quota permits in hunt areas #75 and #79. As provided in the 1950 legislation, a park permit temporarily deputizes the hunters as park rangers, giving them the authority to take one elk. Permits are for either cow/calf elk, or for any elk. A map showing specific park locations open to hunters participating in the elk reduction program is available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming.

As a part of their special use permit—and as an added safety measure—each participant receives a strong, proactive message alerting them to the presence of grizzly bears throughout the authorized hunt zones. In addition, hunters are required to carry bear pepper spray as a non-lethal deterrent for use during potential bear encounters. Hunters are also advised not to leave a carcass unattended and to remove their harvested elk as soon as possible. Each fall, park rangers strictly monitor and patrol the elk reduction areas located within the park to ensure compliance with rules and regulations associated with this wildlife management program.

The recent killing of grizzly bear #615 by a hunter in the Ditch Creek area east of Grand Teton makes a compelling case for hunters to carry bear spray and be alert while in the field. Scientific studies indicate that bear spray is more effective than bullets in defusing a potentially life-threatening bear-human encounter; bear spray provides more effective protection for the hunter as well as the bear. Based on his extensive research, bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero has concluded that the chances of a person incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly bear significantly increases when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used as a defense.

Bears and other scavengers throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) have learned to seek out and feed on gut piles and other hunter-related carrion during the fall season. This represents an important, highly nutritious food source to these animals, and it can create circumstances when bears aggressively defend carcasses and gut piles. Hunters and other park visitors should keep in mind that dozens of grizzlies use the park regularly and may be encountered anywhere and anytime. All necessary precautions for recreating in bear country need to be strictly followed, particularly those that apply to hunters.

The Conservation Strategy for Grizzly Bears in the GYE guides the continuing efforts by land and wildlife managers to conserve bear habitat and minimize bear-human conflicts through education and compliance with appropriate regulations, including those related to keeping a safe distance when viewing bears. To ensure a healthy grizzly bear population, every effort is made to educate park visitors, concessioner employees, local residents and hunters about living and recreating responsibly in bear country.

Rangers will continue to monitor park wildlife and educate all users about their personal responsibility for maintaining a safe environment—for their own health, as well as for the welfare of the animals.