Friday, September 19, 2008

The Joy of Hiking

The sovereign quality of wilderness is the same wherever encountered... Each manifestation has an unshackled quality—each stirs untapped longings—each gives a fillip to living—each has an unsurpassed lilt which bursts from the deepest wellsprings of life. These are the realities found in the wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains.
—Harvey Broome
Out Under the Sky of the Great Smokies

As he tramped around the backcountry of the Great Smoky Mountains, Harvey Broome kept a journal of his discoveries and impressions. He published much of it as a source of inspiration for those who visit the Park for many of the same reasons. The Great Smokies are indeed magnificent—the Park and surrounding areas comprise the most biologically diverse region in North America. The mountains provide abundant challenges and adventure to the backcountry traveler, and nurtures the soul as well.

The Great Smokey Mountains are a popular destination for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, many of whom are seeking a "wilderness experience." The visual impacts from so many people are often dramatic, but perhaps more importantly, we are jeopardizing the quality of water, soils and wildlife habitat, as well as our opportunities for solitude and open access to wildlands.

Using "Leave No Trace" principles will insure generations of hikers the same enjoyment we expect to find today as we hike the winding trails of our precious backcountry.
Two of the most important principles would be: "Pack It In, Pack It Out" and " Build Fires Rarely and Carefully."

Travel lightly and Keep Smilin’

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

'Blitz' to test water at hundreds of locations in Rocky Mountain National Park

by Bill Scanlon
Bears will puzzle over what's going on in their park Tuesday when dozens of researchers and trained volunteers dip flasks into streams, lakes and wetlands on both sides of the Continental Divide.
The great Water Blitz isn't the latest ride at Water World, but an ambitious one-day odyssey to test water at hundreds of different locations at Rocky Mountain National Park.
"It's one of the first efforts of this kind on such a scale in the world," Judy Visty, research administrator at RMNP, said.
The idea is to circumvent the kind of problem researchers face when they test one stream on a sunny day, another the next day after a rain, a third the following day when the algae are photosynthesizing to beat the band.
This "snapshot in time" will capture the state of the water throughout the park and help scientists understand where extra nutrients are harming the ecosystem.
"The park is a natural lab, more pristine than the surrounding area," yet affected by fertilizers and pollution from the rest of Colorado, Visty said.
They're hoping to find some patterns that could explain why the massive beetle kill of lodgepole pines and other trees is so much larger than in past infestations.
As the lodgepole pines go, so do the sapsuckers and other birds that feed on their bounty.
Scientists want to learn more about the species of algae that have proliferated in lakes, multiplying ever since the 1950s with the explosion of nitrogen-based fertilizers.
"If we have nitrogen pollution arriving with precipitation, is it worse in some places than others?" Visty said. "How does it show up in the streams? We know it collects in precipitation, but what actually happens when it goes into the water?"
Researchers will be in charge of the veteran volunteers who, for this project, got hour-long training in water-sample-collection techniques.
"This is a citizen science project," Visty said. "It shows how citizens can make really tremendous contributions. Many pairs of helping hands allow scientists to investigate on a scale he or she could never dream of doing alone."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Keep guns stowed in national parks

The Amazon Outdoor Store
Firearm regulations formulated during the Reagan era should be retained because they help keep visitors to America's national parks safe and protect wild animals from poachers.
The rules are simple enough: Rifles and handguns must be unloaded and stowed away in national parks. For 25 years these straightforward regulations have been administered by the National Park Service without notable controversy.An effort in the U.S. Senate to undo the rules failed, so senators wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne asking him to do it through the regulatory process. He answered in late February to say he had directed an assistant secretary to develop and propose new regulations by April 30.
The scent of an election issue makes the nose twitch, the way honey attracts a bear. The National Rifle Association has prodded the Bush administration to change the rules, and here is a classic topic to turn out a base of voters. Karl Rove lives.
No one is safe — humans or wildlife — with this proposed revision. Law-abiding citizens are not looking for another camper to deputize himself as an armed citizen peacekeeper. Liquor, guns and campgrounds — now there is a volatile combination.
Park rangers already have their hands full trying to thwart poaching on federal lands. The idea of a rifle-toting hiker in the backcountry of the national park only fuels confusion about intent.
The proposal being pitched to Kempthorne by the senators — and one that apparently resonated — is to match federal rules to the firearm regulations of the states where the parks are located. Resist temptation to invent a compromise. Unload and stow the weapons while on federal parkland.
The petitioning senators acknowledged the origins of the 1983 rules were very clear: "We certainly understand that these regulations were implemented in order to stop poaching and to enhance public safety."
Exactly, and that imperative is undiminished by the need for a campaign issue.