The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a safe haven for polar bears, caribou, wolves and millions of migratory birds — to name just a few of the species that depend on it. It’s one of the last places we should be drilling for oil and gas.
Drilling would exact a tremendous cost on this beautiful wilderness and the wildlife that call it home. It would also be a risky and expensive proposition for your company.
I’m calling on Chevron to pledge not to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a safe haven for polar bears, caribou, wolves and millions of migratory birds — to name just a few of the species that depend on it. It’s one of the last places we should be drilling for oil and gas.
Drilling would exact a tremendous cost on this beautiful wilderness and the wildlife that call it home. It would also be a risky and expensive proposition for your company.
I’m calling on Chevron to pledge not to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
From safety tips to packing advice, here’s everything you need to know about sleeping under the stars.
By Aryana Azari PUBLISHED July 31, 2020
Campers set up their tent at the base of the Cascade Mountains, in Oregon.Photograph by Chase Jarvis, Getty Images
Suddenly, camping is all the rage.
Just ask Ryan Fliss of The Dyrt, a popular camping trip planning website, who says that traffic to the site is up 400 percent from the summer of 2019. Kampgrounds of America (KOA) reportsthat 20 percent of its users are first-time campers. With many countries keeping their borders closed to Americans as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States, and social distancing remaining a priority, Americans yearning to get out of their homes for safe summer travels are discovering—or rediscovering—the joys of playing, eating, and sleeping in the outdoors.
If you’re new to camping—or usually prefer resort beds to sleeping bags—these tips will help ease you into close encounters with nature that will bring discovery, joy, and a sense of accomplishment. You might even see a shooting star.
Why it matters: Location—whether in a national park or recreation area—can make or break a camping trip. “As you add requirements, location gets more important. What I mean by that is if I have a family and a dog coming on the trip, they all need to be comfortable and safe,” says Fliss. Some campgrounds require reservations in advance, but plenty allow for walk-ins.
Think less popular: Most reservations for campsites in the National Park Service (NPS) are made through Recreation.gov. But with some national parks experiencing record-breaking tourism, think about giving a little love to lesser-visited spots. Lake Clark, North Cascades, and Great Basin all have low visitation numbers when compared to their popular neighbors—Denali, Mount Rainier, and Zion, respectively, though it is worth noting that even the most popular of national parks are experiencing a drop in numbers right now. Other NPS lands with campsites include national monuments, preserves, and recreation areas, among others. National forests, which are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, also offer spots to stay. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0
Tap images for captions
Use maps: When looking at a map of a big-name park online, zoom out and look around to find other places nearby. For example, near Great Smoky Mountains—which has consistently been the most visited national park, with a total of 12.5 million visitors in 2019—is Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Its views and spaces are almost identical, if a little less mountainous, but with only a fraction of the visitors. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0
Explore alternatives: To find state parks, turn to each state’s Department of Parks and Recreation website. ReserveAmerica is another great resource to find potential spots, while KOA can assist with private campsites.
Stay local: Consider exploring your own backyard. Hipcamp, an Airbnb-like website that helps people book camping stays, found that people using its site are traveling significantly closer to home than this time last year; it’s seeing around a 40 percent reduction in the distance people are traveling.
The basics: The right tent for you should take in two main considerations: sizing and season rating. Sizing is usually based on how many people a tent can sleep, and if comfort is the goal, bigger is always better. Season ratings indicate in what seasons the tent works best, and most are generally three-season tents, which means you can use them in the spring, summer, and fall. A four-season tent will cover the winter, with extra weather protection and heat retention. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0
A sleeping bag has the same considerations as a tent. Three-season bags are suitable for hot and cold temperatures and are identifiable by their temperature rating, which will display a range of 15 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Sleeping pads, which are just cushioned pads, can be used in conjunction with a sleeping bag to provide extra comfort and insulation, but can also be used on their own as a bed.
Friends put together a campsite in the countryside in Germany.
Mother and daughter make camp along a stream in Ibaraki, Japan.Photograph by Oliver Rossi, Getty Images (top) and Photograph by Ippei Naoi, Getty Images (bottom)
Small but essential: Don’t forget a flashlight or headlight, batteries, a lighter (for a campfire), a first-aid kit, bug repellent, sunscreen, and extra clothing.
Leave no trace: We want to leave places better than we found them, so it’s crucial to avoid littering and to take any trash out. You never know what the trash-bin situation is at the campsite, especially if you go the wild route, so bring your own trash bags.
The same principle applies to restroom needs. If there are no physical restroom locations, never go in small bodies of water and always make sure to deposit any human waste in a cathole 6 to 8 inches deep, about 200 feet away from water, campgrounds, and trails (cover the cathole when finished). Some retailers, ranging from your local discount store to REI offer travel-sized waste bags that you can use to go anywhere.
COVID-19 protection: “Follow the same rules about the distancing, the wearing of face coverings, etcetera, so that you are [safe],” says Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University and the founder and director of ICAP, a global health program. Even if you’re with people from your same household, bring masks, hand sanitizer, and antimicrobial wipes. Masks are imperative if you’re planning on going hiking on trails where you might come into contact with other people.
Budget: A camping trip can run the gamut from cheap to expensive, depending on the gear and where you’re planning on camping. Campsites that require reservations or fees can run as low as $5 a night but can also go well over $60. Gear in itself is an investment, but it doesn’t have to be. Companies like Outdoors Geek and Arrive Outdoorsoffer rentals on almost every kind of camping item, from tents to sleeping bags to cookware. “It makes it so much easier to know what gear you need, don’t need, like and don’t like when you’ve tried it first,” says Fliss. “And if you don’t enjoy yourself, you don’t have to buy gear.”
The basics: If you’re planning on making food on-site that requires a heat source, then you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to use a campfire or a campstove, and there are several things to keep in mind if going with the latter. Some areas have campfire restrictions or ban them entirely, while others have grills for public use, though you’ll have to bring your own fuel. As for cookware, pots, pans, plates, and utensils are other things that you might have to bring along depending on what you plan on eating. Bring what cookware you can from home and purchase recyclable versions of what you can’t.
No-fuss cooking: You don’t have to cook while camping if you don’t want to, and can just as easily bring sandwiches from home. Another option is to avoid grocery shopping altogether and purchase meal kits that are geared toward campers, like the ones from REI and Patagonia Provisions, with dishes such as red bean chili and green lentil soup.
Who to bring
Why it matters: With the current state of the pandemic, campers need to choose their companions wisely. “If it’s a unit that’s been together, like a family unit or a small unit of people [in the same household], I think that’s advisable,” says El-Sadr. “Using the same [health] principles we’ve used all along would still apply, but I think it would be easier to implement if you are outdoors in a camping context.”
Family time: As schools in the U.S. had to rapidly pivot to online learning, it meant that kids who normally had a large portion of their day free from screens now spent the majority of their day on them—for both school and leisure. Camping promotes electronics-free time in nature, and planning out some activities with them in advance will keep kids invested and interested in the experience.
Camping with friends: Camping with people who don’t live in the same household can still be done, but campers need to take more precautions. “I would wear a mask and try to stay six feet apart while you’re around a campfire and not be in a tent with somebody that you aren’t quarantining with,” says Colleen Hanrahan, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University and an editor at the university’s Novel Coronavirus Research Compendium, which curates and reviews all scientific evidence about the virus. “It’s not as bad as going to a yoga class with 20 people in the room and breathing heavily or running on the treadmill at the gym […] but I think that people should not lose sight of [camping] being risky or having some level of risk, even if it’s small.” https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0
Why it matters: “The highest level of risk [for the virus] is indoors, and being outdoors automatically eliminates that one piece of it,” says Hanrahan, but precautions still need to be taken. Campers should assess how popular a particular place is going to be, as well as the amount and type of exposure to other people they’ll have. Using the data available on the virus to see where cases are rising is crucial to making decisions on where toavoid and where to go.
Stay in touch: Whether or not you’re camping with other people, always let someone know where you’ll be and if you plan on doing any other outdoor activities while camping, such as hiking or swimming. Share your phone’s location with other people, which is a great way for loved ones to check in to see if you’re safe and sound. Always bring a portable battery, which will come in handy if anyone’s cell phone runs out of juice. However, cell phone signals are notoriously weaker the further into nature you go, which can be tricky if you’re using it to navigate. The Google Maps app has a feature that allows users to download maps to consult offline.
Keep your distance: Embrace the outdoors but give wildlife their space. Research a place ahead of time to see whether there are issues with dangerous insects or animal sightings.
Watch the flames: Fire hazards abound when it comes to using open flames in the outdoors. If you’re going somewhere that allows campfires, make sure to read up on fire safety beforehand. Never leave campfires unattended, always keep water nearby to put it out, and make sure it’s completely extinguished before going to sleep.
Aryana Azari is a journalist and photographer based in New York City. Find her on Instagram.
Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, vacationers this summer are mapping out road trips in RVs, campervans, and trailers.Photograph by Alexandra Keeling
Travelers are gearing up for summer getaways, but with more than 20 states reporting spikes in COVID-19 cases in June, vacations involving air travel and large gatherings are likely to remain on hold. If you’re driven to distraction by wanderlust, here’s a tip: Take a spin in an RV.
The pandemic has fueled interest in recreational vehicles—RVs, campervans, and travel trailers. As a result, motor home sales and rentals have dramatically ramped up. While industry-wide data has yet to be fully compiled, RV dealers that reopened in early May report monthly sales are up 170 percent year over year; bookings through rental site RVshare for the Fourth of July weekend are up 81 percent over 2019.
What’s more, the duration of rentals has increased. “We have seen an uptick in the amount people are spending because the average rental period has increased,” says Jon Gray, of peer-to-peer booking site RVshare. “Instead of a long weekend, renters are booking for an average of seven to 10 days.”
The dip in gas prices—expected to remain low throughout the summer months—is helping to make 2020 the Year of the Camper. “People know it’s the only safe way to travel,” says Gigi Stetler of RV Sales of Broward in Florida, and founder of RV Advisor, a member-driven advice site.
Navigating the nation with a trailer in tow takes some planning, but the learning curve should not scare travelers from wheeling away. Here’s what you need to know to get comfortable with a campervan.
Getting in gear
Start by looking into booking companies. Go RVing and Cruise America will connect you with rental centers in the U.S. and Canada that offer a range of vehicle sizes. RVshare and Outdoorsy are peer-to-peer booking sites offering everything from popup trailers to motor homes.
Most rental companies charge a daily rate, which averages $165 for an RV or camper, according to a study by Go RV Rentals. Some also charge a fee per mile traveled. If you’re looking for eco-friendly models, TRA Certification has a list of brands that are certified green, from parts to practices.
In addition to the daily rate, first-time renters should think about additional costs—gas, food, and campground fees, to name a few—to avoid unpleasant surprises down the road. Vehicle options abound, and many renters advise to pick an RV with a bathroom. Especially during the pandemic, renters should insist that their RV has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. RVshare, for example, has partnered with TaskRabbit to offer professional cleaning services to camper owners.
In 2016 Jessy Muller bought a 1978 Dodge Commander, she named “Mander.” Since rehabbing it, she’s been driving it across the United States.Photograph by Jessy Muller
Most rentals do not require a special driver’s license. Ahead of booking make sure to ask about rental insurance and roadside assistance plans. Take advantage of a quick RV training session before revving up. If you plan on bringing along a furry friend, check the pet policies specific to your rental. Perhaps most important is to book early. As for incidentals in peer-to-peer rentals, “you should speak to the RV owner about what they keep on board for their renters, such as linens and cookware,” suggests Gray.
Owning the road
For Aaron Levine, owning a home on wheels has been a longtime dream. “I fish, hike, love being in nature,” he says. For him, the attraction of owning a camper is the freedom and mobility that goes with it. During the pandemic, the Phoenix, Arizona, resident finally locked down a deal on a new 28-foot-long Gulf Stream travel trailer. “It’s a way to stay active—and to stay away from people,” he says. The outdoor enthusiast has already taken his trailer on the road twice and plans a summer of trips.
If you’ve fallen in love with the idea of a home on wheels, you might want to go in for the long haul. Levine suggests road-trippers take their time and do their research, especially since prices can range from a few thousand dollars for a previously owned folding or “pop-up” camping trailer to well over $500,000 for a top-of-the-range, Class A motor home.
“Buy something that you know is going to work for you and your family,” says Levine. “Think about the activities you’re going to do.” If your plans involve regularly traversing hairpin mountain passes or embarking on day-long hikes, a campervan or truck camper would best fit the bill. Conversely, 45-foot motor homes equipped with cooking appliances and large wastewater holding tanks work well for large family get-togethers.
Newbies should try to support local dealers, as it will help mitigate maintenance complications down the road. “Do business with your local dealer, because you’re going to need them for service work,” says Stetler.
Where to go
The RV boom is taking off just as the country’s 18,000 campgrounds are re-opening, albeit with restrictions. Because states are at different stages in their response to the pandemic, those restrictions vary from campground to campground. As sites re-open, they’re likely to book up quickly.
Those headed to national parks will find limited capacity among the National Park Service’s 8,585 motor home pads, though NPS officials say they’re “continuing to increase access on a daily basis.” At Yosemite National Park, which recently reopened, only two of 10 campsites with RV facilities are open, as of June 15: Upper Pines (RVs up to 35 feet long, trailers up to 24 feet) and Wawona Horse (93 RV and trailer pads). These open sites don’t have hookups, which means no water, electricity, or access to dumping. Campsites with hookups tend to be more convenient, but cost more.
In Yellowstone National Park, the Tower Fall campground and Fishing Bridge RV Park are closed for the year. But Madison, Bay Bridge, and Grant Village campgrounds are open, with the remaining seven sites scheduled to follow suit on June 19 and July 1.
Alexandra Keeling and her dog Rocko enjoy California’s sun-soaked Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Park from the comfort of her teardrop travel trailer. Since planning her solo trip across the country in 2018, Keeling has been on and off the road for more than a year.Photograph by Winston Shull
Be sure to follow all park guidelines, especially during these pandemic times. “We encourage all visitors to recreate responsibly by following the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and follow “Leave No Trace” principles when you visit,” says Cynthia Hernandez, National Parks Service spokesperson. For a full list of open campgrounds, check individual park websites.
Operators of privately owned campsites are welcoming campers with discounts and assurances of strict physical distancing rules, but that means doing away with services that, for many, make them attractive alternatives to national parks: dining facilities, playgrounds, dog boarding, and communal fire pits, as well as fewer staff on site.
Whit’s End Campground in West Ossipee, New Hampshire, is currently open only to New Hampshire residents and out-of-staters who have self-quarantined for 14 days. The site’s swimming pool and common areas re-opened on June 15, and though holiday weekends are busy, there’s good availability throughout the summer, according to management.
The Grand Canyon Railway RV Park in Williams, Arizona, has 124 RV spaces and reports availability throughout the summer months. Some facilities, such as kenneling and communal fireplaces, are closed, so campers should call or email for the latest updates.
A short drive west of Zion National Park in Utah, Zion River Resort reports high occupancy at its 122-space campground for the coming weeks, but from mid-July availability increases. Management says a typical year would see many camping enthusiasts from Europe starting in July, but that’s not likely this year, opening up more options for U.S. travelers.
No matter where you go, be adaptable when plans change and mishaps happen, says Alexandra Keeling, who’s been traveling the country with her “tiny tin can” trailer for more than a year. “Road life will always throw you a curveball. It makes traveling so much more fun when you can go with the flow,” she says. “I’ve made some of my favorite memories in places I never planned to be and some of the toughest blows put me in the position for some of the greatest experiences.”
Stephen Starr is an Irish journalist and author who reported from the Middle East for a decade before moving to Ohio. Find Stephen on Twitter and Instagram.
1 of 20 One-Horned Rhinos take shelter at the higher places at the flood-hit Kaziranga National Park in Nagaonon. A total of 96 animals have died in the Kaziranga National Park in Golaghat district of Assam due to floods, the state government informed. Image Credit: ANI
2 of 20 A a wild elephant and a calf cross a National Highway at the flood affected Kaziranga National Park. “So far, 96 animals have died in the park including eight rhinos, seven wild boars, two swamp deers, 74 hog deer and two porcupines,” park officials said. Image Credit: AFP
3 of 20 A Rhino sits along the roadside as he strayed out of the Kaziranga National Park. A report from the government of Assam stated that a total of 132 animals had been rescued from the Kaziranga National Park. The park is currently 85 per cent submerged under floodwaters. Image Credit: ANI
4 of 20 “Water level at Pasighar and Dibrugarh are below the prescribed danger level. The floodwater in Numaligarh, Dhansirimukh and Tezpur are still above danger level,” the report stated. Above: A forest guard on a boat takes away the carcass of a wild buffalo calf through flood water at the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Pobitora. Image Credit: AP
5 of 20 A herd of wild elephants takes shelter on highland inside the flooded Burapahar range of Kaziranga National Park. At least 79 people have died and nearly 3.6 million people have been affected in 30 districts of Assam due to floods caused by the monsoon rains and the rise in water levels of the Brahmaputra river, informed the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA). Image Credit: PTI
6 of 20 Water buffaloes stand in flood water at the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Pobitora, Morigaon district. Image Credit: AP
7 of 20 Tiger in search of safer place at the flood-affected area at Bagmari village near Kaziranga in Nagaon district. Image Credit: ANI
8 of 20 Deers wade through floodwaters in a submerged area of the Kaziranga National Park, in Kanchanjuri. Image Credit: ANI
9 of 20 A one-horned rhinoceros along with her baby stands in floodwater inside Kaziranga National Park, in Golaghat district. Image Credit: PTI
10 of 20 A female rhino calf about 1-year-old, who got separated from mother was rescued from Difaloo pathar, Sukani village by the Staffs of Eastern Range, Agoratoli, Kaziranga National Park. Image Credit: ANI
11 of 20 A wild water buffalo eats tree branches standing in flood water at the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Pobitora, Morigaon district. Image Credit: AP
12 of 20 A wild elephant moves towards the higher ground after the flood hits Kaziranga National Park, in Nagaon. Image Credit: ANI
13 of 20 Wild deer cross the National Highway-37 in search for safer places at the flood-affected area of Kaziranga National Park, in Nagaon District. Image Credit: ANI
14 of 20 A group of wild elephants cross the road to move towards the higher land, following the flooding in the low-lying areas of Kaziranga National Park, in Nagaon. Image Credit: ANI
15 of 20 A forest employee cuts branches of a tree for rhinoceros as a forest guard keeps vigil near one horned rhinoceros taking shelter from floods on a highland at the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Pobitora. Image Credit: AP
16 of 20 A forest guard on a boat takes away the carcass of a wild buffalo calf through flood water at the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Pobitora, Morigaon district. Image Credit: AP
17 of 20 A one horned rhinoceros and a calf wades through flood water at the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Pobitora. Image Credit: AP
18 of 20 A herd of wild elephants takes shelter on a higher place at flooded Kaziranga National Park, in Nagaon. Image Credit: ANI
19 of 20 Forest guards patrol as one horned rhinoceros take shelter on a highland as flood water rises at the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Pobitora. Image Credit: AP
20 of 20 WTI official tries to feed a rhino who is taking shelter near NH 37 in the flood-affected area of Kaziranga National park at Kanchanjuri in Nagaon. Image Credit: ANI Remaining Time -50:21
We are living in difficult times. The global COVID-19 pandemic has alienated us from family, from friends and colleagues, and from the routines, experiences and adventures that make up our lives. For many of us, the pandemic has also limited our connections to nature, wildlife and the outdoors. As we learn to adapt, we can start to plan our reunion with the wild places that we miss and that are so essential to our health, especially now. As David Attenborough said, “In times of crisis the natural world is a source of joy and solace.”
I’m crazy about the National Forest System, all 193 million acres, including each of the 155 national forests, 19 national grasslands, and even the single national prairie. Having to choose my favorite national forest place for National Forest Week is nearly impossible because they are all so amazing! National forests are carbon and biodiversity strongholds, supporting over 450 species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including in my home state of Montana, like grizzly bears, Canada lynx and bull trout. Like millions of Americans, my family’s water originates in a national forest: In our case, it’s Gallatin National Forest outside of Bozeman. And like generations of Americans I have been recreating in national forests for almost my entire life. I have fond and drizzly memories of camping with my family among the giant trees of Olympic National (rain) Forest in Washington state.
So rather than having to choose among the ancient forests nestled between three volcanoes in the Gifford Pinchot, or the thrilling whitewater in Oregon’s Rogue River-Siskiyou, or the rugged Pasayten Wilderness and “ghost bears” of the Okanogan, I’ll offer this: When it is safe to do so, and with the utmost respect to others and the places and wildlife we all love, get out to your closest national forest, aim for the highest ridge, the oldest forest, the most riotous meadow of wildflowers or that sublime steam, and enjoy your public lands. The visit will do wonders for your soul during these hard times.
Deborah Lee Soltesz/USFS
To commemorate National Forest Week, a celebration of our national forests and grasslands, and to remind us of all the places we have missed and will now carefully take solace in, we pulled together the following stories from within Defenders after asking: What national forest have you missed most during the pandemic?
My favorite National Forest in the Southwest is Gila National Forest in southwest New Mexico. The national forest is 4,235 square miles and includes Gila Wilderness! Established in 1924 as the first designated wilderness by the federal government, Gila Wilderness covers 872 square miles. I love Gila National Forest because the skies are still dark at night, Mexican gray wolves roam freely and it is mostly silent in these wild lands.
Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming offers heart-stopping views of the Wind River Range (affectionately known as “the Winds”). This is my favorite national forest. I love backpacking through the lower-elevation forests and up into the alpine to feel surrounded by the granite peaks of the famous Cirque of the Towers in the Bridger Wilderness Area. When there is little chance of rain, I don’t unpack the tent but sleep under the planets and stars. During a 4th of July trip one year, my party got caught in a blizzard—a reminder to be prepared for anything in the high mountains. Bridger-Teton is home to bears, bighorn sheep, Bonneville cutthroat trout and a diversity of other wildlife. It is important to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples lived and passed through this place and many still call surrounding areas home including the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and Northern Arapahoe Tribe.
Carson National Forest is the gem of northern New Mexico. It includes one of the country’s newest Wilderness Areas –Columbine-Hondo – as well as Cruces Basin, Wheeler Peak, Latir Peak and part of Pecos Wilderness. It’s home imperiled species like the Mexican spotted owl and New Mexico’s state fish – the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. It also makes up a significant portion of one of Defenders’ focal landscapes – the Upper Rio Grande region. Ecologically, this area remains largely intact and provides important connectivity for a variety of species and holds significant potential to restore black-footed ferrets, bison, Mexican gray wolves, lynx and other iconic species.
Rio Grande National Forest holds a special place in my heart. Situated in south-central Colorado just north of the New Mexico-Colorado line, Rio Grande is the connective tissue that allows wildlife to move north-south along the spine of the continent. The high jagged peaks of La Garitas and Sangre de Cristos mountain ranges surround and protect the lowlands of San Luis Valley where wetlands annually host sandhill cranes and other migratory waterfowl. Streams flow down from the high snowfields providing refuge to remaining Rio Grande cutthroat trout, a species facing an uncertain future with climate change and dwindling intact habitat. The entire region is magical to me with crazy rock formations, a rich Native American and Mexican heritage, and broad expanses of roadless forests.
Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont encompasses over 400,000 acres in central and southwestern Vermont and is the only national forest in Vermont. Even though it’s called Green Mountain National Forest, my favorite season there is fall, when the mountains and hills and valleys turn gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows. The Appalachian Trail, Long Trail and Robert Frost National Recreation Trail weave their ways through the mountains, passing diverse forests, streams, ponds and wetlands, and some stunning views. Moose, coyote, lynx, fox, bald eagle, wood turtle, black bear, Jefferson salamander, wild turkey, Indiana bat, beaver and many more species rely on this remarkable forest in Vermont.
Pamela Flick/Defenders of Wildlife
Pamela Flick/Defenders of Wildlife
Pamela Flick/Defenders of Wildlife
During these times of stay-at-home orders, I find myself daydreaming of warm summer days spent swimming in the emerald green depths of my beloved Merced River and being awash in starry night skies of Sierra National Forest backcountry. Each year, I lead an all-women backpacking trip and Sierra National Forest is one of our favorite destinations. We often spend a night at Huntington Lake and take a scenic drive to soak in Mono Hot Springs, perched on the banks of the upper South Fork of the San Joaquin River. Then we head into the Kaiser or Dinkey Lakes wilderness to enjoy splendid wildflower studded meadows, massive old- growth red fir forests and sparkling (and frigid!) high elevation lakes. The Sierra National Forest is home to endangered Pacific fishers as well as other rare species like California spotted owls, Yosemite toads, northern goshawks, American martens and Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs.
My favorite National Forest in Oregon is Mt. Hood National Forest. Nestled in the Cascades Range and home to the stunning Mt. Hood after which it is named, it is also the closest national forest to the largest urban area in Oregon (Portland metro area). In just an hour’s drive is a magical escape from city life— whether its hiking to see stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge or of Mt. Hood and its meadows, mountain biking, bird watching, swimming or fishing in its many lakes, winter skiing or swimming in its countless waterfalls, Mt. Hood National Forest has something for every nature lover. Locally referred to as Hood, the forest is also critical habitat for species like the northern spotted owl, black bear, cougar, elk, river otter, chinook and Coho salmon, steelhead, marten, Sierra Nevada red fox, and as of 2018, Hood has its own resident pack of wolves!
Protect Yourself and Your Community
Safety is a priority. Before heading outdoors, forest and grassland visitors are encouraged to:
Plan ahead and know before you go. Check local conditions before heading to your favorite outdoor destination. Visitors should be aware of state, county and local health restrictions that may prohibit some activities or prohibit visiting some areas on public lands. Visitors are encouraged to check with their local forest and grassland office before heading outdoors.
Follow guidance and orders. Take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and county, city and state public health authorities.
Practice social distancing. Avoid crowding at trailheads, scenic overlooks, parking lots and other areas. If a recreation spot is crowded, look for a less crowded spot. Maintain at least a 6-ft. physical distance from others. Enjoy a scenic drive.
Be cautious. Avoid high risk or backcountry activities that may increase your chance of injury or distress. Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 response efforts.
Prepare for limited services. Restroom facilities and trash collection services are limited. If a restroom is open, it may not be maintained or cleaned. Visitors are encouraged to take their trash with them when they leave. Follow Leave No Trace Principles, particularly when dealing with human waste.
People love to live by the water. For centuries, cities like New York, Miami, Honolulu and San Francisco have attracted residents and tourists from around the world. In fact, almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties on the coast, and that percentage is growing in footprint, density, number and population, reshaping and hardening coastlines in the process.
Coasts also provide habitat for great numbers of plants and animals and are typically biodiversity hotspots. But all this coastal development is reducing the amazing biodiversity along our shorelines.
Development has also reduced our coasts’ natural ability to resist and recover from natural disasters and has removed habitat that provides shelter for wildlife and ecosystem services for humans. Traditional coastal defenses like sea walls and levees are widely used to protect communities, but these artificial coastal barriers can lead to significant erosion or unwanted sediment deposition and negatively impact water quality. They are also time-consuming to build and cost billions to construct, maintain and repair.
Increasingly, engineers and planners are starting to pay more attention to the potential of “Nature and Nature-Based Features” (NNBFs) as environmentally friendly solutions—like mangrove forests, beach dunes, coral reefs and wetlands—that fulfill the same roles as an important weapon in the fight against coastal storms and flooding.
D. Rex Miller
NNBFs include natural defenses and human-built features that mimic them. Using NNBFs in coastal development decisions can therefore mean constructing new ones or protecting existing natural ones. NNBFs are often cheaper and require less maintenance and management. They can also make communities more resilient to climate change by adapting to changes in the environment. They are part of the larger concept of “green infrastructure,” or attempting to harness nature’s resilience to solve human problems. And its not all-or-nothing – NNBFs can complement artificial coastal infrastructure.
NNBFs like wetlands are essential to protect coasts from storm surges because they can store and slow the release of floodwaters, reducing erosion and damage to buildings. One study found that salt marshes can reduce wave height by an average of 72%. Coral reefs can serve as a barrier and reduce wave height by an average of 70%. These reefs protect coastal cities near them such as Honolulu and Miami, saving lives and preventing monetary damage.
Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife
When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in 2012, homes on beaches fairly near to sand dunes were protected by these natural buffers, which can blunt the force of waves and wind. In many cases, homes on beach areas where dunes had been removed (often to improve ocean views) were completely destroyed by Sandy. Removing many of the mangroves that lined Biscayne Bay in South Florida may have helped spur economic development. However, it also removed another natural barrier against storm surge. This increased vulnerability of homes and businesses to the hurricanes that frequently hit Miami. Coastal communities in Indonesia hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami that had removed their mangrove forests suffered more damage and more lost lives than areas where mangroves had been allowed to remain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a number of projects that look at features like mangroves and their ability to protect coasts.
Damage from Hurricane Sandy at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, homes on the Jersey Shore
Bringing Wildlife Back
People are not the only ones who can benefit from NNBF. Restoring or protecting habitat can bring back habitat for wildlife and provide space for wildlife to live alongside coastal human communities. This includes imperiled species.
For example, coastal dunes restoration can improve habitat for threatened species like the piping plover, red knot and seabeach amaranth. Restoring mangroves can help protect species like the wood stork and American alligator, and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Protecting coral reefs can help threatened elkhorn and boulder star corals, and ensure habitat remains for the hawksbill sea turtle. People and wildlife can both have space.
NNBFs can also improve water quality. Much of the rainwater and flood water that goes on vegetation or sand will sink into the ground where it is cleaned. Healthy coral reefs and healthy mangroves help improve marine waters. And by avoiding artificial coastal defenses, polluted runoff can be avoided. Improving water quality can help marine imperiled species. For example, manatees in Florida have been devastated by red tide in recent years. Similarly, water quality issues can stress or kill threatened corals that need clear water for photosynthesis. Even species far offshore, like orca, can be hurt by contaminated runoff from development. Creating habitat for wildlife can even have additional economic benefits beyond coastal protection. It can offer opportunities for economic activity like kayaking, fishing and birding.
Andrew S. Wright/USFWS
The Future of NNBF
In recent years, the U.S. Congress has become interested in the potential of NNBFs, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate NNBFs into coastal defense projects where appropriate. The Corps’ research and development center has taken a leading role in researching NNBFs. Through its engineering with nature initiative, it has developed numerous projects exploring NNBFs’ potential. However, the regional offices have made less progress in taking advantage of NNBFs in their coastal defense projects. NNBFs should be a priority for the Corps and coastal communities around the country – and the world.
Advocating for NNBFs is part of Defenders of Wildlife’s mission to protect habitat and we believe they are a strong tool for addressing the overall biodiversity crisis faced by the planet.
Andrew works on wildlife conservation policy at the Center for Conservation Innovation, where he researches and analyzes conservation governance strategies and emerging policy issues, and works with other CCI members to develop innovative approaches to habitat and species protection.
Tell the U.S. Forest Service to ‘take a hike’ and drop the fee plan for Wilderness in the Central Cascades!
The U.S. Forest Service (FS) is proposing to charge people for simply walking in the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness areas in the Oregon Cascades. Specifically, the FS wants to require fees for all overnight access to these Wildernesses – plus for day use at 19 trailheads – claiming hiking is a “specialized recreation use.”
The proposed fees violate the intent and purpose of the Wilderness Act, including protecting Wilderness from commercialization and commodification. It is simply unjust to charge people to visit Wilderness areas, which belong to all Americans. They are our irreplaceable birthright as citizens, open to all, not just those wealthy enough to pay fees.
The proposed fees are illegal under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which prohibits charging fees for parking at, hiking through, horseback riding in, or camping in undeveloped federal sites such as Wildernesses. Despite Forest Service claims, traveling on foot or horseback through a Wilderness is not a “specialized recreation use,” which applies to group activities, recreation events, and motorized recreational vehicle use.
The fees are tied to the Forest Service’s limited-access permit system starting next summer for the Mount Jefferson, Mont Washington, and Three Sisters Wildernesses to prevent overcrowding and resource damage. While Wilderness Watch supports quotas to protect Wilderness areas from being over-run by people, we are adamantly opposed to the federal government charging hikers a fee simply to take a walk in the Wilderness. The fees are another part of the effort to commercialize Wilderness, and would exclude the public from accessing and enjoying their public lands.
This fee proposal is unprecedented, with the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests implementing fees across 450,000-plus acres in three Wildernesses for all overnight users plus day use at 19 trailheads. This fee system would set a horrible national precedent for other Wilderness areas around the country.
Please submit your comments to the U.S. Forest Service by November 25th.
Subject: Recreation Fees
Dear U.S. Forest Service:
I’m adamantly opposed to your proposal to charge people for simply taking a walk in the in the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness areas in the Oregon Cascades.
Your proposed fee violates the intent and purpose of the Wilderness Act, including protecting Wildernesses from commercialization and commodification. Wilderness areas belong to all of the American people. They are an irreplaceable birthright to all our citizens, open to all the public and not just those wealthy enough to pay additional fees. All citizens across the nation already own the Wildernesses in the National Wilderness Preservation System and we have paid for them with our taxes. It is simply unjust to charge people to visit the Wilderness they already own.
These fees would also be illegal under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act and would exclude the public from accessing and enjoying their public lands.
The Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness Areas already plan to require limited-access permits starting next year to prevent overcrowding and resource damage. While I support quotas to protect Wilderness areas from being over-run by people, I’m adamantly opposed to the federal government charging hikers a fee simply to take a walk in the Wilderness.
This fee proposal is unprecedented as the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests would be the first national forest in the U.S. to implement a fee system across three Wilderness areas that will charge for all overnight use plus day use at 19 trailheads across 450,000-plus acres of Wilderness.
The USFS is incorrectly claiming authority for charging such fees under a clause in the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) that allows a fee for “specialized recreation uses” such as group activities, recreation events, and motorized recreational vehicles. Congress never meant that to apply to private individuals who are hiking, walking, horseback riding and camping in a completely undeveloped part of a national forest.
Such fees would set a horrible national precedent for other Wilderness areas around the country and I urge you to abandon your fee scheme for the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness areas.
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It’s simply unjust to charge people to visit Wilderness areas, which belong to all Americans. They are our irreplaceable birthright as citizens, open to all, not just those wealthy enough to pay fees.
By Lauren Lewis –
August 6, 2018
Left Photo by Lindsey Jones, Facebook
Sadly, innocent animals continue to be cruelly mistreated and abused by heartless humans who seem to be void of the gene for compassion.
Such was the case last week when 55-year-old Raymond Reinkek from Pendleton, Oregon, was caught on video harassing a wild bison at Yellowstone National Park.
According to the National Park Service, Reinke had been traveling to multiple national parks over the last week. On July 28th, he was first arrested by law enforcement rangers at Grand Teton National Park for a drunk and disorderly conduct incident. He spent the night in the Teton County Jail and was then released on bond.
Following his release, he traveled to Yellowstone National Park. Rangers at Yellowstone stopped his vehicle for a traffic violation on July 31st during which Reinke was reportedly intoxicated again and argumentative. He was cited as a passenger for failure to wear a seat belt. It is believed that after that traffic stop, Reinke encountered the bison.
“The individual’s behavior in this video is reckless, dangerous, and illegal. We need people to be stewards of Yellowstone, and one way to do that is to keep your distance from wildlife,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk stated on a post on the Parks Facebook page. “Park regulations require people to stay at least 25 yards from animals like bison and elk, and 100 yards from bears and wolves. These distances safeguard both visitors and the remarkable experience of sharing a landscape with thousands of freely-roaming animals. People who ignore these rules are risking their lives and threatening the park experience for everyone else.”
“Another way to be a steward: tell a ranger, or call 911, if you see someone whose behavior might hurt them or the park,” the post continued.
Fortunately, on Thursday, August 2nd, Yellowstone rangers connected Reinke’s extensive history, and after viewing the egregious nature of the wildlife violation; the Assistant U.S. Attorney requested his bond be revoked. The request was granted, and that evening, a warrant was issued for Reinke’s arrest.
According to a statement released by the National Park Service, Reinke had told the previous rangers his travel plans, so Glacier National Park rangers began looking for his vehicle there. Simultaneous with that search, rangers responded to the Many Glacier Hotel because two guests were arguing and creating a disturbance in the hotel dining room. Rangers identified one of the individuals involved as Reinke.
Glacier rangers transported Reinke to Helena where they were met by Yellowstone rangers. Yellowstone rangers transported Reinke to Mammoth Hot Springs and booked him into the Yellowstone Jail. He was scheduled for a court appearance the next day.
“We appreciate the collaboration of our fellow rangers in Glacier and Grand Teton national parks on this arrest,” said Wenk. “Harassing wildlife is illegal in any national park.”
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TAGS Animal Abuse,Animal Cruelty,Animal News,Animal Protection,bison,National Park Service
This story was originally published by Reveal and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
As deputy director of the National Park Service, Michael Reynolds played a key role in developing a sweeping new vision for managing national parks. The new policy, enacted in the final weeks of the Obama administration, elevated the role that science played in decision-making and emphasized that parks should take precautionary steps to protect natural and historic treasures.
But eight months later, as the first acting director of the Park Service under President Donald Trump, Reynolds rescinded this policy, known as Director’s Order 100. Newly released documents suggest that top Interior Department officials intervened, ordering Reynolds to rescind it.
A memo addressed to Reynolds states: “Pursuant to direction from [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke, I hereby instruct you to rescind Director’s Order #100.”
Reynolds, now the superintendent of Yosemite National Park, did not respond to requests for an interview.
The emails were among 170 pages of documents released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group.
Some top officials in the National Park Service were dismayed that the policy was canceled in August 2017, according to the emails. Chris Lehnertz, superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, called it “hard news for me to swallow,” according to an email she wrote to Reynolds and others.
Jonathan Jarvis, who was President Barack Obama’s Park Service director, said now that the order has been rescinded, national parks could become more welcoming to drones, jet skis, and private companies that want to build luxurious accommodations.
“We’re back into the era when those kinds of things will be proposed,” Jarvis said. “I’m sure we’re going to see some.”
Jarvis, who signed Director’s Order 100, said he thinks the Trump administration objected to the policy because it stressed that parks follow the “precautionary principle,” preventing actions or activities that plausibly threaten park resources and human heath, even when there is uncertainty. It also acknowledged the significant impact that climate change has on parks and directed them to incorporate climate change science in management decisions.
One memo to Reynolds said that Zinke will replace the order with his own strategy for the national parks, “including potential changes to the Department’s priorities and organization over the next 100 years.”
The emails show that Daniel Jorjani, the Interior’s principal deputy solicitor, played a key role in reversing the order. Jorjani is a Trump appointee who was an attorney from 2010 to 2016 for foundations funded by the Koch brothers, fossil fuel billionaires who support the spread of free-market principles throughout government. During the Bush administration, Jorjani was an Interior Department counselor and chief of staff.
In one June 13, 2017, email exchange heavily redacted by the Interior Department, a lawyer in the solicitor’s office said Jorjani “or someone else may want to change the language, but …” The next part of the email is blanked out. The next day, another lawyer asked Jorjani in an email: “Do you want us to hold this pending your review or should we start moving it through to get it signed?”
On June 19, Jorjani emailed another lawyer, asking her to “strengthen the language” on the rescission memo. Later the same day, Jorjani emailed Reynolds and another top Park Service official asking: “Do you have a preferred date for withdrawing DO-100?” Later that day, Jorjani sent the rescission memo to the Park Service.
Jarvis, who worked with Jorjani during the Bush administration, wasn’t surprised that Jorjani directed the withdrawal of the order.
“This fits well with Jorjani’s worldview — the private sector can do anything better than government,” Jarvis said. During the Bush administration, Jorjani pushed to transfer various activities in the national parks to the private sector, Jarvis said.
The rescinded policy was developed in response to the 2012 “Revisiting Leopold” report from the science committee of the Park Service’s advisory board. The scientists urged the Park Service to update the vision of national parks to reflect the many changes underway in parks due to climate change and other factors. (In January, most members of that board quit in protest after Zinke hadn’t met with them even once.)
The Trump administration has repeatedly downplayed climate science and eliminated efforts by previous administrations to address climate change. The National Park Service pressured a scientist to remove every reference to the human role in causing climate change from a scientific report projecting the risk to parks from sea-level rise and storm surge.
Tony Knowles, the last chair of the Park Service’s advisory board, said the Trump administration is veering far from the principles outlined in Director’s Order 100.
For example, in May, the Trump administration proposed canceling rules that ban certain types of hunting in much of Alaska’s large national preserves. These rules, developed in 2015 through an extensive scientific and public process, prohibit using artificial light to kill black bear sows and their cubs at their dens, using bait to lure black bears to their deaths, and shooting swimming caribou from a motorboat.
If the order was still in place, “it would be very difficult to justify doing away with these regulations,” said Knowles, a former governor of Alaska.
The trove of documents also provides insight into the Interior Department’s public relations strategy. Officials drafted news releases to explain the rescission of the policy but the day the withdrawal became effective, Park Service spokesperson Jeremy Barnum told top Park Service officials that Interior’s communications team had decided there would be no press release. Reynolds emailed the press official asking: “If no press I’m curious how we are now to notify folks.” No response to his question was included in the released documents. Barnum declined to comment.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument’s vast and austere landscape in Southern Utah’s embraces a spectacular array Of scientific and historic resources. Donald Trump’s Administration, along with Utah’s delegation, is currently engaging in efforts to substantially reduce the monument. This effect is an archaic and illogical assault on one of the crown jewels of America’s National Monuments and an economic threat to the gateway communities of the Grand Staircase-Escalante.
The Trump administration is trying to allow gas and oil drilling near a pristine national park, all for the financial benefit of big oil companies. This drilling will critically threaten wildlife and the environment if permitted. Sign this petition to demand that this national park be protected from oil drilling.
The Antiquities Act is one of our nation’s most valuable conservation tools but it is being threatened. Our environment and wildlife depend on this Act for their protection. Please sign our petition to oppose any efforts to undermine the Antiquities Act.
An anti-wildlife bill that would allow hunting in national parks, de-regulate lead ammunition, and halt protections for elephants abroad was passed by the House earlier this year. Now members of Congress seek to attach this egregious bill to an important energy act in an effort to force it into law. Demand this bill be stopped in its tracks.
Bison are incredible animals who once roamed the Great Plains in astounding numbers. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Bison populations were estimated to be 30 million – 60 million in the 1500s. Today, those numbers are a fraction of their former glory – only 20,000 – 25,000 remain in small herds across the US. The Yellowstone National Park Respresentives have recommended 900 park bison be removed this winter through hunting and ship-to-slaughter methods. A better solution would be to relocate these animals to other herds…there is NO reason to kill them. Join us in making our voice heard for the Bison who shouldn’t have to perish!
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard