Tuesday, April 23, 2019

2018 Highlights of NPS Investigative Services Branch

A few weeks ago the Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service published its annual report, which recaps significant cases, operations, awards and recognitions, and other noteworthy events that happened in the program throughout the year.

ISB Special Agents investigate complex, sensitive, and/or long-term cases of all types of crimes that occur across the National Park System, and work closely with US Park Rangers in the field every day. Investigations include crimes of violence, major property crimes, fraud, embezzlement, major resource violations, drug cultivation, and other incidents. Agents investigate new cases to multi-year investigations, and from isolated incidents to crimes spanning multiple agencies and nations.

The report shows that there is much more going on within our national parks than most citizens probably realize. For example, the report notes this investigation in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
In August 2017, a resource management employee located a handgun in the forest where the Chimney Top fire had burned in 2016. A US Park Ranger hiked with the employee to the area where the gun was located, and found several small fragments of bone. ISB Special Agents initiated an investigation and worked with the state medical examiner's office to do a more thorough search of the area where they located more remains. Investigators worked leads to positively identify the deceased and the manner of death. An abandoned vehicle was located in the area where the remains were found in 2009. Items found inside the vehicle were still located in evidence and matched items found on the scene, including the handgun. Investigators sent remains and familial DNA to be tested for the registered owner of the vehicle and received a match. The manner of death is believed to be suicide.
The report also provides follow-ups to a few news items we've reported on in the past few years. To read the full report, please click here.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Blue Ridge Parkway Announces Facility Opening Dates for 2019 Season

National Park Service staff, volunteers, concession operators, and partners are working together to open facilities for the 2019 visitor season on the Blue Ridge Parkway; and the full schedule of operating dates is now available on the park website. Some park concession facilities and visitor centers are now open, with all other points of interest and recreation areas opening between now and Memorial Day weekend.

Parkway visitors and neighbors are also reminded this season of their important role in the National Park Service experience. When visiting any section or site along the historic 469-mile route, visitors can help protect wildlife, plant ecosystems, cultural sites, and historical areas by staying on trails and roads, packing out trash, and leaving park resources as you find them.

“The millions of people that visit us each year have a tremendous opportunity to help preserve and protect the Parkway and its resources for future generations,” said Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee. “The protection of the Parkway, in large part, is in the hands of our users and dependent upon visitors treating this place and its resources with respect.”

Along with the complete schedule of facility operating dates, information to help plan a memorable and safe Parkway experience is available on the Parkway’s website; including regularly updated information regarding ranger programs, tours, music performances, and cultural demonstrations.

In order to address ongoing maintenance needs along the motor route, visitors can also expect several road projects happening throughout the summer season. The real time road map provides information regarding road projects or potential delays.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wilderness Wildlife Week

Featuring more than 200 free sessions and activities spanning five days, Pigeon Forge’s award-winning Wilderness Wildlife Week is set for May 7-11. The event is headquartered at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge.

In its 29th year, Wilderness Wildlife Week offers a variety of workshops, lectures, seminars, concerts, hikes and other activities designed to introduce or reacquaint participants of all ages with the great outdoors.

“Whether it’s a hike through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, learning about wildflowers, or participating in our kids’ trout fishing tournament, Wilderness Wildlife Week brings together leading experts with outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and experiences,” said Leon Downey, Pigeon Forge executive director of tourism. “Over the course of five days, participants have an opportunity to learn about the beautiful Smoky Mountains that we call home.”

The event’s headline session features Jeff Rennicke in a program entitled Hiking Towards Hope: Empowering the New Greatest Generation in the Great Outdoors (May 7 at 7 p.m.). Forensics expert Dr. Bill Bass (May 8 at 7:45 p.m.) returns with special guest emcee Frank Murphy to discuss forensic cases throughout the Smoky Mountains region. Ken Jenkins, Judy Felts and friends host the moving program Heaven & Nature Sing (May 9 at 7:30 p.m.) with Ken providing a second evening session entitled Inside Adventure: My Unplanned and Exciting Happenings in the Smokies (May 11 at 5:30 p.m.). Additionally, Pulitzer prize finalist Ben Montgomery shares the story of his grandmother and her experience on the Appalachian Trail during The Fascinating Story of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring True Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (May 10 at 7:45 p.m.).

Outdoors enthusiasts, nature lovers or those who simply want to learn more about Great Smoky Mountains National Park can choose from lecture topics ranging from the area’s rich heritage to conservation. Workshops focus on photography, fishing, wildflowers and more.

Among the new sessions this year are Love, Trails and Dinosaurs: The Inspirational Story of the First Person With Autism to Complete All Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trails with Theresa Moore, Cherokee Myths and Truths with Jon Elder, I Found It in the Archives: Researching History and Family at Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Michael Aday, Neatless, Wheatless and Sleepless: East Tennessee’s Contributions to World War II with Kathy Gwinn, and Ephemeral by Nature with Stephen Lyn Bales where he looks into some of the unusual animals in the Smokies including Appalachian pandas.

Outdoor excursions of all levels are available throughout the week. Highlights include an 11-plus-mile hike to the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower located less than a mile off the Appalachian Trail (May 10 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), a six-hour hike highlighting the People and Places of Cades Cove (May 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and a nearly five-mile Hen Wallow Falls trek that takes hikers through a hemlock and rhododendron forest (May 10 from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.).

A special kids’ fishing tournament kicks off on Saturday, May 11 with registration at LeConte Center Circle Drive covered pavilion. The Wilderness Wildlife Week Youth Trout Tournament will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for children ages seven to 12. There is no fee to participate in this tournament. Fishing supplies are not provided to participants.

Throughout the concourse more than 40 exhibits and vendors, including the not-for-profit Cades Cove Preservation Association, East Tennessee Historical Society, and Keep Sevier Beautiful, are open daily during the event beginning at 10 a.m.

This spring celebration of the great outdoors is free and open to the public. For more information, a complete schedule and registration details, visit MyPigeonForge.com.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Park Plans Prescribed Burn Operation in Little Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials plan to conduct a 284-acre prescribed burn in the Little Cataloochee area on Thursday, April 4. The Little Cataloochee Trail will be closed to all public use from the Long Bunk Trail intersection to the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail intersection during burn operations.

In the event of a weather-related delay, the one-day burn operation will be conducted on an alternative date between April 4 and April 15. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area and park-operated vehicles along Little Cataloochee Trail during burn operations and during post-operations monitoring for several days following fire ignition. All other trails and roads in the area will remain open to the public.

The 284-acre Bald Top burn unit is part of the larger Cataloochee Area Prescribed Fire Project. Fire managers are continuing to use a series of low-intensity controlled burns over a number of years to restore the composition and open structure of the oak and pine woodlands that occur on upper slopes and ridges within the site. These fire and drought-tolerant natural communities are important to wildlife and overall ecosystem health, and they are in decline throughout the Southern Appalachian region.

“One of the goals of the prescribed burn project is to improve elk forage and habitat,” stated Burn Boss Trainee Tom Edwards.

This series of burns will reduce the number of fire-sensitive trees and shrubs while increasing regeneration of oak and yellow pines, and increase the cover and diversity of native grasses and wildflowers. Over time, this increase in vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows.

The burn is being funded by The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and led by the Appalachian-Piedmont-Coastal Fire Management Zone along with resources from the Nature Conservancy of North Carolina, the Cherokee Interagency Hotshot crew, and the North Carolina State Forest Service.

For more information on the use of prescribed burns in the Smokies, visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/wildlandfire.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking