The Morning Report

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Recent Editions  


Grand Teton National Park (WY)
Woman Dies In Snake River Rafting Accident

A rafting accident on the Snake River resulted in the death of one member of a private boating party on the evening of Sunday, July 13th.

A 63-year-old Jackson woman was riding in a rubber raft just north of the Moose Landing with five other people, including her husband, when the raft hit a mid-stream obstruction, overturned, and spilled all six rafters into the river. 

After the raft flipped, five of the boaters were able to reach a gravel bar in the middle of the river. A passing private raft picked up the stranded boaters and floated them the remaining three-quarters of a mile to the Moose Landing, where they were met by park rangers and emergency medical providers. The woman, though, was caught in the fast-moving current and swept downstream. 

Bystanders near the Dornan’s landing on the east bank of the Snake River saw something floating in the water and determined that it was a person. They quickly reached the riverbank, pulled the woman out of the water, and started CPR in an attempt to revive her. Paramedics took over and continued for 45 minutes, but couldn’t revive her.

Numerous rangers and EMTs responded to both the Moose Landing and Dornan’s to rescue the boaters and provide medical care. The circumstances leading to this rafting accident are under investigation. 

[Submitted by Jackie Skaggs, Public Affairs Officer]

Hot Springs National Park (AR)
Rangers Join In Operation Targeting Child Sex Trafficking

Earlier this year, the FBI contacted rangers at Hot Springs National Park and requested their participation in an operation targeting commercial child sex trafficking in the state of Arkansas.  

The local operation involved numerous law enforcement agencies and was part of a national initiative called "Operation Cross Country 8."  The multi-agency effort targeted child predators and prostitution and had as its objective the rescue of child sex trafficking victims.  

A Hot Springs ranger was assigned to work alongside the FBI and officers from other law enforcement agencies to jointly combat the sex trade activity that affects operations at Hot Springs National Park and other jurisdictions within the state.  

The operation included enforcement actions in seven cities throughout the state of Arkansas and resulted in the recovery of two juvenile victims and multiple arrests.  More information about "Operation Cross Country 8" may be found at the link below.

[Submitted by John Hughes, Chief Ranger]

 More Information...
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (OH)
Auto Burglar Sentenced To Long Jail Term

On January 9th, a man smashed the window of a vehicle in the Hopewell Mound Group parking lot, a unit of Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, and stole a purse hidden in the trunk. He then made several hundred dollars worth of fraudulent purchases with the credit card.

The victim contacted the Ross County Sheriffs Department and a detective was able to obtain video of the man, but not the suspect vehicle. Through the park's surveillance cameras, ranger Keith Gad obtained a detailed description of the vehicle, a late 2000's dark-colored Buick Century with only one working light on the front of the vehicle. 

On January 11th, surveillance cameras showed that a second vehicle was broken into at the same location by the same man.

On January 12th, Gad waited in the area to see if the suspect vehicle would return to the parking lot. It did, but it did not enter the park this time. Gad followed it, noting that the front plate and rear plate had each been intentionally obscured with globs of mud and that the front headlight was not working. When the car stopped at a nearby grocery store, the ranger identified the man as 38 year-old Rodney Simpson of Chillicothe.

Simpson was arrested on multiple felony warrants from both Ross and Fayette counties, and was subsequently convicted on several charges of breaking and entering, burglary, and receiving stolen property. He was sentenced to 13 years and 6 months incarceration.

These were the first two vehicle break-ins that have occurred in that parking area since surveillance cameras were installed over five year ago in response to dozens of car clouting cases.

[Submitted by Rick Perkins Chief Ranger]


Denali National Park & Preserve (AK)
Study Provides Insights On Wolf Population Dynamics

When a breeding wolf dies, its sex and the size of its pack can determine whether that pack continues or disbands, according to research published on July 8th in the Journal of Animal Ecology.   

In 2012, biologists at Denali National Park and Preserve noted a drop in wolf sightings following the death of a breeding female from a pack that lived along the Denali Park Road. This was one of several instances where the death of an individual wolf, from legal trapping or hunting, sparked widespread media attention and public outcry in recent years.

“This isn’t the first time we have noticed that the loss of a breeding wolf can affect the fate of the pack. We thought it would be valuable to systematically look at what happens to the pack and population following the death of a breeder,” said author Bridget Borg, National Park Service biologist and University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) graduate student.

Borg’s research looked at changes in wolf pack fate, reproduction, and population growth following the death of breeders.

Gray wolves typically live in packs consisting of the parents and their offspring from one or more years.  In this structure, a wolf pack resembles the concept of a traditional family.  Turnover among young members of a pack is common, as they leave to search for mates and start packs of their own. Breeding members typically have a longer tenure in the pack and act as a sort of “social glue.”

Borg, along with other NPS researchers and collaborators from UAF and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, examined data collected on 70 packs during a long-term study of wolves in Denali National Park.

They found that breeder loss preceded or coincided with most documented cases of wolf pack dissolution (when a pack disbanded or was no longer found). However, the death of a breeding individual did not always lead to the end of a pack. In approximately two out of three cases where a breeder died, the pack continued.

“It appears that the sex of the lost breeder and the pack size prior to loss were important factors explaining pack fate following the death of a breeder,” says Borg. “The probability of a pack continuing was less if a female died or if the pack was small prior to the death.”

Borg’s data also suggests that the death of a breeder has a greater influence if the wolf died during the pre-breeding or breeding season. 

“We noticed that human-caused mortality rates were highest during the winter and spring, which correspond to the pre-breeding and breeding seasons for wolves,” said Laura Prugh, co-author and wildlife ecologist at the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology. “Harvest may lower the odds of pack survival because of this timing, especially when pack sizes are small.”

Surprisingly, higher rates of breeder mortality and pack dissolution did not correspond to lower population growth, indicating that the wolf population was resilient to the loss of breeding individuals at a population level, the scientists reported.  The authors suggest that wolves may compensate for the death of breeders in a variety of ways, such as rapid replacement of breeders or increased reproductive success the following year.

Although breeder loss appeared to have little impact on the overall Denali wolf population, the loss of individuals may be important at a local level. The researchers found that rates of denning and successfully raising pups into the fall decreased for packs in which a breeder died or was killed.  It is the wolf packs that successfully raise pups near the Denali Park Road that tend to be seen most often by park visitors, according to NPS biologists. 

“This research has important implications to the current viewability of wolves in the park,” stated Denali Superintendent Don Striker. “Given the park’s current low wolf densities and small average pack sizes, we are concerned about harvest of wolves from packs that reside primarily within the park. The death of a breeding wolf could harm the packs that provide the greatest opportunities for park visitors to see a wolf in the wild, either through a lack of reproduction or the loss of the entire pack.”

The article can be found at the link below. 

[Submitted by Kris Fister]

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Southeast Region
Four South Carolina Parks To Join Forces In Realignment

Around September 1st, Kings Mountain National Military Park, Cowpens National Battlefield, Ninety Six National Historic Site, and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail will start the process of realigning their management into a single administrative group managed by one general superintendent. Cowpens and Ninety Six have been under a single manager for several years.

“Together, these parks represent significant stories of the Southern Campaign during the American struggle for independence during the Revolutionary War,” says Regional Director Stan Austin. “This action should provide new opportunities for employees to collaborate on projects intended to enhance the visitor experience and open up new partnerships both inside the NPS and with other agencies and organizations. In light of a challenging fiscal future, it makes sense to increase the efficient use of the resources and seek out new management structures that capitalize on the strong staff available at the parks.”

The goal is to have the general superintendent on board in early September to begin working with the employees to examine current priorities and organizational structure for each unit and implement changes over time. Through this realignment effort, another goal is to minimize redundancies in staffing and continue to maintain or enhance resource protection, as well as visitor services.  Ultimately, the shared responsibilities may reveal new opportunities for professional development.

Group management of NPS units is not a new concept and has worked well for the Outer Banks Group (Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Wright Brothers National Memorial) and Southern Utah Group (Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, and Natural Bridges National Monument), as well as in the Bay Area, in the Dakotas, and elsewhere. 

[Submitted by Marianne Mills,, (404) 507-5613]

Intermountain Region
Pilgrimage To Sand Creek Massacre Site Promotes Healing

The sounds of the Plains wind and prairie bird songs were all that could be heard during a June 22nd gathering of 650 members of the United Methodist Church Rocky Mountain Annual Conference at Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Colorado.

Members of the conference assembled on bluffs overlooking Big Sandy Creek to pay homage to those who lost their lives 150 years ago this fall during the unprovoked attack by U.S. Army soldiers on a peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho encampment. Representatives of the two tribes walked with conference members and shared stories, passed down through generations, of what their ancestors had endured.

Mountain Sky Area Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, who organized the conference pilgrimage, thought it important that all Methodists recognize the Methodist Church’s complicity in bringing about and defending the slaughter of 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians at Sand Creek on November 29, 1864.

Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans, a Methodist, helped create a political and moral climate that was partly responsible for the massacre. Col. John M. Chivington, a former ordained Methodist minister and presiding elder in the church, commanded the expedition to Sand Creek.

After the massacre, many Methodist ministers across the country attempted to justify it – and for the next century and a half, Methodists largely forgot the connection between their church and the Sand Creek Massacre. 

In devoting part of their annual conference to studying the massacre, Bishop Stanovsky and conference organizers hoped to reverse this and bring about understanding and healing. They asked members to engage in contemplative observance, spiritual meditation and quiet reflection while at the park – and engage they did. Most of the 650 in attendance spent an hour or more in silence at the site, taking in the landscape and its powerful memories. One conference member later remarked that the silence was “thunderous.”

Park staff worked with Bishop Stanovsky’s conference committee, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe members, Kiowa County, the town of Eads, the Crow-Luther Cultural Events Center, and the Eads United Methodist Church to host the conference members. It was for park staff the largest public gathering since Sand Creek Massacre’s dedication in 2007. Judging by comments from conference attendees, news articles and emails, it appeared equally successful.

[Submitted by Shawn Gillette,, (719) 729-3003]

Valley Forge National Historical Park (PA)
Hundreds Celebrate Independence Day At Valley Forge

The looming rain in the forecast didn’t hinder the enthusiasm of the over 1,500 participants at Valley Forge’s July 4th Community Picnic in the Park this Independence Day.  

Visitors, many with their furry companions in tow, took part in a festival of revolutionary caliber. Children and adults enjoyed a variety of 18th century and Americana themed games and activities, including a fire cake toss and Patrick Henry’s dunk tank. They tried on colonial clothing, built soldiers’ huts, attended ranger-led walks and living history programs, and participated in the Join the Continental Army program.

Additional stations provided visitors with park safety tips, an introduction to the park’s natural resources, and a lesson in the history of the American flag. Under the shade of the tree canopy on the visitor center lawn, visitors enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers, and other traditional fare.

Thomas Jefferson, as portrayed by Ken Sandberg, was paraded to the flag pole by continental soldiers and fife and drum as the crowd gathered to hear him read the Declaration of Independence. Inside the visitor center hundreds of new signatures were added to the mock Declaration – a real crowd-pleaser.

The artillery crew was in action all day long, demonstrating the drills developed by Baron von Steuben and taught to the Continental Army for the first time at Valley Forge in the spring of 1778.

“We made several thousand friends and park advocates today,” said Superintendent Kate Hammond. 

"I will always prefer to go here and celebrate this nation’s birthday than going the beach. I love showing my children what this country had to endure and continue to do so for our freedom," said Sofia Esquilin, a local visitor and participant in the day’s events.

Over seventy volunteers, partners, and park staff came together to plan and execute this grand event. The event was coordinated in partnership with the National Park Service, The Encampment Store, The Friends of Valley Forge Park, and The Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board, with a generous grant from PECO.

[Submitted by Stephanie Loeb, Media Specialist]

Wilderness Stewardship
Kelly Bush Receives National Wilderness Award

The Director’s Wes Henry National Excellence in Wilderness Stewardship Award recognizes outstanding contributions to wilderness preservation and stewardship across the National Park Service.  

During last week’s NPS Wilderness Leadership Council meeting, Garry Oye, chief of the Wilderness Stewardship Division, presented the 2013 individual award to Kelly Bush, district ranger for the Wilderness District at North Cascades National Park. 

Kelly has been a champion of wilderness values at North Cascades since before there was federally designated wilderness within the park. Beginning as a seasonal ranger in the 1980s and then as a wilderness patrol supervisor and wilderness district ranger, Kelly has played an integral role in developing, shaping, and implementing the park’s wilderness management policies and ethics. She was instrumental in the designation of the park’s Stephen Mather Wilderness in 1988 and then had a significant role in writing the park’s first wilderness management plan in 1989. 

An effective collaborator, Kelly has worked with other subject matter experts on many interdisciplinary wilderness topics, including revegetation and plant propagation, wilderness character monitoring, and climbing. Kelly has served as the co-chair for the last seven years on North Cascade’s Wilderness and Aviation Committee and as a field representative for three years on the NPS National Wilderness Leadership Council.

Kelly’s investment and commitment to growing wilderness stewardship is evident in her accomplishments. She has demonstrated, on multiple occasions, what it means to be passionate wilderness steward – asking difficult questions and grappling with wide-ranging and nuanced solutions.

Thank you Kelly for your leadership, energy, and creativity.

[Submitted by Erin Drake,, 303-969-2091]


Acadia National Park (ME)
GS-0025-11 Supervisory Protection Ranger

Acadia National Park has issued an announcement for a supervisory protection ranger. The person selected will serve as one of three shift supervisors in the protection division.

Click on the link below for a copy of the announcement with full details on duties, area information, and procedures for applying.

For more information, contact Todd Elmore in HR at 617-223-5015 or Chief Ranger Stuart West at 207-288-8770.

It closes on July 28th.
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Yosemite National Park (CA)
GS-0018-12/13 Safety And Occupational Health Manager

Yosemite National park is recruiting for a safety and occupational health manager.

Click on the links below for copies of the announcements with full details on duties, area information, and procedures for applying.

The former closes on July 18th, the latter on August 4th.