The Morning Report

Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Golden Gate National Recreation Area (CA)
Park Creek Restored In Five-Year-Long Project

Muir Beach and the mouth of Redwood Creek, located three miles west of Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County, California, have recently gone through a major transformation.

Once the site of an Azores Island Portuguese dairy and ranching operation and later a hastily-built parking lot for visitors to the small cove beach, the floodplain and mouth of the creek had been extensively modified and the natural function of the area had been lost.  

A five-year restoration project was undertaken in a partnership between the park and its non-profit partner, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, in which applied sciences in hydrology, geomorphology, wetland ecology, fisheries biology and civil engineering were used to restore the connection of Redwood Creek to its natural channel and floodplain.

Through this process, the wetland habitat for threatened and endangered species – including Coho salmon, steelhead trout and the California red-legged frog – was enhanced and a self-sustaining ecosystem was created.

This latest phase of construction and restoration required the beach to be closed for more than six months. It reopened at the end of this past January.

The parking lot at the mouth of the creek has been newly configured, reopening the floodplain so that the lagoon will now be able to handle heavy volumes of rainwater flow down from Muir Woods National Monument through Redwood Creek and out to the Pacific.

The restoration of the 46-acre area, underway since 2009, was done in a manner that kept the creek system functioning and wildlife protected. Among the improvements and changes were the following:

  • Tens of thousands of wetland and upland plants were grown and cared for by the park’s Redwood Creek Nursery volunteers and planted by hundreds of volunteers each year.
  • A new 450-foot-wide floodplain was created where the NPS visitor parking lot had once blocked the water flow.
  • A new pedestrian bridge was installed over the floodplain, providing both natural function and year-round visitor access to trails and the beach.
  • Picnic and restrooms facilities were installed.
  • The area was landscaped to provide better views of the ocean.
  • Mobi-Mat was installed on the beach to provide better access for people with mobility difficulties.

After the machinery has long gone, the soil settled in place, and the plants begin to grow, the jute fabric will disappear. Large rain events will leave their imprint upon the landscape, and the plants and animals will begin to make their own impact upon the site. Muir Beach will continue its metamorphosis.

[Submitted by Alexandra Picavet, Public Affairs Specialist]

Air Resources Division
Elevated Mercury Levels Found In Fish In Some Western Parks

National parks contained levels of mercury in some fish that exceeded health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and National Park Service (NPS) publication (pdf, 6.7MB).

This study of mercury in fish is the first of its kind to incorporate information from remote places, spanning 21 national parks in 10 Western states, including Alaska. Mercury concentrations in fish sampled from these parks were generally low, but were elevated in some instances.

Mercury is harmful to human and wildlife health, and is among the most widespread contaminants in the world. Human activities have increased levels of atmospheric mercury at least three fold during the past 150 years. Much of the mercury found in these mainly high elevation areas is the result of air pollution from outside the parks.

Between 2008 and 2012, NPS resource managers collected more than 1,400 fish from 86 lakes and rivers, and USGS scientists measured mercury concentrations in fish muscle tissue. The authors found that mercury levels varied greatly, both between parks and among sites within each park. In most parks, mercury concentrations in fish were moderate to low. In fact, mercury concentrations were below EPA’s fish tissue criterion for safe human consumption in 96 percent of the sport fish sampled. 

However, the average concentration of mercury in sport fish from two sites in Wrangell-St. Elias and Lake Clark (Alaska) national parks exceeded EPA’s human health criterion. Additionally, mercury levels in individual sport fish atsome sites from Lassen Volcanic (California), Mount Rainer (Washington), Rocky Mountain (Colorado), Yellowstone (Wyoming), and Yosemite (California) national parks also exceeded the human health criterion.

The National Park Service is currently coordinating with state officials regarding potential fish consumption advisories. Exposure to high levels of mercury in humans may cause damage to the brain, kidneys, and the developing fetus. Pregnant women and young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of mercury.

Mercury at elevated levels can also impact wildlife resulting in reduced foraging efficiency, survival, and reproductive success. Mercury concentrations exceeded the most conservative fish toxicity benchmark at 15 percent of all sites, and the most sensitive health benchmark for fish-eating birds at 52 percent of all sites.

For more information, see the USGS Top Story and NPS Air Resources Division Toxics Studies webpages to access the summary, fact sheet, and joint press release.

[Submitted by Colleen Flanagan Pritz,, 303-969-2806]

Wilderness Stewardship
Wilderness Act 50th Outreach Toolbox Now Available

The 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is on September 3rd this year. In recognition of this historic event, the NPS is commemorating the anniversary throughout the year in hopes of highlighting the story of wilderness in parks and programs across the country.

Recognizing that budgets are tight and staff availability is limited, the WASO Wilderness Stewardship Program, in partnership with the Natural Resource Stewardship and Science, Cultural Resources, and Interpretation and Education Directorates, has released a Wilderness 50th Outreach Toolbox. This toolbox is comprised of four free “products” intended to help with 50th anniversary-related outreach:

  • Traveling interpretive exhibit
  • 50th edition of the digital Wilderness Explorers booklet and patch/certificate “starter kit”
  • Content (text and images) for publications (newsletters, newspapers, websites, etc.)
  • Mini-grants for commemorative events and stewardship activities

Interested in participating but not a wilderness park? Any park or program interested in making connections to wilderness is welcome to participate.

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

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Environmental Quality Division
United States Park Police
This Week Is National Telecommunicators’ Week

This week – April 13th through April 19th – has been designated as National Telecommunicators’ Week.

The United States Park Police would like to recognize the men and women of the Park Police communications centers that serve the Washington, San Francisco, and the New York areas. They perform telecommunications duties that proivide indispensable links between officers, the public, and vital support services.

The communications dispatchers who provide radio, telephone, and computer services to every USPP unit are to be commended for their dedication and professionalism. Thank you for your valuable contributions to the Force.

[Submitted by Sergeant Lelani Woods, Public Information Officer]

Denver Service Center
Patrick Macdonald Announces Retirement

After 35 years with the National Park Service, Patrick Macdonald has announced that he will retire on May 2nd.  Patrick is a project manager with DSC's Design and Construction Division.

Patrick began his career as a civil/structural engineer in 1977 in a DSC field office in Maryland, working on the restoration of the C&O Canal. He went on to work for National Capital Region and then back to DSC offices in Northern Virginia, continuing to work on projects within National Capital Region.

Patrick says that he has been grateful to work on so many great projects that he can’t mention them all, but he has especially enjoyed some recent projects at the Harpers Ferry train station, the White House Visitor Center, the National Mall, and the Jefferson Memorial.  He has spent much of his career working on projects in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., and, although he now lives in Colorado, Patrick has a special fondness for that area of country.

“I am grateful to have worked with the great people in the Park Service," he says, "I’ve enjoyed every project I’ve worked on to protect the amazing resources within the national parks.”

Patrick and his wife, Helene, plan to continue to reside in Boulder, Colorado, and hope to travel regularly to visit family in Austria, Germany, and the U.S.  Patrick also plans to work on house projects, garden, volunteer, and spend time with his family and friends enjoying beautiful Colorado.

A celebration in Pat’s honor will be held on Thursday, May 1st.  For more details or to send a note of congratulations to Patrick, please contact

[Submitted by Lindy Allen,, (303) 969-2588]

Northeast Region
Jim Comiskey Selected As Regional Inventory And Monitoring Chief

James Comiskey has been named division chief for the Northeast Region’s inventory and monitoring program.

Since 2004, Comiskey has served as the program manager for the Mid-Atlantic Network based at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP. He will assume his new position on April 20th, replacing John Karish who retired last July. In his new role, Comiskey will oversee four I&M networks that monitor natural resources in 40 Northeast Region parks.

“Jim has over 25 years of experience as an ecologist working in multiple countries. His skills in collaboration have resulted in a successful monitoring program for the Mid-Atlantic Network and will now be put to work in the collaboration between natural and cultural resources management” said Associate Director for Resource Stewardship Maryanne Gerbauckas. “These skills will serve Northeast Region parks well.”

As Mid-Atlantic Network program manager, Comiskey oversaw natural resource inventories for ten parks from Valley Forge NHP in Pennsylvania to Booker T. Washington National Monument in Virginia, as well as developing and implementing long-term monitoring across the network.

“I am thrilled to have been selected to lead the Northeast Region inventory and monitoring program," said Comiskey. "Over the past ten years at the Mid-Atlantic Network I have come to realize the substantial benefit the program brings to natural resource management in the primarily small, cultural parks I worked with. The I&M Program has an outstanding team in the Northeast Region and I am honored to continue being a part of it.”

Comiskey started his career in the United Kingdom, where he spent three years monitoring water quality for Thames Water Utilities. He subsequently spent 12 years with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., conducting research on tropical forest dynamics in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. He managed several biodiversity conservation projects in West Africa and conducted numerous training courses on natural resources monitoring.

Comiskey is originally from Madrid, Spain, and holds bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in ecology from the University of London. He and his wife Sandra share their home with two English bulldogs.

[Submitted by Lorin Diaz,]


Chamizal National Memorial (TX)
GS-0341-11 Administrative Officer

Chamizal National Monument has issued an announcement for an administrative officer for both that park and Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

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

It closes on April 28th.
 More Information...