The Morning Report

Monday, September 08, 2014

Recent Editions  


Yosemite National Park (CA)
Visitors Evacuated By Helicopter Due To Fire

A wildfire that started early yesterday afternoon east of Half Dome quickly grew to 700 acres and forced the helicopter evacuation of about 100 hikers from the top of Half Dome, Little Yosemite Valley and surrounding trails.  

There were no reported injuries or structures affected by the wildfire.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Throughout the afternoon, seven helicopters, an airplane, and ground crews worked to extinguish the fire. The area, which is at an elevation of about 7,000 feet, features rugged terrain.  Ground access requires a several mile hike to the area affected by the fire. 

Yosemite National Park firefighters are working with fire crews from Cal Fire, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks, Mariposa County Fire, California Highway Patrol, and U.S. Forest Service.  There are over 100 firefighters dedicated to the fire, with more resources en route. 

Yosemite National Park remains open and all facilities within Yosemite Valley.  Trails near the Half Dome area, the Little Yosemite Valley area (a backcountry camping area near Half Dome), Merced Lake and Sunrise High Sierra Camps, Clouds Rest, and Echo Valley remain closed due to fire activity.  All roads leading into Yosemite remain open as well. 

Visitors are urged to check the park’s website to get updated information in the smoke impacts to Yosemite National Park.  Updated information can be found at

[Submitted by Kari Cobb, Public Affairs Officer]

Olympic National Park (WA)
Search Underway For Missing Backpacker

A search was begun late Saturday for Kelly Hall, a 64-year old Bainbridge Island man who was two days overdue from an intended six-day, 39-mile hike in the northeast corner of of the park. 

Hall began his hike on Saturday, August 30th, setting out from the Obstruction Point Trailhead near Hurricane Ridge.  Family members expected to meet him at the USFS Slab Camp Trailhead last Thursday afternoon.  He was reported overdue on Thursday evening.

Hall’s planned itinerary was to hike through Grand Valley to Grand Pass, then continue over Cameron Pass, pass through Dose Meadows to Gray Wolf Pass, and follow the Gray Wolf Trail into the Buckhorn Wilderness in Olympic National Forest. 

Hall is described as being 6’5” tall and weighing 220 pounds. He’s carrying a blue backpack and wearing a blue Mountain Hardware stocking cap. He’s believed to be carrying a blue-gray tent and to have orange flip flops and a fishing pole tied to his pack. Anyone who’s seen him or knows something about his possible whereabouts is asked to call the park at at 360-565-3120.

As of late yesterday, there were 16 searchers in the field, including National Park Service employees and volunteers, plus volunteers from Olympic Mountain Rescue, Clallam County Search and Rescue, and German Shepherd Search Dogs. 

[Submitted by Barb Maynes, Public Affairs Officer]

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Two Plead Guilty In Separate Ginseng Poaching Cases

Deep Creek Rangers Wes Mullins, James Latendresse and Jason Campos were conducting a backcountry patrol in an area of prime ginseng habitat on June 28th when they spotted a man with a history of ginseng poaching. The rangers were able to move in on him without being detected.

The man – Billy Joe Hurley, 46, of Bryson City, North Carolina – was known to rangers as having a history of convictions for ginseng poaching and other offenses within the park. He was arrested for the illegal possession or harvesting of American ginseng from the park.  

Hurley admitted to possessing 83 ginseng roots he had illegally dug from areas in the park and later pleaded guilty to the poaching charge in court – his fourth such conviction.  On August 28th, he was sentenced to serve five months and fifteen days in prison.  

In a separate case on August 6th, Mullins and Latendresse arrested Christopher Ian Jacobson, 31, of Cosby, Tennessee.  Jacobson unsuccessfully attempted to flee from rangers upon being contacted, but was caught and placed into custody.  Jacobson pleaded guilty to the illegal possession of 298 ginseng roots; he was sentenced to 80 days in prison and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.  

American ginseng was recently placed in North Carolina’s Watch Category 5B, which includes generally widespread species that are in commercial demand and are often collected and sold in high volume. This category was created to bring attention to the issue, since such high volume collection is unsustainable.

For details on these two cases, click on the link below.

[Submitted by Joe Pond, District Ranger]

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Olympic National Park (WA)
Migratory Trout Return To Upper Elwha River

Thanks to a radio tracking program begun this spring, fisheries biologists last week confirmed that two radio-tagged bull trout have migrated through Glines Canyon and are now upstream of the former Lake Mills in Rica Canyon. 

Two other bull trout have also been detected above Glines Canyon, but were not located during the ground survey.  Biologists will use airplanes to conduct watershed-wide surveys this fall.

“To witness these first fish to migrate above Glines Canyon is both amazing and inspiring,” said Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.  “We always knew the fish would return once the dams were removed – but these four fish passed through Glines Canyon even before the concrete was gone.”

Both of the fish currently in Rica Canyon were tagged earlier this summer at locations below the former Elwha dam site.   

The radio tracking program is possible through partnerships with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Washington’s National Park Fund, allowing biologists to monitor the movements of radio-tagged salmonids in the Elwha River.  

Each fish is equipped with a uniquely coded radio transmitter that differentiates it from all other tagged fish. Radio signals from the tags are then detected by radio receivers and antennas. 

Six telemetry stations were installed between the mouth of the river and just above the Glines Canyon dam site. These stations continually scan for and record data, documenting when individual fish pass by each station.  Biologists also manually track fish between Rica Canyon and the river mouth using handheld radio receivers and antennas

Eighty-seven anadromous fish have been radio-tagged so far.  Of that total, 13 bull trout, two winter steelhead, five Chinook and one sockeye salmon have been located above the old Elwha dam site.

More details on the migratory bull trout located above Glines Canyon:

  • Fish #167 was captured and radiotagged on May 7 approximately 3.5 miles above the river’s mouth.  Before releasing the fish, biologists recorded its length as 19 inches.  This fish swam through the old Elwha dam site in late July and was detected above Glines Canyon in early August, before the last chunk of the dam was demolished on August 26.
  • Fish #200, measuring 20.5 inches, was radio-tagged on June 25 about a mile and a half upstream of the river’s mouth.  This fish swam past the Elwha dam site on July 20 and swam through Glines Canyon on August 24, just before the final blast.
  •  Bull trout are among the smallest of Pacific salmonids, and are federally listed as a threatened species.
  • Rica Canyon is upstream of the former Lake Mills and begins about 2.5 miles above Glines Canyon.

Background and more information about the salmonid radio tracking program and Elwha River Restoration can be found at the Olympic National Park website.

[Submitted by Barb Maynes, Public Affairs Officer]

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Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (MD)
Bicentennial Events Underway At Fort McHenry

Eastern Incident Management Team members began arriving at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine during the first week of September to prepare for the 200th anniversary of the defense of Fort McHenry and the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner. 

Team members are supporting park employees and volunteers for a series of special programs and events that began this past Saturday and will continue until Tuesday, September 16th.

Among the signature events will be the “Star-Spangled Banner Living Flag,” during which more than 7,000 students will create a living American flag, and “By Dawn’s Early Light” on September 14th, a real-time program during which the fort’s 30 foot by 42 foot garrison flag will be hoisted over Fort McHenry – 200 years to the minute after the Star-Spangled Banner was raised over Fort McHenry, inspiring Key to pen his immortal words. General Colin Powell will be the keynote speaker.

Fort McHenry is teeming with activity, from contractors setting up stages and tents to NPS employees preparing park grounds, programs and personnel for Defenders Day. 

The Eastern IMT consists of more than 200 NPS employees representing 41 parks and programs across NCR, NER, SER and WASO, with more than 100 already on site. 

Over the course of the twelve-day-long celebration, more than 800 volunteers are expected to support the anniversary events.  Volunteers are supporting park staff in a variety of ways, including living history programs, parking, crowd control, and visitor services. 

The Eastern IMT was developed to respond to the increasing number of events and incidents occurring in parks, including Civil War sesquicentennial events and the Hurricane Sandy response. 

Skilled IMT members with experience in handling complex events are needed for events like this one.  The team is currently employing a trainee in every staff position, including plans, logistics, operations, finance, public information, safety and incident command. 

Mark Musitano is incident commander.

[Submitted by Robin Snyder, Deputy PIO]

Grand Teton National Park (WY)
Passing Of Rennell Jacobson

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the death of a dear friend and NPS colleague, Renelle Jacobson. She passed away on August 30th at her cozy cabin in Montana.

During her years in the NPS, Renelle served as IT specialist at Glacier National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Grand Teton National Park. She began at Grand Teton in October, 2009, and worked at the park until her disability retirement this past April.

Renelle fought a long and courageous battle with cancer, and she did it with incredible grace and a perennially positive attitude. Her personal strength, positive nature, and generous spirit were admirable traits that definitely serve as valuable examples to keep in mind whenever life throws a curve ball our way.  

Renelle did not want a funeral. Instead, she preferred a celebration of life to be held at each of the parks she loved. Grand Teton National Park held an informal gathering to "celebrate" Renelle's life on Thursday, September 4th, and other events are being planned for Glacier and Rocky Mountain.

Renelle instructed that these events have happy music and minimal tears. She didn’t mention chocolate, but everyone who knew Renelle, also knows that she would expect chocolate to be a key part of any gathering. Hopefully, each of these events provide an opportunity for Renelle’s friends to find comfort and remember her indomitable spirit. 

For those who want to share memories and special Renelle stories, cards and condolences may be sent to her parents at the following address: Wesley & Kathy Jacobson, 1577 65th Street, Granville, ND 58741-9769.

If you would like to share a remembrance or contribute to a group donation, you can also contact Heather Voster via email at or call 307-739-3304.

Death has a way of making us stop and consider the measure of our own lives. And carpe diem is such an appropriate axiom at times like this. Renelle would want each of us to “seize the day” and live our lives to the fullest, with no regrets. That and laughter are fitting tributes to Renelle’s short, but influential life.

[Submitted by Jackie Skaggs and Teri Austin]

Valley Forge National Historical Park (PA)
Final VOICES Of Valley Forge Workshop Held

The six part VOICES of Valley Forge workshop series culminated on August 2nd when educator and historian Marion Lane shared the story of her ancestor, Sergeant Issac Brown, and his experience as an African American soldier in General Washington’s Continental Army at Valley Forge.

Cultural ambassador and dancer Malfada Thomas-Bouzy led an interactive session of dancing and drumming to demonstrate how the rich heritage of African storytelling, music and song survived from one continent to another and how these art forms became sources of strength and courage through the colonial, civil rights and contemporary eras.

Members of the Chester Boys and Girls Club and the Camden Fresh Start youth group danced and drummed as participants in the VOICES teaching and learning community.

The VOICES of Valley Forge series was coordinated by Teacher-Ranger-Teachers Renee Jacobson and Eileen Hutchinson. Assisting was Monty Bembeleza, an NPS Academy SCA intern, who portrayed a patriot of African descent.

Funding for the VOICES series was provided by the Legacy of Love Foundation and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter.  Support for the series was provided by the Encampment Store and the Friends of Valley Forge Park. 

The previous workshops in June and July included art and writing explorations, historical re-enactments, history through movement and dance, author presentations and book talks.  The VOICES workshops uncovered through visual and performing arts and literature the stories of diversity, women and children that are often not present in the traditional historical narrative and provided opportunities for relevant park experiences for park neighbors and youth who had not previously visited the park. 

[Submitted by Rhonda Buell Schier, Chief of Interpretation & Education]

Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs
Weekly Legislative Activities Report

The Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs puts out weekly reports on hearings, new legislation and other activities on the Hill. This report covers activities in Congress for the period from August 9th to September 5th.

In order to obtain the full text of any of the bills that appear below, click on the following link: . That will take you to Thomas, the Library of Congress legislative tracking system. Enter the bill number in the “Search Bill Text” block, being sure to also click on the “Bill Number” option below the block.


New Public Laws

On August 8th, President Obama signed into law H.R. 5021 (Camp, R-MI-4), the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014.  The bill extends authority for funding for Federal surface transportation programs, including the Federal Lands Highways Program, through May 31, 2015.  It is Public Law 113-159. 

Floor Action

Nothing to report.

Committee Activity

Nothing to report.

New Bills Introduced     

Nothing to report.

Upcoming Committee Activity

On September 9th, the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation (Bishop) will hold a hearing on the following bills of interest to the National Park Service.  The hearing is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. in 1324 Longworth.  The Department’s witness will be William Shaddox, Chief, Land Resources Division, National Park Service: 

  • H.R. 5003 (Gingrey, R-GA-11), to adjust the boundary of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park to include the Wallis House and Harriston Hill, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 5162 (Goodlatte, R-VA-6), to amend the Act entitled “An Act to allow a certain parcel of land in Rockingham County, Virginia, to be used for a child care center” to remove the use restriction, and for other purposes.


For additional information, please visit the Legislative and Congressional Affairs Office website at

[Submitted by Andrea Dekoter]


Blue Ridge Parkway
GL-0025-9 Protection Rangers

Blue Ridge Parkway has issued an announcement for three GL-9 permanent, full-time protection rangers – two in the Plateau District and one in the Pisgah District.  

If you have any questions concerning these positions, please contact either Bobby Miller, Plateau District Ranger, at 540-745-9681, or Don Coleman, Pisgah District Ranger, at 828-407-5643.

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 September 17th.
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