Bozeman Daily Chronicle, March 6, on Wyoming lawmakers’ proposal to raise park entrance fees:
Wyoming lawmakers are talking out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to wildlife management. They couldn’t get rid of the federal government fast enough when it came to managing wolves and grizzly bears. Now they’re considering asking the feds to give them more money for wildlife management.
A proposal is making its way through the Wyoming Legislature to tack a charge of an unspecified amount to the entrance fees to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The money raised would be distributed to the surrounding states to pay for wildlife management issues — such as measures taken to prevent the spread of disease and vehicle collisions with bison and other wildlife.
At first blush, there seems to be a case for dinging park visitors for these problems. A lot of Yellowstone animals migrate out of the park into Wyoming, Montana and Idaho where they can cause problems.
But the proposal ignores a few things, like the fact the feds already contribute considerable sums to managing wildlife outside the park, specifically in wildlife preserves, like the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Southwest Montana. And asked about the proposal, Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk pointed out the park already sends about $10 million a year to Wyoming from taxes collected in the park.
The idea the feds should pony up more money to the states for wildlife management suggests the wildlife is a liability, when in fact it’s a tremendous asset. The states do a booming business in hunting around the park — specifically for elk. Many of the elk propagate in the park. Hunting license fees from residents and nonresidents raise millions for the neighbouring states.
And many tourists visit the park’s neighbouring states each year. For a lot of those tourists, Yellowstone is a major — if not the main — attraction. In Montana alone, some 12 million visitors contribute more than $3 billion annually to the state’s economy.
There may be a case for raising park entrance fees, and there may be an argument for the feds contributing something to neighbouring states’ wildlife programs. But that discussion can take place without tacking a charge onto park entrance fees specifically to be passed on to the states.
Billings Gazette, March 5, on Yellowstone County banning indoor use of e-cigarettes in public buildings:
Last week, Yellowstone County joined 13 states and 710 other American communities that prohibit use of e-cigarettes in buildings open to the public. The no vaping rule is intended to protect public health, particularly youth.
Monday, the journal of the American Association of Pediatrics published a study that found elevated levels of 10 cancer-causing chemicals in teens who vape. The vaping teens had lower levels than teens who both vaped and smoked tobacco cigarettes, but teens who neither smoked nor vaped had zero level of the tested volatile organic compounds.
The Pediatrics article authors Mark L. Rubinstein, Kevin Delucchi, Neal L. Benowitz and Danielle E. Ramo concluded: “Although e-cigarette vapour may be less hazardous than tobacco smoke, our findings can be used to challenge the idea that e-cigarette vapour is safe, because many of the volatile organic compounds we identified are carcinogenic. Messaging to teenagers should include warnings about the potential risk from toxic exposure to carcinogenic compounds generated by these products.”
The health effects of e-cigarettes require much more study, and there must be a sense of urgency about this research because these relatively new products have so quickly become popular among adolescents. The Pediatrics study participants had an average age of 16.
The journal article notes that in 2016, more than twice as many U.S. 10th graders reported using e-cigarettes in the past month than used traditional cigarettes — 11 per cent versus 4.9 per cent. Peer influence, enticing flavours and extensive marketing presenting e-cigarettes as safer contributed to the increased use by adolescents, the authors said.
Here’s the problem: E-cigarettes use aerosolized nicotine rather than burning tobacco, so they do produce fewer toxins than smoking cigarettes. But additives and solvents in e-cigarettes — even in e-cigarettes without nicotine — can form carcinogenic compounds when heated.
In a letter sent last month to 7,200 Yellowstone County businesses, RiverStone Health President John Felton explained the rationale for bringing e-cigarettes under the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act of 2005. The use of e-cigarettes in public places “renormalizes tobacco use among youth,” Felton wrote. “The number of youth using e-cigarettes has skyrocketed. In Montana, nearly 47 per cent of young people have tried electronic nicotine delivery products.”
In addition to banning indoor public use of e-cigarettes, the new Yellowstone City-County Board of Health rule prohibits smoking or vaping within 20 feet of the entrances or windows of a public building or business open to the public. A draft rule proposed a 30-foot no smoke/no vape zone, but that was revised after the board received public comments pro and con. The 20-foot setback is intended to prevent smoke and vapour from getting inside the building.
As the county’s health agency, RiverStone (not the police or sheriff) has responsibility for enforcing the Clean Indoor Air Act. The health officials aren’t going to be out looking for violations. Instead, RiverStone will respond to complaints by trying to resolve violations with education and changes that work for a particular place and situation. The last resort after three violations and warnings within three years would be a misdemeanour charge against the business that remained in violation.
Other Montana communities that have for years enforced no vaping/smoking indoors or near doors have seen few violations. We expect that will be the case in Yellowstone County.
When you see the small aqua and white signs saying “no smoking, no vaping,” please thank the business for protecting public health. RiverStone provides these signs at no charge to businesses.
Daily Inter Lake, March 4, on the future of Glacier National Park’s Sperry Chalet:
It’s difficult to imagine Sperry Chalet being rebuilt as anything other than the beautiful stone lodge it was for well over a century. It’s even harder to imagine it being rebuilt at a different, less avalanche-prone spot.
The rebirth of Sperry Chalet has begun with a schematic design process that has put forward four options of how the beloved chalet might rise again. The 1914 landmark in Glacier National Park succumbed to the Sprague Fire during last summer’s vicious fire season. The grief left in the wake of the destruction was palpable among those whose families had been making the trek to the backcountry chalet for generations. Accessible only by trail, on foot or horseback, Sperry Chalet was some people’s favourite spot in the world.
Now comes the hard part of figuring out how to move forward. The remaining stone walls were braced to withstand the winter, and a recent flyover indicated the walls are still standing.
Glacier Park officials and the park’s support partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy, are eying a 2020 reconstruction date, an ambitious goal given the unknown, but likely hefty, financial investment it will take to rebuild the chalet. Park officials expect a federal appropriation would cover most of the construction cost, but federal funding can be a fickle thing. The non-profit Conservancy is sure to go the distance in fundraising, but who knows how many millions of dollars the rebuild will cost.
The options on the table include restoring the dormitory with minimal updates; restoring Sperry but modernizing the facility; rebuilding at a nearby, less avalanche-prone location; or creating a lower-impact facility using tents or yurts.
While the knee-jerk reaction is to want to rebuild the chalet as close as possible to its original stature, it does make sense to seriously consider relocating the chalet and building in a safer spot. Glacier Park Superintendent Jeff Mow told an Inter Lake reporter last week that one of his major concerns is the current site’s future suitability.
Now is the time for the public to get involved in the scoping process and make your voices heard. The park is taking comments until April 2. Comments can be submitted online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/sperrychalet2018 or be mailed to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Sperry Chalet, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, MT 59936.