Harbingers of spring emerged this week in Grand Teton National Park with the year’s first grizzly bear sighting and the onset of spring road plowing.
The ursine sighting was March 13; the following day park crews began to clear the roads. The plowing operations mark the end of over-snow access on a 14-mile section of the Teton Park Road. The road will be closed to all users until further notice for safety reasons, but it’s anticipated to open to non-motorized users by April 1 and to motorized traffic on May 1.
The park just reported its highest visitation year on record with a final tabulation for 2021. GTNP hosted 3,885,230 recreation visits last year, surpassing the previous record of 3,491,151 visits in 2018. The tally put the park in seventh place among the nation’s top national parks for recreation visits in 2021. Nearby Yellowstone National Park placed third.
GTNP is analyzing visitor data and trends as it prepares for another summer season, according to a NPS press release. Trail use has also soared in the park, with a 49% increase since 2017.
“It is clear that people are enjoying Grand Teton National Park at unprecedented levels and in new ways,” Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins said in the release. “We also have a charge to ensure that the scenery and wildlife that are critical to the Grand Teton experience are protected for future generations of visitors. We are in the early stages of identifying potential issues and impacts of changing visitation and engaging with the broader community and stakeholders to discuss what we, and they, are seeing.”
Somedays you get the bear. Some days the bear gets you.
As Congress starves the Park Service of funding as a result of GOP intransigence and their desire to show that public lands would be better managed by private ownership, the problem of resource management and protection will only grow worse. Democrats care about the integrity of public lands. Resource depletion will still grow worse due to environmental and sociological factors beyond our control, but at least it will be slowed by electing sane leaders.