December 3, 2009
Ranger Fund is Making an Impact this Winter
Nearly 98% of Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres is undeveloped wilderness that provides safe harbor to species like grizzly bears and gray wolves. Unfortunately, the Park's rugged remoteness also makes it vulnerable to human encroachments like wildlife poaching and illegal snowmobile use. Extreme winter weather makes the rangers’ job of patrolling and protecting this vast area all the more challenging.
This winter, the Yellowstone Park Foundation's Ranger Heritage Initiative is helping rangers perform their work more effectively, from patrolling the Park’s boundary, to search and rescue operations.
Patrol Cabin Rehabilitation
Yellowstone’s network of historic backcountry cabins provides safe shelter for the rangers who patrol the Park’s backcountry during the harsh winter months. The Yellowstone Ranger Fund Initiative's Adopt-A-Cabin campaign is funding the rehabilitation of 36 cabins in remote areas of the Park. Two cabins at Shoshone Lake – the Cove and Outlet cabins – have already undergone rehabilitation as a result of this program and are in ship-shape this winter. An impressive 3,500 pounds of equipment needed for these cabin projects were hauled by canoe into the backcountry. Repairs included the installation of new metal roofs, construction of doors and steps, and replacement of necessary equipment such as propane tanks. The newly refurbished cabins are now ready for many years to come in support of ranger patrol operations. Learn about adopting a cabin>>
Boundary Patrol Vehicles
Through the Yellowstone Ranger Fund Initiative, the Park is again leasing three high-performance powder snowmobiles, or “Hot Sleds,” this winter to support boundary patrol operations, especially in areas that regularly experience illegal snowmobile incursions into the Park's wilderness. Last winter, these over-snow boundary patrols resulted in 26 mandatory court appearances for illegal snowmobile use, four assists in Gallatin National Forest cases, and four citations issued for non-snowmobile related violations. Rangers hope to continue the momentum they achieved last winter by raising awareness that the National Park Service has zero tolerance for those who violate the Park's wilderness with snowmobiles.
Project SOAR (Search, Observe, and Report)
Park rangers patrol Yellowstone's boundary by horseback or snowmobile, depending on the season, to detect and deter illegal hunting, snowmobile use, and other infractions. These modes of transportation, however, can only cover so much ground. The Park has thus implemented a program utilizing fixed-wing surveillance aircraft as a tool for carrying out year-round monitoring of Yellowstone's backcountry areas. These flights, now funded through the Yellowstone Ranger Heritage Initiative, have already resulted in the discovery of previously unknown hunting camps along the Park’s north boundary. They have also led to the detection of illegal snowmobile incursions in sensitive geothermal areas along the southwest boundary. This program is successfully complementing the efforts of Park rangers on the ground and helping to protect Yellowstone's rich resources and abundant wildlife.
Ranger Training and Equipment
Proper training and high-quality equipment can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations. The Yellowstone Ranger Fund contributes to both in support of the rangers’ year-round search and rescue operations. For example, the Fund recently enabled the purchase of three infrared scopes that provide thermal imaging capabilities previously unavailable in Yellowstone. These scopes are high-tech, heat-sensing devices that can see through smoke, dust and various reduced-visibility situations up to 1,100 meters. They have a multitude of safety and law-enforcement applications, but most importantly they can be employed to help locate a lost child, a missing hiker, or survivors of a capsized boat on a lake.
In addition, through a generous donation to the Ranger Heritage Initiative, Yellowstone had the rare opportunity this past fall to host a five-day “tactical tracking” training session taught by a renowned world leader in the field of tracking. The rangers who attended can apply their field skills to search and rescue operations, as well as to crime scene investigations of resource violations.
You Can Play a Direct Role in Supporting Rangers
Thanks to generous support from Friends of Yellowstone, the Foundation recently reached the halfway mark toward our $2-million Yellowstone Ranger Heritage Initiative goal. Donations of all types and sizes to the Fund have allowed us to make progress toward attending to the rangers’ greatest needs, and are helping continue the tradition of excellence among Yellowstone’s rangers.