It’s Almost National Park Week!

Each year the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation team up to present “National Park Week”; a week-long celebration of America’s National Parks. This year, National Park Week will be April 20th to April 28th.  The purpose of the event is to encourage everyone to learn about, support, and get out in our National Parks.

Part of National Park Week includes fee-free days. From Monday April 22nd until April 26th National Park units will waive their entrance fees, so this is your chance to visit a National Park for free! One of my favorite National Park programs, the Junior Ranger program,will also have its own day – April 20th. So if you have little ones, head to a National Park to participate in a variety of Junior Ranger oriented programs.

National Park Week is also about supporting the National Parks and supporting programs that get people into our parks.  April 27th is Volunteer Day, so if you’d like to give back to the National Parks check out the calendar of events for National Park Week to see how you can help.   The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s National Parks, also organizes many activities year-round including America’s Best Idea and Ticket to Ride. Both programs provide the means for underprivileged youth to access National Parks.  So consider donating to the National Park Foundation to celebrate National Park Week.

I will be spending part of National Park Week in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. How will you be celebrating National Park Week?

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (photo by Ashley D'Antonio)

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (photo by Ashley D’Antonio)


What triggers visitors to leave the designated trail? It’s spring in Utah!  I can still see snow in the mountains but my yard is looking lush and green. I am enjoying the rain while I can; I know that once summer rolls around these steady rain storms will be few.  Despite my excitement about April showers and the warm weather, a recent article in Wildlife Biology has me thinking about winter.  During the winter, many wildlife species are under extreme stress compared to other times of the year. Food is scare and therefore animals are at a risk of not replenishing any extra energy expenditure that may be undertaken. As such, winter recreation – while not having a huge impact on soil and vegetation – can be a serious threat to wildlife species. Some species are known to be especially sensitive to recreation, especially off-trail use by recreationists.  Wildlife can adapt to the predictive nature of on-trail recreation but the sporadic and seemingly unpredictable nature of off-trail use can lead to serious ramifications for wildlife. Wildlife species often respond to recreationists like they do predators – flushing, releasing stress hormones, and overall just using energy that could have been saved for other activities (feeding, reproducing, growing, etc.).

Sign from Yellowstone National Park about winter, stress, and wildlife.

Sign from Yellowstone National Park about winter, stress, and wildlife.

Coppes and Braunisch were interested in seeing if off-trail use by winter recreationists was predictable.  Could they determine where human-wildlife conflicts might occur in a protected area in Germany using spatial modeling?

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