Would You Pay to Hike? Wyoming Considers Charging Hikers

As Wyoming considers first-of-its-kind fee for hiking, we wonder: Would you mind paying to maintain trails?

Wyoming state lawmakers are considering a first-of-its-kind fundraising measure: Charge hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and others for using trails. At least one prominent outdoor recreation user group is on board.

A mandatory $10 annual permit fee paid by users of non-motorized, “natural-surface” trails would support public-land trail systems across Wyoming, advocates told lawmakers eyeing a draft trail-fee bill.

The bill could raise $1 million a year for Wyoming trails, even those trails on federal lands, according to information presented to the Legislature’s Travel Recreation Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee. As a draft bill is re-worked, backers say Wyoming outdoorswomen and -men who enjoy non-motorized trails are not opposed to paying a fee that would support creation and maintenance of recreational routes — the same way snowmobilers and ATV riders contribute funds through machine permits.

Today, “there’s no funding for non-motorized trails,” Domenic Bravo, the administrator of the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office, said in an interview. Trail users have mixed feelings about a fee, however.

“Some are very bought-in,” Bravo said. “For others, just the idea of paying a fee to use a trail is concerning.”

Tim Young, the executive director of Wyoming Pathways who testified before the committee in Evanston, Wyoming, last month, said the fee is “an opportunity to improve our livability in our communities.”

He outlined the lack of public funds and trail crews needed to keep up with use. Federal agencies are cash-strapped, Young said. They have massive trail-maintenance backlogs with as much as three-quarters of Forest Service trails in disrepair, he said. Public agencies have been unable to plan for the non-motorized trails that are in demand by equestrians, mountain bike riders, hikers, runners, and others.

“Many of them [national forests] have lost their trail crews, their trails supervisors,” Young told the committee. The Bureau of Land Management “can’t even give us a list of the entire trails in Wyoming.”

“The need is pretty dramatic,” Young said. “The [funding] hole is so big I’m going to support this.”

The draft bill says that any adult that uses a “designated” non-motorized trail in Wyoming “shall annually obtain a non-motorized recreational trail permit,” costing $10. The bill would create an account to be operated by the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, which would designate trails in the system and furnish numbered permits. Permits wouldn’t be required where other fees, like parking or parks admission, are already in place.

The bill would allow individual users and user groups to document volunteer trail maintenance or work time in exchange for a permit.

The bill would apply to and support “natural-surface trails,” only, not paved paths and sidewalks.

People shouldn’t worry about potential path police Bravo said. “We didn’t even think about the penalty,” Bravo said. “We’re not going to sit there and hire a bunch of park rangers.”

Instead, Bravo believes marketing could convince people, even tourists, to pay the $10 “because it means something.”

The volunteering element of the bill is “critical,” Bravo said, but it alone can’t provide for the system of trails Wyoming needs. “You still need cash,” he said.

If adopted, the bill could be the first of its kind nationwide, Young said. “I don’t believe any other state has a mandatory fee. Wyoming would be pioneering a new approach of how to take care of its public trails. This would be the first person-based, non–motorized trail fee in the country.”

A provision in the draft to divert 10 percent of the revenue raised to the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust Account has drawn fire. Critics instead want to provide a way to make a contribution to that account voluntary.

Trail users have shown they’re willing to pony up for well-maintained routes, said Rep. Marti Halverson (R-Etna), a member of the committee considering the bill. While she’s generally skeptical of increasing taxes and fees, “I cannot say I have never voted for a fee increase,” she said in an interview.

When officials proposed to boost snowmobile fees, “I heard from 16,000 snowmobilers from around the state,” Halverson said; “Please raise the fee.”

“It was all going to trail grooming,” Halverson said. “I know the users are willing to contribute to trails and maintenance.”

But while trail-users — even those using non-motorized trails — may be willing to pony up, “I don’t think they should be the only ones,” Halverson said. “I have already heard from folks who say there’s no reason for Wyoming or Wyomingites to be subsidizing trail work on public land.

“I take that to heart that just because the Medicine Bow National Forest doesn’t have a trail crew doesn’t mean that Wyoming should be paying for trails,” she said.

“So, I’m getting some push-back from my constituents. They want the U.S. Forest Service to pay something. There is ample opportunity for the Forest Service to take advantage of the resource to raise the funds necessary to meet the demands of the outdoor recreationalists in this state — and the visitors.”

Young sees it slightly differently. “Congress and the Forest Service should be providing much better funding for our trail system,” he said. “Congress has not done its job.” Nevertheless, the bill should be revised to require a federal matching grant, Young wrote in remarks to the committee.

Regardless of any failed responsibility, Wyoming Pathways partnered with the Shoshone National Forest to create the new Upper Brewers Trail near Lander, Wyoming, and with the Medicine Bow National Forest to rebuild damaged trails on Pole Mountain between Laramie and Cheyenne, Young wrote the committee. In all, the projects constructed about 6 miles of trails and cost $220,000, much of it funded privately through grants and aided by significant volunteer work, his Aug. 30 letter read.

In Jackson Hole, trail advocates kick in $350,000 a year in cash and volunteer value, he said. Evanston’s Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance aids the Forest Service and Evanston Parks and Recreation District with Nordic skiing, mountain biking, hiking, river, and equestrian use around Uinta County. In the Cody area, Young said, Park County Pedalers, best known for their mountain bike trails, have invested $400,000 in a trail network on city and BLM land.

Non-motorized trail users could leverage their funds and fundraising in a heretofore-blocked avenue if they begin paying fees, Young said. By contributing financially to trail maintenance, non-motorized trail users could strengthen their arguments when seeking a share of the federal trail funds distributed to Wyoming.

The federal Recreational Trails Program funds trail work through the Wyoming State Trails Advisory Council. Since 2013 Young has complained that the state council “unfairly restricts” money that the federal government earmarks for “diversified trails” — meaning those for several different user types. Federal guidelines allow the funds to be spent on a non-motorized “diversified trail,” such as trail for skiing, hiking, and fat-biking. But the Wyoming council, by policy, spends the funds only on trails that include a motorized component.

“Wyoming is the only state in the nation that requires motorized use in all diversified projects” Young wrote the trails council in 2015. The rule is “an unfair bias against non-motorized projects,” he wrote. “This unnecessary requirement is in conflict with the clear language of the federal law and should be removed.”

For Outdoor Office chief Bravo, a trail fee “would definitely open the door for those … conversations,” with the trails council. “If everybody is paying into the process, it’s easier to get fair balance in the programs,” he said.

In affiliation with Wyofile.


Discover Shenandoah’s Hidden Hikes

A cool breeze greets your face. A cicada’s song tickles your ears. Your footsteps meet a well-worn trail. There’s hiking – and then there’s hiking in the Shenandoah National Park. Home to 500 miles of trails which include waterfalls, overlooks, and 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail, your backyard national park is truly a hiker’s paradise.

While there are favorite trails in Shenandoah like Old Rag and Stony Man, the 200,000 acre national park holds many more for you to explore. What are these hidden gems, you ask? We looked to the experts and asked supporters of the Shenandoah National Park Trust for their favorite ‘hidden hikes’ – those trails less traveled in this beautiful park.


Immerse yourself into a patchwork quilt of fall foliage. This 1.6 mile round trip jaunt takes you to a lookout where you can see the surrounding valley. And bring the kids! This trail is great for families. The Miller’s Head Trail starts near the Skyland Resort and Massanutten Lodge and heads west, descending for a half mile before leveling out. Great views await you at the Miller’s Head Viewpoint.


The Graves Mill Trail is a relatively easy hike that runs along the Rapidan River, on the eastern side in the central district of the park. You will find the trailhead is in a small gravel parking lot at the end of Route 662. The 2.2 mile hike crosses two streams which hikers find can easily be crossed using rocks and boulders. Horses, mules and park-loving pups are allowed to join you on this trail.


Another great option to see the Shenandoah National Park show off its fall colors is the Laurel Prong Trail. This out-and-back 2.3 mile trail starts at the Booters Gap parking lot where you turn left and head north along the white-blazed Appalachian Trail for about a half mile until you meet up with the blue-blazed Laurel Prong Trail. There are several stream crossings which are often more muddy than wet. This low foot traffic trail offers space for peaceful reflection.

If you’d like a full list of 10 of Shenandoah’s ‘Hidden Hikes,’ and to learn about supporting trails in Shenandoah National Park through the Happy Hiker Fund, sign up for The Shenandoah National Park Trust’s newsletter at snptrust.org.

The Shenandoah National Park Trust is an official nonprofit partner of Shenandoah National Park. The Trust touches every aspect of the park we all enjoy, helping to protect what you love about Shenandoah National Park, while creating programs to inspire the next generation of national park stewards. The Trust invests in programs and initiatives which help ensure that Shenandoah remains a crown jewel of the Park Service, an economic driver for the region, and a national treasure for all to enjoy, for generations to come.

Blue Ridge Outdoors 
Sept 24, 2018

A sedentary lifestyle could be bad for your brain


September 23, 2018, 10:23 a.m.

For many, a sedentary life is the norm. Lots of jobs require sitting in front of a computer for most of the day, and there are plenty of us who like to spend evenings and weekends lounging on the couch in front of the TV or reading a good book.

It seems pretty intuitive that staying seated for extended periods of time isn’t conducive to good health. But in case you need some examples, too much sitting can cause issues such as increased blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular complications, high cholesterol levels, and even put you at a higher risk for cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.


Studies have shown that sitting for a prolonged period of time can worsen anxiety, and even though exercise seems like it would be the best way to combat the negative effects of sitting for too long, a good workout won’t solve all your problems.

It’s also been found that sitting isn’t really the problem when it comes to the detriments of a sedentary life; the bigger issue is staying in one place for too longthat’s problematic.

Now, a new study conducted by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University in England, has shown that staying seated for too long could potentially be bad for the health of your brain, reports The New York Times.

The issue here is that staying sedentary for extended time periods decreases blood flow to the brain.

Our blood contains the oxygen and nutrients that are needed for healthy brain function. Decreased blood flow means the brain doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly.

When oxygen can’t make its way to the brain, cognition skills become poor, and thinking clearly becomes difficult. Memory can also be affected negatively if the brain doesn’t receive the proper amount of oxygen.

A closer look at an office still life

For this particular study, the researchers examined fluctuations in the participants’ blood flow in correlation to sitting for a lengthy amount of time.

A group of 15 healthy female and male office workers participated in the study, which took place on three separate occasions in three different scenarios.

In each scenario, the participants were fitted with headbands equipped with ultrasound probes that monitored blood flow levels in their middle cerebral arteries, which are some of the main arteries that send blood to the brain.

The carbon dioxide levels of the participants were also measured at the beginning of each trial by having the participants breath into masks. This was done to see if changes in carbon dioxide levels would play a part in blood flow fluctuations.

On the first occasion, the participants were asked to sit for four hours at a desk while either working at a computer or reading. The participants were only allowed to get up to walk to a nearby bathroom.

During the second trial, participants were asked to get up from their desks every 30 minutes, and then walk for two minutes at a slow pace on a treadmill next to their desks. They walked at a pace of roughly two miles per hour.

The third and final visit saw the participants get up for an eight-minute break after two hours of continuous sitting. During their break they walked the treadmill at the same speed as they did during the second scenario.

The results

It came as no surprise that blood flow to the brain decreased after four hours of sitting with no consistent break. The drop wasn’t huge, but levels decreased nonetheless.

In the scenario in which participants took a break after two hours, the levels of blood flow also declined. Blood flow levels increased during the walking break, yet the levels dipped back down once participants returned to their desks, and were lower than when the sitting session initially began.

When the participants took short breaks every half-hour, their blood flow levels increased.

“Only the frequent two-minute walking break had an overall effect of preventing a decline in brain blood flow,” says Sophie Carter, doctoral student at Liverpool John Moores University and study leader.

There was no change in the participants’ carbon dioxide levels in any of the three scenarios.

While the study itself wasn’t meant to determine whether prolonged sitting can cause long-term damage to the brain, we do know that short-term effects occur, and that could offer some clues in the long run about the relation between brain health and spending your day bound to a desk.

So, if you’re pretty much parked in one place throughout your workday, you should consider getting up for a brief walk every half-hour; it could ensure you stay sharp during your day, and it might even prove beneficial to the long-term health of your brain.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

The U.S. Was Just Ranked the Best Country in the World for Wildlife Travel — Here Are the Top Spots to Visit


SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 –

Tour company True Luxury Travel has created a Global Wildlife Index to rank the best countries for wildlife tourism based on factors including wildlife biodiversity, conservation efforts, and the prevalence of national parks.

The index ranked the United States as number one, thanks to the country’s impressive system of national parks (60 in total) as well as the number of natural history museums (more than 750). For travelers looking to get closer to nature, there’s no shortage of options around the U.S.

The country’s first national park, Yellowstone, is home to rare wildlife like gray wolves, black bears, and grizzly bears. At South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, bison are known to roam right around the campgrounds, at Montana’s Glacier National Park, visitors will find a large population of white mountain goats; and at Death Valley National Park, the mesquite trees of the park’s Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes hide a variety of wildlife.

Southern Florida is the only U.S. destination where you’ll find both crocodiles and alligators in the wild. Everglades National Park has both — as well as manatees, more than 300 bird species, and more than 700 plant species.

In Alaska’s Denali National Park, visitors can observe caribou in the wild; in Florida, beachgoers can see loggerhead sea turtles come to nest; and in San Diego, the sea lions in La Jolla always draw a crowd.

The Megafauna Conservation Index also ranked the U.S. as first in the world for its conservation efforts. The index measures countries based on the proportion of land occupied by mega-fauna species, the proportion of the range of the species strictly protected in each country, and the amount of money spent on conservation. 

Travel & Leisure article

Who says animals don’t have a sense of humor?


September 17, 2018, 12:46 p.m. – Mother Nature Network:

From a smiling shark to an elephant playing in the dirt and a whole bunch of bears dancing the tango, this year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards finalists are sure to put a smile on your face.

These 41 IMAGES were selected out of thousands of submissions from around the world. While the photos are whimsical, the competition also has a serious message. The photography contest maintains a partnership with Born Free Foundation, an international nonprofit organization that is “working tirelessly to ensure that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect. We work across the world to preserve and protect wildlife in its natural habitat — finding Compassionate Conservation solutions so that humans and wildlife can co-exist peacefully.”

For the first time, the competition has opened up one category, the Affinity Photo People’s Choice Award, for a public vote. Anyone can vote online for their favorite.

On Nov. 15, one of the images listed here will be announced as the grand prize winner, and all of these photographs will be published in The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards Vol. 2 book to be released in October.

Your 2018 fall foliage guide


September 19, 2018, 11:54 a.m. – Mother Nature Network:

Whether you’re a ‘leaf peeper’ or just looking for great photos, here’s how to get the most out of the season’s splendor.

As the temperature drops and autumn sets in, Mother Nature is painting the treetops in vibrant hues of red, orange and gold, and many people are planning their leaf-viewing vacations.

SmokyMountains.com created a prediction map for the year’s fall colors using millions of historical data points from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


“Each year, we use a proprietary algorithm to process millions of data pieces and output accurate predictions for the entire country,” Wes Melton, co-founder and CTO of SmokyMountains.com, told Travel + Leisure.

Those millions of pieces of data are turned into 50,000 bits of predictive data, which are displayed on the interactive map. “This predictive map is the perfect intersection of our passions and is our favorite project of the year,” said Melton.

The color change of the leaves depends more on light than temperature, so it takes place at about the same time each year. But temperature, rain and other weather conditions can have an impact on the timing of the leaves’ changing color. For instance, because of drought in Maine, the state’s trees are already turning amber this year, reports the Bangor Daily News.

Here’s a look at what to expect this fall if you’re looking for colorful foliage.


Peak time: There are a few patchy areas in the Northeast where leaves have already started to change, per SmokyMountains.com’s map. The region may be at or near its peak by early October, and it’ll be past its peak by late in the month. The northern parts of New York and Vermont will be past their peak by the middle of October.

Where to go: Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, inspired Henry David Thoreau, and when you see the autumn’s colors reflected in the water, you’ll understand why. The Catskills and Adirondacks are classic foliage destinations where you can catch several leaf peeping tours or simply wander among the vivid, leafy boughs on your own. Hike to the top of Hogback Mountain in southern Vermont and you’ll be rewarded with a 100-mile view of orange, scarlet and gold. The small town of Medfield, Massachusetts, is a quiet destination off the beaten path where you can walk six miles of footpaths through the gorgeous foliage at Rocky Woods State Reservation. New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest guarantees spectacular leaf viewing each year. Climbing the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast at Acadia National Park will get a stunning view of the color-splashed landscape.


Peak time: Some parts of the Southeast will have minimal to patchy color changes by the middle of October. If you give it a few more weeks, swatches of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee will be at their peaks. However, most of the region won’t start to peak until early November, with the southernmost areas not peaking until the middle of the month.

Where to go: You’ll never fail to get breathtakingly colorful views with a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park — there’s a reason it’s among America’s most visited national parks. If you’re looking to get a tour of what the Southern states have to offer, check out Alabama’s Fall Color Trail, which will take you from the scenic views of Oak Mountain State Park to Cheaha State Park, the highest point in the state at 2,407 feet above sea level. The overlook at South Carolina’s Caesars Head State Park offers one of the most stunning views of autumn in the Appalachians, and a hike to nearby Raven Cliff Falls offers an ideal photo opportunity where water cascades down the dramatic 400-foot falls surrounded by fall colors. The city of Asheville, North Carolina, is a great stop if you crave a hip urban setting surrounded by gorgeous foliage. Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest always has spectacular views for leaf peepers. Arkansas’ Ozark Mountain Region also promises an array of crimsons, yellows and oranges that offers many stunning photo opportunities.


Peak time: Like some parts of the Northeast, the Midwest is already experiencing some slight foliage changes. Those areas — the northern portions of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota — will peak by early October. The rest of the region is expected to peak later in October.

Where to go: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to some of the most gorgeous fall foliage in the country, framing the area’s more than 200 different waterfalls in a backdrop of spectacular color. Just 20 miles from downtown Cleveland, Ohio, sits Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a 33,000-acre preserve where you can spot bald eagles and other birds nestled among the leaves. The Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway offers the opportunity to see autumn’s splendor from a variety of viewpoints — from scenic bluffs to glistening waterways. Missouri’s Katy Trail is the nation’s longest rails-to-trails bike path, and it’ll take you through small towns and farmland and give you breathtaking views of the Midwest’s fall foliage.

Central U.S.:

Peak time: The northernmost states in the region won’t begin to really change up the colors until near the middle of October. About half of Texas won’t peak until early November, however, well past the rest of the region’s foliage pinnacle.

Where to go: They may be called the Black Hills, but this area of South Dakota is blanketed in a variety of colors every autumn. Leaf peepers looking for an overview of what the area has to offer should take a drive along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. Montana’s Glacier National Park offers breathtaking views at all times of year, and fall is no different. Although the park is home to many evergreens, you’ll also see bright yellows and crimsons, which creates a stunning contrast among the greens. Nestled in the Missouri River bluffs in northeastern Nebraska, Ponca State Park offers gorgeous landscapes dotted with fall colors and the Lone Star State has more to offer than just cacti — Lost Maples State Natural Area is a great place to see some of fall’s best oranges and yellows.


Peak time: The window for foliage in the Northwest is pretty small. By mid-October, look for Idaho to be near-peak with Washington and Oregon hitting their stride later in the month.

Where to go: The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area that spans southern Washington and northern Oregon is typically an ideal place to see the colorful show put on by the area’s maples, cottonwoods and ash trees, but wildfires late in the summer of 2017 have made the area less-than-hospitable for leaf peepers. The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington is home to gorgeous creeks and lakes that reflect the colorful foliage, and Mount Rainier National Park boasts brilliant fall colors, thanks to its vine maples, huckleberry bushes and larch trees. Oregon’s 2.3 million-acre Fremont-Winema National Forest offers many scenic vistas of vibrant oranges and yellows, and Idaho’s Teton Scenic Byway is a must-see with its variety of colors dotting the mountain range. You might be surprised to find so many hues in Alaska’s Denali National Park, but the area’s breathtaking beauty gets much more colorful in the fall. Keep in mind that fall starts early and ends quickly in Denali, so make your way up there in late August or early September to catch the park’s brilliant reds and oranges.

West and Southwest:

Peak time: The middle swath of Colorado and the northern part of New Mexico will peak by early October with Utah and Arizona following suit a week or so later.

Where to go: Aspen may be known for its skiing, but every autumn the golden foliage of the town’s namesake tree makes the area’s slopes worth the trip even without snow. The leaves begin changing in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest as early as September, but the gold rush really beings in October. New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo mountains are splattered in orange, gold and yellow every fall and offer a wealth of photo opportunities, and you can never go wrong with a trip to the Lake Tahoe area during this time of year. The fall color show lasts for weeks here, and the gorgeous foliage provides the perfect backdrop for the variety of outdoor activities available at Lake Tahoe.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in October 2011 and has been updated with new information.

Why do we love bees but hate wasps?


September 23, 2018, 9:37 a.m. – Mother Nature Network: 

Most of us have a soft spot for bees. We think about how important they are for pollinating flowers and crops and for providing honey. We worry that they’re disappearing and wonder what we can do to save them.

But when it comes to wasps, our emotions usually aren’t so warm and fuzzy. These insects are “universally despised,” according to new research, and it’s primarily because their role in the environment is misunderstood.

Like bees, wasps also pollinate flowers and crops. They also help regulate crop pests and insects that carry diseases that affect humans.

“It’s clear we have a very different emotional connection to wasps than to bees — we have lived in harmony with bees for a very long time, domesticating some species, but human-wasp interactions are often unpleasant as they ruin picnics and nest in our homes,” said study author Dr. Seirian Sumner of University College London in a statement.

“Despite this, we need to actively overhaul the negative image of wasps to protect the ecological benefits they bring to our planet. They are facing a similar decline to bees and that is something the world can’t afford.”

What we can learn from bee research to help wasps

For the study, published in Ecological Entomology, researchers surveyed 748 people from 46 countries on their perceptions of insects, including bees and wasps.

Participants were asked to rate each insect on a scale — ranging from minus five to positive five — to describe their positive or negative feelings for each one. In addition, respondents were asked to provide up to three words to describe bees, butterflies, wasps and flies.

Butterflies received the highest level of positive emotion, followed closely by bees, and then flies and wasps. The most popular words for bees were “honey” and “flowers,” while wasps reminded people of “sting” and “annoying.”

The problem, the researchers say, is that wasps just have a bad reputation.

“People don’t realize how incredibly valuable they are,” Sumner told BBC News. “Although you might think they are after your beer or jam sandwich — they are, in fact, much more interested in finding insect prey to take back to their nest to feed their larvae.”

In addition to the bad press, the researchers found that wasps just don’t have the same scientific support as bees. The researchers looked at 908 research papers since 1980 and found only 2.4 percent were wasp publications, compared to 97.6 percent bee publications.

“Global concern about the decline of pollinators has resulted in a phenomenal level of public interest in, and support of, bees. It would be fantastic if this could be mirrored for wasps but it would need a complete cultural shift in attitudes towards wasps,” said co-author Dr. Alessandro Cini of the University College London and the University of Florence, Italy.

“The first step on the way to this would be for scientists to appreciate wasps more and provide the required research on their economic and societal value, which will then help the public understand the importance of wasps.”