We'd like to welcome the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the non-profit that brings bear boxes to the national park, plans to help raise funds to create a proper setting in Grand Teton to display nearly 1,500 Native American artifacts, and links younger generations to the park, to the Traveler's sponsorship ranks.
It's a given that the National Park Service can't do it all, and that's why groups such as the Foundation are so vital to the parks. At Grand Teton, here's a look at some of the work the Foundation makes possible through its fund-raising:
* Youth Conservation Program. This program brings youth aged 16-19 to the park each summer to work on maintaining trails, installing bear-resistant containers, repairing historic sites, pulling exotic weeds, learning stone masonry, and building fences, all while hiking miles of the park each day. Collaborative park teams work with the YCP teens to provide a unique education in park history, fire, safety, and rescue training.
* Bear boxes. These bear-resistant lockers are not cheap, costing roughly $1,100 each, but they serve a great purpose: keeping park bears from getting a taste of human foods. There are nearly 1,000 front-country campsites at Grand Teton, and outfitting them all with enough bear boxes to meet the storage needs of campers doesn't happen overnight. Going into the past winter park officials said that nearly 75 percent of Grand Teton's front country campsites lacked these vital food storage containers. The Foundation's campaign to provide bear boxes in all the campgrounds is steadily chipping away at that shortage.
* Curatorial needs of the David T. Vernon Collection. This collection of nearly 1,500 Native American artifacts was donated to the park by Laurance S. Rockefeller back in 1976. While it has been the centerpiece of the exhibits at the park's Colter Bay Visitor Center and Indian Arts Museum, conditions there do not meet the preservation and protection needs of the collection. While the collection currently is at the Park Service's Western Archaeological and Conservation Center in Tucson, Arizona, for conservation work, the Foundation plans to be working in the future with park officials on raising the necessary dollars to upgrade the visitor center and museum so the collection can be brought back for public display.
* Wildlife research: Dollars raised by the Foundation help underwrite a range of wildlife research in Grand Teton, from studies into charismatic mega-fauna such as grizzly bears and wolves to greater sage grouse monitoring and recovery.
* Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Named after the late U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyoming, this 22,000-square-foot facility opened in August 2007. The nearly $22 million cost was met with a federal appropriation of $8 million and $13.6 million in private-sector funding generated by the Foundation.
Along with these projects, the Foundation has in place a 10-year plan to build on a variety of initiatives, from educational outreach and wildlife research to preservation projects and forming relationships with conservation-minded buyers who can protect private inholdings from future development.
We encourage you to visit the Foundation's website and spend a little time learning what they've been able to accomplish at Grand Teton, and what they aim to accomplish in the years ahead.