Visiting the orchards of Fruita in Capitol Reef National Park is quite the unusual experience in light of the surrounding desert climate. Early settlers planted cherry, apricot, peach, pear, apple, walnut and many more trees as a cash crop for survival. Visitors today can camp adjacent to orchards aplenty. While guests meander around Fruita between sandstone walls and green fields, deer, marmots, and other small critters are easily spotted and are used to the influx of humans in their environment.
Though the deer roam free in the tall grass between apple trees, there are other species that are a bit more dangerous lurking nearby. Mountain lions and black bears are skilled at roaming the historic district of Fruita without being seen. There has been mountain lion activity within a half-mile of the popular campground in Fruita, yet little is known about the species within the confines of Capitol Reef. With so many questions unanswered about the predator and prey relationship in the unique landscape, the park has received a Disney Nature Impact Grant to fund a much-needed project.
'We are setting up 10-20 infrared motion detected camera traps in surrounding areas. This is a non-invasive way to learn basic information about the species,' said Lori Rome, the park's chief of interpretation. The cameras will provide useful evidence and patterns of the quiet predators in the park. Deer surveys and other methods will also be conducted in Fruita, engaging the public through a citizen science project using social media and public interpretive programming.
Where are the funds coming from? If you saw Disney Nature's move Bears during the opening week, you helped contribute to 14 national parks receiving Disney Nature Impact Grants! Disney Nature pledged to make a contribution to the National park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks, through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund for each person who saw the film during the first week.
'Thanks to Disney Nature's support and commitment to preserving and protecting America's national parks, we are able to fund much-needed conservation projects like studying and protecting endangered species, restoring more than 400,000 acres of national park land, and much more,' said Neil Mulholland, president an CEO of the National Park Foundation. 'We are thankful for our relationship with Disney and the profound impact we are making together in our national parks.'
Each park selected to receive a grant demonstrated a clear need in which funding would make a profound difference. Parks receiving a grant addressed the need for either habitat restoration, wildlife protection or conservation research. Like Capitol Reef, the need for funding is appreciated and will go toward innovative studies and unique programs.
Other programs made possible through the 2014 Impact Grants include:
Congaree National Park in South Carolina
This grant will allow trained and experienced wildland fire crew to conduct habitat restoration efforts including prescribed fire and reduction of loblolly pine density within the imperiled longleaf pine ecosystem- an ecosystem recognized as nationally significant. The park will also conduct intensive outreach to national park visitors, virtual visitors, staff and volunteers, partners, and the community surrounding the park and other National Park units in the region regarding fire ecology.
Coronado National Memorial in Arizona
Thousands of endangered lesser long-nosed bats roost several weeks each year at Coronado National Memorial and feed on Palmer's agave nectar; however, the memorial's bat population is declining due to habitat loss. Staff will partner with a local middle school garden program to restore 500 acres of agave habitat at the memorial, which has suffered from overgrazing.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia
In partnership with the Friends of Cumberland Gap, the park will install bear proof containers in local communities surrounding the park as well as provide educational information through a program called, "Living with Black Bears."
Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah
The park will install bear proof containers as well as develop the "Keep Our Bears Wild" program with the goal of creating an effective education and outreach program to guide and encourage the necessary changes in human behavior in bear country.
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii)
The goals of this project are to increase the resiliency of the park's population of endangered hawksbill turtles (which has decreased due to the loss of nesting habitat caused by climate change); expand nesting habitat by removing invasive woody plants taking over beaches; relocate at-risk nests in overcrowded sites to higher ground and less crowded sites; and provide interpretation of park recovery efforts to beach visitors and communities surrounding the park.
Little River Canyon National Preserve in Alabama
This project will provide a hands-on science opportunity for park neighbors and visitors to learn about the value of bats in northeast Alabama. With the threat of White-nose Syndrome diminishing our bat populations, it is more important than ever to educate the public about the ecology and significance of these wonderful flyers. The park will host educational programs including workshops on how to build bat houses, and allow the public to help monitor bats.
Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky
This grant will fund the first year of a joint project studying how bat populations and their insect prey respond to the arrival of White-nose Syndrome at Mammoth Cave National Park. In partnership with the University of Kentucky and Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning, the project will also help visitors understand bats and their role in the ecosystem as well as their recent decline due to White-nose Syndrome.
National Park Service RTCA Florida Field Office
The human and bear populations around the Wekiva Wild and Scenic River System of central Florida are growing and urban development is expanding in and around black bear habitat. The National Park Service will partner with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to conduct a research study to collect data on the dynamics of Central Florida's black bear population to understand how bears use and move through wildland-urban areas. This information will also improve public understanding of bears and better connect people's behavior to bear behavior.
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
In partnership with the Estes Valley Bear Education Task Force, the park will provide food storage lockers for the newly re-opened Glacier Basin Campground as well as launch an education campaign on bear safety for park visitors and neighbors.
Wupatki National Monument in Arizona
The "Little Colorado River Restoration and Community Stewardship Program" will restore riparian habitat and genetic connectivity between important biological hotspots that promote regional biodiversity and will also engage the public's participation in restoration activities.