Wild Black Bear Sightings Increasing in Texas

Recent sightings of black bears in the western parts of the Texas Hill Country could indicate the dry hot conditions in the Lone Star State are causing wildlife to venture into wider migration patterns.

From April through June, rare bear sightings have occurred near Carta Valley, Barksdale, Camp Wood, west of Ingram, south of Tarpley, Asherton, Alpine, Fort Davis and Mount Livermore.

On June 20th, a black bear was sighted swimming near the shoreline of Lake Amistad.

In the past year, bears have also been observed not only on the lake, but near Fort Stockton, north of Laredo, and in nearby regions.

While no one is sure how many bears currently live in Texas, experts agree that wildfires in Mexico, as well as drought conditions in other regions, have likely caused bears to migrate to new areas, including many parts of Texas.

Michael Janis, Trans-Pecos district leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), said dry conditions are likely sending bears looking for food. Breeding season also moved bears around.

The conservation efforts in bordering states over the last 20 years have also led to bears crossing back into Texas, especially during the summer mating season, according to TPWD.

Most of these animals wandering further into Texas are young, transient males in search of food and other bears. Males have much larger home ranges than females, and sub-adults can travel many miles to set up a new one.

Click to read bear tips for hunters, campers, hikers and homeowners

To those not aware of bears, some people become quite alarmed when they hear about sightings. However, out of approximately 36,000 people in the U.S. who are bitten annually by wildlife, black bears rank 5th behind rodents, venomous snakes, skunks, and foxes respectively.

In West Texas where Big Bend National Park (BBNP) has had more than 6,592 bear/human encounters since 1950, only 2.5 percent of those encounters were classified as aggressive interactions. Most of those occurred when the bear made contact with property containing human food. There has never been a black bear attack recorded in BBNP.

When Border Patrol agents discovered a young black bear in a tree in north Laredo last July, it likely came from Mexico, noted Eric Garza, wildlife biologist with TPWD.

Not long after,  residents of SpinTech – Myers Ranch caught a strange image on a game camera. Maybe it was an overgrown wild hog, but most believe it was a bear:

TPWD is recording more road kills of black bears between Laredo and Zapata over the decade. Garza notes they were likely males dispersing from Mexico also.

“Zapata itself probably hasn’t seen any historic sightings simply because of the lake. It’s hard for them to swim across the lake, especially when it’s up,” said Garza. “This particular animal probably came across where the water is a lot lower. Not where it’s a lake but where it’s still a river.”

In a 2011 Starr County encounter, Garza notes the bear became habituated to residents, picking up scraps of food and eating out of trash cans. In those instances the bears need to be trapped and relocated away from humans, pet food and trash.

“The first thing we need to know is any conflicts between black bears and people can be avoided very, very easily,” Garza explained. “And the easiest way to avoid any conflicts is to make sure and not leave trash out for bears to get into, and really any wildlife to get into. Don’t leave pet food out. Bring that in and secure it. Don’t leave small livestock animals like rabbits or poultry.”

Late 2021 and early 2022, TPWD biologists were monitoring multiple black bear sightings near the North Double Diamond community south of Alpine.

It is believed the bear may displaying behavior typical of hyperphagia (excessive or extreme hunger). Reports suggested that the bear were attracted to and searching for easily accessible food sources (i.e. pet food, wildlife feeders, livestock feed, etc.). 

In June, 2021, Big Bend National Park camper Valerie King took photos of a black bear in the Basin Campground:

TPWD indicates anyone encountering a black bear in a camping area should immediately deploy aversive conditioning by creating loud noises (shout, handclap, air horns, car alarm, sirens, or bang pots and pans) to startle the bear. Once the bear leaves, report the encounter to your District Biologist or TPWD Game Warden.

It is critical that the Department is able to monitor any on-going situations with full extent of known black bear encounters. 

In the 1800s, black bear lived through every ecosystem in Texas but has long been hunted down and migrated away from settlements and eventually, cities. In 2009, a black bear that wandered onto a Mernard County (Central Texas) cattle ranch was the first ever confirmed in this century in that part of the state, according to Capt. Alan Teague, a TPWD game warden.

Click to read bear tips for hunters, campers, hikers and homeowners

A Liberty County judge reputedly slaughtered 200 bears in the late 19th century, a pursuit that earned Lewis Hightower the handle “the Bear-Hunting Judge,” according to the Handbook of Texas Online.

“I practice law for recreation,” Hightower would say, “and hunt bear for a livin’.”

By the 1950s, black bears were eradicated from Texas, experts say.

The state made bear hunting illegal in 1983. That decade, they began crossing from northern Mexico into the southern reaches of West Texas.

For the past 20 years, a small population has bred there, mostly in the region’s rugged mountains. Today, some biologists believe there may be as many as 100.

But bears in Texas recently have been on the move, staging an unprecedented return to regions such as the Edwards Plateau, Piney Woods and South Texas Plains, according to Nathan Garner, another TPWD biologist.

The True Story of Smokey the Bear

Texas lists the black bear as threatened. The penalty for shooting one is a Class C misdemeanor and a fine of $500, plus a civil restitution of $11,907.50.

One of the most bizzare encounters was in 2017, when a black bear was sighted in a neighborhood between New Braunfels and Spring Branch. The alleged black bear, weighing as much as 350 lbs., ran in front of a vehicle in the early morning hours.

According to TPWD, there were 61 Black Bear sightings in 14 counties in 2018-2019. State mammologist Jonah Evans said sightings tend to increase in the fall because the bears are foraging food and trying “fatten up” before hibernating for the winter.

Transient bears from New Mexico are also occasionally reported in the Panhandle counties of Dallam, Hartley and Oldham, according to TPWD district leader Brad Simpson.

bear
The communities south of Alpine, Texas are on a Neighborhood Bear Watch. (courtesy: Texas Parks and Wildlife – Trans-Pecos Wildlife District)

A study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management documents 63 people killed in 59 incidents by non-captive black bears between 1900-2009.

Of special note is this quote:

“We judged that the bear involved acted as a predator in 88 percent of fatal incidents. Adult or subadult male bears were involved in 92 percent of fatal predatory incidents, reflecting biological and behavioral differences between male and female bears. That most fatal black bear attacks were predatory and were carried out by one bear shows that females with young are not the most dangerous black bears.”

🔹Black bears mate during the months of June and July. This might account for some of the sightings in the Texas Hill Country, as bears travel to find a mate during the summer months.

🔹State biologists believe that female black bears in Texas hibernate while males do not.

🔹The young are born in January or February, while the mother is “hibernating.” She normally gives birth to two-to-three cubs every two years.

LOUISIANA MIGRATION

🔹Louisiana Black Bear sightings have been increasing in recent years so it’s possible they are making a comeback in Eastern Texas too.

🔹Louisiana is home to the Louisiana Black Bear, a subspecies of of the American Black Bear. There’s an estimated 750-1000 bears living in the state, but they can also be found in the neighboring states of Texas, Mississippi, and possibly even Southern Arkansas.

🔹Aside from the Louisiana Bear, both the Mexican Black Bear and the New Mexico Black Bear are found in western Texas in low numbers and are also on the state endangered species list.

2018-2021 sightings

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NEW MEXICO MIGRATION

🔹The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish estimates that there are approximately 5,000-6,000 Black Bears living in all 14.6 million forested acres of New Mexico. There have been strict hunting regulations in place since 1927 in the state to help control the population of Black Bears in the state.

🔹In the early 20th century Grizzly Bears were common in the state, but now only the American Black Bear remain. They are also the state animal of New Mexico.

ARKANSAS MIGRATION

🔹Black Bears in Arkansas thrive in three places; the Ozark Highlands area, the Ouachita National Forest, and the lower White River basin. Pre-settlement there was thought to be over 50,000 bears in Arkansas, but dwindled down to just 50 bears in the 1930s. Thanks to conservation efforts and the importation of Black Bears from other areas, Arkansas is believed to have over 5,000 Black Bears now.

CAN INJURE WHEN PROVOKED

“The Black Bear is a stocky, large animal, one of the largest mammals in North America. Adults reach a length of 5 to 6 feet, height at the shoulder of 2 to 3 feet, and weigh 200-300 pounds,” notes information from Texas Park and Wildlife Department. “Although called a ‘black’ bear, colors can range from black to the occasional cinnamon brown. Front claws are generally longer than hind claws. The fur is long and coarse. Although appealing and generally harmless, Black Bears can injure humans when provoked and should be treated with caution.”

At least two subspecies of Black Bear are thought to occur in Texas: the Mexican Black Bear and the New Mexico Black Bear. Both are found in West Texas in desert scrub or woodland habitats within scattered mountain ranges, predominantly the Chisos and Guadalupe Mountains. Both subspecies are state-listed as endangered in Texas.

Colleen Olfenbuttel, the Wildlife Commission’s black bear and furbearer biologist, offers some advice about how to co-exist with black bears.

“Most bears that wander into a residential area will quickly retreat to their natural habitat, particularly if no food source is around,” Olfenbuttel said. “Bears have adapted to living near people; now it’s up to us to adapt to living near bears.”

BearWise has six Basics the public can use to prevent potential conflicts and live responsibly with bears:

• Never feed or approach a bear. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs.

• Secure food, garbage and recycling. Place trash outside as late as possible on the morning of trash pick-up — not the night before.

• Remove bird feeders when bears are active. Birdseed, other grains and hummingbird feeders have high calorie content making them very attractive to bears.

• Never leave pet food outdoors.

• Clean and store grills.

• Alert neighbors to bear activity.

“While these young bears (usually May-August), typically males, may appear to be wandering aimlessly around, they are not necessarily lost,” Olfenbuttel said. “Most are simply exploring their new surroundings and will move on, particularly if they are left alone and there is no food around.”

Unlike brown bears, black bears are omnivorous creatures that rarely pose a threat to humans, pets, or livestock. Like any large mammal, however, humans must take steps to be aware and coexist with black bears.

Black bears diet is very much like a raccoon’s.

🔹Up to 80 percent of their diet is plant matter, and they often scavenge the rest from carcasses of dead animals.

🔹In many circumstances, they will hunt for insects and worms for the “meat based” part of their diet.

🔹They have been known to kill larger mammals and even livestock. This is occurs mostly during late spring and early summer, when bears become active after hibernating, and juveniles “leave home.” This is when food requirements are high, and bears will find the most nutritious food they can.

🔹If there is a lack of fruits, berries, and other plant matter, they may feed on other animals. 

Signs of black bears 

If you suspect bears in your area, pay careful attention to signs such as, tracks, scat, and territorial markings on trees. Although you may not see the animal, the evidence of their presence is usually clear. Take pictures of suspected bear sign using a ruler or other standard item for scale and send them to your local biologist for interpretation. 

Bear tracks stand out and are unlike any other you might encounter. Bears use their teeth and claws to mark trees or other surfaces to mark territory.

Black Bears of East Texas. Photos provided by the East Texas Black Bear Task Force.
Black Bears of East Texas. Photos provided by the East Texas Black Bear Task Force.Hardin County News

BEAR ENCOUNTERS

If you encounter a bear, TPWD offers this advice:

  • If a bear regularly visits your deer stand, scare it with rocks, a slingshot or air horn.
  • If you encounter a bear at close range, talk in a calm manner while backing away slowly. Do not make direct eye contact
  • Do not run. Running can trigger a bear’s chase instinct.
  • Stand your ground and raise your arms if a bear approaches you, making yourself appear larger. Yell at the bear to scare it off.
  • Fight back aggressively with anything available if attacked. Let bears know that you are not an easy prey. Do not play dead.

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How to Prepare for Bears in the Wild and at Home

HUNTERS, CAMPERS, HIKERS & HOMEOWNERS BEWARE

HUNTING

Hunters must remember that areas where they leave game animal remains will attract bears.

🔹This carrion is an easy meal that bears will eagerly consume.

🔹No matter what time of year you hunt, it is possible you could encounter a bear. Although contact is minimal in the winter, due to hibernation, be aware of your surroundings, especially in remote locations that may contain dens with sleeping bears.

🔹Bear-proofing wildlife feeding stations, such as deer feeders, can be difficult. Because hunters want game to have access to feed, but want to exclude black bears, the best options involve limiting access. Unless they are protected by an electric fence that deer can jump, gravity feeders should likely be removed in favor of spin-cast feeders.

🔹The base of spin-cast feeders should be at least 10 feet off the ground, and suspended from a cross-member that is least 4 feet from the post that supports it. Alternatively, hunters may electrify tripod spin-cast or gravity feeders, as well as providing electric fencing.

🔹Electric fencing may be permanent, similar to systems designed for livestock, or be portable, such as “back-country bear fencing” often used to secure camp sites. These portable systems are available from many outdoor companies. They are powered by D-cell batteries and use lightweight posts and wire. Whether suspending feed or electrifying, take care to prevent damage and the loss of feed.

CAMPING

🔹Campers should collect trash nightly and hang it high enough from a tree or other structure that a bear cannot reach it, or climb to it. Ten feet off ground level and four feet from any branches is generally sufficient.

🔹Sweet-smelling items such as perfumes, insect repellants, and candy attract bears.

🔹The smell of camp cooking can also attract bears. It is wise to locate your cooking site 100 yards from your sleeping area. Even the smell of food on clothes can attract bears, so change clothes before sleeping if you cook for the camp.

🔹Coolers of food are easy targets for bears—keep them inside vehicles or otherwise inaccessible. Although some coolers are rated as bear-safe, black bears will still cause damage trying to get in them.

HIKING

🔹Hikers should be noisy in areas where black bears are present.

🔹A startled bear is a dangerous bear, and will have the same reaction as any animal when frightened. Although they might flee, they might also display defensive behaviors such as bluff charges or teeth clacking. This is especially possible for a female with cubs.

Bear-proofing around the house 

Human-bear relations are most problematic around private homes.

🔹Bears, like raccoons, are opportunistic omnivores who enjoy human garbage. Homeowners should minimize exposing garbage to bears.

🔹A good first step is to secure trash cans with certified bear-proof covers. You can also contact your waste disposal company to request that they upgrade community dumpsters to be bear-proof.

🔹Minimize areas where you dump cooking grease, scraps, and reduce access to compost piles. 

Black Bears of East Texas. Photos provided by the East Texas Black Bear Task Force.

🔹Other food sources include bird feeders and other wildlife feed, fallen fruit from trees, pet foods, and barbecue pits.

🔹Wood piles attract rodents, which can be a food source. Bears will quickly assess these sources come to them for food. If you choose to feed wildlife in “bear country,” move the feed frequently to prevent bears from becoming habituated to one area. 

🔹It may be surprising, but a closed door, high window, or low wall often will not deter bears. Livestock and pet feed stored in outbuildings are easy, high-energy sources of nutrition for black bears. 

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H-E-B Partners With Texas Parks and Wildlife to Conserve and Protect

As far as I can remember, H-E-B Food-Drugs, a San Antonio based company in Texas has consistently been a strong proponent and practitioner for the environment. I retired from this outstanding retailer in 2009 as head of their Facilities Management Division and saw first hand how they are regularly recognized for its commitment to environmental sustainability.

🔹In 2021, H-E-B recycled more than 636 million pounds of cardboard, plastics, office paper, food waste, metal, and truck tires.

🔹Among its endeavor to minimize waste in 2021, H-E-B recycled 54 million pounds of food into animal feed and compost and recycled 17.5 million pounds of plastic.

🔹That same year, H-E-B’s recycling efforts saved the equivalent of 11 million trees, 1.6 million barrels of oil, and enough energy to power more than 83,000 homes for an entire year.

As part of H-E-B’s Our Texas, Our Future mission, and with support from Field & Future by H-E-B brand products, the retailer is partnering with Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and their efforts to conserve wildlife, habitats, and natural resources in Texas.

 - H-E-B Newsroom

H-E-B is a longtime partner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability along with Field & Future by H-E-B will support efforts such as:

🔹coastal conservation along the Texas Gulf Coast,

🔹Black Bear restoration in West Texas,

🔹the establishment of Palo Pinto Mountains State Park in North Texas, the state’s newest state park expected to open in 2023.  

Field & Future by H-E-B, which the company launched last year, is an environmentally minded brand of household, personal care and baby products designed to be clean and green.

The brand is made with recycled or recyclable content, biodegradable formulas or plant-based ingredients, and without over 165 harsh chemicals. Currently, there are nearly 100 Field & Future by H-E-B products on shelf, including dish soap, body wash, bath tissue, baby diapers, as well as trash bags and bags for recyclables, which are made from up to 65 percent and 30 percent post-consumer recycled plastic from H-E-B facilities, respectively.

“H-E-B is an iconic Texas company, and this new partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, our official non-profit partner, is incredibly exciting,” said Texas Parks and & Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith. “It’s fitting that the Field & Future line of products will benefit conservation projects across Texas, and we’re deeply grateful for this new partnership.”

 - H-E-B Newsroom

With Earth Day around the corner, H-E-B Partners (employees) across the state are committed to taking their own steps to beautify Texas. Leading up to and following Earth Day, Partners will volunteer at outdoor events, tree plantings and community cleanups. Many H-E-B stores across the state also will host in-store events to celebrate Earth Day with their customers and communities.

Throughout the year, H-E-B works to champion sustainability initiatives throughout its own operations and across the Lone Star State.

In 2021, H-E-B became part of How2Recycle, a program that places clear, easy-to-read labels on products to let customers know if the packaging can be recycled, which parts are recyclable, and importantly, how to prepare material for recycling to reduce contamination.

The How2Recycle labels are already on more than 1,700 H-E-B branded items, which include H-E-B, Hill Country Fare, H-E-B Select Ingredients, H-E-B Organics, and Central Market.

Furthering its commitment to supporting sustainable efforts within the community, H-E-B gifted $135,000 to support the creation of a community recycling center in Ingleside. Slated to open in the summer, this will be the city’s first ever recycling center, which will service several communities near the Gulf Coast town.

“We know H-E-B and our customers have a shared commitment in protecting the land, water and air of Texas for generations to come,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs, Diversity and Environmental Affairs. “As H-E-B works to reduce our packaging footprint and increase packaging recyclability, we also look for ways to support community access to recycling. We’re excited to partner with Keep Texas Beautiful and the City of Ingleside to make recycling available for the first time for 65,000 Texans.”  

H-E-B customers also can support sustainability efforts through its annual donation campaign that benefits EarthShare of Texas, a nonprofit that supports more than 70 respected conservation groups. From April 13 through May 24, customers can donate $1, $3 or $5 online at heb.com or in store at checkout, which will benefit the nonprofit organization. From the donation campaign, more than $1 million has gone to support the nonprofit.

Since 2012, H-E-B has contributed more than $20 million to over 500 environmental organizations in land and water conservation, habitat and coastal preservation, and community cleanups. This includes giving more than $2 million in grants to organizations such as Keep Texas BeautifulTexas Conservation Fund, and the Nature Conservancy in Texas.


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The True Story of Fire Fighting Smokey Bear

He is not Smokey ‘The’ Bear and Other Fun Facts

The start of World War II meant that many firefighters and other able-bodied men were deployed, leaving communities to manage wildfires themselves. .

The head of the Forest Service at that time, Lyle F. Watts, decided to attack the wildfire problem by educating the public about their role in fire prevention. Watts invited the Ad Council to join the Forest Service in this new ad campaign.Watts and team soon realized that they needed a symbol or character to represent their fire prevention campaign. A forest animal would be ideal.

The Disney Studios offered one of their characters to be the “face” of the fire prevention plan. The movie, Bambi, enjoyed widespread popularity at the time, so the deer Bambi represented the original ad campaign—but Disney’s licensing contract lasted just one year.

Seeing an overwhelmingly successful first year, Watts and his team chose a bear to replace Bambi.

Two decades before, on a July morning in 1922, a case of magnesium powder exploded in a warehouse in New York’s Greenwich Village. The resulting fire was devasting and claimed the life of a heroic firefighter named “Smokey” Joe Martin.

On August 9, 1944, the first Smokey Bear poster appeared. The bear was named in honor of “Smokey” Joe, and his first piece of public service artwork depicted the animal in his iconic hat, dousing a fire with a bucket of water.

A historic Smokey the Bear poster

Artist Albert Staehle painted this first Smokey Bear poster.

The ‘50s and ‘60s brought Smokey’s “ABC” campaign. This was a national push to educate the public about wildfire prevention in three easy steps, and it was broadcast to American homes through radio and TV spots.

Smokey 2

It wasn’t long before more posters of Smokey appeared. The bear gained widespread popularity. Soon Smokey Bear was featured on everything from comic books to toys. He was an undisputed success.

A real Smokey Bear

In 1950, a wildfire burned in New Mexico’s Capitan Mountains. Firefighters there found a young bear cub clinging to a tree branch. Firefighters presumed the cub climbed the tree to escape the raging fire. The little bear was alive, but severely burned. Firefighters rescued the cub and aptly named him Smokey.

News of a real Smokey Bear soon spread across the country. When Smokey had sufficiently recovered from his ordeal, he was moved to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he continued to play a role in educating people about fire prevention.

To handle all of his fan mail–up to 13,000 letters a week–the U.S. Postal Service set up his own personal zip code, 20252, for his area in the zoo. The zip code was decommissioned in 1994, but fortunately brought back in honor of Smokey’s 70th birthday.

When the real Smokey Bear died, his body was taken back to the Capitan Mountains for burial in the State Historical Park.

Smokey carried his “only you can prevent forest fires” message into the early 2000s and placed the responsibility on us all to be careful around the campfire. Additionally, the shift in the use of “forest fires” to “wildfires” in Smokey’s messaging is present, as well.

Today, new Public Service Announcements to educate the public on different ways that wildfires are caused, including hot coals, dragging chains, and burning debris. Smokey’s wildfire prevention message was already resonating with audiences—now, they just needed actionable steps to take.

Today’s Smokey Bear

Other Smokey Bear facts

  • The Smokey Bear campaign is the longest-running Public Service Advertisement campaign in U.S. history.
  • In 1953, the Ideal Toy Company made a Smokey Bear doll. Included with the doll was a card that when mailed back gave children an official “Junior Forest Ranger” identification card. Within two years, over half a million kids had applied and received the unofficial honor.

  • Since its development in the 1940s, it’s estimated that the Smokey Bear ad campaign has reduced the number of acres lost to wildfires by 15.6 million annually.
  • Smokey does not have a middle name. (It’s Smokey Bear. Not Smokey “The” Bear.) A song about the forest icon added “The” to his name in order to make the lyrics and melody sync better. 

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Veterans, Gold Star Families Get Free Entrance to National Parks, Other Public Lands

Entrance fees for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and standard amenity recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sites are waived for current Military Service-members and their dependents, Veterans and Gold Star Families.

They now have free access to approximately 2,000 public locations spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands, which host activities to fit any lifestyle, from serene to high octane, including hiking, fishing, paddling, biking, hunting, stargazing, camping, and much more.

Are you eligible?

For purposes of this program, a Veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of valid (unexpired) identification:

Gold Star Families are next of kin of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a “qualifying situation,” such as a war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the United States Armed Forces.

The America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (Interagency Pass) Program

The Interagency Pass Program already includes a free annual pass for active duty members of the U.S. Military and their dependents. Current Military Service-members must show a valid (unexpired) Department of Defense ID. Dependents of current Service-members must show a valid (unexpired) DD Form 1173 AD or DEC.

The annual Military Pass has been expanded to include Veterans and Gold Star Family members. Other free or discounted passes, including some lifetime passes, are available for persons with permanent disabilities, fourth grade students, volunteers, and senior citizens age 62 years or older.

How to get your Interagency Pass

Interagency Passes can be obtained in person while visiting a participating site. Visit Places to Get Interagency Passes for a searchable list and be sure to contact the site before you go, to make sure they are open and have passes in stock.  In addition, Military passes, as well as those for seniors and persons with permanent disabilities, are available online through the USGS Online Store.

For more information about eligibility and passes, visit Free Entrance to National Parks for Veterans and Gold Star Families (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).

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New SkyFly: Soar America Ride Big Hit at Foot of Smoky Mountains

SkyFly: Soar America open in summer 2021 as has become a signature attraction at The Island in Pigeon Forge entertainment park, located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

Designed in a steampunk style, SkyFly: Soar America is themed to a 1900’s world fair airship that provides tours of America’s greatest natural wonders.

According to Mason Schmitz of P+A Projects, which designed the building, the attraction’s complex and curious exterior leads guests into an inventor’s workshop where they board an “airship” for a ride above some of the most famous places in the United States.

Experience flight! Feel the mists of Niagara Falls, smell the swamps of the Everglades, and soar over seals in Alaska in an unforgettable and one-of-a-kind journey across America.

The sensations of flight are created by a state-of-the-art 50-ton ride platform that lifts guests into the air, feet dangling, before a 50-foot spherical screen. The ride gently moves guests in synchronization to the film on the screen to simulate flight, with wind, scents, and mists providing a fully immersive experience. The manufacturer, industry-leader Dynamic Attractions, helped pioneer flying theaters with their work on the wildly popular Soarin’ rides at Disney parks across the world.

THE STORY

Passengers board the “World’s Greatest Air Adventure” and experience the thrill of flying over wondrous and exotic locations with the famous explorer Peter Wilder. Along the adventure, they meet Peter and his daughter Hannah and learn about their travels and the steampunk airship they’ve invented to make such a journey possible. The story unfolds as guests move through the immersive queue and preshow experiences on the way to the flight deck.

THE FILM

SkyFly features an award-winning film that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world, showcasing footage filmed by helicopters and drones over America’s most beautiful and iconic locations. Some of the best pilots and cinematographers in the world produced shots that visitors say takes their breath away.

THE DESTINATIONS

The Island entertainment destination draws over 12 million annual visitors with 23 acres of amusements, shopping, restaurants such as Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Island Hotel, and attractions like the Great Smoky Mountain Observation Wheel and, now, Sky Fly: Soar America.

“This adventure ride will thrill everyone and will quickly become a top reason for families to visit the Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge,” states Clay McManus, The Island’s executive that co-led the attraction development in partnership with Dynamic Entertainment. “I encourage everyone thinking of coming to the Smoky Mountains to come and experience this incredibly fun attraction.”

Tickets are in the $20 range. The attraction begins at 10 a.m. each day.

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National Parks Fun Facts

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Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado was the first national park established to protect human created structures and history, including 5,000 archaeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people.


California’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is home to the largest living single-stem tree in the world, the giant 275 foot tall General Sherman.


The smallest national park unit, Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, only takes up roughly 0.02 acres in downtown Philadelphia.

The diversity of plant and animal life, beauty of the mountains, and incredible campsites and communities in Tennessee and North Carolina make Great Smoky Mountains National Park the most visited (12 million people in 2020) national park.


Of course the country’s largest state, Alaska, is home to its largest park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve at 13.2 million acres.

The longest cave system in the world with more than 3,454 mapped miles of caves is located beneath Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

Speaking of caves, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico is home to the deepest cave in the country at 1,593 feet.

Ironically, the first state, Delaware, is the only one without a single national park or national monument. Being the second smallest state, there’s plenty of options within driving distance though.
 

Travel and Tourism Tell Biden to Open Up America

“Travel and tourism is the industry hardest hit by the economic fallout of COVID, and the damage is so severe that a broader economic recovery will stall if we can’t get travel off the ground,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.

The U.S. Travel Association is just one of the 26 organizations that sent a letter to the White House calling on the Biden Administration to open up American travel.

Leaders from the U.S. travel and aviation industry are challenging the current administration to establish a May 1 deadline to commit to a plan for reopening the country to inbound international visitation.

Dow said the industry is calling on the current White House resident “to partner with us to develop… a risk-based, data-driven roadmap to rescind inbound international travel restrictions.”

“Fortunately, enough progress has been made on the health front that a rebound for domestic leisure travel looks possible this year, but that alone won’t get the job done,” he said.” A full travel recovery will depend on reopening international markets, and we must also contend with the challenge of reviving business travel.”

The letter to the White House noted that 2020 international arrivals to the U.S.:

🔴fell 62% from Mexico versus the previous year,

🔴77% from Canada,

🔴and a whopping 81% from overseas markets

The total loss to the U.S. economy in that travel industry in 2020 was $146 billion!

But more data shows total travel spending dropped nearly $500 billion, or 42%, during the pandemic, costing the U.S. economy $1.1 trillion in economic output.

Updated numbers, compiled by Tourism Economics for the U.S. Travel Association, now show spending on domestic travel was down 36%, from $993.5 billion in 2019, to $638.1 billion in 2020.

Spending on international travel fell 72%, from $179.1 billion to $42.2 billion, Tourism Economics said. 

The significant decline in that travel segment is a big reason why travel’s total economic output in the U.S. declined by more than a trillion dollars in 2020, with 5.6 million travel-supported jobs lost—65% of all U.S. jobs lost last year.

“Updated data shows travel spending dropped nearly $500 billion, or 42%, during the pandemic, costing the U.S. economy $1.1 trillion in economic output.

The new numbers, compiled by Tourism Economics for the U.S. Travel Association, show spending on domestic travel was down 36%, from $993.5 billion in 2019, to $638.1 billion in 2020.

Spending on international travel fell 72%, from $179.1 billion to $42.2 billion, Tourism Economics said. 

The impact was similarly devastating for travel jobs, which the firm said fell by 5.6 million in 2020 — from 16.7 million to 11.1 million — accounting for 65% of all American jobs lost to the economic fallout of the pandemic. Travel and tourism had supported 11% of the U.S. workforce prior to the onset of Covid, the data showed.

These travel industry leaders presented the numbers to policymakers in Washington last week during a virtual version of the group’s annual meeting with members of Congress. Executives used the event to continue their push for legislation to promote the industry’s recovery.

If nothing is done to lift international travel bans and bring back demand, the U.S. Travel Association estimates that a total of a 1.1 million American jobs will not be restored and $262 billion in export spending will be lost by the end of 2021.

However, if travel from the top inbound markets to the U.S is able to safely resume by July 4, 2021 and reach an average of 40% of 2019 levels for the remainder this year, it would accelerate economic recovery by adding $30 billion in incremental spending and bringing back 225,000 American jobs.

The letter states, “the data and science demonstrate that the right public health measures are now in place to effectively mitigate risk and allow for the safe removal of entry restrictions.”

The letter points to favorable trends in infections, hospitalizations, and vaccinations as indicating the proper moment to set a goals timeline for reopening.

“Taken together, these factors paint a clear picture,” the letter reads. “The risk of COVID-19 transmission while flying is low…The burden of the virus on our nation’s public health system is decreasing. Airlines, airports and travel businesses have the right protections and strategies in place to mitigate risk.

“We are ready to welcome back travelers and keep them safe. And the time to plan for and chart a defined roadmap to reopen international travel is now.”

The 7 C’s of Camping

Many of the questions and concerns RVers, motorcyclists, and campers have are solved with mutual respect, courtesy and common sense.

Here are the “Seven C’s of Camping:”

1. Care – We will care how we camp by being considerate of others.

2. Caution – We will use caution in the use of camping equipment both on the road and at the campsite. We will handle fire and flammable fuels so as not to endanger others or ourselves. We will improve our camping skills, knowing the right way is the safest way.

3. Courtesy – We will practice politeness because it enhances the camping experience. We will respect the privacy of others, control our children and leash our dogs.

4. Cleanliness – We will be clean in our camping habits and teach our children the importance of cleanliness. We will pick up litter no matter who left it and be proud of the campsites we leave behind.

5. Cooperation – We will observe the letter and spirit of camping regulations and rules established to protect our enjoyment of the outdoors. We will work cooperatively with others to make it better for everyone.

6. Conservation – We will protect the environment in which we enjoy camping and help those whose job it is to guard and wisely manage our country’s natural resources. We will endeavor to leave a better outdoors for those who follow us.

7. Common Sense – We will apply common sense to every situation, knowing that reason, understanding and humor make camping better for ourselves and others.

Visit Texas Guadalupe Mountains for Ultimate Hiking Adventures

Returning only twice since the 1970s, I first learned about hiking up the highest location in my state from my Texas State University Journalism (then Southwest Texas State University) professor, David Yates, in 1977.

Guadalupe

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

He published, for a .90 to $1.50, an 11 1/2″×14 3/4″ newspaper, Cedar Rock, for poets and writers that was circulated and purchased in bookstores across the nation, but especially in the Southwest. I was fortunate to have a poem, articles and photos occasionally included.

Yates enthusiastically wrote and mentioned his hikes up Guadalupe Peak in Cedar Rock and in class.

During a long weekend, I joined Mr. Yates and others on a caravan trip from San Marcos to the El Paso area for one of his hikes up the 8,751 foot peak.

I learned that Guadalupe Peak is much more than the Lone Star State’s highest point. Guadalupe Mountains National Park  has since become the destination for one of the state’s most epic hikes.

The Guadalupe Peak Trail ascends about 3,000 feet for more than eight miles round trip. The complete journey took us almost eight hours passing pine and fir trees. I saw my first ever madrone tree as we trekked through breathtaking high desert terrain.

Reaching the peak, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of miles of the surrounding desert and mountains, a vista that can’t be beat.

That shared journey is a wonderful memory, especially watching Mr. Yates’ quiet enthusiasm as he pulled out a journal. Away from the other hikers, he sat high above Texas alone and began writing.

Basic Information

An entrance fee of $10 per person (16 years of age and older) is required; entrance fees/passes permit 1-7 consecutive days of use in this national park.

Holders of the Annual, Senior, Military, 4th grade and Access Pass can bring in 3 adults free of charge under their pass. Any pass must be displayed in a vehicle while in the national park.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park Annual Pass – $35.00

This pass is valid for entrance into Guadalupe Mountains National Park for one year from the month of purchase. The pass admits up to four adults in a private vehicle and is non-transferable; visitors under 16 years of age are free. You can purchase this pass at the Pine Springs Visitor Center.

Pine Springs Visitor Center is the park’s main visitor center and headquarters. Visitors can pay entrance and camping fees, tour the museum, purchase items from the park bookstore, pick up brochures, maps, and obtain backpacking permits here.

  • There is no gasoline available in the park. If you are traveling from (El Paso) Texas, Dell City is the closest town with amenities such as gasoline, diesel, food, and ice. When traveling from New Mexico, Whites City is the last place that offers gas, diesel, food and ice.
  • We’re not kidding. No gas is available for 35 miles in either direction from the visitor center. Plan accordingly.
  • Campgrounds offer primitive dry camping for both tents and RVs. Other than restrooms and potable water, there are no other amenities. There are no lodges in the park.

The Nation Garden Statue List Revealed in Trump’s Executive Order

President Donald J. Trump issued one of his last executive orders on January 18, 2021, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, for the construction of 250 statues in The National Garden.

“The National Garden will feature a roll call of heroes who deserve honor, recognition, and lasting tribute because of the battles they won, the ideas they championed, the diseases they cured, the lives they saved, the heights they achieved, and the hope they passed down to all of us — that united as one American people trusting in God, there is no challenge that cannot be overcome and no dream that is beyond our reach.”

“In Executive Order 13934 of July 3, 2020 (Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes), I made it the policy of the United States to establish a statuary park named the National Garden of American Heroes (National Garden),” President Trump wrote.

“Across this Nation, belief in the greatness and goodness of America has come under attack in recent months and years by a dangerous anti-American extremism that seeks to dismantle our country’s history, institutions, and very identity,” President Trump stated.”

“The heroes of 1776 have been desecrated, with statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin vandalized and toppled.”

“The dead who gave their lives to end slavery and save the Union during the Civil War have been dishonored, with monuments to Abraham Lincoln, Hans Christian Heg, and the courageous 54th Regiment left damaged and disfigured. The brave warriors who saved freedom from Nazi fascism have been disgraced with a memorial to World War II veterans defaced with the hammer and sickle of Soviet communism.”

“The National Garden is America’s answer to this reckless attempt to erase our heroes, values, and entire way of life. On its grounds, the devastation and discord of the moment will be overcome with abiding love of country and lasting patriotism. This is the American way.”

“When the forces of anti-Americanism have sought to burn, tear down, and destroy, patriots have built, rebuilt, and lifted up. That is our history.”

“America responded to the razing of the White House by building it back in the same place with unbroken resolve, to the murders of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., with a national temple and the Stone of Hope, and to the terrorism of 9/11 with a new Freedom Tower.”

“In keeping with this tradition, America is responding to the tragic toppling of monuments to our founding generation and the giants of our past by commencing a new national project for their restoration, veneration, and celebration.”

Even prominent American musicians such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Aretha Franklin will be featured. Other musicians and singers include Woodie Guthrie, Whitney Houston, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra.

Photo by Jack Dennis

_________________________

The List of Statues

A-E

Ansel Adams, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Muhammad Ali, Luis Walter Alvarez, Susan B. Anthony, Hannah Arendt, Louis Armstrong, Neil Armstrong, Crispus Attucks, John James Audubon, Lauren Bacall, Clara Barton, Todd Beamer, Alexander Graham Bell, Roy Benavidez, Ingrid Bergman, Irving Berlin, Humphrey Bogart, Daniel Boone, Norman Borlaug, William Bradford, Herb Brooks, Kobe Bryant, William F. Buckley, Jr., Sitting Bull, Frank Capra, Andrew Carnegie, Charles Carroll, John Carroll, George Washington Carver, Johnny Cash, Joshua Chamberlain, Whittaker Chambers, Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman, Ray Charles, Julia Child, Gordon Chung-Hoon, William Clark, Henry Clay, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Roberto Clemente, Grover Cleveland, Red Cloud, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Nat King Cole, Samuel Colt, Christopher Columbus, Calvin Coolidge, James Fenimore Cooper, Davy Crockett, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Miles Davis, Dorothy Day, Joseph H. De Castro, Emily Dickinson, Walt Disney, William “Wild Bill” Donovan, Jimmy Doolittle, Desmond Doss, Frederick Douglass, Herbert Henry Dow, Katharine Drexel, Peter Drucker, Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison, Jonathan Edwards, Albert Einstein, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Duke Ellington, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Medgar Evers.

F-I

David Farragut, the Marquis de La Fayette, Mary Fields, Henry Ford, George Fox, Aretha Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, Milton Friedman, Robert Frost, Gabby Gabreski, Bernardo de Gálvez, Lou Gehrig, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Cass Gilbert, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Glenn, Barry Goldwater, Samuel Gompers, Alexander Goode, Carl Gorman, Billy Graham, Ulysses S. Grant, Nellie Gray, Nathanael Greene, Woody Guthrie, Nathan Hale, William Frederick “Bull” Halsey, Jr., Alexander Hamilton, Ira Hayes, Hans Christian Heg, Ernest Hemingway, Patrick Henry, Charlton Heston, Alfred Hitchcock, Billie Holiday, Bob Hope, Johns Hopkins, Grace Hopper, Sam Houston, Whitney Houston, Julia Ward Howe, Edwin Hubble, Daniel Inouye.

J-L

Andrew Jackson, Robert H. Jackson, Mary Jackson, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, Steve Jobs, Katherine Johnson, Barbara Jordan, Chief Joseph, Elia Kazan, Helen Keller, John F. Kennedy, Francis Scott Key, Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, Jr., Russell Kirk, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Henry Knox, Tadeusz Kościuszko, Harper Lee, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, Meriwether Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, Vince Lombardi, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Clare Boothe Luce.

M-P

Douglas MacArthur, Dolley Madison, James Madison, George Marshall, Thurgood Marshall, William Mayo, Christa McAuliffe, William McKinley, Louise McManus, Herman Melville, Thomas Merton, George P. Mitchell, Maria Mitchell, William “Billy” Mitchell, Samuel Morse, Lucretia Mott, John Muir, Audie Murphy, Edward Murrow, John Neumann, Annie Oakley, Jesse Owens, Rosa Parks, George S. Patton, Jr., Charles Willson Peale, William Penn, Oliver Hazard Perry, John J. Pershing, Edgar Allan Poe, Clark Poling, John Russell Pope, Elvis Presley.

R-S

Jeannette Rankin, Ronald Reagan, Walter Reed, William Rehnquist, Paul Revere, Henry Hobson Richardson, Hyman Rickover, Sally Ride, Matthew Ridgway, Jackie Robinson, Norman Rockwell, Caesar Rodney, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Betsy Ross, Babe Ruth, Sacagawea, Jonas Salk, John Singer Sargent, Antonin Scalia, Norman Schwarzkopf, Junípero Serra, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Robert Gould Shaw, Fulton Sheen, Alan Shepard, Frank Sinatra, Margaret Chase Smith, Bessie Smith, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jimmy Stewart, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Gilbert Stuart, Anne Sullivan.

T-Z

William Howard Taft, Maria Tallchief, Maxwell Taylor, Tecumseh, Kateri Tekakwitha, Shirley Temple, Nikola Tesla, Jefferson Thomas, Henry David Thoreau, Jim Thorpe, Augustus Tolton, Alex Trebek, Harry S. Truman, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Dorothy Vaughan, C. T. Vivian, John von Neumann, Thomas Ustick Walter, Sam Walton, Booker T. Washington, George Washington, John Washington, John Wayne, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Phillis Wheatley, Walt Whitman, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Roger Williams, John Winthrop, Frank Lloyd Wright, Orville Wright, Wilbur Wright, Alvin C. York, Cy Young, Lorenzo de Zavala.

____________________________

“To begin the process of building this new monument to our country’s greatness, I established the Interagency Task Force for Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes (Task Force) and directed its members to plan for construction of the National Garden.”

“The Task Force has advised me it has completed the first phase of its work and is prepared to move forward. This order revises Executive Order 13934 and provides additional direction for the Task Force.”

“The chronicles of our history show that America is a land of heroes,” Trump penned. “As I announced during my address at Mount Rushmore, the gates of a beautiful new garden will soon open to the public where the legends of America’s past will be remembered.”

“The National Garden will be built to reflect the awesome splendor of our country’s timeless exceptionalism. It will be a place where citizens, young and old, can renew their vision of greatness and take up the challenge that I gave every American in my first address to Congress, to “[b]elieve in yourselves, believe in your future, and believe, once more, in America.”

“The National Garden will draw together and fix in the soil of a single place what Abraham Lincoln called “[t]he mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart.” In the peace and harmony of this vast outdoor park, visitors will come and learn the amazing stories of some of the greatest Americans who have ever lived.”

Photo by Jack Dennis

“In short, each individual has been chosen for embodying the American spirit of daring and defiance, excellence and adventure, courage and confidence, loyalty and love. Astounding the world by the sheer power of their example, each one of them has contributed indispensably to America’s noble history, the best chapters of which are still to come.”

“The Secretary, in consultation with the Task Force, shall identify a site suitable for the establishment of the National Garden. The Secretary shall proceed with construction of the National Garden at that site, to the extent consistent with the Secretary’s existing authorities or authority later provided by the Congress.”

A Special Message From Jack and Dodie Dennis of CleverJourneys

Big Tech has launched a major assault on Americans’ right to free speech. In their most audacious attack, some of the most powerful big businesses in America joined together to force Parler off the Internet.

Parler, a social media site that rejects Twitter’s censorship policies, had millions of users until Google, Apple, and Amazon deplatformed the entire website, removing it from their app stores and web hosting service.

Americans must fight back against this blatant censorship. While Parler’s working through the courts to get back online, Big Tech continues to silence conservatives and trample our right to free expression.

Fortunately, independent bloggers such as CleverJourneys have found phenomenal growth in reporting what Big Tech try to censor and the “Mockingbird” Media dare not report.

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Some of our most popular articles are JackNotes, executive summaries of books, articles, speeches and other useful information that may save you the expense and trouble of reading the entire publication….or it may spur you on to seek more information from the original source.

We are now rolling out another new feature, Accounts of the Old West as a tribute to Jack’s great, great uncle Charlie Bassett, the first marshall of Dodge City, Kansas…and James Allison Morgan–a cattle driver and cowboy, Jack’s great grandfather. (You thought TV’s ‘Marshal Matt Dillion’ was the first didn’t you?)

We also feature “Top 10 Buzz Trends of the Week” highlighting some of the best posts, memes, and photos on the web the prior week.

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Remember, we don’t just write news. You will enjoy travel, recipes, lifestyle, humor, motivation, wellness and health, how-to, history, reviews, military, crime, police, heroes entertainment, interviews, fun and so much more.

Dodie has over 38 years in the medical, health and wellness field being a registered nurse. She has trained hundreds in nutrition, prenatal and post natal care, pregnancy, parenting, nursing, and general health. Much of her time was also devoted to immunology and vaccines.

Jack is an award winning journalist, investigative reporter, and author. He was an executive for H-E-B FOOD-DRUGS for almost 30 years, a founder and first elected president of Professional Retail Store Management Association (now CONNEX), life coach and private investigator.

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God Bless America.

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