Best of the West: Zion may require reservations, Yosemite wildfire, big bucks bobcat and recycled water rising

Wildfires, The West

Utah’s oldest national park, Zion, may soon require visitors to make advance reservations due to steadily increasing attendance. Nearly 4.3 million people visited the Park last year, breaking the previous year’s record of 3.6 million visitors by nearly 20% and straining park resources.  

Congestion on shuttles, trails and bathroom facilities and hours-long wait times to enter the park are common for the park’s 10,000 daily visitors.

The proposed reservation system could require permits for entry or to access more popular areas -- or a combination of the two. Currently, no other national parks require reservations. The plan to address overcrowding at Zion is under review, and park officials are accepting public comments through Aug. 14.

Wildfires Continue: A 70,000-acre wildfire outside of Yosemite in California continues to grow, forcing two towns to evacuate. Dozens of structures have been destroyed in the Detwiler fire, which has coursed through fuel-laden areas and produced enough smoke to cause highway closures. Firefighters continue to battle the blaze that was only 10% contained as of Thursday, July 20.

To the north, a wildfire has displaced more than 45,000 people in British Columbia, becoming “one of the largest displacements events in the history of the province.”

Big Bucks Bobcat: A new economic impact study has found that one bobcat in Yellowstone National Park generates more than $300,000 in local spending. The rare cat draws wildlife tourism and photographers to the park, who in turn support guide services, outfitters, the state of Wyoming and more. Read about the ripple effect that goes well beyond the park’s boundaries.

Recycled Water Going Up: Denver Water, the utility that supplies water to more than a million residents, has asked the state’s permission to double the amount of recycled water used in the city. Increasing recycled water use in Denver could offset costs and meet growing demand, but health experts are not yet sold on the idea.

Back to Nature: More than 900 greenback cutthroats, the state fish of Colorado once thought to be extinct were released into the wild this week. Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other conservation groups have been collecting genetic material and cultivating the fish in hatcheries to bring back the struggling population.

Unwelcome Visitors: Swarms of three-inch insects known as Mormon crickets are wreaking havoc in Idaho. In concentrated areas, the bugs can destroy crops and even cause car crashes by creating slick, hazardous conditions when run over.  Learn which other western states have also reported invasions of the pest.

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