Best of the West: Celebrate National Park Week; western rural towns rising; Utah’s T-Rex discovery

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting April 15, 2019 that you don't want to miss. Image: Yosemite National Park

National Park Week 2019 kicks off on Saturday, April 20, with parks across the country waiving entrance fees and hosting special programs. The celebration continues through April 28 with additional special events, including: Earth Day, in which visitors can serve as citizen scientists by collecting data, and Throwback Thursday, featuring the rich histories and cultural impacts of the parks. 

With more than 40 national parks and 16 of the 20 most legendary day hikes in the West, there’s no shortage of options to explore. California (pictured) has the most national parks per state with nine, followed by Alaska (eight), Utah (five), and Colorado (four). Fun fact: Wrangell St. Elias National Park in Alaska is the country’s largest; the size of Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined.

In 2016, the centennial anniversary of the National Parks System, Western Governors passed WGA Policy Resolution 2016-10: National Parks and the West, recognizing the importance of national parks in preserving unique natural treasures, providing recreational opportunities and contributing to local and state economies.

Vibrant Western Towns: While some rural communities across the country are shrinking, western towns with fewer than 5,000 people have grown on average in recent years according to the Census Bureau.  “There’s something very special about the West,” said Ray Rasker with Headwaters Economics in Bozeman, Montana. “If you have about half of the landscape available to the public for free access, that’s an enormous economic competitive advantage.”

Dino Discovery: A fossil discovery in Utah is shining a light on the social habits of the Tyrannosaurus rex. Paleontologists have debated whether the T-Rex lived in solitude, and findings in recent years provide evidence that the creatures may have hunted and lived in groups together.   

Solar Energy Surge: Fourteen of the top 20 major cities by cumulative installed solar capacity in the U.S. are in western states, according to a study by Frontier Group and Environment America Research and Policy Center. California, Hawaii and Arizona are home to the top five sites, with cities in Texas, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon also making the list.

Mapping Earthquake Risk: Scientists have created a detailed map of the geologic fault at the foot of the Teton Range in Wyoming to better understand its risk for earthquake and plan for seismic activity. “The map, and associated paleoseismic work, has significantly increased our understanding of the Teton fault and potential hazards,” said Wyoming State Geological Survey director and Wyoming State Geologist, Dr. Erin Campbell.

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