Best of the West: Celebrate National Parks with free admission; wildfire evacuations in Alaska; Colorado River water cuts coming

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Aug. 19, 2019 that you don't want to miss. Photo: Arches National Park, courtesy National Park Service

Yellowstone National Park was created by an act of Congress in 1872. But it wasn't until Aug. 25, 1916, that President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service to manage national parks and monuments. This Sunday just happens to be Aug. 25, so the service is marking its 103rd anniversary by offering free admission at all parks.

That's a LOT of parks: more than 400 areas covering in excess of 84 million acres in 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. The park service also proudly points out that the founding of Yellowstone led to a worldwide national park movement that now includes 100 nations and some 1,200 national parks or equivalent preserves.

The WGA policy resolution, National Parks and the West, notes the "crucial role that the National Park Service plays in the preservation of natural, cultural and historic resources under its management in the West." It also expresses the Governors' support for measures to address the deferred maintenance backlog at the parks. (Resolution)

Find a park near you to celebrate this American success story.

Wildfire evacuations: Up to 400 people have been evacuated this week in the face of the destructive McKinley fire burning in Southcentral Alaska. The Anchorage Daily News has the latest on the 3,700+ acre blaze, which is only 10% contained, and other fires in the area. Also: The increase in wildfires has communities thinking about ways to rebuild that will enable them to cope better with future blazes.

Colorado River Update: Reservoir levels along the Colorado River have risen from 49% to 55% this year, but next year Arizona and Nevada still will be required to take less water from the river under a set of agreements to keep enough water in Lake Mead. The Arizona Republic reports that states avoided deeper cuts to allotments thanks to “heavy snow across much of the Rocky Mountains this winter.” The runoff is not enough, however, to lift Lake Mead above the threshold needed, triggering the cuts.

Taking the Plunge: The creation of the Palisade Plunge, a 33-mile mountain bike trail that descends 6,000 feet from Grand Mesa to the Colorado River in Palisade, has involved a diverse coalition of federal agencies, municipalities, landowners, water districts, ranchers and hunters. The Colorado Sun reports the payoff for this often arduous 10-year planning process is an asset that’s projected to draw visitors from across the country to Colorado and contribute at least $5 million annually to area businesses.

Pride of the Timberjacks: Just about everyone knows that Charley Pride is a national treasure. But did you know that the Country Music Hall of Famer also played professional baseball in Montana during the 1960s? Learn about his pitching exploits for the Missoula Timberjacks (as well as teams in Helena and Great Falls) in this fun read from The Missoulian.

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