Fighting for the Greater Sage-Grouse

Greater Sage-Grouse.


On September 22nd, it was decided that the greater sage-grouse will not be protected under the Endangered Species Act. This news comes as a delight to ranchers, big industry leaders, and some conservationists while other environmentalists think this decision isn’t doing all it can for the sage-grouse.

These birds call eleven Western sagebrushes (the Sagebrush Sea, approximately 165 million acres) their home and are not keen to human development. They depend on the sagebrush for food, especially in the winter, and conservation of the sage-grouse would benefit many other species that also rely on the sagebrush for survival. Watching their unique mating ritual is a treat for visitors as well, one that shows the sage-grouse strutting and fanning their tail feathers about theatrically.

Greater sage-grouse doing mating dance.

A greater sage-grouse showing off his feathers and dancing in an attempt to woe some females. [Image:]

As development continues out West, the greater sage-grouse suffer and have been steadily declining for decades. In 2010, their populations were low enough that they should have been protected under the Endangered Species Act, however, the federal government claimed to have other priorities that led to it not being added. Some environmental groups believe this was done out of economic pressure from the oil, gas, mining, and agriculture industries.

The greater sage-grouse avoided being added to the list again due to heavily managed land-use plans by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, which ensure that public and private land will be protected and improved with the greater sage-grouse in mind. Again, however, there is a split on opinions with this ruling. Some environmental groups are saying that the ruling isn’t strict enough while big industries affected by these limitations are saying they’re too harsh. In the end, these big companies face less constricting restraints than what they would have had to endure if the bird had been listed as endangered.

Greater sage-grouse mid-flight.


In the meantime, both sides are threatening litigation to either reduce the limitations or have the sage-grouse be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The sage-grouse’s eligibility for being listed as an endangered species will be reevaluated in five years, in which time its population will hopefully start to grow regardless of what happens in court.

Give a Warm Welcome to the Autumnal Equinox at a State Park

September marks the official end of summer, and almost on cue, the weather is becoming a bit chillier already and people are donning their sweaters. One of the best things about the cooler weather is that we can all do our favorite outdoor activities without ending up coated in sweat—plus, nothing is more entrancing than hiking through the woods surrounded by changing foliage. The autumnal equinox was officially on September 23rd, and here are some state parks that knew how to properly celebrate the arrival of fall.

A fairy covered in leaves changing their colors by Gary Curkan.

Gary Curkan’s fairy changing the leaves. [Image:]

Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s only prehistoric Native American archaeological site, Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, is a great place to experience autumn. An easy one-mile guided walking tour will bring you around its beautiful grounds. You’ll gain an exclusive look into Oklahoma’s past and its prehistoric people that built the mounds. There’s even a theme-appropriate treat: learning why 12 of the mounds line up during the equinoxes and solstices.

L.L. Stub Stewart State Park & Rooster Rock State Park, Oregon

Stargazing at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park to celebrate the autumnal equinox

Look to the sky at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park this fall. [Image:]

Both L.L. Stub Stewart and Rooster Rock State Parks in Oregon host a Star Party to ring in the autumnal equinox. Guests were able to look through a variety of telescopes to stare at the stars, not-so-patiently awaiting the arrival of fall as they did so.

Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park, Arkansas

Visitors learned all about Native American culture at Arkansas’ Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park during the autumnal equinox. There was a weapons demonstration, and similar to Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, there was also an explanation of the mounds in correlation with the sun’s placement.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, Florida

You may have visited Hugh Taylor Birch State Park during the summer solstice when the Moonpath Circle held a Tequesta Drum Circle. In fact, these drum circles are held during all equinoxes and solstices, honoring those who lived on these lands before we did. If you missed the autumnal equinox celebration, then make sure you head over there during the winter solstice where you’ll be comforted by a huge bonfire, poetry, belly dancing, and, of course, drumming.

Harriman State Park in fall.

Spending fall in a state park is a magical experience and full of beauty, just like this photo of Harriman State Park in Idaho. [Image:]

Enjoy a relaxing scenic drive to watch the leaves change, or head out for a refreshing fall hike. Whatever your vice, make sure you download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to aid in your explorations.

Reel Adventures with Darcizzle Offshore

Watch out, guys—there’s a new girl rockin’ the boat, and she has a knack for catching anything off the Southern Florida coast. Watch the Pocket Ranger® video channel for fun and exciting fishing adventures brought to you by Darcizzle Offshore. Her name stands up to her reputation with jaw-dropping videos that reel you in and never let you go! To get you started, watch her bass fishing expedition:

Darcizzle Offshore host, Darcie, takes fishing to another level. Her skill behind a fishing rod and experience handling the deep unknown captivate audiences, “showing the world girls CAN fish too, one catch at a time.” Whether you are an avid angler or experience fish only when it’s on your plate, follow her blog for the latest updates. The videos are nonstop entertainment and know-how, showing the best ways for a successful fishing trip. In the below video, Darcie invites viewers on a lobster dive, giving step-by-step instructions on how to find the big ones and bring them to your table:

Enough to make your mouth water, right? By subscribing to Darcizzle Offshore’s YouTube channel, you can get an angling education from someone who has done it her entire life, which far surpasses what you could get trying to learn on your own. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram then like her on Facebook. By following her on Google+, you can stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the world of Florida fishing, including monthly fishing reports, events, and more. Darcie also likes to help promote partners and sponsors, often bringing them along on her adventures.

Darsizzle Offshore using a speargun to catch fish

Image Credit: Darcizzle Offshore

Visit the Pocket Ranger® video channel to watch Darcizzle Offshore bring in the big catch! The video channel is filled with entertainment from contributors like Darcie who are dedicated to showing you a good time and inspiring your next trip. Before you pack your bags and ready your tackle box, download the Pocket Ranger® mobile apps for the latest in travel information, weather, and things to do. The Pocket Ranger® apps are free and fully equipped with GPS features to make your next adventure a stellar one!

5 Great Fall Florida Hikes

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

Hiking season is a little backwards in Florida. Or maybe it’s the right way, and the rest of the country has got it backwards. Whatever the case may be, it’s prime time for hiking in Florida as hiking season usually starts in the fall and lasts through the beginning of spring.

trail surrounded by trees great for Florida hikes


As the temperatures start to ease up a bit, the hiking trails will soon see more use. So which trails are great for hiking in Florida? Here are five favorite fall Florida hikes.

Lake Lotus Park

Lake Lotus Park is in Altamonte Springs just outside of Orlando. The urban park lends its way to an easy 1.7-mile hiking trail. The trail runs along Lake Lotus and the Little Wekiva River, which gives plenty of opportunities to see wildlife. The trail is very easy, and part of its boardwalk extends out over the water. Bring a fishing pole and cast your line out at one of the designated fishing areas, or just hangout and enjoy the view.

Econ River Wilderness

You would never guess that there are 240 acres of wilderness tucked away behind all the subdivisions, malls, and strip shopping centers. The wet season’s coming to an end, and the 3.2-miles worth of trails are starting to dry out. These trails are well maintained and offer hikers a great way to experience nature. There are even some picturesque spots to sit by the water and listen to it flow.

Florida Trail, Wheeler Road to Joshua Creek

For hikers that want a longer day hike, the Florida Trail has loads of sections that are longer than 5-miles. One of those is the section from Wheeler Road to Joshua Creek that stretches for 9.4-miles. The trail runs underneath a myriad of oak trees where their branches weave together to provide plenty of shade from the sun. The trail also takes you through a natural botanical garden of wild orchids.

Sabal Point Sanctuary

Throughout Florida you’ll find that old logging trails make for some great modern day hiking trails. They’re wide, well maintained, and perfect for group hikes. The 7-mile Sabal Point Sanctuary is perfect for hiking in the fall. The hickory trees and red maples start shedding their gold and crimson leaves, bringing some fall foliage to Florida. Hike as far as you want on this trail and turn back around whenever you’re ready.

Lake Harney Wilderness Area

A hike with one of the most diverse landscapes is in Lake Harney Wilderness Area. Along the two loops that make up the 2.4-mile trail, you’re bound to find deer grazing in the uplands or spot eagle nests in the pine trees. Wildflowers in the woodlands create a beautiful panoramic around the pristine lake formed by the St. Johns River.

Alabama State Parks Funding Crisis

Alabama State Parks Funding Crisis - Funding Cuts Could Close Alabama's State Parks [Image:]


According to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, the state is facing a budget crisis. Alabama lawmakers are currently in talks regarding the cash-strapped General Fund budget.

Among the potential impacts of proposed budget cuts are closures and cutbacks to state parks and other outdoor activities. The leaders of the Alabama State Parks and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources say the legislature has pulled $27 million dollars out of their accounts to shore up the General Fund over the last four years, and they are looking to pull another $9 to $18 million next year.

Here is an excerpt from the last update on September 23rd from the Alabama State Parks website:

The Legislature has concluded their budgeting effort for FY2016 and made their decision to transfer funds from our Department for a fifth year in a row. They make the state’s laws, and we must find ways to implement them. Our immediate task is to now work with Finance and Budget authorities to analyze the impact of this additional year of transfers, and our staff are already working on contingency plans to address this loss of revenue. We do not think it’s fair to the people of the state, and the hundreds of thousands of visitors and tourists that enjoy our parks each year, for us to speculate today on how this transfer will impact the system. This remains a very serious matter for the park system, and we expect to know more within the next week to ten days and will share that information with the public at that time.

For the full article about the funding crisis, as well as the latest news about potential state park closures, please visit the Alabama State Parks website.

There are several things you can do for the Alabama State Parks Funding Crisis. Stay updated on this issue, talk amongst community, and express your opinions to your elected officials. You can also volunteer, follow their Facebook page, keep your eye out for rallies hosted by state parks, or join the Alabama State Parks Partners Coalition. But the best way you can help is to visit a state park with your family and friends (and use the Pocket Ranger® Official Guide for Alabama State Parks)!

National Public Lands Day

National Public Lands Day 2015 - Square Banner - Solo Hiker [Image:]


Each year, Americans are asked to set aside one day—the last Saturday in September—to “lend a hand to the lands” that we use to enjoy the outdoors. National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands, and this year, it’s taking place on Saturday, September 26th.

You can join thousands of volunteers who will gather at parks, forests, reservoirs, and other public areas to help improve and steward our nation’s natural resources. There will be opportunities to build bridges and trails, plant stream banks, restore lakes and wetlands, remove invasive plants, improve wildlife habitat, repair cultural resources and recreational facilities, and carry out hundreds of other projects. Volunteers will also learn about the importance of public lands to the nation’s environmental, economic, and social health as well as get a firsthand perspective on the problems and issues facing land managers.

If you love the outdoors, here’s your chance to give back to nature! Mark your calendar for September 26th, and find a NPLD site near you by checking the list below or visiting And don’t forget to use our Pocket Ranger® apps during your visit to our beloved parks, forests, and lakes!

Red Rock State Park – Sedona, AZ

Maintenance and cleanup of park facilities, trails, and Oak Creek riparian areas. Park interpreters will be available for questions regarding the Oak Creek and its importance to Arizona.

Call 928-282-6907 or click here for more information.

Lake Dardanelle State Park – Russellville, AR

Join Lake Dardanelle State Park to celebrate this national cleanup event in conjunction with the Great Arkansas Cleanup to help pick up trash along the lake and throughout the community. Volunteers clean trails, shorelines, and public parks around Russellville. Following the cleanup will be a ceremony for all those who volunteered and a free lunch along with activities for the whole family.

Call 479-890-7479 or click here for more information.

The Barnacle Historic State Park – Coconut Grove, FL

Partake in a morning of park cleanup, landscape beautification, and exotic plant removal. At the conclusion of the event, Park Rangers will provide free lunch and a tour of the historic house for registered volunteers. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Call 305-442-6866 or click here for more information.

George L. Smith State Park – Twin City, GA

Saturday, September 26th is Your State Parks Day. Come out and help with park cleanup and beautification projects. Free T-shirts, water bottles and other goodies will be given to all volunteers.

Call 478-763-2759 or click here for more information.

Sterling State Park – Monroe, MI

Help collect native prairie seed from grasses and wildflowers to restore Lakeplain Prairie.

Call 517-719-2285 or click here for more information.

Tombigbee State Park – Tupelo, MS

Beginning in 2015, Toyota Mississippi will kick-off a five-year NPLD project at Tombigbee State Park. Kids Camp will be offered to children under age 12 with projects that include an interactive water conservation activity provided by Mississippi 4-H as well as painting and building bird houses and feeders. NPLD will conclude with a volunteer celebration including a BBQ lunch, fishing, disc golf, live music, and door prizes (must be present to win). Over the five years, the park will be completely renovated including cabin restoration, bridge construction, installation along nature trails, removal of invasive vegetation, planting flowers and shrubs, welcome center renovations, and overall park beautification.

Call 662-317-3038 or click here for more information.

Onondaga Cave State Park – Leasburg, MO

Attend the Green Living Fall Festival and National Public Lands Day Bio-Blitz! The day’s activities will center around villages and will contain a variety of topics, including educational activities, hands-on activities, vendors, displays and demonstrations, green products, local farming, and sustainable living. The bio-blitz, in honor of National Public Lands Day, will feature experts in a variety of scientific and ecological fields leading groups to identify and record species of flora and fauna throughout the park. The public is invited to voluntarily participate in any group. The Onondaga Friends Association will be demonstrating the making of apple butter and freshly canned jars will be available for sale along with many, many other vendor items.

Call 573-245-6576 or click here for more information.

Elk Knob State Park – Todd, NC

Head over to Elk Knob State Park for National Public Lands Day where you can help work on maintaining the Summit Trail or the new Maple Run Trail. Tools will be provided. Bring water, lunch, and work gloves and wear close-toed shoes.

Call 828-297-7261 or click here for more information.

Black Moshannon State Park – Philipsburg, PA

Help beautify Black Moshannon State Park! Projects include trail maintenance, native plant gardening, litter pickup, and planting. Pre-registration is required. Lunch will be provided and free camping is available that weekend for volunteers.

Call 814-342-5960 or click here for more information.

Bledsoe Creek State Park – Gallatin, TN

Help put together playground equipment at Bledsoe Creek State Park!

Call 615-347-3639 or click here for more information.

Biking for a Cause

Biking is a fantastic way to explore a new area, get a healthy dose of exercise, and even raise awareness about a cause. In fact, plenty of people are biking for a cause these days, taking to the saddle and setting out on a ride to give their passions some much needed attention. Ranging from animal awareness to sustainability, these are a few cyclists with a cause that have caught our eye lately.

Where’s Bixby?

Where's Bixby? founder Mike Minnick with Bixby looks at the ocean while biking for a cause

Adopt, don’t shop! [Image:]

Mike Minnick and his five-year-old furry companion, Bixby, are on a bike adventure to raise awareness for shelter pups. Mike quit his day job, attached Bixby’s dog bed to his eccentric Yuba Mundo cargo bike, grabbed a rubber safety chicken (Chicken Charlie), and made his way out of Texas on a mission. In the past year, Mike and Bixby have ridden over 9,000-miles across more than 30 states, stopping at over 50 adoption shelters along the way. Their goal is to help some lucky dogs meet their new best friends and shift people away from dangerous puppy mills to the nonprofit services of local shelters. Track Mike and Bixby’s adventure through their site Where’s Bixby?

Biking and Breathing

Myrna Gatica in her air pollution monitoring gear for the Biking and Breathing project.

Earth science teacher and bike commuter, Myrna Gatica, helping out the Biking and Breathing project. [Image:]

WNYC, New York’s Public Radio station, is coupling with Columbia scientists for a project called Biking and Breathing where they’ll be studying the air quality on city streets. Air quality is typically measured from stationary boxes located high above street level, however, it’s difficult to know exactly how many fine particles and air pollution a person is ingesting in the city. Equipped with portable air quality measuring tools, cyclists are helping WNYC and Columbia measure pollution from a commuter’s perspective. The results are sure to be a bit scary, but we’re excited to see them. And in the meantime, WNYC is working on another project called Bike Blockers where cyclists send in their photos of blocked bike lanes and WNYC creates an interactive map of all the locations. Overall they’re bringing a ton of attention to biking in a big city, something no commuter can complain about!

Marissa Muller

Marissa Muller and her solar-powered bicycle.

Marissa Muller and her awesome solar-powered bike. [Image:]

Marissa Muller is traveling from California to Washington D.C. on a solar-powered bicycle to raise awareness about wellness. Muller isn’t racing or trying to break a record, but what this cycling gal is accomplishing is pretty amazing regardless. Along her trip of biking more than 3,000-miles across ten states, she aims to engage with locals and set up meetings to discuss improving both physical wellness and wellness for our planet.

Cycle for Water

Michiel and Joost, founders of Cycle for Water, on their 2010 trip.

Michiel and Joost on their 2010 Cycle for Water adventure with their bamboo bikes. [Image:]

Beginning five years ago, Joost Notenboom and Michiel Roodenburg formed Cycle for Water where they cycled about 30,000-kilometers on bamboo bicycles from the Arctic to the Antarctic, giving attention to the global water crisis. Their cause raises funds for those that don’t have access to clean water, and now their adventure has expanded even more. They recently passed the torch along to Theo Rohfritsch and Simon Valdenaire who will ride 25,000-kilometers from France to New Zealand. The next step they’re working on is linking primary school students with a water project in a different part of the world.

Climate Ride

Climate Ride participants in California.

A group of California’s Climate Ride participants. [Image:]

Promoting sustainability, alternate modes of transportation, and environmental causes is what the Climate Ride is all about. Through multi-day rides, hikes, and a do-it-yourself program, they are creating a network where people can contribute to a cause they’re passionate about. They have a few different Climate Ride options around the country to take advantage of: Climate Ride Northeast takes place over five days through Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts; Climate Ride California spans through beautiful Northeast California from the Redwood Empire to San Francisco; Climate Ride Midwest is a three day trip from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Chicago; and Climate Ride NYC-DC, which is unfortunately on a break for 2015, is a ride that connects two of the nation’s most important cities over the course of five days.

If all this talk has got you amped up and in need of exerting some extra energy, then hop on your bike and explore a beautiful area near you. Maybe you’ll find Bixby along the way or will become impassioned with your own cause. Either way, our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps will be sure to aid in your journey!