Updated: Free-Soloing #mprraccoon Is Safe

12 Jun

If you’ve been on Twitter today, you may have noticed that #mprraccoon is trending. Why? On Monday, the raccoon became stuck on a ledge in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. The Minnesota Public Radio team was on top of it. (Hence the MPR in its name.)

Earlier today, a few maintenance workers tried to improvise a way for the animal to climb down from the building, but instead, the raccoon fled to the nearby UBS tower and began climbing upward. That’s when people began to take notice. Soon, the creature had scaled nearly half the height of the building, making  national news.

Near the 22nd floor, the raccoon took another break. It must be tired—it’s been without food and water for at least a day, according to MPR reporter Tim Nelson.

After the nap, the raccoon continued its upward climb.

As of this writing, the procyonid was nearing the top of the building.

What will happen next? We wait with bated breath. (While watching @TimNelson’s Twitter account—it really is the best spot for the latest.)

Update: Around 2:50 a.m. local time, the raccoon successfully reached the top of the building. Building workers had placed a live trap on the roof filled with wet cat food, and the raccoon was successfully captured and turned over to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Busting 11 Myths about Westerners and Conservation

25 Jan

On Thursday morning, Colorado College released its Conservation in the West poll, which it has conducted since 2011. The survey asks voters in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho (added this year), Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah for their opinions on everything from energy development to national monuments, water usage to recreation. It also asks about political affiliation, a question that, not surprisingly, tends to matter a lot. So what did voters say? We took a look at the numbers.

More People Identify as a Conservationist

In 2016, 63 percent of respondents said they’d call themselves one. This year, it was 76 percent.

Latinos Are a Growing Force in the Movement

The number who now identify as conservationists is 75 percent—an 18 percent increase since 2016.

74 Percent of Westerners Recreate Outdoors

The most popular activities were hiking (63 percent), camping (57 percent), and bird and wildlife viewing (37 percent).

The Outdoor Economy Matters

Ninety-three percent said that it was important to the economic future of the West. Those numbers were identical whether respondents identified as Republicans, Independents, or Democrats.

Protection Is More Important Than Production

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said it was more important to protect public lands than to produce energy on them. (Wyoming was the only state where it was even close—39 percent people there said production was more important.) The lowest amount of support came from Republicans. Even then, 43 percent favored protection and only 37 favored production.

Most People Don’t Like the National Monument Reductions

Overall, two-thirds of respondents said it was a bad idea to reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. A majority in every state thought it was a bad idea, except for Utah, where 49 percent said it was a bad idea and 46 percent said it was a good one.

And They’d Rather There Not Be More Reductions

Just under 70 percent said it was a bad idea to reduce the size of existing national monuments. Even in Utah, 56 percent were against it.

Westerners Really Dislike D.C. Politicians

Seventy-nine percent said their values were not shared by politicians in D.C. Local politicians fare a little better—only 49 percent say their state officials don’t share their values.

They’re Really Worried About Water and Fires

More than 80 percent said that low water conditions were a significant concern, and 47 percent said the same about uncontrollable wildfires.

They’d Rather See Water Conservation than Diversion

Only 13 percent said more water should be diverted to cities to meet their needs, while 78 percent said they’d rather see more conservation and water recycling efforts.

Renewable Energy Is Super Popular

More than two-thirds of those who responded said that either solar or wind was their first choice of energy development in their state. (Coal and oil were chosen by eight percent.) The only state that didn’t pick renewables as the top two preferred sources of energy? Wyoming, which chose coal and natural gas.

Report: Harassment and Discrimination Rampant at DOI

14 Dec

A survey released Thursday by the Department of Interior shows that more than a third of employees have been harassed or discriminated against in the past year. The news affirms what has, at this point, become painfully clear: the department has a culture of bad behavior that has gone unchecked for years.

The survey was initiated after reports emerged from the Grand Canyon in 2016 that women working for the National Park Service had routinely been harassed and, in some cases, assaulted while working on the river. Those complaints quickly spread throughout the NPS, prompting resignations and calls for further investigation. In October, the DOI released a survey of full-time NPS employees that found that 40 percent had experienced some form of harassment or discrimination. Thursday’s survey included other departments—from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the U.S. Geological Survey—and included 28,203 respondents, representing 44 percent of all Interior employees.

The results are damning. The most common form of harassment was related to age, with 20.5 percent of respondents saying they’d experienced such an event. More than 12 percent reported gender harassment, 10.1 percent reported sexual harassment, 9.3 percent said they’d been harassed or discriminated against due to their race or ethnicity. (Worryingly, more than 20 percent of those working in the Bureau of Indian Affairs reported harassment due to their race.) The number of employees who said they'd been sexually assaulted—0.74 percent—was much smaller, but still represents 208 employees, a number that would more than double if we assume the relatively large sample size is representative of the entire workforce.

“From day one, I made it clear that I have zero tolerance for any type of workplace harassment,” Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a Thursday press release. “I have directed leadership across the entire Department to move rapidly to improve accountability and transparency with regard to this absolutely intolerable behavior.”

At the same time that it released the survey results, the DOI announced initiatives aimed at correcting the issue, including dispersing its updated anti-harassment policy, establishing new guidelines for managers who hear about harassment, creating a guide to conducting harassment investigations, and more training for those who may conduct such investigations.

These are all good steps, to be sure. But if the #metoo movement is any indication, the more that DOI employees feel they are not alone in talking about harassment, the more people will speak out against it. In other words: the fallout is likely far from over. 

40 Percent of NPS Employees Experience Harassment

13 Oct

On Friday, October 13, the National Park Service released the results of an anonymous employee survey about harassment in the workplace—and the results aren’t pretty. Over 38 percent of the more than 9,000 respondents said that they had experienced harassment in the 12 months before the survey. Nearly 20 percent reported harassment based on their gender, more than 10 percent reported being sexually harassed, and .95 percent reported being sexually assaulted.

“All employees have the right to work in an environment that is safe and harassment-free,” said Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, according to a NPS press release. “I've removed a number of people who were abusive or acted improperly that other administrations were too afraid to or just turned a blind eye to. Under my leadership we’re going to hold people accountable.”

The survey comes after numerous reports of wrongdoing, harassment, and misconduct within the national park system in the past two years. It began in January 2016, with allegations occurring in Grand Canyon National Park, but employees at other parks soon began to speak and a NPS investigation quickly expanded to include the entire system.

The vast majority of those early allegations came from women, and the newly-released survey suggests that there may be many more who have yet to speak up. The survey was sent to all 18,500 employees of the national park service from January 9 to March 5. (Though employees hired after December 10, 2016, were not included.)

Nearly half of all employees responded. More than a third reported that they’d experienced some form of harassment in the previous 12 months. Of those, the most common forms of harassment were based on age (22.9 percent), gender (19.3), or race (9.5), or was sexual in nature (10.4).

In response, the Department of the Interior updated its anti-harassment policies to “address harassing conduct at the earliest possible stage.” That’s a good first step. But progress will also require a shift in how NPS employees talk about and view harassment in the first place. Nearly 40 percent of those who discussed the harassment with colleagues were encouraged to drop the issue, and more than a third were actively discouraged from filing a report or complaint. (Only 26 percent actually submitted an official complaint.) True change will require a culture shift within the organization.

Makalu: The First Ski Descent

8 Oct

At 27,766 feet, and with several technical sections, Makalu is one of the most demanding climbs in the Himalayas. Follow along as a team of some of the top mountaineers attempt the first ski descent of the world's fifth-highest peak.

What Mountaineering Should Be

The five elite athletes on the team share their first-descent plans and expedition concerns

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The crew's "intimidating" view of Makalu from base camp. (Adrian Ballinger)

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How Hilaree O'Neill Bounced Back

One of the best climbers of her generation points her skis down 27,766-foot Makalu

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O'Neill at home in Telluride, Colorado. (Jeff Lipsky)

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The Fast Track Guide

California guide Adrian Ballinger makes his play to become Everest's top dog with a climbing model that's fast, light—and very expensive

(Michael Friberg)

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The No-Fall Zone

When freeskier Kit DesLauriers dropped in at 29,035 feet on Mount Everest in October, she became the first person to ski off the Seven Summits. Kit, her husband, Rob, and photographer Jimmy Chin also became the first Americans to ski from the top of the world's tallest mountain.

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Kit DesLauriers makes her way through Everest's treacherous Khumbu Icefall on September 17, 2006. "The Icefall is one of the few places where you can make all the right decisions and it could still collapse," says photographer Jimmy Chin. (Jimmy Chin)

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Skiing Makalu: The Trek to Base Camp

After a long and wet week, the team attempting to ski the world’s fifth-highest peak has made it to the base of Makalu

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Jim Morrison enjoying a break at 14,800 feet, a day's walk from base camp. (Adrian Ballinger/Alpenglow Expeditions )

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Skiing Makalu: The Puja Ceremony

As the team attempting the first ski descent of Makalu prepares to ascend, they first perform an ancient ritual

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"There is a massive mountain looming over me, calling my name." (Emily Harrington)

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Skiing Makalu: Rest, Ski, Work, Play

The team attempting the first ski descent of Makalu finally gets a chance to play in the snow

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Emily Harrington mid-turn on the steepest part of the descent above Camp 1. (Hilaree O'Neill)

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Skiing Makalu: The Waiting Game

After a good weather window disappeared, the team waits for another in their attempt to make the first ski descent of Makalu.

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Mingma Chhring Sherpa breaking trail out of Camp 3 towards the summit of Makalu.. While deep snow and fresh avalanches turned us around at 25,000 feet. (Adrian Ballinger)

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