Developing Diversity in the National Parks

Earlier this summer we had a, shall I say 'spirited,' discussion revolving around how to increase diversity in visitation to the national parks. This topic has resurfaced in an Associated Press article that looks at efforts a group is taking to introduce minorities to the parks.


A National Park Service survey in 2003 showed Americans of all backgrounds gave the same reasons for staying away from public lands — cost, distance, not knowing what to do there and lack of interest. But some differences emerged, giving a sense how cultural perceptions of the outdoors might vary among groups.

Blacks were significantly more likely to say they received poor service from park employees or that they felt uncomfortable while visiting parks. Hispanics expressed greater concern than others about having to make reservations too far in advance and about personal safety while outdoors.

Experts say these perceptions can be changed, but only through a concerted effort.

You can find details on Wildlink, which works to bring minority teens into the park system, at this site. The Park Service's report on ethnic diversity in the parks is attached below.

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Ethnic_and_Racial_Diversity_Report_12_2003.pdf414.8 KB

Comments

I was thinking about this issue on my Labor Day trip to Yosemite. Believe me, there was plenty of diversity of visitors in Yosemite Valley. Asians, East Indians, Hispanics and blacks. California is diverse so Yosemite visitation is diverse. So at least as far as Yosemite is concerned, I don't think there is any diversity 'problem'. These studies have to be broken down based on the ethnicity of the population surrounding each park. Many parks are in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest, the least diverse areas of the countries. Their visitation numbers may skew the study. The mission of the NPS is to protect the parks, not to engage in some sort of social engineering to make sure they have the politically correct mix of visitors. If anything, the NPS needs to protect the parks from more congestion.

"The mission of the NPS is to protect the parks, not to engage in some sort of social engineering to make sure they have the politically correct mix of visitors."

Well put Kath. The article is about an organization in CA that is trying to encourage inner-city kids to get out and explore nature. Good for them. I'm all for private entities doing whatever they want to promote whatever causes they deem worthwhile.

With an $8 billion dollar maintenance backlog I hope the NPS will keep its collective nose out of social engineering and more properly focused where it belongs: building outhouses and repairing trails and roads.

Somebody get Mary a shovel.

I thoroughly enjoyed the article. It was heart warming to know that NPS is concerned about diversity especially since I believe its funding comes from all Americans. A little less fear and negativity and a little more inclusiveness could really change the state of our public lands.
I don't think creating greater access to parks whether it be ADA issues or that certain populations of our great country don't feel welcome visiting public parks doesn't seem to fall under the category of "social engineering".

ayyyy, here we go again... if tax payers are funding a park system that they aren't using, then the whole system itself, including the backlog of maintenance, is in danger of implosion and becoming irrelevant...

while it is definitely not the role of the park service to create programs that support the creation of linkages to correlate with shifting societal demographics, the park service should consider creating strong partnerships with those organizations that do and do everything they can to facilitate their success, including sending uniformed rangers to make the connection.

i work with environmental education (*not* advocacy... there is a strong and clearly delineated difference) and in my experience, everyone loves nature. i agree with e.o. wilson- humans are hard wired this way. doesn't matter if you grew up in ohio or vietnam. they just don't know it because most of the population in the USA is either suburban or urban these days and think nature is grey squirrels or magpies or canda geese... get people outside for just a little bit and they are more likely than not instant stewards!

maybe stewards that, in the future, will both pressure politicians to take care of the parks better and tell their kids to check their socks for invasive species before heading into a pristine part of our country. oh, and post in the comments on national parks traveler. heh.

I must be the poster child for ignorant, but why is there so much emphasis being placed on RACIAL diversity and nobody seems to be enjoying the CULTURAL diversity that is omnipotent in the park system? Our parks seem to be the vacation target of a populace derived from most every national origin, and for that we can't take enough pride? If world travellers are capable of feeling "at ease" and seem to be competent enough to plan well in advance for reservations, why should anybody put an extended effort into molly-coddling our domestic situation? Let's be perfectly honest......it's not just people of color who don't care to make the effort to visit the parks. There are many creatures great and small, who for their own reasons choose not to expend the effort to tour this magnificent landscape. Their loss, but most CERTAINLY not mine. For some people, visiting the great outdoors is limited to popping open a cold one and swatting mosquitos on the patio, deck, or balcony while complaining about the air quality and the traffic noises. More's the pity. And while there is NEVER an excuse for poor service targetted toward a specific racial background, I've heard that particular complaint from certain people time and time again, and I'm beginning to believe that it is nothing more than an attempt to legitimize a mindset. To some people, an enjoyable walk in the park consists of an intermittent smattering of 18 flagstick. To others, a pavement traversing a shoreline is deemed idyllic. A stroll down a remote section of train tracks, a float along a lazy river, the ever-popular drowning of worms, cycling along a city street, or just sitting on the stoop, no one activity is meant to please the masses. And insofar as the comment pertaining to "not knowing what to do when we get there", hell, that's half the fun of going in the first place! If you're just going to SEE the Grand Canyon, that take's all of 5 minutes.........but to EXPERIENCE the canyon takes a lifetime. The same goes for Yosemite, Glacier, Yellowstone, and all the great parks. Maybe the answer is merketing some info-mercial type DVD's to these slugs so then they can as least say they've SEEN it, and didn't care to make the effort to expand on that knowledge.

I'm reading posts like these and upset that I don't have a moment to respond to them because I think there's so much here being missed.

No one has to "coddle", no one has to put effort into some new government program, to talk about how the things they might be doing are contributing to racism in society. Studies by people like Nina Roberts show that there is a race gap in the parks that go across the economic spectrum, that has widened over time, that is not tied simply to class. We know we live in a society that has throughout its history been brutally racist. Many of the customs and traditions in our society were born in a racist age with racist motivations. None of us is immune from racism; from the processes of it. And, since racism is despicable and needlessly hurts us all, it behooves us to stop and think about ways not to contribute to it - no matter who we are! Whether it's you or me, or people working in the National Park Service.

It's not a "social engineering" project; it's about understanding how the ongoing "social engineering" project that is American society might be having consequences in our actions that each of us perpetuates. It's worth talking about and understanding and integating into our current approaches.

And, on another post on religion, on this issue of "majority rule" and too much worry about "minorities," I think if you look at democracy, and it's meaning, it's not possible to have a viable democracy if all people do not have a viable voice. Understanding the way each person who makes up a society is relevant is democratic. The democratic process is a consensus process, not a "majority rule" process. Unfortunately, it's actually neither in our society. It's a rule of the few at the top of society masquerading in a "majority rule" system. The only saving grace is that sometime a court or someone else steps in and decides that these bozos don't have infinite power. We are all on the short end of the stick; we are moreso when we don't take time to understand why that is. Why sometimes we are part of the process of oppression as oppressor and sometimes as oppressed.

I don't have time for this conversation right now, but I couldn't allow these comments to be the last word.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

First of all, I take issue with the study of racial disparity in visiting the parks. Yosemite, being close to the Bay Area, has plenty of diversity. Many national parks are in areas that are predominately white. Since most visitors to the parks are those within a close drive that accounts for much of the disparity. I'd be interested in a breakdown of visitors on a park by park basis. Are those parks that are in areas with a high proportion of Hispanics and blacks experiencing that disparity?

Second, some of the items mentioned by Nina Roberts as reasons why minorities don't visit parks are so vague as to be devoid of meaning. What, for example, does she mean by newcomers "not understanding American rules about use of public space"? Does that mean they don't understand that you don't litter or feed the bears? What? "Access to gear"? Hiking boots and a daypack? What is the NPS supposed to do about that? "Understanding English language signs?" Yeah, let's make more and bigger signs in the parks putting them in Spanish, Farsi, Laotian, and on and on because residents of this country choose not to learn English.

Certainly there's no excuse if blacks are in fact getting poor service from park employees. But Roberts also says that they feel "uncomfortable" while visiting parks. What does that mean? Hispanics don't like making reservations far in advance. Neither do I, but that's the way it is with the overcrowding of the parks.

I question this study and its findings. More information is needed.

The ethnicity rage in general and Afrocentricity in particular not only divert attention from the real needs but exacerbate the problems. The cult of ethnicity exaggerates differences, intensifies resentments and antagonisms, drives ever deeper the awful wedges between races and nationalities. --Arthur M. Schlesinger

Kath, maybe Nina Roberts has a valid point and perhaps she's black...or what ever. She has a point, that being, there is a certain amount blatant discrimination in the National Park system. Check out the campsite areas, and study the overt behavior of white campers once a black family settles next to them (at a adjacent campsite) and notice a bit of uneasiness. There's a lot of pertinent issues that the National Park Service needs to address when it comes to hiring minorities, goods and services. Basically, it comes down to how we treat and respect one and another, outside the park and inside the park. Racial hate still runs deep in this country, which is most unfortunate and ugly. We need to do a better job as a Nation to alleviate such blatant racial hate, and it's more then just tolerance but more compassion and human understanding that we need the most of.

Jim-

I am in no way, shape or fashion glossing over the racist history and present of this nation. NOBODY has come to these shores are be able to avoid it's sting. Not even the native inhabitants of this land were (are) immune. But I don't understand how we are contributing to the situation by not feeling sorry for, and thereby working to enable, a group or multiple groups of people of WHATEVER background to take part in something that many have no interest in becomming a part of in the first place. There are indeed many people of color and or various ethnic backgrounds who take advantage of these areas. Those percentages, when compared to the total sample size available within any given group of people are indeed small, to be sure. But to rest the responsibility solely on the shoulders of racism, while ignoring the cultural make-up and general underlying sub-cultural and individual / personal social intersts in most certainly unfair. Like I said, no activity, situation or belief was intended for everyone. Why should any one group be overly concerned that any other such group chooses to or not to become involved in any given activity? We, as Americans, deem something to be worthwhile, for example, our political and personal freedoms. Yet a certain segment of the world views it as devil-worship and would like to kill us all for these practices and beliefs. So if Group A chooses FREELY not to be as actively interested in this pursuit as Group B, why should it raise a great concern to ANYBODY else? Is it because Group B doesn't understand how someone from Group A could choose NOT to follow their lead? Please.........

Along the lines of democracy, strictly speaking, it cannot work in the current state of our nation. In it's purest form, democracy is indeed, "one person, one vote, majority rule". The problem then becomes how to administer this system in a modern society, which of course, is totally impractical. Every person would have the responsibility, duty if you will, to educate themsevles on EVERY issue affecting the governing of our country, and then getting to the polls to cast their vote EVERY time an issue required such. Early American history records just such processes. Unfortunately, as the population increased and began to spread geographically, this became impossible to administrate. We then converted to a system of government known throughout history as a Republic, just like Rome in the good 'ole days. The people elected representatives who were SUPPOSED to be the united voice of their constituents, and represent the best interests of their constituents, etc. Ah, the days before special interest groups and lobbyists..........Anyway, that system no longer works in this country either, even though it appears quite locked into place. The reason it has worked elsewhere throught history is due to the one little factor that we overlooked. We fell into the trap of strict "Democrat / Republican", and blocked the most effective form of govenment from evolving.........COMPROMISE. Now, it's either one way other the other, and either way the general public loses. And you wonder why I detest minority rule? Why would ANY of you support this system of general public screwing at every turn? Do any of you still actually believe, in your heart of hearts, after having been subjected to and subjugated by this system all your lives that Left or Right has YOUR interest at heart when decisions are made that govern your very existence?

You may now feel free to take your best shot, as it was never my intent to render the "last word".......Have a nice weekend!

But I don't understand how we are contributing to the situation by not feeling sorry for, and thereby working to enable, a group or multiple groups of people of WHATEVER background to take part in something that many have no interest in becomming a part of in the first place.

I don't disagree with this necessarily. I don't think any solution to racism can be paternalistic. I have no idea who or who doesn't have interest in visiting parks; and, no we can't simply say, "Hey, come here. Let's be happy and diverse." That's not the point. The point is to make sure that what we are doing now isn't contributing to the reasons why certain groups of people whom reason tells us are the same, behave differently. If the consequences of our discovery point to things fundamentally off about not simply the parks but our environmental assumptions, then so be it. The lack of diversity (everywhere but Yosemite, apparently), the changing trends, are cause for concern that something's not right. It doesn't suggest a solution; it does suggest that we all should be talking about the problem. And, far from taking us from other pressing issues, I think we'll find that they're inter-related.

Those percentages, when compared to the total sample size available within any given group of people are indeed small, to be sure. But to rest the responsibility solely on the shoulders of racism, while ignoring the cultural make-up and general underlying sub-cultural and individual / personal social intersts in most certainly unfair.

Obviously, almost nothing can be reduced to a single cause. Classism is an issue in society; sexism; and all kinds of things big and small. Some are inocuous (it was raining; therefore, I didn't go outside today). However, while it's true that causes are complex and many; that doesn't mean that certain things that are wrong are insignificant or should be kept in a narrow perspective just because of it. Many of the reasons why people behave the way they do, however many they are, often amount to the same sorts of things. So often - and we've seen it repeatedly in the comments on this post and the previous discussion on diversity in the parks - culture is used to blur the issue of race. Well, damn...if you change the lens, of course you can find diversity. People wear all kinds of different clothes, have all kinds of different names, have all kinds of different interests in food, in why they visit parks. You might be able to identify different cultural traits from that. But, none of this should distract from the real issue of race in the parks. And, if there is also a "cultural" reason based on a shifting in culture among people of color over the last 40 years that's different from their racial make-up, then that also has a set of causes. Perhaps, it's a result of racism, of ongoing racism. It's evidence of something; when a culture is identifiable in part by race, why is that? These are all things to take seriously. And, if this is seen as something radically different than seeing for instance why elk behave the way they do with and without wolves, why animals behave differently in different ages, or plants grow differently in different environments, to me it's obviously not. We need to own up to the issue of racism, and we should not blur things just because there happen to be other ways of viewing things. While all the blurring may raise other interesting issues; no other cause, no other perspective, can hide the reality.

Why should any one group be overly concerned that any other such group chooses to or not to become involved in any given activity? We, as Americans, deem something to be worthwhile, for example, our political and personal freedoms. Yet a certain segment of the world views it as devil-worship and would like to kill us all for these practices and beliefs. So if Group A chooses FREELY not to be as actively interested in this pursuit as Group B, why should it raise a great concern to ANYBODY else? Is it because Group B doesn't understand how someone from Group A could choose NOT to follow their lead? Please.........

It's not a concern in itself; no one is seeking homogeneity in society. It is a concern when the markers that make people distinct and different have a racial element to it. That is a concern because that kind of separateness is irrational. It's not irrational if some people prefer to live in cities while others prefer to go to the mountains; it is a concern if all the people who love cities happen to be people of color. Even the tendency toward that suggests that something else is happening that we need to be aware of and discuss. If cultures are becoming distinct because of racism in our past, because of mistrust in our present, because of processes that continue to contribute to it (the most obvious I see every day is gentrification - a process I know I am in some way a part of), then that's a big concern. I don't mind being separated from you because I don't like you, because I happen to be a jerk, because you like classical music, because I like canyons, but I do mind it if it's because you just happen to belong to a class of people with a certain skin color, because of the values society has held that have brought about that reality. And, it's that value judgment, that irrational hierarchical attitude, that is the crux of the problem. I'd argue that we have that attitude toward land, toward property, toward other beings on the earth, toward our children, and sometimes toward people we say we love. It's a pervasive problem; race should be a simple thing to consider as we own up to all kinds of concerns. Unfortunately, so many aren't willing to take that step - papering it over with positive exceptions to the rule.

In it's purest form, democracy is indeed, "one person, one vote, majority rule"

I don't agree with this characterization of democracy. I'd say you don't have democracy without a community; the rule of the "demes" at its crux depends upon everyone. Democracy is that place where individuals find their voice within the space of the deme, the tribal society. Even if some decisions are not made through unanimous consent (for instance, you don't trust medical decisions to the majority or the minority but to a doctor), the ultimate crux of rule in society depends upon consent of everyone to the process that has been decided. That is the ultimate arbiter. The moment that democracy is rule of a group of people, whether they be the majority, the minority, the rich, the eligible, then it is essentially the tyranny of that group, and there is no rational ground for determining who falls inside or outside that line. There's a reason for instance that changing the Constitution requires far more than half the people eligible to make those decisions; unfortunately, most of us have never actually affirmed the government that rules over us. We've merely accepted it as a survival mechanism.

Modern society is far too large; I agree that democracy is impractical as it stands in our soeciety. It's why I spend my time trying to deconstruct the rationale for our large society so that we can in fact be empowered to have our interests matter within the small groups of people we actually engage on an intimate level. As it stands, though, deconstruction is tricky because I as a rebel (of sorts) am also cognizant that I benefit greatly from my privileges in society. And, my actions need to be cognizant in action. People who have no interest in anarchy, in revolution, matter. Their health matters, their recreational choices matter, their livelihood matters, even if I wish for a much smaller world. It's a bewildering maze that I don't have a great grasp on and certainly no roadmap to revolution. It may be just as revolutionary to feed a homeless person, say hello to a neighbor, or walk through the forest, as it is to make our society smaller. Right now, I think the important thing is to take the project seriously, to hear people, to listen to them, and to see what they're saying. Racism in our society is one of the greatest shared injustices; taking it seriously is a step toward deconstruction (my own project), which at the same time doesn't depend upon anyone else sharing my own point of view, which can help us all be closer. We don't need to create a diversity quota; we don't need paternalistic projects - we do need to keep the problem at the fore of our minds, of our discussions, and to think, "Hey, am I doing something I might be doing differently?" Self-critique, listening, and openness are great models for us all. Of all my criticisms of the National Park Service, I would never criticize them for at least raising this as an issue (even if government is never going to be the answer to any racial problem - but, their doing so in this case, from my own point of view helps deconstruct government and its size; it cannot cope ultimately with the consequences of this discussion and a poignant conversation will require decentralization, will require we see that voices will not be heard until they can be rulers within a community of shared interests.

I don't think the issue is compromise; the two parties represent the same basic idea. Compromise or stagnation are only distinct the way that mixing one's rat poison with one's drink or just pouring it in are distinct. Either way, you'll die. The problem is much more fundamental. We can't hear each other. Not refusing to hear each other because we conflate race and culture or because we make cultural assumptions of a certain race would be a good start in that process.

(Hopefully, not too much natural gas for you and perhaps something that helps energize discussion)

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Wow. Someone hire Jim an editor! :)

Most of my real job actually is editing; in conversation, we're allowed poetic license to ramble on!

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Jim-

After close inspection of your dissertation, I am reminded of a line from a song, as follows:
"We always did feel the same we just saw it from a different point of view......Tangled up in Blue"
My apology to Bobby Dylan.

I get the distinct impression that deep down, both of us "rebels" are going about a different means to the same end, but it's less different than I think you might believe. The American public as a whole never affirmed the state of government, it was in essence, thrust upon us for better or worse. Unfortunately, we've been stuck with the "worse" end of the stick for quite some time, unless you're a blind sheep who swears allegiance to the Red or Blue without questioning their true agenda. Small group "home rule" was supposed to be encouraged by individual state government, but most counties, townships, villages, etc. don't realize they have been empowered to do so. Again, the Elephants and the Donkeys have the most to loose, and aren't to happy, or ready to be relieved of their current "responsiblity to effectively govern society", as I heard one of them refer to it as. The next time I get effective federal or state government will be the first in my lifetime. I do have some decent, honest folk here at the village and township level, but they're barely empowered to hold meetings, let alone decide policy. Kudos to them, they do try.

I don't have the statistics on who visits the parks either. For that matter, if they're kept at all, that's an issue in my world. Are there figures, and are they gleaned from polls/surveys, headcounts, observation, or what? The entire basis for such a study raises questions in my eyes. What were/are those in charge of such a study intending to prove? My point is, as you addressed, we can't be drawing conclusions on why without taking those questions directly to the people who DON'T go and determining root casues. I'm sorry, I just can't buy the feelings of being made "uneasy" or feeling "bored" or "not being able to plan far enough in advance" as legitimate concerns. For instance, how can someone be made to feel uneasy in a place they've never experienced first-hand? How can you tell if you're bored without being there to know for certain? If there exists evidence of profiling, bring it on, expose the worthless pieces of garbage that are proliferating that stereotype, beat them senseless and replace them with people who can manage to provide a service, equally, across the board to all, foreign and domestic, green, blue, violet and orange. I have no use, as should none of us in the 21st C, for this type of behavior or mindset. That said, I'm not fool enough to pretend that is doesn't exist. But it can't be permitted, especially by those in public serivce. Not that they really differ from those in private service, but I think you know what I'm getting at. I applaud the NPS for their concern, but I still take pride in the cultural diversity that our parks elicit from the world forum that I find in every park I visit, and the sense of appreciation of the good fortune of our geography that is expressed by the foreign visitors with whom I regularly engage in conversation in lodges, on trails, over dinner, in campgrounds, in giftshops, parking lots, etc.

One last clarification, on the issue of compromise. Compromise required dialog. The only dialog that seems to exist these days is ,"We'll support this issue for your support on the next issue so that we both save face". That's not compromise, that's blackmail, or extortion, or whatever you might call it. My political system reverts back to the Amercan ideal of the late 18th / early 19 century, akin to the composition of current British Parliment, where 4-5 parties have representatives, nobody has a majority, and people are FORCED to open a dialog and compromise to effectively govern. When no one group "controls the House or Senate", I'll be a happy camper. Prior to the inception of the Republican Party in 1860, such was the government of the United States. Their names were many, but the form that politics took during this period of time was quite unique. True the country has grown in populace, territory, and world stature. Those reasons only bolster the case for a return to that system, not a reason to retreat further into the quagmire.

Sorry to hear about the lead, but that can be corrected. Best check your water main coming in from the street, too. Way dangerous stuff for the very young and very old due to effects on both developing and declining immune systems and during periods of celluar growth and the related childhood development issues. And no, not too much gas for me! Like I said earlier, nothing personal. Just the residual effects of being associated with the territory and the initials DC. I do feel for you.....decent people don't deserve that moniker. And it's not as though greasy palms only exist at the federal level. Every state capital has more than their fair share as well. As does every major city. And many private industries. And public interests. And on, and on, and on. But I think Frank appreciates more concise articles. Bet we both drive him crazy at times!

Lone Hiker, your blog is most articulate! After all that's been said, just one simple question: In your own words, what's "your personal definition" of a right wing individual vs. left wing individual? Why is it so difficult to find a common middle ground in goverment today? Who started this name calling and shellacking of the blue states vs. the red states? Wouldn't the blue states be more pro parks then the red states? It appears that way from my own personal observation. Again, your blog is most interesting. I think Bob Dylan is most likely to be a blue state refugee then a red state...his music certainly sounds like it.

I can't speak for Dylan's viewpoint, but I'd be willing to bet the Maggie's Farm that he's intelligent enough to "see which way the wind blows" and find his own way. Now, having thoroughly exhausted my references to his music, the short answer to your question, in my world, is roughly as follows:

I hate general labels, as they rarely, if ever, pertain to world views, and the momentary and ever-changing viewpoints of the human animal. It's not as simple as always aligning yourself with the "liberal left" or "conservative right" position, as issues are most often clouded by the complexities of everyday life, and every agenda belies a hidden agenda. Those veiled hypocracies are what really irk me, as do the people who take the time to create such "inner visions". Middle grounds are so often inattainable due to lack of concern about the overall picture while concentrating on furthering one's position, feathering one's nest, or however you want to put it. The common good is the playground of suckers like me, who would like to still believe that justice for all is attainable in all aspects of life; legally, morally, ethically, you name it. But to actually achieve that goal you have to be willing to sacrifice, and that seems to be the sticking point in modern society. It's fine for you, and I'll help you to, but I personally can't for various reasons, is a pervasive attitude. It is unfortunately the case that the overriding concern within our borders is almost always a monetary one, and in my view our unilaterally capitalistic world view will eventually be the cause of the collapse of our society. In spite of what we would like to believe, money does not solve all the world's ills, and has been the root cause of more than it has solved. Please don't read this as one of those "money is the root of all evils" lectures......much good can be accomplished with proper funding for many issues, it just seems as though examples related to the good are harder and harder to find evidence of in actual practice and the opposite is all too evident existing solely in theory.

I can't find it in me to honestly believe that either Blue or Red is more pro-park than the other. There is abundant evident to contradict either party's position trying to justify their claim that they indeed are the most sympathetic. I find both more pathetic than demonstrating hardline concern and backing words with actions, which is the only true measuring stick of one's committment to anything in life. People will be quick to point out that the Conservatives are the one's responsible for the attack on the Arctic Refuge while the Liberals recently locked away large tracts of land in southern Utah under the umbrella public domain / preserve. I can be just as quick to point out that Teddy Roosevelt, a republican, is noted for being "a conservationist well ahead of his time" and a major driving influence of the inception of the park service almost a century ago. I can also point to our current liberal majority in Congress, who can't seem to find money for our parks at present, and currently count more big business contributors in their coffers than the Reps. Certainly the current war budget is an issue with national funding but don't put all your eggs in that basket either. We give away BILLIONS annually to purchase friendship and elicit favors from the world community, and that practice has to be suspended as well as this "you threatened my daddy so I'll gonna blow your head off" war.

I believe that the initial Blue vs. Red, historically speaking, is a derivation of our media moguls......the parties themselves rallied around those stupid animal symbols for interminable years and were quite content. Defining either party is difficult, and by my estimate, relatively useless. It used to be a connotation that Dems were "little man, socialist, poor and minorities" while the Reps were '"big business, rich man, WASP, fiscally responsible", but those images no longer pertain, in spite of what Hill and Billery would have us believe. Both currently stand for expansionism, fiscally irresponsiblility, short-sightedness, buy-your-friends, moral deficiency, and are ethcially bankrupt. Neither even makes a fleeting attempt at demonstrating their environmental sensitivity or responsiblility, the concerns and campaign promises relevant their constituents or the operational state of our country outside of situational economic tweaking. No Al Gore supporters need comment about that last line......where was he as VP besides trying to distance himself from someone who didn't know the defintion of sex? Is it a wonder I proudly align myself with neither, and distance myself from both at every opportunity? I proudly represent the true independents, those not beholden to ANY industry or special interest (e.g., NRA), foreign policy, and who view our own America as our SOLE primary interest and would refuse to be concerned about anyone and anywhere unless our own house was COMPLETELY in order.

Did I miss something, as usual?

Lone Hiker, your point is well taken and much appreciated. I smell smoke, I guess Rome is starting to burn.