Ask A Former National Park Superintendent

As a member of the National Parks Traveler community for more than five years, I have noticed that many stories touch on aspects of National Park Service management and policies.

Often, comments on these stories have posed questions about NPS management procedures and practices. Sometimes the questions are answered by persons who know the subject. Sometimes the questions go unanswered.

It is heartening to know that so many people care about the national parks and want to be involved in improving the parks and their management. Along those lines, we are starting a new Q&A feature: Ask A Former National Park Superintendent.

Questions regarding NPS policies and practices can be submitted and I will answer one question or more every other week. Questions can be of any subject or park, but we will not address or comment on individual people or employees.

The goals of this effort will be to post accurate information, resources for further information where appropriate, and to encourage vigorous and informed discussion of national park management.

With that said, raise your questions via comments to this post, and I'll pick one or more to answer.

Costa Dillon is a recently retired veteran of 35 years with the National Park Service. He was the superintendent of Fire Island National Seashore, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Homestead National Monument of America. He was also the Superintendent of the Horace M. Albright Training Center, responsible for the orientation training for all new NPS employees.

He is the recipient of the Department of the Interior Meritorious Service Award, the National Park Service Sequoia Award for Interpretation, and the Secretary of the Interior's Award for Long-Term Achievement in Diversity. He is an Honorary Fellow of Indiana University's Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands and is currently an Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Recreation Management and Policy at the University of New Hampshire.


What a wonderful addition to the National Parks Traveler! I love the parks, both scenic and historic.

But I am fascinated by looking inside the organization that makes it all tick.

Expect lots of questions from me.


Why is it impossible for NPS managers to come to grips with chronic budget shortfalls without reducing services to the public or increasing their direct cost the public. Any manager knows that everything the NPS does is not the same priority, but to me campgrounds and other services provided to the public (at no or minimal charge) are at the top of the heap and should be preserved no matter what. Why not start realistically looking at the entire infrastructure of a park and determine what functions/positions are absolutely necessary and which ones are in the nice to have category.

Here's a story for you that gives you the context of my question. I worked at a large park in Utah for 10 years as a senior staffer to the superintendt and it appeared obvious to me and others that an entire law enforcement division (with several permanent rangers devoted to nothing but writing tickets) was totally unnecessary. There were virtually no law enforcement issues to contend with at this park and those that did occur could have easily been handled by the local sheriff. Back in the day (Gramm/Rudman), this potential cost savings was brought up to the superintendent as a way of great savings for that park and he stared back at me with a deer in the head lights look.

Slc72, I know you didn't pose this question to get a response from me but I'll put this out there anyway. I too have worked at sites were there is seemingly little for commissioned rangers to do as far as law enforcement. I believe the way to better use those resources is to go back to how it once was before the NPS became so specialized and have those guys (and women) with commissions do a lot more work that is now walled off into other divisions. This will give a better result for the public cost wise and quality wise. I recall as an interp seasonal being so frustrated because you have this feeling of being anchored to a visitor center. But the public comes to you to ask questions about the entire park and if you have't been out in the resource seeing trail conditions first hand or actually getting hands on doing the work of bio techs it is hard to give good answers. The solution I think that will work in many medium to small parks is to have the real rangers who range do a lot more work now being isolated into separate divisions. So when a visitor comes to an info desk to ask about conditions on on ORV trail they can speak with someone who's actually driven that trail in recent days.

In his book "Worth Fighting For" Rob Danno has a great chapter about how the over specialization that sweep through the parks in the early 90s has been a disaster.

Totally agree with you both. This IS the biggest problem with the parks I visit. In less than decade the amount of LE has increased dramatically. They waste tons of time and money on unnecessary beauracracy, weapons, cameras, radars, signs, gates, fences, and then can't find time or money to maintain the park. I used to seek out park employees to ask about conditions and nowadays they have no clue and then proceed to ask for papers.

Its a disgrace and hopefully we can continue expose this anti-visitor culture and return the NPS to it's glory days when they actually served the people.

While I agree with much of what previous posters have written, there are some hyper-anti NPS statements in some places. I've never detected even a trace of "anti-visitor culture" anyplace in any park.

There are some traces of the Great American Entitlement Mentality in calls to avoid increasing campground and other fees. That seems to me to be a real hypocritical contradiction when we have people calling on one hand for less government spending while shouting a moment later that making us pay the actual cost of our activities is wrong.

I do remember the days when every ranger, whether interp or "protection" could cite wayward visitors. I remember the days when we carried our weapons in a briefcase. (We had to purchase our own equipment.) But I also remember the day when I was up against a motorcycle gang with one of them advancing on me with a ballpeen hammer he'd just used to beat a restaurant manager senseless and I had to fumble around trying to get my revolver out of its hiding place. Or the time I made my first felony arrest with two subjects and had not been able to afford a set of handcuffs. My supervisor didn't have any, either.

There needs to be balance. Balance, unfortunately, is something that seems to be becoming more and more scarce in virtually every aspect of American life.

Again, we need to ask how many of these "disgraces" have been imposed upon park managers by various Congressional or other dictates? So I'll toss in a question for the former superintendent --- how often are our park managers helplessly caught in the middle between two or more competing mandates from above, and where do those mandates come from?

There is one thing that is sure: the park superintendent has to manage his/her protection division (Some people call this the law enforcement division, but that term is too narrow for my taste.). He/she has to make sure that this division is contributing to the atrainment of park goals and objectives. If there is little law enforcement activity in the park, put them to work managing resources, patrolling trails or working an information desk. In my experience, too many park managers let the protection division determine what it was going to do and what its priorities were. I always asked my protection rangers to be "adequate" sidewalk interpreters so they didn't always have to refer inquisitive visitors to the nearest interpreter. A good park manager spends time trying to break down the walls that sometimes exist between the divisions in a park. After all, we are all in this together and we are trying to accomplish the same three goals: 1.) preserve and protect resources; 2.) provide high quality visitor services; and 3.) maintain productive relationships with park interest groups. The protection division has a role to play in the accomplishment of each of these goals.


Rick, it seems to me that most resources are put into number one and what's left is half heartedly applied to others. Emphasis on LE has been the biggest priority it seems to me, the veterans memorial debacle this summer is a perfect example. LE overrides common sense these days it seems.

Are superintendents forced to spend more resources on LE than know is necssary?

Are superintendents happy with not being able manage the park with their own discretion?

Do superintendents believe the publics input is honestly taken into account during NEPA based proposed changes?

Thank you Traveler, this will be an interesting new column. The issue of LE rangers is a complex one, things are quite different from the days when many of us older retired rangers back in the sixties started on the job, then we did do more of what perpetual seasonal, Lee, others have commented on, but the job has changed dramatically. The issues include training, liabilities, public expectations, enhanced retirement issues, personal regulations, Homeland Security assignments, Interagency Public Safety Cooperative agreements, well the list goes on. In all of the above, standards must be met that include mandated training and qualifications, % of time involved in law enforcement duties, etc. . Much of the above protects both the LE ranger and the NPS and is designed to insure a very professional LE (Fire, SAR, EMS are also on the list), service to the park and the visitor. The issue of the maturity that comes with experience is an old one, and as Mr. Rick Smith points out, good leadership at each NPS unit at each supervisory level should encourage this. I do agree that our top flight, well trained, physically fit, young LE Rangers right of police schools can be a handfull (I am sure I was one), but generally speaking, our supervisory rangers are on top of it.

Beach--I can't answer all your questions definitively because there are more than 300 superintendents who manage in different ways. I am sure, however, that those who survive concentrate on the last two goals and are not law enforcement freaks. There are certain criteria, however, that have to be met. For a while, and I am not sure it is still true, superintendents had to fill protection positions while they could let those in other divisions (resources management, maintenance, administration and interpretation) go vacant. Secondly, publlic safety is a huge issue in parks. Remember that many who go to parks are entering an alien environment, They don't know that it is easier to climb up than down. Tney don't recognize how swift water can knock them down. They don't really understand that park animals are wild and that parks are not pettting zoos. So, a certain number of protection division employees are necessary. They protect visitors from the park, the park from visitors and visitors from visitors. So, even in a small park, there may be more protection division employees than you think are necessary.

I agree with the perp seasonal that the rangers should range, all of them. You can't be an outstanding employee unless you know the park and its resources, no matter what your job is.


Ron and Rick are both right, too. Today is a far, far cry from the days of old. In the StoneAge, rangers actually trained in LE were very rare. (I obtained some training one winter when I attended a city police department's basic officer training. Upon return to the park, I had more training {but much less experience} than my compadres in green and gray.)

NPS LE training then often consisted of little more than, "This thing is a gun. Always be sure you keep this little pipe end pointed away from you and toward whatever you are going to shoot because when you pull this little triggerthing it will make a real big BANG and that little chunk of lead is gonna go flying out and whomp right through whatever it hits."

Life is a whole lot more complicated nowadays than it was back in the GoodOldDays.


Agree Lee, I do not completely support all the changes, for example, I think more emphasis in all LE training should include people skills including the concept of enforcing the spirit and intent of the law, not the letter of said, thepurpose of the National Parks, and the concept that it is easier to escalate a situation than to do otherwise. Thanks to Mr. Rick Smith for two educational posts.

Amen, Ron. Many's the time I've met an LE ranger in a park and thought I'd just encountered an entire SWAT division wearing a ranger's hat.

Then again, there have also probably been at least an equal number (and maybe more) times when I've met a gun-toting ranger who was as good an interpreter as you might find.

But, oh boy, do those negatives outweigh the positives once they are entered into memory.

Perhaps it's true that it all comes down to individual attitude. We see the same thing in the ranks of city cops and county sheriffs. There often seem to be echoes of too much fear-based training these days in law enforcement of all kinds. Maybe it's somewhat justified given the proliferation of firepower among the public and fear-based rhetoric of some radio heads and politicians.

And perhaps it has a lot to do with the maturity and experience levels of the one wearing the badge.

Just one more thing I'll add to the discussion. As an interp I'll say that the best supervisors I had were commissioned LE rangers. I think things would be better to put all the resources of a district in the hands of the district ranger to use at his discretion. That way you don't have situations like I've seen where interps are on their feet all day long dealing with hordes of people while the VUA in the campground fee booth is able to lounge and watch movies. Or where some seasonal interp thinks it is beneath them to clean a bathroom. The walls between divisions keep us from being able to say hey Bill and Suie in interp can handle the campground a couple days a week and get caught up on necessary research between assigning campsites. The problem is though there are Division chiefs far away at HQ whos jobs depend on keeping those walls between divisions high.

Also of course this isn't the good old days when the guns were kept in the glove box of the patrol vehicle but at many small and medium size parks with low rates of incidents it doesn't make sense to have a guy ready to apply the latest choke hold but cant answer the simplest question about the resource and even sees that side of the job as beneath him. These jobs are so sought after we can find people who can do it all.

Perpetual - Amen, too.

See a lot of law enforcers sitting around doing nothing but handing out tickets for speeders in the Smokies. I would like to see how much those bureaucrats budget for automatic weapons in their private shooting range here in the park. I'm glad that backcountry fees can get put back into the general fund to pay for these frivolities. Can't remember the necessity of any swat raids in this area.

The only thing more noxious than the entitlement mentality of a taxpaying citizen expecting responsible fiscal mgmt of a PUBLIC resource is the entitlement mentality of a NPS worker who chastises a citizen's right to question his agency. That is what is wrong with the NPS. That kind of entitlement.

Smokies... I don't think Margaret Anderson would have thought that the ability to return fire was a frivolity.

Ok here’s the issue I’d like to submit for Costa’s consideration. And I’m sure most of you can guess what the question deals with but I’m not giving up on this dead horse yet.

The land management agencies of the federal government like the National Park Service, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management discovered long ago they could make their budgets go further by keeping many employees at the field level in seasonal and temporary jobs. This allowed those agencies to avoid the costs of offering benefits and a pension as is required with permanent federal employees. When the term of appointment for these employees ends the agencies often will simply bring in another "seasonal" or “temporary " employee to do the work. I am not talking about situations where the work is truly temporary. I am talking about what is permanent work being divided among multiple temporary employees. I am talking about parks where they could not keep the doors open on their slowest day of the year if not for a patchwork of seasonals, volunteers, student hires, and term appointments.

There are so many who see this kind of work, being a park ranger or a wildlife biologist for example, as a righteous calling that they repeatedly sign up for it year after year. Although after they get out of their twenties and begin to realize they are mortal and will one day need health insurance and retirement benefits these people do start to develop a sense of resentment with the knowledge that their idealism is being used against them by their government.

The biggest controversy in the nation right now is the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare. This law will mandate that private businesses with more than fifty employees will have to offer health insurance benefits to employees working more than thirty hours a week. The President has delayed this employer mandate or it would now be in effect. No doubt many businesses will begin to look for creative ways to avoid this mandate such as shifting much of their workforce into seasonal, internships, and temporary status. Almost certainly the federal government won’t accept this and will being imposing fines on these businesses. Soon our government will be imposing sanctions on others for something itself is guilty of. How is it going to look for the Federal Government to begin going after these businesses for engaging in the same tactics it uses to avoid providing benefits to employees?

Do park superintendents and NPS upper management see this approaching pitfall? Do park superintendents feel they can approach regional chiefs, regional directors, and the NPS Director and bring up hard subjects like this? Or is it a climate, as it is at the lower levels, to never pass along unpleasant news to those above? I know there must be people who see this coming but are they of the mind oh well I’m going to keep my head down and let the agency walk into this buzz saw.

What is going to happen when someone on the fifteenth month of their “not to exceed one year” appointment starts wondering why their employer isn’t offering them the same benefits as the people they work along side doing exactly the same work. Might they decided to take these issues to court. Can a class action suit be long in coming?

The agency took a huge PR blow back in the 90’s when a maintenance worker on the Mall died of a heart attack after working eight straight years in back to back seasonal appointments and his family wasn’t eligible for a penny in benefits. Just this year a firefight for the city of Prescott Arizona, one of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, was killed fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire. Some how this man worked for the city year round even though he was in a “seasonal” job. His sobbing widdow is seen in TV news reports wondering how she is going to feed her children. Can NPS management see that it is just a matter of time with the number of people working in this patchwork approach to staffing before the NPS is faced with a similar PR disaster. And never mind the PR is any thought given what these crafty HR games do to moral, the level of service rendered, and just the damage to the concept of the rule of law?

Does this issue get talked about at the upper levels or is there too much of a shoot the messenger mentality?

The debate about how to allocate scarce NPS dollars and positions among various functions has gone on for years, and will continue to do so. Over the past 40+ years I've seen the pendulum swing back and forth between emphasis on functions such as protection, resource management, and interpretation.

There have been some good comments above about NPS law enforcement; like it or not, our society has forced changes on the ways those functions are performed today vs. not too many years ago. Enforcement workloads do vary widely between places like Yosemite Valley and a small historical area, and in smaller parks with limited incidents, it would be desirable for protection rangers to have the flexibility to perform a wider variety of duties than is sometimes the case.

That said, it's unfortunate to read broad-brush comments such as "See a lot of law enforcers sitting around doing nothing but handing out tickets for speeders in the Smokies..."

For a more balanced look at the varied responsibilities for rangers in the Smokies, take a look at this story from this past summer.

The above quoted comment also suggests that traffic enforcement is not a valid NPS function in heavily visited parks like the Smokies. Who else would do that job on federal property? It's certainly not going to be a priority for state and local agencies, whose resources are already stretched thin elsewhere.

One of the responsibilities for park managers – and the protection staff – is to try to minimize preventable risks to visitors, and that certainly includes the ability to safely enjoy a drive on park roads. In parks like the Smokies, that's a big challenge, and yes, "handing out tickets to speeders" is one way to help keep all of us a bit more honest and careful on the road.

According to the park website, Motor vehicle accidents and drownings are the leading causes of death in the park. In recent years, there have been an average of 50 serious injuries a year in the park from motor vehicle accidents.

Here are just three examples found in a quick Google search: "A fatal car accident claimed the life of a Cherokee man on Friday, August 9th in the Great Smoky Mountains Park... The cause of the collision is under investigation, but Park Rangers believe excessive speed was a contributing factor."

In July 2010, the park experienced three mass casualty incidents involving motor vehicle accidents during a five-day period that resulted in injuries to a total of 20 people.

In 2008, a man driving the wrong-way on a park roadway known as the Spur crashed head-on into a car full of Florida tourists, leaving two of them with permanent injuries.

Could parks like the Smokies use more rangers for a variety of duties other than law enforcement? Yes, but to complain that rangers are spending too much time on traffic enforcement in that park doesn't seems to be supported by the number of incidents that occur.

The usual comments from the usual NPS suspects. Thanks NPT for allowing park users to voice concerns about potential malfeasance on behalf of the beloved agency. In the Smokies, local law enforcement (Blount County) offered to patrol the roads during the shutdown to allow the roads to open. NPS response? NO. They are kings and behave accordingly. It isn't THEIR park, it belongs to the people and the biggest problem we have here is an entitled management structure that answers to no one, of which Dale Ditmanson is chief crony.

I appreciate this magazine providing a forum for dissent, despite the overly loud protestations of folks affiliated with the NPS.

I agree with the observations of Smokieshiker. I think the park service should prioritize visitor experience first above other things. Surely private enterprise management when faced with budget cuts wouldn't choose to cut services to their customers FIRST in order to make them feel the pain. This is outrageous, disgusting, and terrible management. Just what one would expect from the federal government. It is about damn time to take our country back to the days when it war run by people who had the citizens in mind first.

Jim, interesting post. Another issue in keeping speed limits down is the wildlife. I know in Yosemite, the greatest cause of fatalities among Black Bears, Fishers and Great Grey Owls is excessive speeding. It is interesting to note that in a Fisher study area in the Sierra National Forest (on the Southern Boundary of Yosemite), rodent poisons have been the culprit. In any case, in an excellent chapter in the Barbara Moritsch book, "The Soul of Yosemite", there is an informative chapter on the issue of roadkills.

Perpetual seasonal, again you raise a very valid issue, Unfortunately this is true in the private sector as well. It is wrong and frankly it is in violation of the spirit and intent of the Fair Labor Standards Act at least in my own less than expert opinion. Thanks to PJ Ryan and one of his columns, I was tuned onto a book "Intern Nation", which really explores the issue of the abuse of temporary/part time workers, both in the governmental and private sectors. Please excuse if I have mentioned this to you before, but the book is well worth reading.

Thanks rmackie I was aware of the book but haven't read it yet. I wasn't aware it got into the issue of "temporary" workers.

Jim, I dont know if you are wrong about traffic enforcement but your methodology certainly is. You have the unfortinately tendancy to take a few annecdotal events and try to turn it into definitive evidence. It isnt.

What is the accident rate per mile driven in the park? is it higher or lower than outside the Park? What is actual rate impact of enforcement? How much does it cost?

EC, park officials say motor vehicle accidents and drownings are the leading cause of death in the Smokies. That's not evidence enough? Beyond that, I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. That there aren't enough accidents in the park to justify L.E.s?

That said, that's one area where better transparency on behalf of the NPS would be helpful. Specifically, a website that would list all the positions on staff in a park, so we could see how many LEs are on the job and how many shifts they have to cover. Similarly, we could see how many interpreters are, or aren't on the payroll, and on down the line (historians, wildlife biologists, botanists, etc).

years ago, it was common for Federal agencies to post a Table of Organization that included names of employees and positions. They don't post such info anymore. The primary reason is probably security but there are other reasons. Since 2001, it's difficult to get any specific information on positions let alone names of employees...beyond that, websites are usually out of date.

A Table of Organization and whether or not the position is filled would be helpful. The grade of the occupant should be part of it. Keeping it up to date would be another matter.

Backpacker-I guess no former NPS employee should ever post anything here because you always are quick with the accusation that these are "the usual comments from the usual NPS suspects." Maybe we should start labeling your comments as the usual comments from someoine opposed to the backcountry fee in the Smokies. I don't think that would be fair just like I don't think your label is fair.


What is the accident rate per mile driven in the park? is it higher or lower than outside the Park? What is actual rate impact of enforcement? How much does it cost?

And how much staff time would be required to calculate and keep track of those details? Yes, staffing and budget decisions need to be based on good information, but frankly, ec, your question illustrates the kind of bean-counter mentality that grows a bureauracy and drives up the cost of government. I'd suggest the time required for that level of detail would be better spent serving park visitors.

As Kurt points out, the basic facts already cited in the link provided indicate that traffic enforcement is one of many functions appropriate for this heavily-visited park. Given that information (traffic accidents are among the two leading causes of fatalities and result in an average of 50 serious injuries a year in this park), if managers were not devoting some resources to traffic safety, they would certainly be receiving some valid criticism.

As I pointed out in my previous comment, the on-going challenge for every park superintendent is deciding how to allocate scarce NPS dollars and positions among all of the functions required to keep a park operating.

As to the anecdotal examples cited, they are simply that, and are primarily for your benefit, since you constantly challenge other contributors to provide sources to support their positions.

I find myself wondering right now if Costa Dillon is sitting someplace staring at his computer screen and thinking, "What the dickens did I just get myself into?"

Lee, I was thinking much the same....

I find the thoughts on here very interesting, especially those on law enforcement staff. Having performed law enforcement and emergency services for pretty much my whole career, I have seen a sea change in LE in the NPS. Lee Dalton reminds us of the days when guns were hidden in the vehicle and when very few NPS LE staff had much LE training at all. The agency at that time was doing that staff and the visiting public a great disservice, and major changes were needed and have taken place. The harsh reality is that violent crimes do happen in National Parks. Margaret Anderson was not the first, only the latest. NPS LE needed to change and face that reality. NPS LE rangers need to be prepared for that reality.

There have always been those people asking why the NPS needs LE staff, can't the local agencies just handle it all. Well, as someone previously pointed out, local agencies are already pushed to their limit and do not want or need more responsiblity. Also, local/State agencies can not charge violators for NPS specific regulations found in the Code of Federal Regulations, and often not those laws found in the United States Code. Most of theose regulations are the ones we in the NPS depend upon to protect our resources. Those include the establishment of use limits, permit systems and the like.

My thought is, that if you are seeing an LE Ranger that is not busy, does not know the park, can not provide visitor information, can not assit at the front desk, can not help resource management staff, then you are wittnessing a performance and/or a supervisory issue. The Law Enforcement and Emergency Service/Visitor and Resource Protection function is not the only function in national parks that can have these issues. As far as increases in LE staff in parks, during my career I have seen periods with increases and periods with decreases. In general I have seen, in my opinion and experience, an increase across the board in the number of Resource Management positions and in a number of units sustained increases in interpretive staff.

Another thought is that no one ever really wants law enforcement around until they need them.

Good luck Costa!

I was surprised when the "Ask a Superintendent" feature - which is a great idea - was organized in this fashion. In my opinion the comments above show precisely why this format is a mistake. Better to receive questions by email and then select one and feature it and your new answer in a new post/article once a week. Then the usual suspects can opine ad nauseum in the comments under each individual article instead of trashing the whole space.

Here you've simply created a forum for unfocused bitching and any actual answers will be lost in the maelstrom.


I agree with Alaskaflyer, and was coming here to say as much.

"Ask a xxx" is a great idea. Gathering comments in the usual bitching session format from the usual suspects of all sorts probably won't be as productive as a [figurative] wooden box with a slot for notes to be dropped into.

My two cents on this topic, FWIW. I say again - the topic is a great idea.

RickB, enjoy your posts, but I am not sure I understand both the Alaskaflyer and your take on the "usual bitching session". There is a lot of knowledge expressed in many of the posts both from those that have worked in the agency and those that just enjoy visiting the parks and other public lands or have extensive experience in other fields. There are those that have strong political positions, I may disagree with many of them, but my guess is they like this site because they do enjoy parks, at least I hope that is the reason. In some cases, some that post have a grievance, or question, an agency employment practice or other policy matter, fees for wilderness use for example, but thats OK, but it should not get to personal, at least in my view. In any case, please excuse my question, I do think you make some points.

And I'm trying to make more points than just potshots recently.

My comment here is that we've already started to get into the back and forth arguing of some issues [forgive my initial phrasing above] when __in my opinion__ this particular forum, the Ask-A-Supe forum, I would hope that topics would be mentioned and then the supe [sorry, but I don't recall his name] would pick out one at a time and take a shot at answering it from his experience and his point of view. Then he picks out the next one.

And to help defuse things going forward, perhaps those with a question for Costa Dillon could phrase it as a question, a la Jeopardy, without fomenting over it, and other readers could restrain themselves from diving in at least until Costa supplies his answer.

That's not evidence enough?

No it's not enough. What does the "leading causes" mean? One person drown and one person died in a care accident? Or thousands died by such means? "Leading cause" is meaningless when not put in context but it is a common claim (like x% reduction) by advocates of a position that don't have any real science to justify their stand.

Like I said, I don't know if Jim is right or wrong about the current level of LE being appropriate but I do know that citing a few annecdotals falls far short of providing a source to support a position. If I posted accounts of 3 people that didn't die or drown would that prove anything? Of course not.

As to "bean counting", Jim, are you telling me the NPS isn't already count the number of car deaths or the number drownings? Then how the heck do they know they are the leading cause?

Alright, we're closing this down. The comments are going way beyond the scope of the post and taking on a life of their own beyond the post. We'll now leave it to Costa to respond.