A View From The Overlook: The Advantages Of National Parks

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A program at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park launched in 2010 works with under-privileged high school students to introduce them to the array of sciences exploredin the park. NPS photo.

“What good are national parks?”

This is a question often raised by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party when faced by non-utilitarian public land use.

It is an interesting question. The first answer is the John Muir answer; that national parks are “good” in and of themselves; that they are not required to be economically valuable.

The idea that plants and animals are spiritually valuable and soul nourishing was first proposed by the first century naturalist, Jesus Christ, who famously observed “Consider the lilies of the field; how they grow, they toil not, nor do they spin, and yet I say onto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

The quote (Luke 12:23-40) was undoubtedly made in response to the Judean Sheep and Goat Association’s claim that God had given them the right to overgraze the Holy Land (This doesn’t show up in the Bible, but it should!).

Now we are not inferring that the Tea Party Republicans are the Anti-Christ, but you might want to check your congressman for the Mark of the Beast!

The second answer to the question of the value of national parks takes the dilemma by the horns and states boldly that the parks ARE economically valuable; that you CAN make money off them; that is, folks who show up to “Consider the Lilies” are going to need something to eat and a place to sleep, as well as a souvenir of their “Considering,“ and you can make money selling these goods and services to them.

This is not quite as spiritual an answer as that of Christ or John Muir, but it has a powerful appeal to the local chamber of commerce. Indeed, the presence of the NPS arrowhead or a patch of dark green or pink on a road map, indicating the presence of a national park unit, is much sought after by most of the normal parts of the United States.

The NPS brand on a piece of property, large or small, is sort of the touristic version of the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” The park patron is assured of first-rate museum exhibitry and a friendly, knowledgeable staff that will leave the patron with the feeling that his time, tax dollars and admission fee were well spent. A sizable segment of the traveling public views visiting NPS sites as virtually a patriotic duty, making sure to get their NPS Passports stamped, and encouraging their children to work to acquire the Junior Ranger badges offered at most sites.

All of these activities precipitate money into the surrounding communities. Everyone, particularly normal Republicans, likes this. This helps to make national parks a rare bi-partisan issue that most people can get behind. (Readers will recall the recent frantic efforts of Utah, Arizona and other “red States” to re-open parks closed by the government shutdown.)

Battling Poverty With Parks

It is also helpful that many national park units are located in what President Lyndon Johnson called “pockets of poverty.” These are generally rural areas with declining industries such as mining, logging, or marginal agriculture, with low educational outcomes and a high proportion of jobs that are seasonal in nature and close to minimum wage when available.

Some of these “pockets of poverty” are pretty big pockets, such as much of Appalachia and the Ozark Plateau. In other cases, NPS units butt up against or are surrounded by Native American reservations where unemployment and alcoholism is in the high double digits.

NPS units in these “poverty pockets” constitute a sort of small economic oasis for the local population. NPS jobs, even when seasonal, generally pay more that the going rate and are among the few jobs in the community guaranteed not to be outsourced to China.

This brings us to the third advantage of National Parks: the presence of the NPS staff. The rangers, interpreters, maintenance, and administrative folk are a great resource (and role model) for the surrounding community. They provide vital backup and support in law enforcement, medical first response, fire and natural disaster assistance, and education They are intelligent, well-educated, well-trained, outgoing persons with a broad worldview due to the nomadic nature of the NPS life style.

They are also well paid (at least by poverty pocket standards). This allows them the luxury of working only their NPS jobs, rather than several low paying jobs to make ends meet. This in turn, provides the luxury of spare time, which they often invest in volunteer work for the community. Using the bases of schools, churches, service organizations such as Rotary or Lions, youth groups such as the Boy & Girl Scouts, these NPS volunteers do provide reinforcement to the community, for the betterment of the locals and the mission of the NPS.

Park personnel and spouses often assist after school in tutoring or coaching sports. Now, we are not implying that every NPS bureaucrat is some sort of Lord or Lady Bountiful, bestowing wisdom on the surrounding yokels as in a Department of Interior version of “Downton Abbey.” But the NPS staffers do have an effect on the community and it is usually positive.

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Some of the program's students are involved in interpretive programs. NPS photo.

Let us consider one such example of NPS effect on a “pocket of poverty” located on the Big Island of Hawaii.

“But”, you say, “Hawaii is a tropical paradise! No one can be miserable! It’s against the law!”

That may be the case in the Kona district of the Big Island, where all the famous resorts and beaches hold sway. But it is not so in the Ka’u district, an agricultural area that abuts Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Ka’u District is economically depressed.

Why is this the case? Breaks of the game, neighbors! The Hawaiian sugar industry collapsed due to the “deregulation” that forced Hawaiian sugar to compete on the world market. In such cases, Bangladesh wins every time.

The big Ka'u plantations like C. Brewer shut down, as did all but one in the rest of the Hawaiian Islands. This left a lot of folks out of full time work.

Now perhaps they should have all moved to North Dakota to get in on the oil boom, but they didn’t. Some were able to transition into the developing Ka'u Coffee industry, others settled into tropical torpor, subsisting on welfare, subsistence wild pig and goat hunting, part time or odd jobs, supplemented in some case by a little pakalolo (marijuana) farming; for recreation there was surfing, music, and hanging out with buddies.

It is not a bad existence; nobody starves or dies of exposure in Hawaii. “Poverty is a warm weather sport” as one acquaintance put it.

It was, however, a very limiting role model for the children. Indeed, such children are known as “at risk,” particularly to the crystal meth problem, the “drug of boredom” in rural America.

Parks As Educators

The astute principal of the Ka’u High School perceived that Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and its rangers have the ability to help the students gain self-esteem, to learn more about the homeland they love, and to set goals for acquiring professions and higher education

At roughly the same time, visiting anthropologist Dr. Joan Rubin and her retired NPS husband contacted a major figure in the Ka’u district, Julia Neal, who in addition to being a crusading local newspaper woman, was actively involved in promoting the Pahala community.

What to do?

“When in doubt, ask a ranger.”

So the three presented a plan to Cindy Orlando, superintendent of Hawaii Volcanos National Park, who thought it an interesting challenge. It was especially timely since the park was interested in greater outreach with the surrounding communities.

Cindy asked Interpretive Park Ranger Kupono McDaniel if he was interested in the plan to involve the Ka’u students in the park by training them in the various NPS disciplines. Indeed, Kupono was interested in helping the “at risk “youth of Ka’u, but knew it would be a challenge for both sides.

National parks and the National Park Service are resolutely middle class. For example, “volunteering in the parks,” that is, working for nothing, is pretty much a middle class concept. Since the Ka’u kids were not middle class, that concept would have to be shelved for the time being; “Only a chump works for nothing!”

So, Kupono instituted the “GS-1 Ranger.” At the bottom of the GS ladder, there are no prerequisites for the GS-1 position other than to show up breathing. Humble as it was, the GS-1 paid $10 an hour. Not bad pay for a Ka’u kid.

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Students learn about the geologic forces at play in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. NPS photo.

In addition, the park provided a training program and uniforms. The uniforms were the real deal. If they passed the training course, they would wear the same uniforms as regular park rangers. For the first time in their young lives, they would feel and be important. It would prove to be a heady feeling.

Thus was born the Youth Ranger Internship Program. Ostensibly, the Ka’u kids were being hired and trained as seasonal rangers. In reality, they were being introduced to middle class values. There was the concept of the alarm clock; you didn’t shut it off and roll over; if you were expected to be at a certain place at a certain time, you were there, not just the first time, but always. The job came first; you didn’t drop it, because there was something “interesting” happening on the other side of the island. Above all, you would talk to strangers, look them in the eye, and answer their questions.

To many, if not most, of the Ka’u Kids, talking to strangers was primordially terrifying. Six-foot-tall Hawaiian surfer kids who had no fear of a 20-foot wave were reduced almost to tears by the prospect of talking to middle aged Iowa farm couple.

“What will they ask? What will I say?” were the fearful questions.

“Don’t worry! We will teach you,” said Kupono.

At Path Out Of Poverty

And teach and instruct they did. Training this fourth year of the program started on April 4, 2013, with 45 youth from Ka’u, Pahoa, and Kea’au public high schools, as well as the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences. There were short courses on how the volcano worked, the more common native plants and their uses, conservation values, teamwork and, of course, Hawaiiana; the rousing history and legends of the Hawaiian and Polynesian peoples. Practice on how to impart this newfound knowledge to others followed.

The Nature Conservancy, the powerful private conservation organization, got involved and took the Ka’u kids on overnight camp overs on their land. A local philanthropist provided a van to take the kids to the national park (Incredibly, few of the kids had ever visited the park; that, they thought, was for Haoles).

Those who completed the training program, 33 in all, were assigned to all six of the divisions of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; Interpretation, Natural Resources, Cultural Resources, Maintenance, Protection, and Administration. They then worked the summer of 2013 under the supervision of their ranger-mentors.

So, bottom line, was the Youth Ranger Internship Program a success? Seems to be the case. Let’s take the interns in the Interpretive Division. One by one, after much mentoring and critiquing, and considerable trepidation, every Youth Ranger Interpreter eventually gave his/her maiden interpretive talk. It was invariably well received, often with applause. Success begets success: half-remembered stories from grandparents were recalled—and researched, and incorporated into other talks. The kids began proposing ideas—always a good sign.

Over at Natural Resources Division, Youth Ranger Intern Grace Tredinnick was having the time of her life.

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Some students are immersed in the park's botany, which includes this Uluhe Frond. NPS photo.

In a letter written at the end of season, she stated: “Before I started working at the park, I never knew how diverse and beautiful the native species in Hawaii are because so many of them are uncommon outside the park…I would encourage anyone looking to start a career in conservation to check out this program. It is a perfect transition to adulthood from high school and gives everyone who participates in it a step up in the real world. In addition to that, it is a wonderful atmosphere. Everyone is so helpful and happy. I don’t think I’ve ever met an unhappy park ranger, and I knew I was happy to be there the entire time. I looked forward to every day.”

Before the program, college seemed as unrealistic as a trip to Mars for the Ka’u kids. Now it seemed a feasible idea, as there was a goal, to be a resource manager, or a park ranger. They would need a degree. There was now a reason. The high school guidance counselor could now do his job of removing obstacles to these goals.

The State of Hawaii was very much interested in the success of Native Hawaiians. You could go to the University of Hawaii tuition-free if you had Hawaiian blood. There are grants and scholarships available to those who have the will. The park staff at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park helped nurture that will. Just one of the many advantages of national parks.

Comments


This is a question often raised by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party when faced by non-utilitarian public land use.


Really? Would you care to document that? Its a question I have never heard from a Tea Party supporter.

EC, perhaps not in the form of a question, but Rep. Michelle Bachmann's words and actions in the past go to PJ's point.

When she was fighting to secure (by earmark, no less) hundreds of millions of federal dollars for a bridge over the St. Croix River, a wild and scenic river, Rep. Bachmann drafted legislation that said, in part, "(C)onstruction of a four-lane highway bridge over the Lower St. Croix River ... is hereby deemed to be consistent with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act."

And when she was running for president she told the AP: "The United States needs to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy and more dependent upon American resourcefulness. Whether that is in the Everglades, or whether that is in the eastern Gulf region, or whether that's in North Dakota, we need to go where the energy is," she said.


but Rep. Michelle Bachmann's words and actions in the past go to PJ's point.


Hardly. That Bachmann (and many others in and out of the Tea Party) have different views about appropriate activities within park boundaries hardly constitute the belief that parks have no "good".

I think reasonable people could, and would, disagree with you, ec.


I think reasonable people could, and would, disagree with you, ec.


Really? You think it is reasonable to translate a disagreement as to a specific use in one or two parks to a blanket statement that Bachmann thinks there is no "good" in National Parks as a whole? If you really believe that then (as I have long argued) you have a total misunderstanding of (or want to intentially misrepresent) what the Tea Party represents and reasonable people could and would disagree with you.

[edit] - That is a group "you" and not specifically or solely aimed at Kurt.

Thank you Traveler, another interesting post by PJ Ryan, exactly what we should be doing more of in our National Parks. This "View From the Overlook" really made my day.

Another terrific gem from the Thunderbear! Wonderful!

Best of all was the story of success for those kids. This is something that should be spread far and wide throughout the park system. I can think of five national parks and a few national monuments right here in Utah where there are crying needs for this kind of thing in surrounding communities.

This should be exactly the kind of thing the Tea Party and pachyderms everywhere should enthusiastically endorse and support.

But, unfortunately, it makes too much sense for that to happen and there probably isn't enough monetary incentive to line the pockets of those powerful folks who could make it happen if they wanted to. For those of us who have a totally clear understanding of what the Tea Party represents -- one that is not fogged by the outlandishly foolish greed it preaches -- it's clear that this is an idea they must oppose because it could actually be helpful to the 47% of Americans they love to hate.

Thanks again, PJ. Only you would come up with Jesus Christ as the first environmentalist. It's a shame, but the Judean Sheep and Goat Association is still with us. It has just morphed and multiplied into a pantheon of special interests that covet anything and any place that might turn a profit for them.

Well, ec, remember Joe Miller of Alaska? He ran against Sen. Murkowski. He wanted the federal government to turn over all the national parks in Alaska to the state so it could develop their resources for revenues.

And then there's Rep. Cliff Stearns, a member of the Tea Party caucus, who said "we don’t need any more national parks in this country” and that we need to “actually sell off some of our national parks."(http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/03/13/443171/cliff-stearns-sell-national-parks/)

And don't forget Sen. Rand Paul's proposal to greatly reduce the size of the Interior Department. Within that plan, on the topic of national parks, he said, "returning these public lands back to the states and or the private sector would allow an increase in quality, safety, and a reduction in government spending each year."

(http://www.scribd.com/doc/84514049/SENATOR-RAND-PAUL-S-PLATFORM-TO-REVITALIZE-AMERICA)

Turning over the parks to the states doesn't mean they have no value. Everything PJ identified as "the good" of National Parks can and is being done by the states. In just the last two months, I have visted Hobbs State park in Arkansas, which had wonderful facilities, great rangers and created demand in the local communties, and Zackary Taylor State Park in Key West which had a fort built at the same type and with the same architect as Dry Tortugus, free interpretive tours and a beautiful beach. Zackary was $2.50. It was $165 to go to Dry Tortugus.

Again, state versus national control is a legitimate debate and in no way implies someone (much less an entire "party") sees no value in the park. To claim so is nothing more than a false strawman attempt to demonize.

Lee, you're really the original 'one trick pony'. Every subject you post on comes down to the same thing... greed and the evil elephants. But never anything to support your claims.... remember this?

"Thank you, Smokies. That was very interesting reading and did a lot to help explain your stance of the issue. Things like that do a lot more to advance an argument than just posting opinions and sometimes over the top rhetoric."

That was you yesterday on another subject where the poster included some information to support his claim... Too bad you aren't subject to your own caster oil...."just posting opinions and ....over the top rhetoric"

Maybe Kurt could just post a permanent sidebar for you... and save you the trouble.

ec - It's not entirely clear to me if there is an "official" Tea Party position on any issue, but I would, in all sincerity, welcome an explanation on the Tea Party's stance on what this article describes as "non-utilitarian public land use."

To help this question along, I'd suggest that term means uses that are not "consumptive" in nature, such as logging, mining, grazing, and oil and gas wells. You're welcome to provide the Tea Party's take on a definition of that term as well. I realize some of those activities do take place in a relatively few NPS areas, but I think most of us would agree those are not activities generally associated with the National Park System.


welcome an explanation on the Tea Party's stance on what this article describes as "non-utilitarian public land use."


I would say the "party" has no stance other than perhaps it is more approriately decided at the local rather than national level.

The only criteria for getting a job in the NPS should be who can give the tax payer the absolute best value for their dollar. NPS jobs should not exist or be created with the primary objective being, benefiting the individual getting the job; the primary focus should be determining what individual will be of greatest benefit to the park and the public.

There are many who decided to try to pursue a career with he NPS and believed that doing seasonal work was the "pathway" to a permanent position. There are many who at great sacrifice have built up a tremendous record of experience and proven successful performance but not only is he next to impossible for these folks to get permanent jobs now it is getting increasing difficult for them to continue to get seasonal and temporary jobs. A major reason for that is programs like the one described in this article. It is anathema to me to think that someone with multiple certifications through the NPS Interpretative Development Program would be excluded from a job opportunity in favor of someone who is fearful of speaking to a stranger. To me it seems to be a betrayal of those who served the agency so well, and at considerable sacrifice, to say sorry but you don't come from one of the favored communities so you are excluded from consideration for this position. I'm referring not only to the program in this article but to the profusion of ways, such at the pathways program, that the NPS is currently trying to funnel jobs to favored groups at the expense of its long time seasonal workforce.

More and more it seems that experience and proven ability to do the job is a detriment to employment at the lower levels of the agency. And if you doubt what I say take a look on USA Jobs at the number of NPS positions open only to students. NPS jobs should not be used as a wealth redistribution scheme. We exist to fulfill the mission as defined in the NPS organic act. If people are lifted out of poverty and shown a better life as a side effect of carrying out that mission fine, but that should never be the goal of this government agency.

I think this is a marvelous program, and don't doubt that other similar activities exist at other parks.

Personally, I think the Muir answer to the question is sufficient in and of itself.

PJ Ryan, thank you for an interesting and well written article. I look forward to finding more information about such programs as I was unaware that they existed. It is good to know that the Park Service work with all aspects of a local community rather than just the profit generating ones. Thank you, again.

*

Nice post RickB, I agree. Perpetual seasonal, I agree that it is extremely difficult for a seasonal, especially in fields other than LE, to get other than temporary or less than full time positions. It is a very difficult situation for NPS part time employees and for that matter, employees of all federal agencies (and the private sector as well). There is a very negative mindset among citizens that government is wasteful, corrupt etc, but it needs to be pointed out the same holds true in the private sector. I think it is a very negative viewpoint, and it is a very regressive economic and social policy. It is promoted by mainstream media and many candidates for elected offices, largely because that is where their profits and campaign contributions come from. It is fascinating how many citizens buy into this propaganda, hurting themselves as much as anybody else. A case in point, citizens rallying at many televised tea party events against big government, many older and white like myself, but ranting the politicians had better not take away their medicare or social security. In my case, both social security and medicare are truly amazing programs, never have I had a negative experience dealing with either agency. We will get through this and at some point, the realization that a more constructive and progressive approach will work better for all of us.

To the point of the "View" article by PJ Ryan, this is a program that is an outreach to those young people that are in or on the verge of poverty to make them aware of need for parks and public lands and all the beneficial sides of good environmental policy. I do not have any answers, but, in my own view, these types of programs are essential to the survival of the whole conservation ethic including the perpetuation of the public lands themselves.

Perp seasonal--You need to take a deep breath. You aren't owed a permanent job anymore than anyone else, no matter what your experience as a seasonal is. Remember that it is going to be increasingly difficult to enter any kind of Federal service as we try to provide employment opportunities for those coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. We owe these men and women a lot, not the least of which is a job upon return.

As to your complaining about the program PJ described above, none of those kids have a permanent job so they aren't stealing the one that you think you are owed. They are just a group that deserves a hand up. I'm proud of the NPS for offering it.

Rick


There is a very negative mindset among citizens that government is wasteful, corrupt etc, but it needs to be pointed out the same holds true in the private sector.


While I disagree with that premise - at least in magnitude, you seem to miss an important point. Waste at the government level is waste of money that has been confiscated from the producing public- often against their will. Waste in the private sector is at the expense of people that have voluntarily invested their money and (for the most part) can exit that investment at any time.

Mike, actually I have three tricks.

Oh, wait. Almost forgot one.

I guess that makes four.

I would suppose that in order to find out what the tea party at the local level thinks you would have to find out what the Koch brothers nationally have funded them to think.

Rick, I never said I was owed a permanent job. What I do believe is that employment in the agency should be based on merit and the only goal of putting someone on the payroll should be how well can they serve the visitor and the resource --we shouldn't be trying to solve some large social problem with our hiring. And I know these kids aren't getting permanent jobs but they are likely doing work that would otherwise be going to experienced seasonals.

And while these particular kids aren't taking permanent jobs there are quite a few who are going though student programs that will gain them non competitive appointment to permanent jobs over people who already have multiple degrees and tons of field experience.

It is so interesting to see people who are normally on the left side of politics come out as such strong supporters of abusive labor practices. Enjoy that retirement package there are many of us down here who will likely never get one because of the crafty HR trickery carried out by folks at HQs and in the regional offices. I'm aware of several instances of parks taking first year seasonals and exploiting a loophole in the regulations that allows them to be worked four months beyond the normal six month limit if the park claims the person is in training. Of course their extra four months of "training" is actually everyday ongoing operations. This lets the park get by another year and a half or so without having to give someone a permanent job. The hing officials have to sign their name to false statements to do this of course, but hey, that's not important is it? Can I expect the Coalition of NPS Retires to put out any press releases decrying this practice anytime soon? I doubt it. And while there is no way I can know for sure I suspect the reason for that is once upon a time those who control CNPSR used a lot of these same tricks themselves, and would't want to cause any heat for peers that haven't quite made it to retirement yet.


I would suppose that in order to find out what the tea party at the local level thinks you would have to find out what the Koch brothers nationally have funded them to think.


And of course you suppose wrong - but that does serve your purpose.

Just Google something like "Koch and Tea Party" and see what you find.

Or... Soros and the Democrats.

Yep, they both have big money behind them...


Just Google something like "Koch and Tea Party" and see what you find.


I see nothing like what Rick B has suggested. In fact I find nothing that suggests that the Kochs have dictated policy to anyone. You just can't seem to grasp the concept that money can flow to the policy rather than policy to the money.

Money and politics -- no matter what side of the fence it's on, it's a bad mix.



Money and politics -- no matter what side of the fence it's on, it's a bad mix.

Well, since it has been mixed since time immemorial, its unlikely to be seperated now. Live with it.

Why not try to reform it?


Why not try to reform it?


Because it is human nature. Politics and money haven't been seperated for thousands of years and they won't be in the future. Any Quixotic attempts to do so are only likely to make it worse.

I feel like I'm herding cats. We all agree money and politics when mixed briskly together are bad, no matter which side you're on. Let's try to focus on PJ's column.

Be great to hear from any Park Service staff out there in parks that have programs similar to the one at Hawaii Volcanoes.

That is an interesting point EC, To some extent I agree, there should be a very high standard set for the spending of tax payer dollars, and my limited experience in over 50 years of public service, is that there is among the women that serve in the executive branch, not always, but most of the time. At the legislative level, well that is a little different issue. As far as the private sector is concerned, waste fraud and abuse occurs frequently in governmental contracts, insider trading and other wall street activities, fraud in medicare billings, well the list is quite lengthly. Super packs do not contribute (in many cases secretly now thanks to Citizens United), millions to political campaigns without expecting huge benefits in return and they usually get them. Tax breaks, subsides, deregulation of financial industry, large corporations outsourcing, weakening environmental laws, etc . From the oil and gas industry, subsidized ag water being resold at great profit here in the west (the taxpayer paid for most of the water storage facilities etc. here in the west), well we could go on and on about this. You do have a point about ethics in the public sector, but I think you would agree it is out of control in the private sector as well. I have been reading an interesting book titled the "Great Thrist" by Norris Hundley Jr. It is about the history of California water law and the issues facing the state when it comes to aquifers, ag, clean water, pesticeds, etc. It also deals with the issue of local control, in this case water, and why that has changed or is changing. I think you would find it worth the read. I have always felt that there should be a healthy tension between the private and public sector, but what is happening now, in my own view, is that balance is really out of wack. Opps, not on the subject of parks, but it is fundamentally the same issue, local versus national and how tax payer dollars are spent. Traveler, please excuse.

Sancho! My armor! My sword!

Cats have more disipline than we do ;) But when the article starts out with a political attack, its not surprising this is where we end up. Besides, we are just trying to help your click count.


but I think you would agree it is out of control in the private sector as well.


I would love to discuss each of your issue with the private sector but in deference to Kurt's wishes by summarizing - no, I don't think it is out of control in the private sector. Yes there are individual digressions, but in the scope of things they are a miniscule part of private sector activity.


Zackary was $2.50. It was $165 to go to Dry Tortugus.


The entrance fee charged for Dry Tortugas is $5.

The remaining $160 are charged by a private company to take you there.

Yes, and it is $160 because NPS has granted an exclusive contract. How much of the $160 goes to NPS?

Political attack or statement of fact?

According to this article, Dry Tortugas gets 8.5%. In FY2010, Dry Tortugas collected 500k in Commerical Use Authorization(CUA) permit fees.

One can go to Dry Tortugas outside of the "NPS exclusive contract." In fact, we were going to go in our own boat but the seas were too rough (we were only in Key West for three days). The problem with the trip out there is the distance. At a total of 140 miles offshore (70 miles each way), even with a conservative boat (ours sipped gas at 5 gph or about 4 kpg) the trip sucks down a lot of fuel. One can also arrange with a charter service if one doesn't have a boat.

It is not that there is an exclusive contract - anyone can go there if they have the means.

Dahkota,

obviously, the per person cost of a large ferry is much less than a private charter. NPS has issued a monopoly for these larger boats throwing out an existing operator that charged lower rates.

Well Lee, since no one has been able to provide a citation that the Tea Party has raised that question, I would say political attack.

Dry Tortugas also issues 30 CUA permits to other operators. It looks like group size limits are 6-25.

http://www.nps.gov/drto/parkmgmt/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=552542

re: "since no one has been able to provide a citation that the Tea Party has raised that question..."

One of the challenges in sorting out the Tea Party's position on any topic is the nebulous nature of the "party;" the lack of an overall organization makes very hard determine which politicians at various levels of government claim affiliation, much less the party's position on any subject. This site, for example, says the "Tea Party Caucus is an official organization in the U.S. House of Representatives," but it fails to offer a list of members.

The apparent lack of an official party or a platform on issues means observers, including writers and media pundits, are left to draw their own conclusions about party positions, based primarily on statements of individual politicians who seem to claim affiliation with the Tea Party.

Those individuals would seem to include people like Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and his "Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2013 (H.R. 2657)"

In the absence of an official party stance, an example of presumed Tea Party positions on public lands is found in this article, which reports "Assembly Bill 227 ... approving the creation of the Nevada Land Management Task Force. The signing of AB 227 makes Nevada the fifth state to look into the movement initiated by Utah lawmakers that urges the federal government to transfer management of public lands over to state control."

That article notes, "It has also been argued by public land transfer advocates that putting the lands back under state control will help create jobs, grow local and state economies, and help better fund education. This would be accomplished by the states opening up previously locked-out areas where oil, natural gas, and other natural resources can be accessed and harvested for use."

I think it's pretty fair to say that "public land transfer advocates" and "Tea Party" would be generally perceived as birds of a feather, and on that basis, I'd suggest that many people have the perception that the Tea Party isn't supportive of what PJ's article described as "non-utilitarian public land use."

The lack of a official Tea Party platform or spokesperson means, fair or not, people are left to draw their own conclusions about the group's positions. That said, it's not reasonable to criticize someone for failing to cite sources when there are none.

The Tea Party's position on anything is akin to the old tale about the blind men trying to describe an elephant - it's whatever each individual perceives it to be.

Jason Chafetz and Mike Lee were both set up as Utah GOP candidates in a system of "neighborhood caucuses" in which residents are supposed to meet in private homes to select delegates to the GOP state convention.

The last two neighborhood caucuses I have attended were jammed with Tea Party supporters who, when anyone else tried to speak in favor of a more moderate candidate, literally shouted down that person. While claiming to revere our Constitution, these Tea Party operatives were actively denying others of their First Amendment rights. It was absolutely disgusting. At the last caucus I attended, we even had one gentleman try to spend half an hour ranting about a U.N. plot to kill all of us by spraying chemicals from jets airliners. Yes, the good old "chemtrails conspiracy." Even the Tea Party types had a hard time shutting him down.

As a result of this kind of thing, there is a very strong effort underway in the state to replace the caucus with a direct primary that would give every voter an equal voice and vote without having to fight verbal battles with extremely loud extremists. That effort, by the way, is led by some very prominent GOP members like former Republican governor Mike Leavitt, former governor Norm Bangerter, former U.S. Senator Bob Bennett and a host of other sensible Republicans.

And just today, Utah's GOP Attorney General, John Swallow, (a Tea Party favorite) resigned after a long and divisive battle over a large number of allegations of illegal activities and campaign finance issues that could send him to prison.

We here in Utah don't just hear about Tea Party madness, we live with it.

The same for us here in Alaska. We don't need debating point 'citations' for online squabbles. It is all around us. We've got Palin's choice, Parnell, as governor, giving emmense tax breaks for the oil companies while refusing to accept federal healthcare monies for the benefit of the poor in the state. And we've got the infamous Joe Miller sitting in wait to try to replace Senator Begich.

Thanks for the info, dahkota.

I tend to be cautious about citing wikipedia as a source for current facts, but those lists are a good starting point if anyone wanted to look further at a politician's views on this (or any other) issue.