Plight of the Parks

Candlelight Vigil Planned for Harpers Ferry

Candlelight; Stephie189 Photographer.
It's been a year since a 45-foot-wide, 2,000-foot-long trench was blazed, without permission, through a portion of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to lay utility lines for a commercial development. And still the government has not taken any action against the developers. To call attention to this, a candlelight vigil is planned for August 17th at the park.

Are Yellowstone's Geysers At Risk From BLM's Leasing Proposals?

Yellowstone Thermal Feature; Kurt Repanshek Photo.
The geothermal features in Yellowstone National Park were largely responsible for its designation as the world's first national park in 1872. These features are a global treasure. Nowhere else in the world can you find the array or number of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles found in Yellowstone. More than 75 percent of the world's geysers, including the world's largest are in Yellowstone’s seven major basins.

Must We Clearly Set Out "Principles of Parks"?

For more than a century the United States has been in the national park business, and for nearly a century the National Park Service has been guided in managing those parks by the National Park Service Organic Act. Some groups, though, question whether another road map of sorts, a declaration of principles, should also be referred to when managing the parks.

What's Your Vision for the Centennial Initiative?

National Park Service Centennial Logo
How do you think the National Park Service's Centennial Initiative (or Challenge, depending on whom you ask) should be funded? And how do you think those funds should be spent? There were quite a few suggestions tossed about in Washington today as both the House and Senate held hearings on legislation proposing ways to fund the Centennial Initiative.

Protecting Grand Teton from Drilling Projects

Wyoming is home to some of the Lower 48's greatest energy resources, particularly natural gas. The southwestern corner of the state currently is the hot spot in terms of energy exploration, and one area companies have their eyes on is the Wyoming Range. Some Interior Department officials, however, are opposed to drilling there, saying it could be detrimental to Grand Teton's wildlife and scenery.

Setting Precedents in the Parks

There's a passage in Director's Order 53, one of the many documents that guide National Park Service management decisions, that warns of proverbial icebergs ready to assail superintendents who truly believe their mission is to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

RS2477 And the National Parks

East Rim Trail in Zion; East Zion Tourism Council Photo
The other day a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit that aimed to open Surprise Canyon in Death Valley National Park to ORV traffic. That post generated a lot of debate over the propriety of a road in that rugged canyon. Those who filed the lawsuit claimed they had a right to the road thanks to a Civil War-era statute known as R.S. 2477. Well, Death Valley isn't the only park that could suffer from this statute.

Judge Tosses Surprise Canyon Lawsuit

Surprise Canyon
A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit aimed at turning a unique canyon on the western edge of Death Valley National Park into a road for four-wheelers. Judge Lawrence O'Neill ruled that the parties that brought the lawsuit had no standing on the issue.
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Parties in the Parks: Much Ado About Nothing?

Is it appropriate for the National Park Service to transform portions of the prison on Alcatraz Island into a cabaret with scantily clad dancers, all in the name of luring younger generations to the parks? Should corporations be allowed to rent out portions of parks for lavish parties? These are hot-button topics to some, but elicit a shrug of the shoulder from others.

House Leaders Propose $1 Billion Parks Centennial Funding Plan

Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who chairs the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands
In a move that can be expected to generate some attention from the White House, two prominent members of the House of Representatives have introduced a billion-dollar centennial funding bill for the national park system. Two big differences from President Bush's initiative: no private matching funds are required, and this package has an identified funding source.
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Judge Says ORV Traffic at Cape Hatteras is Illegal, But It Continues

A federal judge has said the National Park Service can't legally allow off-road vehicle traffic at Cape Hatteras National Seashore because it doesn't have an ORV management plan in place. And yet, Cape Hatteras officials say they have to consult with the Interior Department before prohibiting the traffic. What sort of message is the Park Service trying to send?

Bringing Color to the Public Lands Landscape

Well-familiar is the cry that our parks are in danger of losing mass appeal because visitation is flagging (this year seems to be bucking that trend, but that's fodder for another post). More serious, in my opinion, is that the diversity among park visitors seems to be lagging.

Private Party At Charlestown Navy Yard Doesn't Lack Alcohol

So cash-starved are some units of the national park system that they're resorting to leasing out their facilities for private parties. One of the latest bashes, at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston earlier this week, didn't lack for alcohol, involved one arrest, and generally impeded the public in places.

Climate Change: What Implications Does it Carry for the Parks?

Melting in Glacier Bay National Park; NPS Photo, Rosemarie Salazar photographer.
Whether you believe in climate change or global warming doesn't really matter these days. There is change ongoing with our climate. Evidence exists in melting icecaps, unusually potent storms, droughts, and warming temperatures in general. How these changes are affecting our national parks is a question that the National Parks Conservation Association explores in a special report.

Swimming In Yellowstone's Rivers On the Rise

Swimming in Yellowstone rivers, aside from in a small stretch of the Firehole River, along the Gardner River outside of Mammoth Hot Springs, and in the Bechler region, is prohibited. Yet rangers don't seem to be enforcing that rule very stringently.

Gateway NRA Officials Seem to Run Counter to Other Park Managers

How unusual is the decision by Gateway National Recreation Area officials to constantly give a developer more time to come up with the financing to restore and commercialize buildings at Fort Hancock? Apparently pretty unusual according to a survey by the Asbury Park Press.

You Want How Much For That Campsite?!?

Ahh, you have to love Americans' capitalistic tendencies. I mean, where else can you spit in the face of someone hoping to enjoy a low-cost stay in a national park by reserving a $20 campsite in Yosemite National Park and then putting it up for auction for $249 on Ebay?

Congressman Calls for Investigation Into Fort Hancock Deal

One of the old buildings at Fort Hancock in need of restoration.
A congressman from New Jersey, calling the Park Service's handling of a lease of three dozen historic buildings at Fort Hancock a "debacle," wants a federal investigation into the matter. Representative Frank Pallone called for the investigation Monday in a letter to the Interior Department's Inspector General.

Why Is The Park Service Bending Over Backwards For Developer?

Why is the NPS so determined to help a developer who lacks financing?
National Park Service Director Mary Bomar months ago promised that the agency would improve its business savvy. And yet, her agency seems to be ignoring sound business judgment in its blind desire to see a developer who lacks deep pockets turn a portion of Gateway National Recreation Area into a commercial district.

Who is Gen-Y and Should the Park Service Care?

Computer animations can bring 18th-century cannon fire to life, but can they bring Gen-Yers to the national parks? Can an audiocast leading teens across a battlefield entice them enough to set foot in Saratoga National Historical Park? Can tracing a hike in Glacier National Park from the comforts of their homes convince this generation to beg their parents to visit Glacier on their next vacation? Those are questions that have more and more park managers searching for answers.
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Congress Takes a Step Toward Restoring the Great Lakes

President Bush isn't going to like this. The House of Representatives has adopted an Interior Appropriations Bill that contains more money than he proposed for the agency. But would the president veto funding that would help clean up sewage in the Great Lakes and work to stop the spread of invasive, non-native species in the lakes?

Cast Your Vote for the Future of Gateway National Recreation Area

Should a unit of the national park system, once created, be redesigned? When the unit in question is Gateway National Recreation Area, the folks at the National Park Conservation Association think so. And they're asking for your input on how that makeover should be handled.

Your Chance To Help Guide Everglades' Future

What comes to mind when you think of Everglades National Park? What sort of experiences would you want to encounter when you visit the park? How should the lands within the park boundaries be managed? Should powerboats have unlimited freedom? Should there be more designated wilderness? These are some of the questions you can provide input on as Everglades officials chart the park's next 20 years.

The Political Blotter

Too often politics and management of the national parks are entwined. Doubt it? The fingerprints of Vice President Dick Cheney are all over the Yellowstone snowmobile fracas, as well as on failed efforts to safeguard the park's famed cutthroat trout populations.

Is the Everglades Out of Danger?

Is "almost" good enough when you're talking about the health of a World Heritage Site such as Everglades National Park? Apparently the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne think so. On Sunday, UNESCO officials voted unanimously to remove the Everglades from its "sites in danger" list.

Let the Bidding Begin

There's an interesting poker game under way in Washington, D.C., and the national parks are right smack dab in the middle of it. The question, of course, is who will blink first?

Paying to Enjoy The Parks

A National Park Service lifeguard watches visitors; NPS Photo
How much would you pay to hike a trail in Shenandoah, or Great Smoky Mountains or Sequoia? What do you think is a reasonable fee to take a dip at Cape Cod or Cape Hatteras national seashores?

Repairing Rainier: A Question of Values

Road repairs in Mount Rainier National Park; NPS Photo
While park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga wants to rebuild a section of the road, the storm redesigned the Carbon River, in some places sculpting deep pools valuable to bull trout, a species protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Griles Wants To Do Community Service With ARC

Former Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Steve Griles; and ARC President, Derrick Crandall. ARC Photo
The lawyers for convicted former deputy Interior secretary, are asking that any community service Mr. Griles is ordered to serve be done with the motorized recreation industry that wants more and more inroads to the country's public lands.

Who is Senator Lamar Alexander?

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