Recent comments

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   3 weeks 3 days ago

    So, Travis, what's your plan? Write it up and present it to us. And one more thing. Tell us where you will find the money.

    Meanwhile, I agree that Ethan Carr and Amy Meyer have written wonderful books. And is that not Dr. Butowsky's point? Who in the Park Service has even read those? Pick your seven books; pick your seventeen books. The point about being an educated man or woman is to know what you're talking about. And too many in Park Service management (yes, I will give the electrician a pass) haven't a clue.

    In the 1920s, many leaders--including Stephen T. Mather as director--referred to the national parks as the University of the Wilderness. Mather was a reader, and so was his successor, Horace Albright. And both were writers, too. One of the letters I cherish in my files is from Horace Albright praising my work as a historian. I have no other such letter from anyone else in Park Service management, although Fran Mainella has generously endorsed my work.

    In managing a great public institution, ignorance is no excuse. You have to manage from a position of strength and consistency. And good history is the prerequisite for both. You are right that some administrative histories are awful. Well, think again who gets to write those histories. And consider what they are paid.

    Each of my major books has required 10 years to research and write--full-time. In years past, the Park Service was famous for offering just $18,000 per history. Did I say that right? I did. Eighteen thousand dollars, with a deadline of six months. I helped change that, but again paid the price for it. My gosh! You mean that historians want to be paid?

    The backlog persists because we are cheap. As Americans, we want our national parks on the cheap. So, if you have a plan for how to fund 407 individual parks, let's hear it and see your reading list. We're all for it. We want solutions. Just don't tell us to "volunteer" while the big whigs still get paid.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   3 weeks 3 days ago

    The "shrink the park system" is an objectively terrible idea and has always been so.

    For one, who decides what parks are no longer "worthy" of being managed by the National Park Service? Is it a popularity contest, and if so, whose popularity are we measuring? You have just said that 200+ national park system units should be closed — please name them. If you aren't willing to come up with that list and defend your choices, then this is nothing more than empty speechifying.

    For two, if you haven't noticed, almost every state is suffering even greater budget issues than the federal government, and funding for state and local parks has been slashed around the country. Dumping 200+ national park system units on local communities is completely infeasible and would result in vast selloffs and closures of public lands and facilities.

    For three, the idea that Congress would consent to massively shrink the park system without simultaneously massively shrinking the agency's budget is purely fantasy.

    Similarly, many of these other arguments and demands are simply nonsensical "sound-bite" ideas that are either useless or counterproductive. Creating a "mandatory reading list" is a good example of this. Force-feeding a personally-chosen and rather arbitrary set of books (I see you're in love with Alfred Runte, but what about Ethan Carr or Amy Meyer?) seems like A Very Bad Idea. As for administrative histories, some NPS administrative histories are great. Many others are, at best, poorly-written, and at worst, utterly misleading and outdated. Your idea would force employees to read these often-pretty-useless documents, to what end? Moreover, you'd subject *every* employee to this? Why does the staff electrician need to take a test on Alfred Runte? What is gained by this?

    I could go on picking this thing apart, but it's clear that this editorial just doesn't bear any resemblance to an actual plan for improving our national parks and public lands. It's rather dismaying to see it appear in the pages of this publication, actually.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   3 weeks 3 days ago

    An outstand Op-Ed with what should be a mandatory reading list! I would only change the priorities within his list. I would place his # 2 priority "make the park system fit the budget" the last priority, instead of #2. Honest zero-based budgeting, especially with a leaner agency would allow the NPS to address whatever the realistic "backlog" really is and the other priorities listed here. I believe if we had that political will within the agency, we may never reach that final option of turning properties back to anyone.

    When we previously went through the "zero-based budgeting" process, we had to assume that if funds were not there, the first step we would take is purely protect the resources including if necessary closing the gates to the public. If we were sincere in fulfilling the mission given the NPS, i.e., preserve the resources for future generations, we would take such actions in order to meet the other priorities outlined in this article. This step along with his comments about a leaner agency - especially in central offices - would free up more than sufficient funds to handle what is needed. I also applaud his emphasis on history. How many of the issues of today would be solved by looking to the past and "mining" the knowledge of past NPS employees. For me it is truly sad that the National Park Service hasn't the will or the support to do more than what we are seeing for our 100th anniversary.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   3 weeks 3 days ago

    Thanks for some very thought-provoking ideas. One key question about the idea to make the size of the NPS system "fit the budget:" I have to wonder if the number of units was reduced if Congress would simply use that as an excuse to cut the NPS budget - or based on pressure from states and cities, simply transfer the dollars from the NPS along with the units to the states or cities in the form of "grants" or some other handout.

    Under either scenario, the maintenance backlog for the NPS would be reduced by eliminating the amount needed for the areas that were "shed" from the system, but there might be little or no net gain in the NPS budget to "fix" the problem in the remaining areas.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   3 weeks 3 days ago

    Amen and thank you. This was an excellent report and I regret it was forgotten.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   3 weeks 3 days ago

    Those interested in another, longer analysis of what's wrong with history in the NPS might also be interested in the 2011 Organization of American Historians study for which I was the lead author, Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service. As you can gather from the title, my colleagues and I concur with Harry's general analysis of the poor state of support for history in the NPS. Things have not improved much since our report was released.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   3 weeks 3 days ago

    Thanks for the interesting perspective Harry (and for the list of books). I think you are right on target with most, if not all of your points. While not opposed to transferring some units to the states I am not sure that solves the backlog problem. Assuming the states want (or have a choice) to keep them operating doesn’t it only shift the financial burden to fewer people? I can see where this could become another unfunded mandate by the federal government with other federal funds held hostage unless the states agree to take and maintain them. While I tend to be on the side of states being able to better manage their resources I’m undecided on this one. I do think it is time the NPS puts a moratorium on adding units or even shedding some until it finds a way to address not only the backlog but future maintenance needs.

    Being completely ignorant on this I am also curious as to your insight on how you view or value the historical importance of places and events and does that process differ than other countries given our short history? I assume at some point in time it is inevitable that a review takes place and places would be removed or added? Use China for an example. I imagine they would have valued many things early in their first few hundred years that a few thousand years later become less (or more) significant. What is the process for that?

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   3 weeks 3 days ago

    Harry Butowsky should be the next NPS Director!

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   3 weeks 3 days ago

    Thank you, Harry Butowski, for a thoughtful and important essay on how NPS can continue to be a vital and relevant part of the nation for 100 more years. Your suggestions are good -- very good -- and can contribute to a dialogue about just what the Centennial can do to foster broad support of national parks and the important stories they hold for a changing nation that needs to recall and understand its journey.

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 4 days ago

    Associating the parks with really crappy beer is the true crime here, especially when we have so many good craft beers. ;)

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 5 days ago

    That is how we properly look at statistics.

    No it is not. If it were, we wouldn't be driving cars, we wouldn't be riding in planes, we wouldn't bicycle, swim, ski, ....... We educate and try to economicily reduce the risk but we don't avoid the behavior. Who are you (generic you) to say living to 80 without drinking is a better life than enjoying alcohol and dying at 70 with liver failure? You can make that choice and I won't interfere but I would rather die early enjoying life than live forever in a bubble.

    is in the suggestion that legal makes everything right.

    I have made the point several times that is not the case and certainly haven't made that the basis of my justification here.

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 5 days ago

    A few weeks ago, a plane went down in France. Horrified, we learned that the co-pilot deliberately crashed it. How many people were killed? "Relative" to the population of Europe, not many. But what if YOU or a loved one had been on that plane?

    That is how we properly look at statistics. In the airline industry, passengers are referred to as "souls." When our National Park Service starts referring to visitors as anything less than that, you know there is a problem. Every "soul" in the national parks is important. That they perhaps die in "predictable" numbers is not to say we should want any to die.

    We have no "official" firearm of the national parks, do we? Official car or motor home? Official potato chip? Official salsa? Official (put your product name here)? Then why are we suddenly allowing alcohol "official" status? It absolutely makes no sense.

    EC is right, of course. We don't penalize the responsible users of any product, provided it is legal. But where he misses the boat--and where the Park Service goes down with the ship--is in the suggestion that legal makes everything right. My mother made the point with the expression "dead right." "Al, the speed limit may say 70, but if it is raining or snowing, going 70 may make you dead right."

    Once again, the Park Service has proved itself "dead right." It went the speed limit and crashed into the wall. It made light--in this case Bud Light--of what we expect our government to do. It did the legal thing, but it forgot to do the right thing. And is that not the common tragedy of our times?

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 5 days ago

    During my years as an ER nurse we had a term for a large class of assault victims - a "2-5-I". It came from the standard "explanation" --- "I only had two beers" ..."there were about five guys there" ... "and I was just standing there!"

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 5 days ago

    Wonderful letter Lee. I could not have said this any better. Thank you so much. I will send a similiar letter to Director Jarvis but based on past experience I will not expect a reply.

  • Acadia Then And Now: 40 Years Is Too Long Between Visits   3 weeks 5 days ago

    Acadia National Park was also our first-ever national park. Perhaps that's why it stays always on our mind, and why we've written Acadia hiking guides and started a blog.

    The first trip was in November, and we were disappointed there were no popovers to be had at the Jordan Pond House that time of year. But the memory of strolling Ocean Path and being surprised by a chipmunk, stays with us still, more than 30 years, and many Acadia memories, later.

    We just launched a new feature on the blog, "Ask Acadia on My Mind!," with this first Q-and-A, to answer a reader's question about camping in Acadia, and hopefully help him and other first-time visitors create fond memories:

    http://acadiaonmymind.com/2015/05/first-time-visitor-to-acadia-national-...

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 5 days ago

    Okay, here is the text of my letter to Director Jarvis:

    Mr. Jon JarvisDirector, National Park ServiceNational Park Service1849 C Street NWWashington, DC 20240

    Dear Director Jarvis:

    I am a former national park ranger. I am extremely disturbed about news that the Park Service is entering an agreement to allow Budweiser beer to use the parks in advertising in exchange for some money.

    During my years in the service, I had the awful task of recovering several bodies following accidents of various kinds. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to bag a decomposing park visitor, but any of us who have cannot easily forget the experience. In almost every case, alcohol was a contributing – if not direct – cause of the person’s death. In some cases, the deceased was an innocent victim of another who had been drinking.

    Most of my law enforcement actions in the parks were alcohol fueled. Now, to think of the service joining in a campaign to actually encourage more use of beer by young people in our parks is simply disgusting. The wild nature of many of our parks means there are hazards to visitors as they hike, climb and simply drive. To partner with a campaign that encourages use of a substance that “provides the perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary,” is something our parks do not need no matter how much money may be paid for the privilege.

    I ask you to please stop this blatant misuse of our parks as an advertising gimmick.

    Respectfully, Luke E. Dalton

    I hope every other TRAVELER reader who cares about this will send a similar letter.

  • High Cost Of Replacing Grand Canyon Water Line -- $100-$150 Million -- Means It's Done Piecemeal   3 weeks 5 days ago

    This makes defeat of the developers' plans for Tusyan all the more critical.

    How does Tusyan effect the pipeline water?

  • High Cost Of Replacing Grand Canyon Water Line -- $100-$150 Million -- Means It's Done Piecemeal   3 weeks 5 days ago

    When I was at Albright in 1968, almost all water was brought in by railroad tank car. Construction on the pipe was underway and some water was, as I recall, pumped up from Indian Gardens.

    Given present day visitation -- which is a WHOLE lot more than it was then -- it's hard to fathom what would happen if the pipeline was destroyed somehow. This makes defeat of the developers' plans for Tusyan all the more critical.

  • High Cost Of Replacing Grand Canyon Water Line -- $100-$150 Million -- Means It's Done Piecemeal   3 weeks 5 days ago

    This pipeline is certainly an example of critical infrastructure. There is no viable backup plan for providing this much water to the South Rim.

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 5 days ago

    A fine idea, Harryb. Before the day is over I will have mailed a paper letter to Director Jarvis. On Monday I'll be at the door of Senator Hatch's local office with a letter to him. Let's try to start a movement here. What might happen if there was a deluge of letters to people who might be in positions to act?

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 5 days ago

    Sorry Jim, can't buy the $224 billion number. "lost productivity'? Well then, I guess laziness cost the economy $1 trillion. Let's outlaw laziness. And of course that number isn't net of the contribution that alcohol makes to the economy in the form of sales, jobs, taxes etc. BTW - how does the government pay for "lost productivity'? Are these mostly government workers?

    Are there some that use it irresponsibly - yes. But then there are some that drive irresponsibly but we don't ban cars we punish the people that use them irresponsibly. Lee can't see how anyone can support the alcohol industry. Just shows how out of touch he is as the vast majority of adult Americans do that responsibly on a regular basis.

    But we are off topic. I say take the money but keep the logos out.

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 5 days ago

    Director Jarvis. I think we would like to hear from you on this issue. Do you still think associating the Park Service with Budweiser represents a positive message to young generations of Americans. Do you really want this to be part of your legacy as Director?

    You really need to respond to all of the concerns voiced by those of us who love our wonderful system on National Parks. We are your allies and we want to hear you address this matter. If you do not respond history will judge you and your legacy and you may not like what history will say

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 5 days ago

    Let's reduce the advertising phrase "introduce a new generation of beer drinkers to the national parks" to its real meaning. What it really means is "to entice a new generation into the world of alcoholic irresponsibility and potential addiction."

    All in the name of money.

    How anyone can support the alcohol industry with a clear conscience is beyond me. But experience has shown time and time again that dollars can dull the conscience of almost anyone if they allow it.

    It would be very interesting to learn if the recent falling death at Grand Canyon was in any way connected with consumption of alcohol.

    Thank you, Jim, for posting those links.

  • Provocative Bud Light Campaign Doesn't Concern National Park Service, National Park Foundation   3 weeks 5 days ago

    In response to a question above, CDC link for economic costs of alcohol use was provided above, and here's some more related directly to the current pitch by the industry to connect a "new generation of beer drinkers" with national parks.

    "[In 2013] 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 were assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape."

    The American College of Surgeons says there are "37 million emergency department visits from trauma" and "Alcohol is responsible for approximately half of all trauma deaths and nonfatal injuries in the United States."

    Yes, some people can use alcohol "responsibly," but stats confirm plenty of them don't. The American College of Surgeons says, "Even those who drink 'relatively low levels,' in other words, less than one drink per day, are at a greater risk of getting injured."

    Natural areas such as national parks have enough inherent hazards that anything that impairs visitors either mentally or physically is undersirable. Just one example: Alcohol is a major factor in the number of deaths at Lake Mead each year, as it is for boating accidents nationwide.

    The beer industry is selling plenty of their products without any help from the NPS, and the agency certainly doesn't need to be any part of the industry's desire to "introduce a new generation of beer drinkers"... to national parks.

  • High Cost Of Replacing Grand Canyon Water Line -- $100-$150 Million -- Means It's Done Piecemeal   3 weeks 5 days ago

    This should have been the highest priority for NPS. Not the 100 million given to Xanterra.