Recent comments

  • More Fee Proposals From National Parks, Including One For A $20 Day Pass   1 week 23 hours ago

    KB - you check their pass on the way out.

    BTW - when I hiked Half Dome earlier this year we went into the park about 6AM and the gate was open but noone was manning the booth. Our two carloads went in for free (though mine would have anyway with my pass) When you consider that a single car would cover an hour's cost of having someone there, one can only wonder why those booths aren't manned earlier/later.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 1 day ago

    Your half dome example proves the point that wilderness designation hasn't hindered access at all. If you think accesss should be expanded by installing an escalator, well, then you might have a point.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 1 day ago

    I disagree. I was on the trail to Scout's Lookout a couple of weeks ago in Zion and the trail was packed. At 67, I was hardly the oldest guy puffing up the 1,000 feet change in elevation, either, although I did not go on to Angel's Landing. Same with the Narrows--packed all summer. Thirty years ago as a Yosemite seasonal, I led hikes up to Glacier Point. No, there were not thousands of people on the trail but there were hundreds each and every day. The gain in elevation there is 3200 feet.

    Who are we "enabling" here? Of course, managers who don't want to manage wilderness on the argument that no one goes there. No one? Few? What do these terms really mean? Five percent of 3 million people is 150,000 people. That is not a "few," unless you happen to believe that the majority of fat, out-of-shape, and just plain lazy Americans are the only people who deserve to see the national parks as they wish.

    I am one of those fat and out-of-shape Americans that could use a good hike once in a while. At least I am not lazy, as so many park visitors are.

    Wilderness is both a place and a state of mind. As I age, I love the thought that I went there once and that others still may, as well. I don't care if it's just "a few." Wilderness is the distinguishing trait of this country. When it's gone, the United States of America will be something else--an absolute majority, yes, but a majority composed of fools.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Do You Mix Parks And Politics?   1 week 1 day ago

    Can you provide an overview of which congressional and senate committees have a role in parks operations?

  • Reader Participation Day: How Do You Mix Parks And Politics?   1 week 1 day ago

    Unfortunately, National Parks are treated as though they were solely the purview of the representative of the district where they are located. So, because I live in an urban district that has no national parks in it, my representative has very little influence over parks management.

  • More Fee Proposals From National Parks, Including One For A $20 Day Pass   1 week 1 day ago

    All these proposals to offer one day or three days or whatever passes instead of (or in addition to) seven days: has anyone considered the cost of enforcing this? My experience is that once inside a Park, no one ever asks to see proof of payment. It's assumed that you went through the entrance station and paid, otherwise how did you get there? Since very few people overstay their seven day pass, there's little or no need for rangers to go around checking for payment, and that frees them up for more productive tasks. If the entrance stations start offering various lengths of stay for various prices, that's going to have to be enforced by asking to see peoples' proof of payment all the time. Otherwise people would buy the cheapest one day pass and then stay as long as they like.

    PS I know that many parks have back road entries and that it's also possible to enter very early or very late in the day when the entrance stations are closed. I think that's such a trivial number of visitors who evade the entrance fee that way that it simply doesn't pay to try and catch them. At least I've never seen anyone trying.

  • There's An Artist On The Loose Defacing National Parks   1 week 1 day ago

    Yes, this is not art. This is vandalism. But hey, it's all the rage these days, don't you know? A few months ago, I was sitting outside Kelso Depot in the Mojave National Preserve when a big Union Pacific freight train came rumbling through. Practically all of the cars were covered with grafiti, as most of them are these days. But you know what? The adult teacher of a school class sitting next to me pronounced the grafiti "artistic." I suggested otherwise and he just got mad at me. Who was I not to agree with him that young people deserved to "express themselves" in this way?

    You can imagine what I said, something to the effect that if I bought a can of spray paint and "expressed myself" all over his school bus, I trusted his principal wouldn't mind. "That's different," he said. Right. He would get in trouble for it. So long as the vandalism was on railroad property, he didn't care.

    Well, this "artist" should be made to remove every one of her images with a rusty spoon. She removes them--and she pays for it. That is how you handle vandalism. Litter and you pick up five miles of garbage along the roadside. But you see where the problem lies. We are a nation of enablers, and more of this is coming, unless we have the discipline to distinguish vandalism from art. The railroads have virtually thrown in the towel--as have many communities. That has to stop before the national parks can be considered safe from the vandals, too.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 1 day ago

    re: "We all know that most hikers don't venture more than a mile or two from the trailheads."

    Based on that comment, just curious about how you think park managers should respond? Should most or all areas in a park be within "a mile or two" of a trailhead?

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 1 day ago

    We all know that most hikers don't venture more than a mile or two from the trailheads. Not everybody has the time or fitness (especially these days...) to go trek for days on end.

  • There's An Artist On The Loose Defacing National Parks   1 week 1 day ago

    If you follow the various links included in the story above, the woman who is responsible for this vandalism in multiple parks was fully aware she was "doing wrong." Let's hope for a vigorous and successful prosecution - and as Owen notes, also hope to avoid copycats.

  • Volunteer "Lint Pickers" Help Spruce Up Cave At Carlsbad Caverns National Park   1 week 1 day ago

    there are people out there who claim that humans have no impact upon our planet

    Really? Who? Name one.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Do You Mix Parks And Politics?   1 week 1 day ago

    Certainly the candidates attitude towards public lands plays a role but there are many other issues that I view as far more important. If they aren't addresses properly, what happens to our public lands won't be on anyone's agenda.

  • Volunteer "Lint Pickers" Help Spruce Up Cave At Carlsbad Caverns National Park   1 week 1 day ago

    But wait . . . . there are people out there who claim that humans have no impact upon our planet and can't possibly be causing any significant changes to this wobbly old sphere upon which we depend for everything.

    This is just one of many visible refutations of that argument.

    All a person has to do is open their eyes. And ears. And nose.

    But ignoring the challenges our spaceship faces is so much easier and less expensive. . .

  • There's An Artist On The Loose Defacing National Parks   1 week 1 day ago

    Let's hope that undue publicity about this act of serial art-vandalism in our parks will not spawn copycats. This situation will have to be handled delicately.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Do You Mix Parks And Politics?   1 week 1 day ago

    It would be wonderful if you didn't have to mix parks and politics.

    But since that's not an option, about the best we can do is try to keep an eye on our Congresscritters and try to find some way to convince them that there are some things of importance besides the Almighty Dollar.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Your Favorite National Parks As Officials Search For Cash   1 week 1 day ago

    An interesting and wildly incoherent discussion, blokes. I checked park web sites to see what the Group 4 parks are charging per car today.

    Glacier: $15 ($25 in summer)

    Grand Canyon: $25

    Yellowstone: $25

    Yosemite: $20

    What's wrong with this picture? And does anybody really think the value of a dollar hasn't changed in 20 years? And have you been following the "user pays" philosophy of elected officials since 1980? If you can't accept the concept, get yourself elected to Congress or spent your free time where it's really free.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 1 day ago

    "However, most of the wilderness abuses within the NPS are not reported at all due to fear of retribution by park managers."

    Funny how pervasive that culture is in the NPS at high levels.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 1 day ago

    As noted by an earlier comment, the boundary of Yellowstone NP does not contain a single acre of designated wilderness.

    And the backcountry areas are non the worse for it - in fact they may be better.

    The best views of Half Dome are from the non-wilderness locations of Yosemite Valley, Tunnel View, and Glacier, Washburn, and Olmstead Points.

    "of" perhaps. But nobody climbs a mountain to look at the mountain. It is hard to beat the views "from" the top of half dome.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 1 day ago

    Michael Kellett-

    The majority of designated wilderness managed by the NPS was created by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, or ANILCA, and that vast acreage is legislatively encumbered by the very uses that you bemoan in the BLM and USFS elsewhere, including Congressionally-mandated motorized access, varying artificial wildlife management actions by the state, and private-use structures. To compare acreage among agencies when attempting to put forward an argument of a more pure NPS approach to wilderness management requires a very large asterisk in the NPS column.

    And I have to flag your claim that it is a "rare exception" that NPS wilderness contains "nonconforming uses." A park-by-park examination across the country would find plenty of noncomforming uses still present in wilderness - even accounting for loose or individual opinions of what a nonconforming use is.

    As noted by an earlier comment, the boundary of Yellowstone NP does not contain a single acre of designated wilderness. That is a political issue as much as a technical one, partially wrapped up in the snowmobiling issue, but still very suprising to many. They manage around 2 million acres as "recommended wilderness" and have since 1972 which is an indication of how long these issues can drag on. Though those acres are putatively managed "as wilderness", mininimum requirement analyses performed there continue to allow helicopter access, chainsaw use, and mechanized trail repair among other things.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 2 days ago

    rdm24, I do believe Half Dome itself is within the designated boundaries of the Yosemite Wilderness, and the cables up the eastern flanks of the dome have been retained, despite official Wilderness designation, in order to provide hikers continued access to its summit.

    Inspite of the difficulty and danger associated with climbing using the Half Dome cables, the hike to the summit has become so popular that it now must be regulated. Hiking to the top using the cables now requires a special permit and payment of a registration fee to avoid overcrowding.

    My personal preference would be to take the cables down and manage Half Dome as a most sacred place. The worst view of Half Dome is from its summit. The terrain at the top of the dome is rather flat and arid, and the iconic features of the sheer north face and the polished pristine slopes of the dome are no longer in the field of view!

    The best views of Half Dome are from the non-wilderness locations of Yosemite Valley, Tunnel View, and Glacier, Washburn, and Olmstead Points. No one is "locked out" from these iconic views of Yosemite's most famous monolith. The views from these locations into the Yosemite Wilderness, arouses one's curiosity and tempts one to take a hike.Of course, one might also argue that Yosemite Valley would be best experienced if there would be no (or only limited) access granted to private vehicles. Previous articles in NPT by Barbara Moritsch and PJ Ryan have touched on that issue.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 2 days ago

    Wilderness can be enjoyed even by visitors who never venture off of a road or tour boat. One good example is Glacier Bay National Park, where the incredible vistas of mountains and ocean and outstanding wildlife viewing—uninterrupted by human development—are enjoyed by thousands of people each year from either a cruise ship or a small boat trip. For those who wish to get up close and personal with the wilderness experience, those opportunities are available.

    Similar long-range vistas are enjoyed by all visitors—and protected by wilderness designation—in places like Yosemite. Would these magnificent views in NPS areas be adequately protected without formal wilderness designation? Perhaps, but in today's world an extra measure of protection isn't a bad idea.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 2 days ago

    It would take an act of Congress. While designating a wilderness area can be contentions, reversing designation would be even harder. So I am pretty sure the answer is no.

    There probably have been loopholes added to specifically allow activities that are normally prohibited. Again, these would have to be done by Congress, not by a federal agency, but this seems more plausible.

    But more to the point, doing so would almost never change recreational access, because wilderness designations has never restricted access.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 2 days ago

    There are no designated wilderness areas within Yellowstone. Yosemite is almost entirely designated wilderness, except the valley. Neither park has a problem attracting tourists or connecting them with waterfalls, canyons, and other attractions. I'm not really sure what leson you'd think we should take from these two examples. More to the point, major attractions like geysers, mountain peaks, and popular waterfalls are typically excluded from wilderness designations so that people with limited mobility can still access them.

    I can't think of an "Old Faithful" type of natural attraction that is within a wilderness area. If you can think of one, I'd like to know.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 2 days ago

    There are trails. Once upon a time, that was sufficient to provide access. That's kind of the point of Wilderness: The idea that not every place should be a drive-thru.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   1 week 2 days ago

    Yes, I agree that many continue to miss the point. Perhaps intentionally.

    But may I suggest that it's not on the side of those trying to defend wildness? (Note that I did not say "wilderness.")