Recent comments

  • This Third Time Was Anything But Charming – SPOT Misuse At Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Deciding what's frivolous and what's not could have been as easy as "you called for emergency due to lack of water and have declined rescue...clearly you are neither physically nor mentally equipped for a backcountry trip so we are evacuating you whether you like it or not".

    As has been discussed here before, I really think that the NPS needs to consider 1) rules and regs for back country access and 2) availability of SPOT devices.

    Heck, the next group that has one might end up using it because someone's 5 year old is afraid of the dark!
    In any case, back country rescue should be a cost borne by those who use the service, just like AAA.


  • Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Snow, of course ... can't wait to get on my skis -- see Tower Fall with no one around; ski right by the upper terraces at Mammoth, ski in the NE corner, and try something new ...

    I actually got on my skis in Bozeman on October 10; not really good snow and not enough, but it was my birthday, and I was determined to do so and managed a few hundred yards in town; here's to a good season!

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • This Third Time Was Anything But Charming – SPOT Misuse At Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 22 weeks ago

    The helicopter should have dropped them at the county jail to spend some time thinking about their decisions.

    But seriously, the only solution I see for this is stiffer penalties (either civil fines or criminal charges) for frivolous summoning of emergency aide. That's easy to say, but it begs the question of who decides what's frivolous and what isn't? And it also will inevitably lead to someone not using a summons during a real emergency for fear of retribution and perishing as a result.

  • Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Kicking around the idea of a trip to Everglades or Padre I guess my answer is "sand."

  • Adding to the National Park System: Here's One List Of Possibles....   5 years 22 weeks ago

    We don't take care of the parks we have, the only reason for most of the new ones is to buy votes.

  • Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?   5 years 22 weeks ago

    I love snow but since I grew up in a very mild climate, I'm not that experienced in it. Because of that I don't want to explore parks in winter (unless I had a button I could easily push to get help....hehe). Since I'm much more experienced in the sun and sand, that's where I'd spend my winters. In fact I'm only an hour from Death Valley right now and have been spending a lot of time there. I'd also recommend of my favorite parks!

    Ranger Holly

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Hikers Evacuated After Three SPOT Activations In Three Days

    On the evening of September 23rd, rangers began a search for hikers who repeatedly activated their rented SPOT satellite tracking device. The GEOS Emergency Response Center in Houston reported that someone in the group of four hikers – two men and their two teenaged sons – had pressed the “help” button on their SPOT unit. The coordinates for the signal placed the group in a remote section of the park, most likely on the challenging Royal Arch loop. Due to darkness and the remoteness of the location, rangers were unable to reach them via helicopter until the following morning. When found, they’d moved about a mile and a half to a water source. They declined rescue, as they’d activated the device due to their lack of water. Later that same evening, the same SPOT device was again activated, this time using the “911” button. Coordinates placed them less than a quarter mile from the spot where searchers had found them that morning. Once again, nightfall prevented a response by park helicopter, so an Arizona DPS helicopter whose crew utilized night vision goggles was brought in. They found that the members of the group were concerned about possible dehydration because the water they’d found tasted salty, but no actual emergency existed. The helicopter crew declined their request for a night evacuation, but provided them with water before departing. On the following morning, another SPOT “help” activation came in from the group. This time they were flown out by park helicopter. All four refused medical assessment or treatment. The group’s leader had reportedly hiked once at the Grand Canyon; the other adult had no Grand Canyon and very little backpacking experience. When asked what they would have done without the SPOT device, the leader stated, “We would have never attempted this hike.” The group leader was issued a citation for creating a hazardous condition (36 CFR 2.34(a)(4)).

    NPS Digest Daily Headlines

    "...adventure without regard to prudence, profit, self-improvement,
    learning or any other serious thing" -Aldo Leopold-

  • Cades Cove Loop Road at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Set for a Major Redo Next Spring   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Yes my family has been visiting CadesCove since I was a kid. Yes - we've been saying the same thing. Lay some track run a train or some trolleys. Or some buses...

    I don't know where they would park all the visitor cars though...

    Hoping to camp the second weekend of Nov this year (2009).

    Tough to get the weather to cooperate this time 'round though.

  • Investigation Of Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Finds Cybertracks to Pornographic Images   5 years 22 weeks ago

    D-2 is correct in regard to the case at Cuyahoga.

    I wonder if one of the differences in the YOSE case is that the headquarters of the Foundation is in San Francisco. Tollefson would not be in the same close proximity to his successor as Latschar would have been.
    After all, Gettysburg is a pretty small place. I know that I would have had some hesitation accepting that job knowing that John would have been in a office a mile or two away.

    While I have not read either agreement, I get the sense that the Gettysburg agreement between the Foundation and the park envisions a much closer relationship than does the Yosemite agreement.

    Rick Smith

  • National Park Mystery Spot 4: Standing Tall in the Middle   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Finally, one I would have gotten, and I wasn't first!

    6 feet

    four score and seven years

    November 19th

    two minute speech

    272 words

  • Investigation Of Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Finds Cybertracks to Pornographic Images   5 years 22 weeks ago

    The superintendent of Cuyahoga Valley NP did not take the job of director.

    He took the job as head of fundraising. He is not the signing authority for the Cuyahoga Valley association. If there were a conflict between NPS and the association in implementing a cooperative agreement between the two organizations, an agreement he was involved in developing as Superintendent, he almost never would be directly affected. And, on those occasions when he might be affected, he could much more easily recuse himself from any wrangling. He would never represent the association in a court proceeding against the NPS.

    I don't know about the Yosemite situation. There is a grey area in the perception of conflict of interest, conflicts of appearing to be directly managing or benefitting from agreements between the two cooperating organizations, when by recusing yourself from time to time might be able to take care of the problem. In other words by recusing yourself on those occasions when you were the decider on a specific project. It is a judgement call.


    If operating in your new job, through specific projects that you set up when you were previously the agency decider, and that is at the center of what you do, it would seem to give the appearance of a conflict of interest on all of your activities. It is hard in that case to simply recuse yourself, because it would be happening all the time. The impression I have is the reversal in the Gettysburg case came down to this sense that there would be a continuous sense of perception of conflict, and the arrangement therefore was unworkable.

  • Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?   5 years 22 weeks ago

    I love snow and would love to spend Christmas in Yellowstone with the family one year.

  • Investigation Of Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Finds Cybertracks to Pornographic Images   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Something I do not understand. The superintendent of Yosemite recently retired and took the job of director of the Yosemite Fund. The superintendent of Cuyahoga Valley retired and took the job of director of the Cuyahoga Valley association. Why couldn't Latscher do the same thing? How come they were allowed to do that?

  • National Park Mystery Spot 4: Standing Tall in the Middle   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Soldiers National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA.

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Perhaps not a remant per se, but there are even NPS wilderness areas where the border of the wilderness is right at a paved road. One would be the road to Mineral King in Sequoia National Park. I've got the National Geographic Trails Illustrated map of SEKI, and the road abuts designated wilderness from the park entrance to a couple of miles past Atwell Mill. The wilderness ares seems to end right at a private inholding called Cabin Cove while the road continues to Mineral King.

    However - what I see more common in maps are corridors with a non-wilderness buffer zone surrounded by designated wilderness. The main road in Kings Canyon NP seems to be like that.

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Thanks, Marshall Dillon. I appreciate your kind words. You're right: you can't have any kind of wheeled contrivance in a federal Wilderness, including a hunter's game cart, a dolly to portage a kayak or canoe (is portage a verb?), or even, in some Wildernesses, a wheelbarrow! The latter prohibition makes life difficult for agency staff. None of these prohibitions makes any sense, of course, and they all stem from overstrict agency readings of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Again, my guess is that the weather stations, oyster hatcheries, and cattle-grazing are allowed because it was already there, previous to the establishment of the Wilderness areas. I'm not saying these things are okay to occur in these areas, but I believe that is the rationale in 99% of the cases. Hell, 1964 was NOT that long ago, and of course many of these areas have been designated much more recently.

    imtnbike, I have no desire to either get into or even see you get into another similar argument as you did the other day. I definitely respect what you're standing for, and you and those who agree with you have definitely brought up good points that have made me think. I grew up in Minnesota, and I was surprised as a child (before I understood these things) that you couldn't bike or have any wheeled contraption in the Boundary Waters. I'm not sure if that became a new rule when they became the BWCA Wilderness, or if they were managing it like that before. I do know that in the BWCAW, again, a USDA FS Wilderness Area, you can't even have those single-wheel dolly-type cart thingers for your canoes or kayaks. Gotta carry it all. I could be wrong, as I never hung out in any avid paddler circles, but this seemed to be a fairly well-taken rule. That has a teeny percentage of the impact that a mountain bike would have. I guess my only point, perhaps a bad one, is that it's not like there are people out to get mountain bikers. Policy, around the country, is just against any wheeled contraption. Anyway...take it for what you want. Hopefully it's new information to you and I haven't wasted your time. Good luck in fighting for what you so passionately believe in.

  • Curing Society's Disconnect With Nature Could Be As Easy As A Walk In the Woods   5 years 22 weeks ago

    I'll throw in my 2 cents. Time is always in short supply. Kids have plenty of homework and other activities that keep them busy. Parents often are overworked. In those conditions, finding time to travel to a far away park is not easy. Taking my kids for a ride at the local park competes with the Xbox 360... Yet, they always enjoy it once we go out and spend an hour riding or hiking around.

    I'm not optimistic that the long term trend will see more people going out and enjoying nature, although I hope to be wrong.

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 22 weeks ago

    y p w wrote:

    In many ways I think the way "wilderness" has been designated under the 1964 Wilderness Act has been haphazard with all sorts of exceptions thrown in. I've seen pictures of Lake Aloha in Desolation Wilderness in the Lake Tahoe Basin. It's clearly within a wilderness boundary by I've seen photos of it with a big dam and understand that the water is stored there for irrigation purposes. I've personally visited Gilmore Lake with what's definitely a small man-made dam. I've seen maps of several wilderness areas showing narrow corridors in some wilderness areas where existing roads were left in place or large-scale commercial interests or frontcountry campgrounds were left in place within hundreds of feet of designated wilderness.
    Marshall Dillon disagreed, replying,
    I'm not sure I believe your claims. Wilderness areas are pretty set-in-stone. What I believe you might be seeing in person and on maps is remnants from before the Wilderness area became as such.

    In fact y p w is more correct than he may realize. Exceptions to Wilderness ideals are embodied in statutes creating various Wilderness areas and, perhaps more surprising, in the Wilderness Act of 1964 itself. See

    It may be that one of the most pernicious permitted operations in federal Wilderness is commercial cattle-grazing. I am always hearing stories about Wilderness areas in which, thanks to agency rules that have misinterpreted the Wilderness Act of 1964, mountain biking is prohibited, and yet these areas are denuded and defiled by agroindustrial cattle husbandry. There are supreme ironies in Wilderness statutes and regulations: mountain biking not allowed, dams, jet boats, weather stations, and low-level military overflights just fine. Not to mention luxury horse and packstock outfitting operations that lug in sedentary people to wine and dine them in remote settings, disturbing the environment and trail integrity in the process.

    I would assume, however, that most activities of these sorts occur in USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Wilderness areas, and not in National Park Service-managed Wilderness areas.

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Regarding this fine (and shortened) quote:

    Our drive, our ruggedness, our unquenchable optimism and zeal and elan go back to the challenges of the untrammeled wilderness. Britain won its wars on the playing fields of Eton. America developed its mettle at the muddy gaps of the Cumberlands, in the swift rapids of its rivers, on the limitless reaches of its western plains, in the silent vastness of primeval forests, and in the blizzard-ridden passes of the Rockies and Coast ranges.

    — Harvey Broome, co-founder, The Wilderness Society

    Good stuff. And certainly an endorsement of the recreation value of preserving wild places. The "challenges of the untrammeled wilderness" have appealed to David Brower (who placed the first bolt I know of in American climbing history), Teddy Roosevelt (dedicated hunter and environmental leader) and many other early leaders of the Wilderness movement.

    So why do we feel the need today to de-emphasize the recreation aspects of Wilderness designations and pretend that it's solely a conservation-minded venture? If the real purpose is to preserve landscapes why would we allow anyone other than an actual field biologist to visit?

    Let's recognize that the original intent and spirit of the Wilderness movement is to engender a connection to beautiful places through recreation. To that end, I think more opportunities for low-impact (non-motorized) recreation should be encouraged in Wilderness management strategies.

    People bond with the land when they get to experience it through enjoyable recreation activities. That's how the Wilderness push began, and losing touch with that impetus is a bigger threat to the Wilderness movement than, say, a bicycle.

  • Curing Society's Disconnect With Nature Could Be As Easy As A Walk In the Woods   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Gee, am I the first person to comment on this topic?

    I have to agree with this comment that the article quotes: " ' "What I see in America today is an almost religious zeal for the technological approach to every facet of life," says Daniel Yankelovich, the veteran public opinion analyst. This faith, he says, transcends mere love for new machines. "It's a value system, a way of thinking, and it can become delusional." ' " I see evidence of this lifestyle among all types of people except the very elderly. Entire cities, moreover, seem to be giving over to a peculiarly artificial way of life. Las Vegas, the bane of James Howard Kunstler, comes first to mind, but now there's also Macau and Dubai.

    Still, I've doubted the Sierra Club's method of reaching out to younger people to interest them in the outdoors. It and similar-minded groups seem to think it's good to take them on hikes. I have to wonder if that doesn't bore them and if they wouldn't prefer something like skateboarding, BMX biking, or mountain biking—none of which the Sierra Club is likely to embrace; in fact its institutional attitude toward mountain biking comes across as stiff and reserved.

    Although I applaud the article's optimistic tone and hope the trends it describes do materialize, I would be reluctant to draw firm conclusions from those statistics the article lists that are based on a one-year trend, from 2007 to 2008. I just read another study that said the two most traditional outdoor activities—hiking and backpacking—are increasingly confined to a narrow demographic group and are broadly in decline. Oliver Pergams and Patricia Zaradic, whose work has appeared in National Park Traveler discussions before, and a colleague of theirs have issued an academic study stating, "The most recent data show a decline in hiking/backpacking popularity since 1998–2000." See; and see also (blog post describing the study more thoroughly).

    On a personal note (Kurt and others have heard me say this before) I am continually struck by the lack of human presence of any kind in the wildlands I visit. That is true even of the regional and county parks in the crowded Bay Area, which I think has about seven million people. Go two miles from any trailhead and seeing another person is an event. When I mountain bike in high-altitude Colorado, in Utah, and in Nevada, at the height of the short summer season, it is usually so quiet that I wonder how trails stay open. Occasionally they're not surviving; they're falling into semiabandonment from lack of use. (The Monarch Crest Trail outside of Salida, Colo., is the big exception on summer weekends. It is crowded with mountain bikers and the occasional offroad motorcyclist.)

    Let me conclude on a positive note. The article alludes to a lack of nonwhite, nonaffluent interest in America's wildlands. The Pergams-Zaradic report also talks about this. Alum Rock Park is located in east San Jose, near where I live. Parts of it have a remote feel to them and there are several miles of singletrack trails, some multiuse, some closed to mountain biking, and some closed to horseback-riding. The park is popular with Latino families. Given the area's demographics, it's likely that many of those families are low-income. Yet one sees kids roaming around on foot and on cheap ersatz mountain bikes and BMX bikes. Something is working there. The park combines its rugged trail system with a number of picnic areas and ample parking. That may be a formula that will work to develop interest in wildland parks among a wider range of people.

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Exactly. Yes. There are exceptions. Especially grandfathering. But often when the grandfathered use will phase out, or is considered so Di Minimis that Congress at that time did not consider it so extensive a violation that Congress should block wilderness designation.

    Apparently, Congress did not consider the oyster farm, a commercial business, Di Minimis. Apparently, it was non conforming, and Congress would not look the other way.

  • Wolf Biologist Killed In Plane Crash in Denali National Park, Pilot Survived   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Please email me. I am a close friend of Gordon and have been trying to reach you.

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Here's a photo of the dam at Lake Aloha:

    Anyone with a map of Desolation Wilderness can figure out that the entirety of the lake is in the wilderness area. It's not much of a dam, but the photo clearly shows some sort of mechanical device (I'm thinking some sort of pump) at the top of the dam.

    The El Dorado Irrigation District has direct control over Lake Aloha, as well as Echo Lakes (which aren't in the wilderness boundary but within Forest Service area). There's a picture of Lake Aloha in EID's 2006 water quality report, with a description that it provides some of the district's water.

    I've gone over parts of the 1964 Wilderness Act before. It's clear that they do have room for some exceptions if there are preexisting uses. I'm thinking this dam (as well as at Gilmore Lake) was specifically grandfathered in without triggering the "non conforming use" clause.

  • Dr. Gary Machlis Has Ambitious Plans As Science Advisor to National Park Service Director Jarvis   5 years 22 weeks ago

    D-2: Actually, several cultural or historical NPS units have non-visitor commercial activities such as grazing; the ranching in Point Reyes is not unique, and it is part of the law establishing the park, albeit with NPS ability to regulate grazing on the NPS-owned lands. DBOC is different: the 40 year RUO for the oyster operations in the estero and the on shore plant was part of the negotiated deed of sale of the original oyster farm to NPS. The price was less than what NPS would have paid without the RUO but more than if the use was permanent. The 40 year RUO was certainly part of the sale of the oyster farm to DBOC, and given California real estate & business law, the 1976 Wilderness designation was also fully disclosed.

    I don't know enough to be in favor of keeping DBOC in Drake's Estero after 2012 (with some royalties to NPS equivalent to grazing fees and lease of the land under the facilities) or in favor of removing it when the current law requires. The most important measurements to understand the impacts of DBOC (positive and negative) haven't been taken. Almost all of the reports arguing all sides that I've read have problems that would cause me to reject them as a reviewer: the NPS reports, the USGS reports, the stuff from UC Davis, and the NAS report. [Yes I'm a hard-assed reviewer, but I sign my reviews, and most of my reviews result in a stronger revised paper.]

    My own bottom line is whether DBOC can make enough profit to pay $100-200K per year for the necessary (independent) research & monitoring. If it can, then I have no problem with starting the monitoring now, extending the RUO a few years past 2012, and basing decisions about continued operations on the data. If it can't, then I have a real problem with NPS spending $100-200K per year as a hidden subsidy to DBOC operations within Point Reyes NS, or extending the RUO in the absence of any solid data on the impacts.

    My block quote from the NAS report summary (page 3) is:

    Ultimately, the NPS “Acknowledgment of Corrections” (July 2007) and “Clarification of Law, Policy, and Science” (September 2007) retracted several misrepresentations of the Anima (1991) and (Elliot-Fisk, 2005) studies and presented descriptions of ecological impacts of the shellfish culture operations that closely approach the conclusions reached by this committee, with two major exceptions. First, NPS does not acknowledge the changing ecological baseline of Drakes Estero, in which native Olympia oysters probably played an important role in structuring the estuary’s ecosystem for millennia until human exploitation eliminated them in the period from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. Second, NPS selectively presents harbor seal survey data in Drakes Estero and over-interprets the disturbance data which are incomplete and non-representative of the full spectrum of disturbance activities in the estero.

    I wouldn't go so far as d-2 in my criticism of the NAS panel (I'm also not quite sure if d-2 is criticizing the NAS authors or Nabhan). However, as a scientist I'm appalled at the NAS interpretation of small projects not finding statistically significant effects as evidence for no ecologically significant effects. That fails intro stats: the basic logic of null hypothesis significance testing. Rigorous analyses in the subsequent peer reviewed paper (Becker et al. 2009) show a significant effect of year to year oyster production (as a proxy for mariculture activities) on seal counts at all 3 sites near the oyster farm (and strongest at the 2 closest) even after accounting for El Nino. Oddly, the NAS report addressed the Becker et al. paper by arguing that correlation is not causation (so nothing less than a fully randomized and replicated manipulative experiment would be sufficient?), and that the significant result might be confounded by some unspecified changes in culture methods or management practices. Whether the effect is direct or via latent (unknown and unmeasured) management practices, the result remains that greater oyster production is associated with lower counts on areas nearest the oyster farm.

    [I'm also appalled at the NAS evidence-free assertion in the quote above that the native oysters probably played an important role in the ecosystem. Sure, it's almost certainly true that native oysters were important, but its also almost certainly true that oyster feces greatly increase sedimentation rates, yet NAS severely criticized that statement for not having data from Drake's Estero to back it up.]

    Back to Kurt's original post, I'm relatively hopeful that Jarvis and Machlis _will_ get solid science in order to make management decisions such as this. My take is that getting solid science is more likely with Jarvis as director than with any of the alternatives.

    y.p.w.: The full report is pretty interesting, especially the background information, and I'm sure you'll learn quite a bit about the ecology and history of the estuary, as I did.