Recent comments

  • Comment Period Reopens on Whether National Park Visitors Can Arm Themselves   5 years 16 weeks ago

    "People 'still willing to torture'"

    That link is the BBC's report of a new repetition of the famous Milgram Experiment (circa 1961), in which experimental subjects are tricked into thinking they are giving higher & higher voltage shocks to an unseen subject. This experiment was designed by Milgram to explore how & why such social events as the Holocaust can happen.

    The original and the new experiment both show that 70% to 90% of the population will easily collaborate in social activities in which their actions hurt, injure, or even kill an unseen victim, when the harmful actions are encouraged by an 'authority figure' (the scientist managing the experiment), or, more candidly, by peer-pressure and the desire to please/participate.

    Here is the the Google News thread for reports on the new experiment (and plenty of review on the original, too).

    The public focus of the analysis of the experiment is always the ~80% who are willing to hurt others, under the influence of mere encouragement. However, what has always stood out about this experiment for myself, is that about 20% of the population is relatively impervious to the blandishments of 'authority' in questionable contexts, and remain capable of perceiving the ethical merits of situations, even when their peers promote folly.

    In other words, about 20% are actually "independent", and remain capable of setting & adhering to their own coarse & principles, when all around them are 'going crazy'.

    There are major implications of this experiment, pertaining to both the nature of contemporary armed citizens, and the reasons why America protected the right of private armament in the first place.

    Highly recommended reading ... and reflection.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 16 weeks ago

    I think that by far and away the dominant National Parks story of 2008, is the economic meltdown.

    Several of the nominees for top story of 2008, are actually sub-plots of the unraveling economy.

    Everything that President-elect Obama tries to think about, now & going forward, will be framed & driven by economic considerations. Including the Parks

    And what, after all, is really the definitive perennial lament from Park-aficionados, if not that the Parks are chronically under-funded?

    The big story 0f 2008? "It's the economy, stupid"! ;-)

  • The Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Gets a "Green Roof"   5 years 16 weeks ago

    Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck ... and most likely is a fad.

    Eric "Griz" Grunwald offers the rejoinder:

    Don't all roofs eventually leak?
    Yes, true enough, but the impervious layer that needs fixed isn't covered by a layer of soil, preventing inspection & access.

    Although it is easy enough to apply a layer of dirt to a roof using efficient heavy equipment, it is going to be very tricky (expensive) to remove it in order to fix a leak, without ripping the membrane beneath and causing a lot more leaks.

    Have you never tried to figure out just where a compromised roof is actually leaking, Griz?

    And when is it that we normally find out that a roof is leaking and needs attention? Why, normally at the beginning of the rainy season, of course, and the green roof is now saturated, and the weather will be bad for several months. Oh boy.

    The #1 ecological drawback of this idea, is that the living roofs will have to be watered during dry weather, if they are not to die ... and then watered again and again and again ... much more frequently than the suburban lawns we criticize for gobbling up water.

    Water is fast emerging as the leading environmental limitation being encounter by especially urban culture. Does Germany have an excess of water? How about California? Maybe they can take control of the Columbia River and canal it down to LA...

    Did we forget that dirt is heavy, and the building will have to be built more strongly than with a lighter roof, heavier, more-massive, and use more resources, emit more CO2 in added concrete & steel to supply the strength to support the dirt on the roof?

    Green? Good grief.

  • Twenty Boats Destroyed by Fire in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area   5 years 16 weeks ago

    "Investigators pull burned boats from Lake Powell marina"

    Seattle had an environmental terrorist group torch newly-built (even unfinished) multi-million dollar elite homes, fairly recently. Difference here was (as is often the case), they signed their handiwork.

    Marinas can catch fire by themselves in the middle of the night ... but the response of the investigators suggests they are treating this fire as a possible crime scene.

  • The Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Gets a "Green Roof"   5 years 16 weeks ago

    Don't all roofs eventually leak?

  • The Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Gets a "Green Roof"   5 years 16 weeks ago

    Drip, drip, drip...roof will eventually leak costing taxpayers $$$$ for this nonsense.

  • Comment Period Reopens on Whether National Park Visitors Can Arm Themselves   5 years 16 weeks ago

    Then there are the studies of the study:

    For example, despite a large body of research, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime, and there is almost no empirical evidence that the more than 80 prevention programs focused on gun-related violence have had any effect on children’s behavior, knowledge, attitudes, or beliefs about firearms. The committee found that the data available on these questions are too weak to support unambiguous conclusions or strong policy statements.

    Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review


    And...
    "The claim of many millions of annual self-defense gun uses by American citizens appears to be invalid."

    The myth of millions of annual self-defense gun uses: A case study of survey overestimates of rare events.


    And this interesting tidbit... :-)
    For three years, John Lott pretended to be a young woman.

    Her name was Mary Rosh.

    Mary Rosh often spoke sweetly of her days as a student of John's, she gave a glowing Amazon.com review of his book "More Guns, Less Crime," she criticized anyone who questioned John's research or his conclusions, and she attacked other researchers in her ardent defense of Lott's idea that more guns on the streets leads to less crime.

    She was also a petite defenseless creature. We know this because John, we mean, she said:

    "Do you really think that most women can out run your typical criminal?…Even if I am not wearing heels, I don’t think that there are many men that I could outrun."

    "As a woman, who weighs 114 lbs, what am I supposed to do if I am confronted by a 200 lbs. man?"

    http://www.whoismaryrosh.com/


    Anyway...

  • Comment Period Reopens on Whether National Park Visitors Can Arm Themselves   5 years 16 weeks ago

    I have been carrying concealed since before the license was available. I figure if I ever have to use it, I have bigger problems than a fine or even jail time. If it saves my life I will gladly pay the fine or do the time. A friend once told me it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6. I only use a gun in self defense. If my life is truly in danger, some "law" written somewhere on a piece of paper in a courthouse is not going to save me from someone who does not follow the law yet has bad intentions. The bad guys will always break the law, that is why they call them criminals. I have sent a guy with a large knife and a snoot full of drugs packing one time when he brandished the knife against my family. My gun saved our lives. I did not report it because I would be considered the criminal for carrying without a permit and he was long gone after deciding his life was not worth whatever he had in mind. I now have a carry permit because my state now offers it. I carry often and hope I never have to use it. I also wear my seat belt for the same reason. We should not have to worry about getting a ticket for carrying in an environment that is extremely vulnerable. I do not fear the animals, it is the criminal element I feel is the most threat. If you read the book “more guns less crime” by Dr. John Lott you will understand the firearm statistics much better. Best book I ever read on statistics and how they are manipulated. He actually crunched data from every county in the U.S., not just the ones that supported his point of view. He was actually against guns until he did his research.

  • The Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Gets a "Green Roof"   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Nice article Jim.

    Rob Mutch
    Executive Director,
    Crater Lake Institute
    www.craterlakeinstitute.com

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Kurt -- thank you for mentioning both Valley Forge, and also the inclusion of the proposed "Patterson Great Falls National Historical Park," as part of the death, temporary or otherwise, of the Omnibus Land Management Act of 2008.

    "Great Falls" is the actual name of these New Jersey falls, so that part is genuine, and it seems unnecessary to throw in "Patterson" except to emphasize this proposed park is all about local promotion and develoment, and nothing about the integrity of the National Park System.

    Patterson Great Falls, as presently configured, should definitely not be added to the National Park System. The bill in no way has the strategy or the resources necessary to address the highly compromised local situation, and there does not seem to be any enlightened local plan, as there was in Lowell Massachusetts, to take on the large context.

    ALL of the front-line, NPS cultural resource specialists who worked on the Patterson project get the shivers when discussing how blighted this whole Patterson project was.

    You also nailed the main problem at Valley Forge as well. This was a major failure of the leadership of the national park service, as the Director and the Regional Director failed to assist a well-meaning park staff that beyond their depth, and need bosses with integrity. No major development should be permitted inside the boundary of a national park without a public planning, public input and NPS approval, whether or not it is to be located on a private inholding or federal land. NPS needs to kill this proposal by acquiring the private land immediately.

  • Alexander Hamilton's "Country Home" on the Move in New York City   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Thank You, RogerB34 for this amazing picture. I think you are on to something in implying that the location is not the 20th Century location for Hamilton's Grange, on Convent Ave. The address in the link also seems weird: "Exterior view of Alexander Hamilton's old house (it looks abandoned) at 1430 Grand Convent Ave.; the grove of 13 trees represents the 13 original colonies." Hamilton himself planted those trees at the ORIGINAL location. "1430" is no street number I know. And the second location, Convent Avenue: I had never heard of "Grand" Convent Ave. before.

    The picture shows the front porch already removed, and the roof balustrade clearly in evidence. The main reason to move The Grange to its new, third location is to be able to fully restore the house, with the complete 360 of porches on all four sides and proper approaches. The historicity of the balustrade is one of the issues, as well.

    As i think many have pointed out before, the house was moved in 1889 because it was going to be demolished if it stayed at the original site. A new development was going in, roads were being layed out to conform to the city's street-grid plan, and moving The Grange to Convent Ave. ameliorated the controversy the erupted over the feared destruction of the only home owned by one of the preeminent Founding Fathers.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 17 weeks ago

    And, in Yellowstone, we also had the largest slaughter of wild bison than at any time since the 19th century. Snowmobiling in Yellowstone is a constant issue and does get more ink across the nation; if that's the measure, then it's certainly a top story (over the buffalo issue). However, in terms of impacts, congressional criticism of management, and then the recent re-affirmation of the IBMP by its own partners (through its new adaptive management plan just signed last week), this has been one heck of a bad year for buffalo. On that issue, you've seen new grassroots groups pop up and others re-emerge, you've seen a growing divide between environmental groups who take different approaches for the buffalo (especially over the recently approved Royal Teton Ranch deal), and you've even seen native tribes (in one case, on the very same reservation - at Wind River) take different stances on the use of bison quarantined outside the park, as well as a second tribe assert their treaty rights to hunt to the park's limits (and in the case of a couple Nez Perce, get arrested inside the park for hunting buffalo). And, to top it all off, you even had a boy gored by a buffalo this summer. That doesn't even mention the various protests that have taken place inside and outside of Yellowstone related to buffalo (don't remember any on snowmobiling)--there have been a number of examples (1, 2, 3, 4), with another to come on January 5.

    Then, of course, you had Montana lose its class free status on brucellosis and Wyoming teeter on the edge of it, probably caused from elk. With Wyoming's testing program on elk (as well as the longstanding controversy on their feedgrounds, which might also finally bring CWD to Yellowstone) and Montana now encouraging hunters to self test, as well as the national cattlemen groups calling for elk to be looked at as aggressively as bison, you finally run the risk of elk in Yellowstone (and other ungulates as well?) being caught up in this, just as a Greater Yellowstone brucellosis management zone seems to be where we are moving. Does this represent a divide within the livestock industry that is happening the same time there is a serious divide in the environmental movement on this issue?

    Many newsworthy things happened on snowmobiling for sure, but the net result has ultimately ended up being the same. The net policy is pretty much the same on buffalo, but the direct effects are more obvious - both to the animals themselves as well as to the region at large. Perhaps, both stories should be there, but it is a large park system.

    But, the big story on buffalo in Yellowstone has to remain the very large numbers killed and the subsequent controversy that remains over numbers. To date in the current winter season, only 1 buffalo has left the park to be killed in Montana's hunt, one of the lowest numbers on record - attributable for the first part of the season to warm weather, but now as snow has come and weather has turned frigid, many wonder if it's because there just aren't nearly as many buffalo to leave the park.

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

  • Updated: Dueling Judges Push Yellowstone National Park Snowmobile Limit Back to 720 Per Day   5 years 17 weeks ago

    That judge in DC should be the one to decide, in the interest of all the people hence the word National Park; not the locals with their own agenda!!!!

  • Twenty Boats Destroyed by Fire in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Maybe Santa Arsonist came early. The boat owners with paid up insurance will probably be very happy they won't have to worry about making another loan payment. What would those boats be worth ten years from now when the lake's almost gone?

  • Alexander Hamilton's "Country Home" on the Move in New York City   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Here's a link to a Life photo collection including the Hamilton house December 1888, labled as Covenant Ave. Timbers supporting the foundation for the move are clearly seen. The surrounding area is being filled with stone. From the original drawing above, it is more likely the house in its original location being prepared for the 1889 move.
    http://images.google.com/hosted/life/l?imgurl=64653266fb192e0f&q=1880s+Wallace+Levison+source:life&usg=__EJq_tXYdUEOth4MH-mWEJoobDSA=&prev=/images%3Fq%3D1880s%2BWallace%2BLevison%2Bsource:life%26start%3D105%26ndsp%3D21%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN

  • Robin Winks on the Evolution and Meaning of the Organic Act   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Kurt, I am going to 'pull' this outstanding compilation of considerations of the National Parks Organic Act into the current thread-display, since it is so germane to present discussion on National Parks Traveler.

    I have only scanned this, and must return to snow-control work as we have a new storm approaching this afternoon, but I will explore it in detail.

    Ted

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Kurt,

    Snow? Yeah, we're bulldozing the road, and I still can't get on my trail-routes ... but it is a lot of fun. ;-)

    In arguing against the use of the Alaska National Parks as an example of customization and independence of the Parks, you use the term "local rule". That may be just a 'turn of phrase', without an intended meaning in your debate-point, but "rule" and "authority" are different things.

    Furthermore, on this same point, when I talk about "local and/or distributed authority" for the Parks, I mean that we can benefit by letting the local Park-unit exercise more authority, not that the Parks should be 'ruled' by non-Park local authorities that surround them. It is the Parks, not the locals, whom I say should have more authority. Nontheless, local interests & local authorities do also have a closer and more-direct relationship with Park-units within their jursidiction. Locals will have a degree of 'claim' & 'influence' with 'their' Parks ... who else is going to put snowmobiles into Yellowstone - Alaska or Minnesota?

    Kurt, I think we have more than ample signs that the special steps taken in forming the Alaska Parks would very much pertain to a number of our most-prominent conterminous Parks, if we were trying to establish them in the modern era. The particulars of Alaska would not all pertain to Yellowstone, which would not all pertain to Yosemite, which would not all pertain to Olympic, etc, but the real point is that various special considerations do pertain most everywhere ... the notable thing about Alaska not being that special considerations pertained, but that we did actually include the considerations in the Alaska process, unlike elsewhere.

    The way things were done long ago in forming the early Parks, not only wouldn't fly today (any more than it could fly with Alaska), but indeed, some of the issues that we 'ran roughshod over' are not gone and some will pose serious challenges in the future. That is to say, the presence of special conditions that we recognized & honored in Alaska, also were often present when we formed earlier Parks in the south-48 ... but instead of recognizing & honoring those conditions, we chose to do otherwise.

    It's not that Alaska is so different; it's that our behavior & practices in the past were so 'different'.
    ==========

    There are several complications with the National Parks Organic Act that affect its use.

    The popular phrase quoted from the Act by Park-supporters & environmentalists is:

    ... conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life 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.

    Note first that the lead word is "conserve". While it is sometimes argued that the difference between "conserve" (or Conservation(ism)) and "preserve" (or Preservation(ism)) is a complicated & murky matter that is too hard to make sense of, and/or it does not matter much, that is really not the case. And even more emphatically, it certainly was not the case in the early 20th C., when the Organic Act was written. (There was a 'culture-war' between the Conservationists and the Preservationists, it was conducted on the record, and we have the record.)

    Today, many environmentalists and Park-aficionados read the word "conserve" in the Organic Act, and interpret it to & among themselves as "preserve". Actually, the two words have conflicting meanings, and this was dramatically the case at the time the Act was written. "Conserve" means to use and even 'develop', but not waste, and see to replenishment. "Preserve" means to exclude consumptive uses, and no development. The National Parks Organic Act, in its call to "conserve", intended that resources be used, and developed. Forests, for example, are "conserved" by cutting them down, selling the logs, then seeing to their replanting & regrowth. That's Conservation ... and "conserve".

    But the fuller reality of the Organic Act gets worse from there.

    In Sec. 3 of the Act, we see:

    [The Secretary of the Interior] may also, upon terms and conditions to be fixed by him, sell or dispose of timber in those cases where in his judgment the cutting of such timber is required in order to control the attacks of insects or diseases or otherwise conserve the scenery or the natural or historic objects in any such park, monument, or reservation. [emph. added]

    This is one of the passages of the Act that preservationists avoid quoting. Notice that not only can the Parks be logged under the Organic Act, but this lawful activity is done to conserve the values of the Park. This usage makes perfectly plain that the previous use of the word 'conserve' does indeed mean to 'use and develop' the values of the Park, as distinct from "preserve" them, as I described.

    Following the above passage in the Act is another that says:

    [The Secretary of the Interior] may also provide in his discretion for the destruction of such animals and of such plant life as may be detrimental to the use of any of said parks, monuments, or reservations. He may also grant privileges, leases, and permits for the use of land for the accommodation of visitors in the various parks, monuments, or other reservations...

    And following that we see:

    That the Secretary of the Interior may, under such rules and regulations and on such terms as he may prescribe, grant the privilege to graze live stock within any national park, monument, or reservation herein referred to when in his judgment such use is not detrimental to the primary purpose for which such park, monument, or reservation was created, except that this provision shall not apply to the Yellowstone National Park.

    The use of the word "conserve" as the leading verb in the "fundamental purpose" of the Act which Kurt quotes decidedly does not mean "preserve" in the contemporary sense, and furthermore the same word "conserve" is also used later in the Act in a way that makes it bluntly obvious that the word has a meaning & usage in stark contradiction to the way many modern nature-lovers like to think it means. They are perfectly mistaken.

    Then, add on top of the true meaning of "conserve", that the Act lays out in detail the opportunities for extensive resource-exploitation within the Parks, and it becomes overwhelmingly evident that many Parks-enthusiasts and contemporary Preservations actually have the National Parks Organic Act completely upside down & backwards.

    This document does not provide the protections or guarantees you ascribe to it, Kurt. On the contrary, the National Parks Organic Act explicitly repudiates your core principles.

    Ted

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Fred, I hear you, but much to your dismay, cyclists crave single track not fireroads. In my experience, I've found fireroads to be way more dangerous than single tracks simply because it's a lot easier to go fast on a fireroad and encountering a family walking 4-5 across the road can be a problem. What I've also seen as well is that beyond a mile or two from the trailhead, there are very few users of any kind, and the shared trail issue just goes away.

    As Ted posted earlier, I also believe that giving some amount of decision making power to the local park management is way more sound than keeping that authority with DC, thousand of miles away from the parks. Opponents hate it, because up until now, they were able to maintain bikers at bay by lobbying simply the headquarters. Now, they'll have to duplicate the effort with each and every park, which, most likely, will result in some parks opening to cyclists. Once it's proven in a few parks that multiple user groups can share the backcountry trails, it will be that much harder for the rest of the national parks to hang on to an outdated management model. IMBA understands this, and so does every other bike opponents who would love to keep the national parks to themselves.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Thank you, Kurt, for your reasoned comments on the proposed mountain bike rule. I agree that there is a place for bike use in the parks, ideally on old jeep roads such as the White Rim in Canyonlands, where conflicts with hikers are minimal. Possibly also on new, dedicated trails outside of proposed wilderness areas. But my blood pressure goes up when I hear of IMBA talking about turning hiking trails into "singletrack." Their concept of shared use has a fundamental flaw--it is almost always the hikers that must give way to the bikers. In ten years or more of hiking the mountain trails in the Wasatch Range where I live, I have encountered cyclists many times. Most are courteous, but only twice has one stopped to let me and my family (including a young child) pass. Every other time, the cyclist calls out a warning, or lets it be known by their silence that we are to get off of the trail to let them by. This is in spite of clear signs at trailheads giving hikers the right of way. Our trails are mostly on steep hillsides covered with brush, and it is not always easy to make room for an onrushing cyclist. I find that I hike with an ear cocked for the sound of an approaching biker--when I'd much rather just be listening for birds.

    The other day I was hiking with my family when we observed a pickup truck pull up to a trailhead that was visible across the valley. Five young men got out, mounted their bikes, and took off down a trail on the opposite hillside. The lead cyclist hit speeds of at least twenty miles an hour. I would not have wanted to be coming up that trail on foot--especially with small children. In fact, years ago I gave up hiking on that trail, which is an important historical route, for just that reason.

    I suppose this will sound like morose whining to the members of the cycling community, but I ask only that you consider what it is we hikers are trying to experience in the mountains--a chance to relax, listen to the sounds of nature, and pass a friendly greeting to our fellow hikers as we comfortably slip past each other on the trail, each making room for the other. There are mountain bike advocates in this area who understand that, and as a result certain trails are on an odd-even system, which works fairly well. But this is an urban region where one can plan a hike to coincide with "no bikes day." That's not so easy when visiting a distant park on one's vacation.

    I do not see how this situation can be transplanted to the national parks and not cause conflicts with hikers. If that is "shared use," it is a mighty funny version of the concept.

    Fred Swanson

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 17 weeks ago

    And what are we getting for NOT having local control? How effective is managing Crater Lake from Seattle or Washington DC? How effective is managing Zion from Denver or DC? How practical are overarching federal mandates, such as banning pets in parks, when urban parks in DC must comply with the same ban? If administering these far-off places from the banks of the Potomac is so effective, why is one of the categories on this blog "Plight of the Parks"? (And please don't tell me parks faced no plight under Clinton.) How effective is managing 21st century parks with a flawed, early 20th century charter made malleable to special interests of the time?

    How is a 674-page budget (FY2009) helpful to local parks? What are local parks getting from $170,000,000 it takes to operate regional offices? What is $220,000,000 in service-wide programs netting local parks? And $150,000,000 in "external" administrative costs? Is it really necessary to local parks?

    Local lobbyists are so effective with the present system because of its oligarchical nature and lack of accountability. That can be addressed through implementing of individual park trusts, operated by an accountable board of directors, and comprised of members from the local and regional community. Try influencing a board of eleven comprised of local academicians, scientists, businesspeople, policy makers, planners, community members, nonprofit representatives, etc. With diverse local control comes insulation from national politics.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 17 weeks ago

    My goal as an NPS employee, supervisor and manager was to attempt to accomplish in every park to which I was assigned three fundamental tasks: preserve and protect resources; provide high quality visitor services; and to maintain productive relationships with park interest groups. Among those interest groups were the communitiies that surrounded the park areas. Obviouly, park staffs have special relations with these communities in ways that they don't with people living, let's say, in Milwaukee. This does not mean, however, that the people in the surrounding communities should have a greater voice in park decision-making than others living in more distant areas. Make no mistake, these are national park areas, not state, county or municipal parks. This is a system of national park areas to which each generation of Americans gets to add the areas they believe merit protection in perpetuity. We ought to apply to these areas the highest standards of ethical, transparent management as a matter of generational equity. The shoddy, last-minute rule making that we have seen in the last several months is the antithesis of those standards.

    Rick Smith

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Ted,

    Wish I had more time to delve deeply into this, but all the fresh snow of the past few days is too inviting to ignore;-)

    That said, Alaska I don't think is a good example to point to regarding the intent, need, desire, or benefits for local rule in the context of the entire park system, not in light of how the Alaska park units were put together. As I'm sure you know, there was much local opposition to creating parks in the state, and President Carter and others tried to ameliorate those concerns as much as they could. My post of December 2 touches on that organization and the need to insert local concerns into the package. In part:

    Of historical significance, President Carter wielded the most substantial use of the Antiquities Act when he proclaimed those 15 national monuments after Congress had adjourned without passing a major Alaska lands bill strongly opposed in that state. Now, Congress did pass a revised version of the bill in 1980 incorporating most of these national monuments into national parks and preserves, but before it did so it saw that the act was worded in a fashion to prevent further use of the proclamation authority in Alaska. (Similar language was seen back in 1950 when Congress placed most of the Jackson Hole National Monument into Grand Teton National Park.)

    Some believe the act's passage marked the most significant moment in Alaska's history, both because of the lands it protected and because of the 103 million acres of land it allowed the state to pluck from the federal landscape.

    And....

    But don't get the idea that ANILCA was controversy-free. After all, it placed scads of acreage off-limits to mining and logging, created access problems by designating wilderness, and generated concerns over how the legislation might impact Native American subsistence and access rights. The results regarding the latter point have been mixed. On one hand, recreational all-terrain vehicle use within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve has been controlled, if not banned, while ATV use for subsistence purposes was permitted.

    (Now, in light of that recognition of Native American rights to the landscape, if we went back in time and honored those rights in the creation of all other parks, the Yosemites and Yellowstones, etc., think what we'd have. But that's fodder for another post....)

    Further insights of that controversial creation in Alaska can be found in some of the comments to that post.

    As for using the gun issue as an example of trying to return local control to the parks, in light of the recent history of that rule change I would borrow some of your words and suggest that the Interior Department's move "appears to be a conscious & intentional nod - nay, "bow" - to that grand-daddy" of all lobbying bullies and power grabbers, the NRA.

    I think when you take the Organic Act, read Robin Winks' interpretation of that document, and toss in the 1978 Redwoods Act, you get a clear understanding of why these should be "national" parks. According to Winks even big business wanted central control over the parks:

    Both railroad and automobile interests advocated more consistent administration of the existing parks in order to protect them more effectively, and also to make certain that accommodations and campgrounds were held to a consistent standard for the public's pleasure. While the railroads wished to bring spur lines to the borders of the parks, they seldom argued for actual entry. Automobilists wished to see roads to and within the parks upgraded so that visitors could tour the parks in greater comfort. All spoke of "scenery" with respect to the principal natural parks, though with a variety of qualifiers, and all referred to the need for preservation of that scenery while also making the scenery accessible for the "enjoyment" of the public.

    The Organic Act outlines the "fundamental purpose" of the parks as being to is to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life 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." Note it doesn't say to "leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment" of the local residents. The intent was clear, that these places should be conserved for all to come, and for consistency across the 391-unit system (or is it 392 now?), I don't think you can give them over to local control.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Kurt

    I admit that 'local authority' is hardly a panacea for or protection against mismanagement. Blagojevich is not an aberration, but one of many symptoms in a long history of local-authority-gone-bad, in the Chicago & Illinois region. Louisiana has a reputation for harboring squalid corruption, shielding it behind 'local authority'.

    But local or distributed authority, one of the signatures of the United States, and a celebrated genius of its founders, also confers adaptability and resilience. It enables a system to reinvent and reinvigorate itself. Failure to move with the times and be relevant in new circumstances are hazards better avoiding by letting locals be the Captain of their own ship. The pride and the robes of responsibility lead to markedly better performance (even when it's wrong!), than do the feeble exhortations of centralization.

    Although we call them "National" Parks, and though they are authorized under the "National" Park Service Organic Act, I don't get the sense that the intent was to "Nationalize" anything. To a high degree, Nationalization is associated with inefficiency, decay and decrepitation. No, the fact that the word "National" is used for our Parks is but a 'conventional rubric', and does not imply a commitment to centralization, such as we see experimented with in Latin America or Russia ... with predicable negative results.

    I see evidence that points to recognition at high levels in America, that the localization I refer to is a good thing which they are seeking to gradually work back into the system. (Sudden large-scale radical change is unwise, and I am glad to see it happening gradually.)

    Look at Alaska. Some Parks-aficionados do not like to. It is disturbing to some, that what they see is so unfamiliar, so different. The range of 'customized' Park-affairs in Alaska points to recognition that the local contexts of Alaska "National" Parks are not appropriately addressed, by imposing a "national" directive upon them. Instead, the priceless assets secured in Alaska are handled not only as local to, but also as local in the State. The State is large enough and varies enough, that different Parks within it are 'given their head' to better-fit to the local conditions they are embedded in.

    For a second example, consider an important but 'minimized' aspect of the recent change in Park gun-rules. It is a hugely pregnant 'detail', that the new authorization to pack loaded firearms in Parks is linked directly to the firearms regulation of the local jurisdiction (State) in which each Park is embedded. That is very 'un-National', and appears to be a conscious & intentional nod - nay, "bow" - to that grand-daddy of all distributed authority: States' Rights.

    I do not expect to 'convert' those who have long embraced a view of our National Parks as being above & beyond the local scene they are embedded in. However, I do think we have already embarked upon a course to try out & adapt new ideas for fine-tuning the management of Parks in different regions, to the different local situations of each. We see it with the Civil War Parks. We see it with the East Coast beaches. We see it in Yellowstone, big-time! We see it in the Southwest, and with the archaeological locales. We see it in the contrast between Crater Lake, and Glacier, even between Rainier & Olympic, which on a good day can see each other.

    Local contexts make a big difference, and the way to make the most - and avoid the worst - of them, is to provide a meaningful element of local authority for the different units. Although there will of course be missteps with independence, the risks are a lot less scary than with the embarrassingly skimpy and startlingly flawed National Park Service Organic Act.

    Those who appeal to the Organic Act invariably 'cherry pick' a couple sentences from it which they reiterate over & over, while shunning & disowning the rest of the document, which can be described as a mixture of babble & venality. The Organic Act is very short: anyone can easily pick it up and within minutes know for themselves just how inappropriate this document is for managing any national resource. It resembles the kind of nonsense you'd expect to find on a Blagojevich tape.

    Sorry, but I honestly don't see the Organic Act as a credible instrument on which to base any rational national-scale management-plan for the Parks. Acknowledging that nobody is willing or able to fix it or throw it away and start over, then our present course - to ignore the Organic Act and move forward without much regard to it - seems the prudent & pragmatic ... option which we have evidently already adopted.

    One last point: recognizing & empowering local authority does not "remove the hierarchy". On the contrary, the assignment of local or distributed authority creates, implements & structures the hierarchy. Although the United States explicitly distributes local authority to States, Counties, Municipalities, and Citizens, the hierarchy of authority within the system is intact & orderly throughout, clear & understood by all, and perfectly secure. It would be exactly the same, within a local-authority-endowed National Park System.

    Ted

  • Twenty Boats Destroyed by Fire in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Anyone have information about affected slips, or the section that caught fire

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 17 weeks ago

    Ted, with all due respect, I disagree that the discretion over park-specific activities should be given over to the local parks.

    Perhaps I'm over-reaching on your comment, but think about the problems giving control to park units over many of their management decisions could produce. Even though an overwhelming majority of those who commented on the Yellowstone snowmobile winter-use plan thought snowmobiles should be phased out in favor of snowcoaches, snowmobiles are on the ground in the park due to local influence/interference.

    Where else might something like this happen to "national" parks? Wherever there's a well-connected political lobby that can manipulate the process.

    When you're talking about national parks, I like to think the National Park Service Organic Act is the over-arching authority that should be followed, and if you remove the hierarchy from the process, you end up with situations like snowmobiling in Yellowstone where the science clearly speaks against the numbers the lobbying arm has managed to achieve.

    That said, if the Washington office says bikes are perfectly fine in the parks, then I'd agree that local park managers should be given the discretion to say, 'Yes, we have great biking terrain that can fit with our management plan,' rather than having biking (or whatever activity) stuffed down their throats.