Recent comments

  • Interior Secretary Plans Free Weekend Entry to National Parks to Boost Tourism   5 years 23 weeks ago

    "Land of The Free"-

    Where a federal parking pass must be purchased for day use of public lands. These areas belong to us- nothing new about it. We already pay for them with federal taxes- the same way we pay for the war in Iraq.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    This post should ask the question: Are taxes fair?

    User fees are inherently fair because they are based on voluntary transactions. FrankN hit it when he showed that "[s]uggesting that entrance fees are some form of taxation is again like suggesting that lottery tickets are tax. You can choose to visit or not; you can choose to buy a ticket or not."

    FrankN is also correct when her asserts that NPS funding is based on politics.

    Now is the time, my fellow national park lovers, to cut political and bureaucratic chains that choke our national parks.

    User fees are based on voluntary transactions, and when not incorporated with taxation, fees are the most egalitarian method of supporting parks. We must break the corporatist stranglehold and stop allowing the leviathan government to grant monopolies to enormous, multi-national corporations who pocket 97% and leave the parks with a paltry pittance.

    Imagine that instead of being siphoned, much of the billions payed to government monopoly concessions (for a stay in the Ahwahnee, bottled water, or a meal) could be returned to national parks in the form of a user fee.

    It works for the Tower of London and thousands of conservation trusts in America.

    It can work for our national parks.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    We will have to agree to disagree. What we can agree on is that funding the parks is congressional will; and that's a fight to take up with our congressperson. What we can disagree on is how strong that will would be if there were no park fees coming in. You make it sound like Congress has this huge bag of money and if the fees were not there they could just open the purse string if they wanted to. Problem is, the purse nowadays belongs to China. In today's world of health care reform, wars and bailouts Congress would be even less inclined to fund the parks (even underfund them!) if they were not bringing in money in the form of fees. The parks are not accessible to only the most affluent. They offer possibly the most affordable family vacation option.
    Suggesting that entrance fees are some form of taxation is again like suggesting that lottery tickets are tax. You can choose to visit or not; you can choose to buy a ticket or not.
    In today's world $25.00 for seven days (or twice that for unlimited visits for one year) is peanuts that even relatively poor people can afford. Certainly all those folks driving around Yellowstone in their 30 foot RV's and Chevy Subdivisions and diesel pickups don't bat an eye. There are discounts for seniors, and I would be happy to see the same for low income people. But right now, today, unless we have a viable alternative to these fees (that doesn't involve corporate or foreign money), I think that doing away with them would be a mistake.
    We can also agree that we both love Yellowstone.

  • Jon Jarvis Finally Nominated to be Next Director of the National Park Service   5 years 23 weeks ago

    They have also found that individual solar panels on rooftops will be much more effective than large solar plants.

    Ranger Holly
    http://web.me.com/hollyberry

  • Let's Start a Tradition: "Thank a Ranger Day"   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I met one NPS interpretive ranger who was retired from a corporate job. He was discussing paper with a fellow ranger (something about their copier) and mentioned that he used to be in the wood products industry. Without a retirement nestegg, I don't think he would have likely become an NPS ranger.

    A lot of the seasonal rangers are schoolteachers.

    I'll throw in a word for Yosemite interpretive ranger Shelton Johnson. I've encountered him on ranger walks, asking for directions at the visitor center, and even a snowshoe walk. His work with the Buffalo Soldiers project is inspiring.

    The one thing I would note is that many park rangers spend a lot of their time with paperwork. I recall one Grand Canyon ranger warning our group that if anyone got hurt, he'd be filing a lot of reports when he'd rather be driving to Williams for his weekly pie at a favorite restaurant. Another one told me that after a guided hike, he'd be on a conference call with the regional office.

    Now there are some controversial rangers, including some with law enforcement responsibilities. Look up the name "Roger Mayo". His case was rather interesting. Eventually he was forced into reassignment as part of a legal settlement that required that he relocate.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Frank,

    Putting user fees in place is a recipe for privatization. It's a shell game.

    Congressional will is the only thing that matters for park funding in every imaginable scenario. They lack the will, and so no matter what happens given their lack of will, parks will remain underfunded. That's the net result no matter what. So, the question is, if the parks are going to be underfunded and end up in ruin, should they end up in ruin accessible only to the most affluent, or should they end up in ruin with a wider diversity of access?

    The only way the parks will be funded is by congressional will, with or without user fees. The net funding will remain the same or lower; only the percentage of allocation do to one form of revenue raising will be in place. It's like if you're in Montana; you have a set budget, do you raise the money via a regressive sales tax or via a progressive income tax? Or both? We know that Montana doesn't use sales tax as a funding mechanism. The manner of taxation is a matter of fairness. The overall budget allocations are a matter of the state legislature and a function of overall revenue. You are confusing the two ideas, and so are a lot of the posters, who labor under the myth that because 80% of their user fees stay in the park in which they paid them that they are somehow contributing to the budget allocations of the park. All they are doing is paying in a particular way.

    That fee, as anyone can agree upon, is a regressive tax. It's unfair. And, of course, it doesn't matter because allocation of funds is determined by Congress.

    If you want parks funded, you had better change the will of Congress. As for user fees, they are unfair and don't work. That you and others are so worried about losing them only shows that the emperor doesn't actually have any clothes already. If Congress believes the parks a priority, they will fund them. If they don't, it looks like they pass the buck onto an army of users - except they don't, what you give, they take out the back side, leaving you stuck footing the bill and yet receiving nothing (except what an accountant has said your money has paid for - in response to RangerLady's claims) actually in return. If people feel good about giving real money for only nominal results, so be it for all of you. It won't make the system any more fair, and it won't actually fund the parks any more. And, when the bottom comes out, we'll be left with a Yellowstone belonging to someone else ... and it will take more drastic strategies and tactics to fight that. As long as Yellowstone is held in the public trust, as it is now, we should ensure that it actually is public and open and accessible and as fair as possible until the last flicker of a Congress governing a nation too big for it to grasp in every particular can no longer afford to hold onto the national parks. I suspect Yellowstone, for those of us who love that particular park, will be the last to go, but who knows?

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

  • Jon Jarvis Finally Nominated to be Next Director of the National Park Service   5 years 23 weeks ago

    The nomination of Jon Jarvis as Director of the National Park Service is an exciting announcement and I could not be more pleased or optimistic about the future of the Service with him at the helm! I have worked with Jon off and on since his stint at Guadalupe Mountains National Park and have the greatest confidence in his abilities to seek a balance on any issue that is before him. It is good to see a person with his background and experience in Washington.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Nobody noted that Alaska national parks that came after the 1979 act establishing them have no entrance fees by design. Most have low visitation anyways, and the cost of getting to a remote area by boat/air likely would outweigh any entrance fee that could be charged.

    I do understand that no entrance fee was a condition for the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains NP. Much of this is political. The National Mall and all museums at the Smithsonian are free because of political sway. I remember when the entrance fee for Yosemite was slated to increase from $20 to $25, local businesses protested and the increase was never implemented.

    Many of the fees seem to be haphazardly applied though. I can understand the highest fees ($20-25) for Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone/Grand Teton (combined) - since they're the crown jewels. There are some places where the prices seem a bit given the lower overall visitation, such as $20-25 for Sequoia/Kings Canyon or Bryce Canyon. They're excellent places, but it seems that the highest fees are generally reserved for the highest visitation areas. On my trip last year to the Pacific NW, there seemed to be an inconsistent set of fees, with $10 at Crater Lake (where I bought my annual pass) , and $15 at Olympic and Mt Rainier. Then there are the free places, such as Redwood NP - although the California state parks have fees.

    I simply get my pass. My folks both have the senior passes, which must be the best bargain I've heard of. When one lost a pass, buying another one didn't yield a second thought since it was so cheap. As for the regular public, I'm not a huge fan of the new America the Beautiful Pass. It was $50 just for access to NPS units and and additional $15 for access to other federal units (Forest Service, BLM, etc) - either with a sticker or buying a complete $65 pass. Back in 2006-7 I was about to get my pass in Dec 2006 when I fell ill and had to delay my trip until Feb 2007; I probably could have purchased the National Parks Pass at a local NPS unit, but didn't. I did end up getting that pass for $80, but I never used it at anything other than NPS units. Even with that, the option for the sticker ($50+15) was less than the later $80 charge. Now for my last pass, I did use it for one Forest Service entrance fee, but I find those visits few and far between.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    So the logic is: Since parks are so dependant on fees, if those fees dry up there is a risk of privatization. So it follows, therefore, to avoid privatization by doing away with the fees!!??
    If my wife and I are planning to go to Europe and we intend to use interest money from a savings account or bond to pay for the trip, and then my wife loses her job, are we more or less likely to go on that trip? The trip money is still there. The job money was being used for other things. So why not? Because a loss of income is a loss of income. Is Congress more or less likely to fund parks if parks are no longer a "cash cow"? Is privatization more or less likely to occur if parks are not generating at least some of their own income? Eighty percent of an America the Beautiful pass sold at Yellowstone stays in Yellowstone. I have not seen any evidence to dispute that claim. Now, does that mean that Yellowstone recieves less funding? Probably. But does it mean that Yellowstone would get that money anyway? Probably not. Not with a Federal Government strapped with eleven trillion dollars in public debt. Of course user fees are factored into the equation of park funding; that is how the system works. I'm sure that is exactly how fees were proposed: Let's let actual users of the parks pick up a small piece of the pie, so that we can release taxpayer funds that would otherwise be going to parks for other purposes. Makes perfect sense. The point is that the parks are, at least in part, paying their own way. It doesn't matter if all the money is thrown into one big kiddy, any more than it matters in the case of my vacation. The parks are generating money. If that money stops, it has to be replaced. Congress might not be willing to do that with an eleven trillion dollar debt. Talk about privatization; China might well end up owning Yellowstone!
    Arguing whether or not Congress had the authority to charge these fees in the first place is not relevant. They exist. They are well established and they are relied upon. This makes as much sense as arguing whether or not income tax is legal.
    The fees are very reasonable. Your first night camping in a National Park is going to cost almost as much (or more) than your fee for seven days. Those who frequent parks have the option of an America the Beautiful pass for pennies a day. Life is unfair to poor people. If they buy a car they will be charged a higher interest rate. If they put money in the bank, they will be paid a lower interest rate. If they need to buy health insurance because their job does not offer it, they will be raked over the coals. Capitalism is built around scr**ing over poor people; the rich get richer....the poor get poorer, as my dad used to say. I wish we could change that. Maybe some program could be developed to allow folks under the poverty line into parks free, I don't know? My guess is, however, that what it costs to get into a National Park is the least of their problems!
    I have often heard the argument that lotteries are a tax on poor people. The problem I have with that is that it implies that poor people are all stupid, that they are too ignorant to understand odds. If it is a tax, it is a self imposed tax. I have been poor (eating ketchup in hot water for tomato soup poor) and I have been well off; I have never bought a lottery ticket in my life.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Well done, Djjeffrey100. You are forgiven.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Thank you. It's all good.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I told Bob you wouldn't take kindly to his comment....;-)

    That said, darn good memory, Djjeffrey100. To have visited two years ago and nail it right down to which launch control center was depicted is pretty impressive!

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Now wait a minute guys. In my own defense I got excited and added a space in Minuteman. Cut a guy some slack. I visited this site 2 years ago and was just a little quick with the enter button. Watch as I now take my time.

    The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

    See I can do it.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    If I'd known the answer, I would have been tempted to sign in as Strangelove or Gen. Jack D. Ripper.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Some fees do help pay for the parks. The increase in the entrance fee at Zion was to help in paying for the upkeep of the Shuttle system. True the entire $25 doesn't go to the park, but a small amount does. If it wasn't for that entrance fee, the shuttle system would have to be nixed.

    The $11 charge (while not an entrance fee) for the tours at Scotty's Castle in Death Valley goes entirely to the upkeep of the castle. Often the fee dollars (from entrance fees) goes towards the new signs and wonderful composting toilets that are seen in the parks. If you look, there will be signs that say "this project was completed using your fee dollars." While the entire amount doens't go to the parks, some does.

    Ranger Holly
    http://web.me.com/hollyberry

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I doubt that he's a missileer, Kurt. Heck, I seriously doubt that he even knows how to spell the word. :0)

  • Another Entrance-Fee-Free Weekend in the National Parks   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I seem to agree with all of these comments. Keep the fees or even go up if necessary. When I was a kid I was lucky to have been to a lot of our National Parks thanks to my dad being a Bird Colonel in the US Army that gave my family the opportunity to travel a lot. That experience and those memories were something else. Back in 1960, or close to it, my dad took us to a parade in Frankfurt Germany, where we lived, to see a parade with President Kennedy in his black limo. A secret service agent actually picked me up and carried me over to the limo and let me give my American Flag to the President, that I will never forget. Ill have to find the picture of that because no one believes me when I tell that story. Anyway, now that Im older and pay more attention to the news, all the bad things like crooked politics, companies, crime and the economy seem to make me not think about all the great stuff we have. Im from New England and get to Acadia National Park, and the Cape Code National Seashore quite a bit. When we travel out of New England we try to see a National Park at least for a day if not more. The thing is that when you go to these places your way of thinking seems to change, you thing about how great this country is and how lucky we are to have what we have. My wife thinks Im soft in the head but I become that kid again.
    So keep the fees and even increase them if necessary to keep what we have and even add to it. Happy travels.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Methinks this was an inside job, Bob. Could Djjeffrey100 have been, or currently is, a missileer?

  • 52nd Annual Bat Flight Breakfast at Carlsbad Caverns National Park on July 18, 2009   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I went to three of these when I was the superintendent of Carlsbad and Guadalupe (the two parks were managed by a single superintendent in those days. Now Guadalupe has its own superintendent.) While seeing the bats leave the cave is a regularly interpreted event during the summer, watching them dive bomb back into the cave after their nightly insect hunt is an organized event only once a year. It's a great wildlife spectacle. I hope all NPT readers will do it once.

    Rick Smith

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Jeffrey -

    The photo I found to illustrate the type of cart may have been misleading - the roads in question aren't in a city, they're out in a national park. Based on the photos I've seen of the park, this is a spectacular natural area.

    Here's an answer to your question from the NPWS:

    NPWS and the jarveys attended a mechanical road sweeper trial in Killarney in April 2008. Although the road sweeper proved somewhat effective in collecting horse dung, there were considerable factors militating against its use in Killarney National Park – noise, durability on the paths, cost and the intermittent use of the road sweeper leading to horse dung remaining on the paths for long periods of time.

    Since about 9 miles of road are involved, I'd think the cost of sweeping multiple times per day would be prohibitive, not to mention the unwelcome noise from a mechanical sweeper on otherwise quiet sections of the park.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Pretty darn good, Djjefffrey100. We'll have to dock you a couple of points for careless spelling, though. It's Minuteman Missile National Historic site.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Minute man missile National Historic site. Launch control center Delta-01

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I am 74 yrs old and been going to the National Parks camping for 40 years or more. I have no problem with the fees, my income is limited, just barely over 1,000/mo. But, I am glad to help out the parks. there is nothing better. they are a marvelous gift to us. Thank you.

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    If the tax payers are footing the bill why then wouldn't it be fair to pay a city worker to make 2-3 trips a day with a street sweeper. I am not all that familiar with street sweepers but assumed it would work or be modified to work.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Frank,

    You are missing the equation.

    Either there is an increase in user fees or there is a decrease in user fees, in both cases Congress is likely to cut funding. Therefore, user fee revenue has nothing to do with the total amount of funding received. That is, neither reality is the cause for the ultimate result - they both end up with the same result. That is, it's not relevant. Congress is simply going to figure out how much the parks are worth; if they are making more via user fees, they may well use it as an excuse to provide less funding. If they don't provide the shortfall from user fees, Congress is still likely to provide less because the national parks aren't a priority. The user fee is simply a substitute for whatever they've decided to fund.

    I'm originally from Ohio. One way they bamboozled the state to accept the state lottery was to claim that the lottery paid for education in the public schools. That was nonsense. Statistically, it paid for 8 days, but it actually paid for less. The state legislature simply removed funds that would have gone to education and replaced it with lottery money. So, it was a lie to say that user fees even constituted eight school days worth of funding; it actually provided nothing because money was taken out the back end. The lottery didn't pay for education; it did, however, tax the poor.

    The same goes for user fees in the parks. When people think user fees pay for the 15% or whatever it is for funding of the parks, it's not true. It's not really the case; money is subtracted from the back end, and the budget is made up for by substituting in user fees. That's why I say that user fees are relevant to the process of funding, not to the bottom line. The amount has one determinant - Congress. However, the mechanism is unfair, and legitimizing the user fee mechanism only makes the funding source that much more unstable and that much more tenuous. All of that is inconsistent with parks supposedly there for the public good.

    Your quote about the amount of money that stays in the park, etc. only allows Congress to provide that much less funding to the park. They simply figure the user fees into the equation of the funding mechanism. However, it doesn't mean Yellowstone is funded that much more if it has that many more visitors. It just means that the money that is allocated to Yellowstone is accounted for in a larger percentage by user fees (and none at all in some of the parks). The only way that user fees could serve as an actual funding source is if Congress disregards them entirely in their appropriations; then a park with more in user fees will receive necessarily more in funds. It would still be unfair, but then user fees would actually contribute to the total. Even then, however, it is a decision of Congress in its appropriations and not the collection of user fees that is the real politik here.

    Making the mechanism dependent on fees is simply a step toward making the parks disappear. Because they are not funded as public resources and have become so dependent on user fees, when revenue does shrivel up, the parks will seek outside sources for funding. The foundations will make more and more corporate deals. That was happening even when today's economy seemed better. User fees ultimately are a step toward outright corporate privatization; that's been the case in just about every situation I can think of around the world where they are applied. You see it especially in World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs and how those fees have destroyed the fabric of society. They show that Congress's priority is not with the parks they felt they had the right to set up. And, that's the rub here. Congress does not value the parks, and that's why the user fee mechanism gives the fascade of funding the parks when in fact it divests public investment in the parks through the regressive tax of user fees.

    That being the case and the case being that user fees are otherwise unfair, it's far better to be rid of them. If the parks are going to hell in a hand basket because Congress doesn't care about them, it's better that at the very least it not exacerbate the problem. And, ultimately, I don't care whether Congress divests itself of parks (they never had the right to create them in the first place), but I do care how the current order deconstructs. If we are to have a better world (I have no interest in ideals or ideal worlds - utopia is for fools), then we should commit ourselves to justice. Because when everything eventually does fall apart, then we will be in a better place to take care of the places we love. It would be far better that they fell apart with Yellowstone still accessible to the widest diversity of society than it to decay into the rotten hands of corporations and the very rich.

    But, short of that bleak vision, at the very least, we can stop pretending that user fees pay for the parks. We can stop the unfair practice and open the gates to as many people who are willing to explore the wonders of the parks as possible. We can't continue to exacerbate the problems of economic class and ultimately care for parks at the same time. That had better be reality or else it's all just a cynical and ugly hell, and all our words and solutions are for nothing. While I'm not an idealist, I certainly don't think our words and our love for these places are for nothing and that we can in reality do much better.

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