Recent comments

  • Wind Cave Bison Translocation Restocks Mexican Preserve   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Tomp, you should direct this question to TNC-Mexico or somebody else with a better handle on this subject matter. My understanding is that ranch fencing has significantly disrupted traditional patterns of movement. The transborder herd referenced in the article lives north of the Janos grasslands and migrates seasonally into Hidalgo County, New Mexico. This is actually a bit of a problem, since the wild bison is a protected animal in Mexico (where it is considered endangered), but it is not protected in the U.S. (where it is seen as a grazer competing with livestock).

  • Report Details Errors That Led to The Death of A Young National Park Firefighter   5 years 28 weeks ago

    The fire service is unfortunately plagued by several factors that will continue to result in looking at the obvious preventable events during post incident reviews. First and foremost is the current lack of hubris amongst most managers, they have glided to top positions based upon networking and lack the common gut check of a lowly military sergeant with years of experience and a desire to complete the current mission and future missions without fanfare and hyperbole. Secondly, and this is both good and bad, every fire fighter worth his salt would like to be in the middle of the biggest event, we are all chomping at the bit to be on running the line (structural fire fighting) or on the line (wildland fire fighting) thus many of the youngest fire fighter get tunnel vision and lack situational awareness. Unfortunately the lack of experience combined with the lack of experience but a great deal of networking have begun to work in concert to affect operations nation wide.

    As a former Battalion fire chief I tried to add one paramedic to each crew dispatched to an incident, the obvious reason was they have the skill, and the vocabulary to assess a medical emergency, apply the appropriate field treatment, and request help in a manner that identifies the problem and resources needed to successfully manage the outcome. Unfortunately my deployment of personnel was completely denied by a Division Chief whose experience was limited to budgets, and networking meetings with pre-hospital clinicians. The short sighted excuse was cost; however all cost associated with deployment of resources is bourn by the park service, additionally failure to assess potential problems and apply now traditional methods to manage them will continue to cripple effective efforts of fire fighters who are faced with real problems in real situations and seek solutions from networking managers.

    In essence the problem is obviously the outcome; but more specifically the inability to assess factors that are preventable, and the lack of EXPERIENCED knowledgeable stewards of young apprentice fire fighters instead operational management has defaulted to the leader with a great business card collection and limited practical experience. Many of the current fire service managers lead autocratically and will judge situations utilizing questionable or unreliable information either through ignorance or inability to form tactical decisions that are well heeled through years of experience; instead the world of the fire fighter has become increasingly the prevue of the electronic book chief with little to any practical fire experience.

    The solution is greater use of difficult tactical scenarios in promotional exams, greater reliance on real world training, and greater reliance on professional apprenticeships to ensure acquisition of fundamental skills.

  • Reader Participation Survey: What Was Your Most Fascinating National Park Interpretive Program?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Has anyone encountered Stewart Fritts at the Grand Canyon?

    I still remember a talk he gave to our group more than 22 years ago. It was a brilliant presentation with rapid transitions of scenic mood slides shown while reciting a long thread of pertinent quotes from the works of Shakespear interspersed with interesting fables, outright lies, and tall tales, entitled "William Shakespear comes to the Grand Canyon." The talk was a sensation. I remember it well to this very day, including the mule-like body language mimicked by Mr. Fritts when describing the uncanny preference of Grand Canyon mules to walk on the outer edge of the switchbacks of the South Kaibab Trail. Mr. Fritts dedicated his talk to improving literacy in the USA.

    Then, on New Years Day 2008, I had a chance encounter with Mr. Fritts in front of the Bright Angle Lodge on the South Rim. He was leading a hike on the rim discussing the legend and legacy of the pioneering female architect, Mary Jane Colter. The attendance of his guided walk increased as he walked from structure to structure describing Ms. Colter's influence and attention to architectual detail, including the Bright Angel stone fire place made with rock from each geological formation of the Grand Canyon, and the Bright Angel guest cabins that were intentionally designed as architectual hybrids of wood and stone rustics and New Mexico pueblo. I recall that he mentioned that Mary Colter never married. Supposedly she had extremely very high standards in all aspects of work and life, but no man was interesting nor intelligent enough to be suitable as her soul mate. Stewart Fritts concluded his walk by telling everyone his dream and his wish: To be reincarnated to a former time so that he could ask Ms. Colter out on a date!

    Other special interpretive events that come to mind worth mentioning here are:

    (a) A campfire program at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite under the stars with just fire, smoke, song, and stories for entertainment and enlightenment conducted by the duo leadership of legendary NPS park ranger-naturalists Dr. Carl W. Sharsmith and Will Neely.

    (b) A 7-day loop hike through the High Sierra Camps with Dr. Sharsmith in the lead.

    (c) A geology talk presented by a 25-year veteran interpreter at Bryce Canyon who gave an outdoor presentation early last month about the formation of hoodoos. She used multiple displays with rock samples, maps, graphs, and sugar cubes to demonstrate how the complex ingredients of rock chemistry, faults, uplift, jointing, freezing and thawing have made Bryce unique among all other landscapes in the desert southwest and why it is that Powell Point, although made of the same rock formation, does not have the same density and abundance of hoodoos that exist at Bryce Canyon. She distinguished the hoodoos by age, concluding that the rim of the canyon that we were standing on contained hoodoo fetuses yet to be born!

    (d) Listening to the curator of Hubbell Trading Post, Ed Chamberlain, give a special one-time evening campfire presentation to campers at Canyon De Chelly National Monument in 2006. His presentation was on his experience as a park service anglo-American living among the Navajo. During this talk he told many stories, including one joke in the Navajo language. I distinctly remember that as he approached the end of his joke, the Navajo in the audience broke out in laughter, but the rest of us remained silent until he stopped to interpret what he had just said in English.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Man Pays $2,500 For Mussels at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, But They Weren't The Main Course   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Happened to me a few years ago. Was told by the gate ranger that I had to have one done because I was a day or two shy of their mandatory dry period. My boat was as dry as could be, inside and out. Told me where, when and how much. I never had it done. I believe it was $45.00 and that I had to wait until 8 or 9 am. I was in a bass tourney and that just wasnt going to work. And I have a hard time believing there are not any of them little critters there now. How do they inspect water fowl?

  • Building with Notorious History in Death Valley National Park Burns in Mysterious Fire   5 years 28 weeks ago

    "Good riddance to Barker Ranch. Now they should salt the earth. It will forever be tainted with pure evil."
    Wow... are we going to scour the area for witches to burn too?

    This kind of superstitious thinking is the very type of thinking that makes me enjoy getting away to the desert in the first place. I really need to escape the small minded city slickers who forgot what it means to be a free American. I want to see the Barker Ranch because Manson was there. I want to get a creepy skin crawl feeling when I see it. This is real history. It is a memorial to the wickedness and evil that people can do.

    This comment was edited. -- Ed.

  • Wind Cave Bison Translocation Restocks Mexican Preserve   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Does anyone happen to know if the bison in the Chihuahuan grasslands were seasonally migratory or relative stationary residents (perhaps with local migrations across elevations)?

  • Reader Participation Survey: What Was Your Most Fascinating National Park Interpretive Program?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I don't know about fascinating, but I do have some memories that particularly stick out.

    I remember an "experienced" ranger leading a cave tour at Timpanagos Cave National Monument. He said something about how he'd been monitoring the growth of a piece of limestone since the 1940s, so I asked him how long he'd been working there. The said that he'd been a seasonal ranger there for every year since 1944 or 1945, and I took the tour in 2006.

    Once I went on a walk on the subject of trees in Yosemite. The ranger was talking about mutations, and pointing to his red hair he noted that red hair was a mutation.

    Of course talking about bears is always fascinating, especially when it's Shelton Johnson with a bear skill and complete bear skin:

    And those Yosemite snowshoe walks are quite fun too:

  • Missing Hiker Found Deceased on Flanks of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Several articles on Mr Brunette describe him as experienced. I'd think he had a permit and traveled from Washington. He was supposedly overdue, which indicates that he left his plans with someone else. The most likely thing was that he slipped and fell. That can happen even with people who are extremely well prepared if there's any kind of exposure - especially if winds started kicking up.

    Search Crew Finds Body of Missing Hansville Climber

    Investigators are looking in to what happened to Brunette.

    He began a solo attempt at the 14,505-foot summit, the tallest in the Lower 48, on Oct. 25. He was reported overdue the following day.

    The search was hampered by high winds that prevented searchers from using helicopters to search the remote terrain.

    Brunette was described as an experienced mountaineer.

  • Reader Participation Survey: What Was Your Most Fascinating National Park Interpretive Program?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    One of my most interesting programs wasn't given by an NPS employee, instead it was one of the photographers from the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley. She had a great way of not only explaining how to take a great photo but also interpreting the Adams' photo we were trying to duplicate. She really brought the topic to life.

  • Missing Hiker Found Deceased on Flanks of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Rap, a 73-year-old does not idly go out for a day hike up Mount Whitney....

  • Missing Hiker Found Deceased on Flanks of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I agree with your comment re a lot of unnecessary anger and bitterness, but I don't read in this article anything to indicate "he obviously wasn't a rookie".
    Neither is there anything here to state whether "this man was warned of the danger he faced" or if "he had sought the expertise of the men and women who searched for him if he had asked for their help before going it alone", as Anonymous put it.
    I certainly agree that the folks from SAR deserve a salute for all they do.
    Nevertheless, when it's time for me to go, I hope it's doing that "full-body slide" and holding my last dollar high in my hand!


  • Report Details Errors That Led to The Death of A Young National Park Firefighter   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Firefighting crews get hazardous pay for an entire workday provided they make it to the fireline by midnight. Follow the money. It often results in "...Excessive motivation for (the crew) to obtain a line assignment..."

  • Report Details Errors That Led to The Death of A Young National Park Firefighter   5 years 28 weeks ago

    12 days of training ??? That's it ?? I was a volunteer firefighter in Kentucky and we had to have 150 hours of classroom and hands-on training just to even ride the truck out on runs plus oral, written and practical tests... Plus an over-eager/undertrained crew is a recipe for disaster, guess they didn't bother with Incident Command System either. I hope this agency will consider more training for new employees and come up with some sort of pre-incident plan for rescue or what some departments call "Rapid Intervention" to get people out of trouble on scene. For their screw-ups they probably promoted the supervisors to GS-15...

  • Reader Participation Survey: What Was Your Most Fascinating National Park Interpretive Program?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    While visiting Mintue Man in Mass. we went on a tour of the Wayside House. The Ranger (Ed Wilder, I believe) was so passionate about his talk. He made the place come alive. He knew his stuff and shared it with great intensity. If you had not read Alcott and Hawthorne before the tour, you would certainly be reading these authors after the tour. Ed did an absolutely fantastic job.

    We also attended a Ranger talk on hiking in the Grand Canyon. The Ranger brought different tents, different water bottles, etc etc all to explain the options of hiking in the canyon. He was extremely informative and interesting to listen to.

  • Reader Participation Survey: What Was Your Most Fascinating National Park Interpretive Program?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Rick, I'm sure he had a fiddle, not a violin;-)

    Seriously, that does sound like a great program. I fiddle around a bit, but no way I'd take it out in public. Folks would stone me.

  • Reader Participation Survey: What Was Your Most Fascinating National Park Interpretive Program?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Two summers ago when I was volunteering at the Ranger Museum in Yellowstone, I attended an evening program at the small camground at Norris Junction. The topic for the evening had to do with the history of Yellowstone NP. The seasoal interpretive ranger giving the talk was also a concert violinst and brought his instrument to the campfire circle. At various times throughout his talk, he would say something like this: "During the time the US Army patrolled Yellowstone before the creation of the National Park Service, they always had a fiddler. If you had been a soldier, this is what you might have heard." He then played a fiddle tune on his violin. He did this several times throughout the program, playing music that his audience might have heard when the concession employees put on evening entertainment for visitors or music they might have heard after WWII when parks tried to lure visitors back.

    I estimate that I attended 200 or so evening campfire programs during my career with the NPS--even gave some myself. I thought I had seen everything, but this experience proved I hadn't. I had seen guitars at evening programs but never a violin. The audience loved it!! It was a program to remember.

    Rick Smith

  • Reader Participation Survey: What Was Your Most Fascinating National Park Interpretive Program?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    We visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield in 2006 and greatly enjoyed a battle talk given by one the seasonal rangers who also teaches at a college in Texas. Very informative and entertaining. My husband and I still talk about it and would like to hear it again.

    We visited Glacier on the same trip and took a hike with a ranger (I think his name was Denver) who introduced us to thimbleberries. My kids loved them and I think they will always remember that hike.

  • Reader Participation Survey: What Was Your Most Fascinating National Park Interpretive Program?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    A long time ago, we did a ranger led snowshoe hike in Yosemite. I don't remember anything the ranger said or exactly where we went. I just remember how magical it felt to be able to be out there. No one else was out and about; it was just 4 of us including the ranger. It was the highlight of the trip. That, and stepping outside the cabin in the morning to see chunks of ice flowing in the creek/river just below one of the falls.

  • Here's Your Window Into the Second Century Commission On National Parks   5 years 29 weeks ago

    The second century of the National Park System almost certainly be far more challenging than the last. Both as a nation and a planet we will confront the full brunt of climate change, energy resources limits, an economy that must transition from one of exponential growth to one of sustainability and the likelihood of less per capita disposal income. The management of the national parks will have to make major adjustments to adapt to the realities and demands of a much different world.

  • Great Smoky’s Highway 441 to be Closed Temporarily for 75th Anniversary Rededication Ceremony   5 years 29 weeks ago

    For updated road and weather information, call the park at this number: (865) 436-1200. Once you hear a voice, dial extension 631 for road information or extension 630 for a weather forecast. You may wish to write this number down when traveling to the area for handy reference for road and weather updates.

  • Great Smoky’s Highway 441 to be Closed Temporarily for 75th Anniversary Rededication Ceremony   5 years 29 weeks ago

    What is the best way to find out 441 road conditions--traffic, closings for weather, etc--throughout the period that I40 is closed?

  • Missing Hiker Found Deceased on Flanks of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Never quit moving - and never stop having adventures. I had a dear friend who died while windsurfing in big waves on Maui. He was 72. He knew he was taking chances, but he was doing something he loved. Indications are that he probably had a stroke and drowned in the turbulent water. Another windsurfer happened to see his body and tried to pull him onto his board and revive him. Lifeguards were notified and went out to retrieve him from the surf. Had he stayed on shore and simply watched others sail he probably would be alive today. Those who tried to help would not have put themselves in harms way. Was he wrong to go into challenging conditions? I guess that depends on your point of view. His wife misses him terribly, but she said that he went the way he would have picked if given the choice. The people who knew him agreed. He is missed but not mourned.

  • Missing Hiker Found Deceased on Flanks of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    replying to you ANONYMOUS:: Let us not be so judgemental, do you have any facts or realize he was a husband, brother, father, grandfather, uncle etc. He has had many triumphs throughout his life, not only be being a Dr. saving lives, but by experiencing life to its fullest. How do you know Wade was warned of dangers?? Everyone is grateful to the people and animals whom searched for him. Why did you keep yourself anonymous?

  • Missing Hiker Found Deceased on Flanks of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Well said Kurt.

    As a long-standing member of another California SAR team, we always have the option of whether or not we respond to a SAR op, but we're never forced. I make that conscious choice every time the pager goes off...and take into consideration many factors...just like many other SAR members from other groups. If a SAR field member is "risking his own life" for someone else, that's his/her choice. Some of us hear a higher calling...and that's just what we do.

    I too salute Mr. Brunette, and all of the others who have reached older adult-hood and continue to hike, climb, mountain bike, etc. and not just roll over.

  • Dr. Gary Machlis Has Ambitious Plans As Science Advisor to National Park Service Director Jarvis   5 years 29 weeks ago

    I think there probably needs to be a little bit of understanding why the NPS committed to some of these studies when they were already having difficulties with funding and probably couldn't commit to the most rigorous studies to address everything.

    My understanding is that the previous PRNS Superintendent was likely to have extended the Reservation of Use, but that changed under current Superintendent Don Neubacher. In many ways he's been spearheading the rush to remove anything that was "non native" including the non native deer as well as plants that were human placed.

    I've heard that Neubacher and Kevin Lunny used to have a pretty good relationship at one time before Lunny bought out the old Johnson's Oyster Farm. They had to get along since Lunny's family owned one of the historic Letter Ranches for 4 generations and are current leaseholders of ranchland. I believe Neubacher was probably pretty happy that the Lunnys took over the oyster farm since the Johnsons apparently had some serious problems with the conditions and maintenance backlog. Neubacher probably made it clear that he wasn't planning on renewing the ROU. Supposedly Neubacher even said that it would be no problem for the Lunnys to secure some required permits that the Johnsons had been operating without.

    The gloves seemed to have come off after the Lunnys had looked into the terms of the RUO, contacted their attorneys, and came to the conclusion that the RUO could be extended. Then the Lunnys sought out the help of local politicians (Feinstein as well as the Marin Board of Supervisors).

    It's been a wild ride since. I heard that Neubacher then noted that he wasn't about to sign off on the required permits unless the Lunnys agreed in writing that they wouldn't seek to renew the RUO. Apparently he didn't sign off on them until Sen Feinstein intervened. There were indications that Neubacher might have offered up the Lunnys a chance to relocate the operation in Tomales Bay, although that's not ideal since they had a good location already. I don't think that PRNS was likely to have commissioned the study that eventually painted the oyster farm in a bad light had they simply agreed to pack up and leave in 2012. One of the more serious allegations was that PRNS was looking into using their studies to force out the oyster farm before the ROU expired.

    In the end I think all this may be moot. The express authorization for the Secretary of the Interior to extend the Reseervation of Use is in a rider in the appropriations bill that just passed and it was signed into law last weekend. It may not be a slam dunk that the Secretary signs off on it, but it effectively changes the dynamic. Previously the Interior Dept had an internal legal opinion that they couldn't extend the ROU under the terms of the Wilderness Act. The ride gives the Secretary expressed authorization to do so and should theoretically override any other opinion. It also noted that the NAS report was to be considered.