Recent comments

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I've written about this before - it is not just the entrance fees themselves, it is the inequity of the system. Parks that cannot collect fees by law, or do not because of impracticality, are left in the dust to fight for meager drippings of maintenance money. Parks charging fees have access to the funds they collect and in some cases are building more than they need. The have and have-not park system is not a "system" at all. It is an "every superintendent for themselves" program that undermines the very concept of a National Park System. Does every Target store keep its profits or does it share them with the whole company?

  • Senator From North Dakota Trying to Legislate Elk Management in Theodore Roosevelt National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    First of all I live in ND, our elk licensing in ND is limited numbers, therefore one in about 200 people get a license, and is a once in a lifetime license, meaning you get one in your life, would it not make sense to have hunters get a chance at managing the elk rather than having a sharp shooter come in flying in a helicopter shooting every elk in site, every body wins this way, the hunters get a chance of a lifetime and the park gets there herds reduced. The park service says we will shoot the wrong animal, horses, how do you mistake a horse for an elk, they have no clue, it is some uneducated punk with nothing better to do with his time and made a statement or statements with nothing to back it up with. You guys read an article and think you are experts, news flash get off your high horse and come to down to the real world.

  • Should Anything Be Done With Angel's Landing?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I hiked angels landing twice as a child and then again this last March, 2009 at 33. As I opted out of the last chained and riskier portion at the end of the peak this last time around I felt empowered because as a child I remember it being such a scary experience. Seeing it now, I am resentful that adults hadn't been more responsible for me as a child who didn't have the ability to really judge risk like that reasonably. As I watched a child that looked to be about 7 years old descend the chains crying this last March I was angered that parents were taking these kind of risks with their children's lives. The risk for this trail is documented and yet people are allowed to take risks with their children's lives here everyday. I wish there were a large warning sign posted at the top section at the base of the chains declaring the risk and suggesting that young children shouldn't attempt the climb. Children should be given appropriate warnings so that they can opt out as they wish. Children who decide to proceed after receiving the risk information should only do so with a responsible adult who has carefully assessed conditions and uses rope safeties and careful instruction. Ounce of prevention. Worth a life.

  • Melding the Past with the Present   5 years 23 weeks ago

    The head of the maintanance division at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore came into our class last semester, Protected Area Management, and showed us some of the shingles that buildings now have at PIRO, or at least those buildings that have been recently re-roofed. I'm not sure if it is less effective than a little league bleacher-sized installment like the one pictured, or more expensive, or what. I like the idea of fancy shingles more than adding large things like above. Though I'm conservative, I fully appreciate the paradigm shifts that are currently taking over the way we think about the energy we use and waste, and am excited to see my future employer (is that too bold of me?) leading the way into the future.

  • Fatal Fall from Angels Landing in Zion National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I was there when it happened with about 8 others from my trek america group. the rock is really slick and sandy but still an easy trail. i lost footing once or twice myself and i can see how it would have happened. the worst thing was the family had to come back down. we were back from angels landing 10 minutes when other trek america members came running down saying what happened while a few others stayed behind.
    condolences to the family. we had taken the free shuttle with them that morning. It's an terrible tragedy. there should be wardens on that trail. i was suprised at the single sign at the top stating that falls result in death and not much else.

  • Melding the Past with the Present   5 years 23 weeks ago

    This could well be a picture of the future, and I do not mean just the solar panels. The study, compact and simply designed house reflects an era when most homes were designed to be practical family shelters rather than displays of conspicuous consumption. That building could comfortably accommodate a family of five or six. I speak from experience.

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    People who truly love the parks, vacation in the parks. I know that Laura Bush did the Yosemite High Sierra Camp loop trip with her girlfriends. John McCain hiked down the Bright Angel Trail and up the Kaibab (?) trail to the North Rim. They did not take a phalanx of photographers with them. The trips weren't political. What's that expression. You are what you are when no one is looking.

  • Motorized Tours OK-ed for Cumberland Island National Seashore   5 years 23 weeks ago

    The last time Cumberland Island NS reported annual visitation that low (40,000) was four years ago. According to NPS official stats, recreation visits to the island increased to 44,025 in 2006, jumped to 72,449 in 2007, and hit 82,812 in 2008.

  • Motorized Tours OK-ed for Cumberland Island National Seashore   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Visitation for the island is just over 40,000 per year, not 80,000 as you quoted. It is limited to 300 people per day, though it is only in the spring and a few holidays that the ferry even comes close to that number.

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Geesh, people, give Kurt a break here. This is a fine piece. He is aptly critical of the Obama administration's expensive photo op to meet with parasitic lobbyists.

    I thought it was non-partisan?

    Gary, have you just started reading NPT? Of course NPT is partisan, as are most journalistic publications. And that's ok. Everyone has a bias. While I don't agree with NPT's Democratic bias, I stand by the editor's right to express it, and in this piece, he's not toeing the party line.

  • Heat Claims the Life of Boy Stranded for Five Days in Isolated Area of Death Valley National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I'm still very confused by this story. They were heading to Scotty's Castle, which is in the north east area of the park, but instead ended up in the south west corner....a difference of 3-4 hours! I hope that more information comes through because this just baffles me how anyone could have ended up that lost. The area they were in isn't even on the way from Las Vegas to Scotty's Castle. It's pretty much a straight shot up the highway to the Castle. I'm just very, very confused...

    Ranger Holly

  • Managing Elk at Theodore Roosevelt National Park – The NPS has Released Its Plan   5 years 23 weeks ago

    We have already messed with nature and are trying to restore some balance. Although my frst choice would be to introduce predators such as wolves, I realize that they, themselves, would probably be annihilated again by man. I do not hunt and hate the thought of Bambi being shot, but it seems a far less cruel fate than starving to death. The long, painful process of starvation is what faces the overpopulated elk herd. I have seen this problem where I live in northern Michigan. I applaud the National Park Service and Senator Dorgan for the solution they have come up with to this sad problem.

  • Picking a Lot of Apples This Day Helps Keep the Bears Away in Yosemite National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    GlenW -

    A good question, and I don't yet have a definitive answer. I'll see what I can find out; perhaps one of our readers already knows.

    My best guess, based on the life span of apple trees in general, is that the current trees were not among those planted when the orchards were first established. In that context, the orchards in Yosemite Valley are historic, but not the individual trees.

    Although there are exceptions reported around the world, it would be unusual for apple trees well over 100 years old to still be bearing fruit

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Nice pictures, Kurt.

    I do wish fewer people were as cynical as some of those who left these posts. Even you, Kurt, have a hip tone of cynicism about how genuine the President's trip is.

    Perhaps there is someone out there who understands that for ANY President of the United States, every thing is about symbolism. He did not need to come to a National Park, and surely there was little in his campaign that dealt with the core issues critical to the life support needed by our national parklands.

    I am heartened because I understood from an earlier newspaper account of a meeting in June with 6 historians how impressed the President was with what Douglas Brinkley said about Theodore Roosevelt's conservation record. I think the President is now thinking about parks in ways he was not before. As a result, I think Sec. Salazar is now finally interested in parks as something special; up to recently, it appeared the Secretary thought he would extend the 2016 NPS Centennial to celebrate ALL Salazar's Department of Interior Agencies.

    Also, by bringing the Pew Charitable Trust with him the President is also sending an important message, at least to anyone savvy enough to know how influential and effective Pew is, both with other Foundations and with political agenda setting.

    It should also impress people that the President is taking on Mining Law reform. If there was one politically thankless task, reforming the mining law is it, when you think of how many times over the last 40 years some of America's most respected Members of Congress have tried and failed.

    On George Bush II, when motivated by First Lady Laura Bush, some good things were done for the parks, and some positive attention happened. Mr. Bush generally did not oppose a congressional initiative to support parks, but he usually allowed his henchmen in his Adminstration to do whatever was in their radical agenda. Laura Bush seemed to be smarter than the President about parks, except for her selection of Mary Bomar as Director. But even then, you can see how Mrs. Bush was trying to help by getting Fran Mainella out of there, when the President tended to leave incompetent appointees in place. But Mr. Bush, like Mr. Obama and all Presidents, always and only act symbolically, and it is astonishing so few of these comments seem to have a clue about how things MUST work with all Chief Executives of major countries, especially the USA.

    Me, I thank God Mr. Obama choose to give this spotlight to the National Parks, and took the opportunity while he was at it to appear in some pretty conservative parts of America to discuss other issues on the agenda.

    Americans were not always as rude and small minded as these comments indicate some Americans may be today.

    If America can heal itself, it won't be through all the venom and cynicism.

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    There is more to this visit than meets the eye. A note about an off the record dinner with the President from the Washington Post:

    Another Presidential Walk in the Park

    Douglas Brinkley (David G. Spielman)

    The Obama family heads to Yellowstone National Park on Saturday -- thanks, in part, to Douglas Brinkley.

    The author was among nine historians -- including Garry Wills, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss -- invited to a private White House dinner with the president June 30. Each talked about the legacy of a past president; Brinkley discussed Theodore Roosevelt and his role in preserving America's natural resources -- the subject of Brinkley's new book, "The Wilderness Warrior."

    The off-the-record dinner, reported Thursday by Vanity Fair, must have made an impression on the president. A few days later, Brinkley got a call from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar inviting him to drop by. The men spent two hours talking about conservation history, wildlife protection and where Obama should visit if he went to a national park.

    "He was keenly interested in everything Roosevelt did," Brinkley told us. Salazar was especially intrigued by the 26th president's expansion of the national park system: In 1903, Roosevelt famously made a trip to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Yosemite that resulted in sweeping protection of the land from commercial interests. Brinkley recommended Obama create a caribou reserve in Alaska, something like the one
    Roosevelt mandated in Oklahoma to save bison.

    Brinkley walked away impressed: "I think Salazar is going to be one of the great secretaries of the interior, in the tradition of Harold Ickes and Stewart Udall."

    Brinkley didn't discuss specific details of Obama's trip, but hoped the president would visit Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "Yellowstone and Grand Canyon are national parks, but ANWR is not protected." He also lobbied for park status for Maine's North Woods, "where T.R. first fell in love with the raw wilderness of America."

    But Brinkley said he's thrilled the first family is setting an example. "It sends the right message, that we need to treasure America's heirlooms. Yellowstone is our Louvre, the Grand Canyon our Westminster Abbey.

  • Nature Can At Times Be An Equalizer For Predator and Prey, As Evidenced By An Incident in Glacier National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago


  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Obama spent less than three hours in Yellowstone. He and his family spent it at the Black Sand Geyser Basin, watching an eruption of Old Faithful (Obama said it was "cool"), eating at the Snow Lodge, and getting ice cream at one of the general stores. He was accompanied by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, as well as Yellowstone superintendent Suzanne Lewis.

    On my newspaper site, there is a blog from a chef who works at the Old Faithful Inn, a blog from an employee of Xanterra who works on environmental sustainability issues (talking about the menu - including of all things, Montana beef, which is a travesty if you know anything about their role in bison mismanagement), and some accounts from people on the road (either stuck in traffic because roads were closed) or who happened to see the motorcade go by.

    I generally agree with Kurt; this cost a lot of money for almost no time or introduction to the park or its issues. For something that was supposed to be a photo op, there are a lot of pictures floating around (Obama did in fact allow a small pool of reporters access). Given that policy is more or less the same as it was at the end of the Bush Administration (there was an attempt to cut snowmobile numbers by the park even at the end of the Bush Administration; bison policy hasn't changed - there's just more money for road and sewage projects, but not real policy shifts), given that Yellowstone in particular is impossible to appreciate at all in under 3 hours, I'm not sure the trip was worth it. The spotlight on the press on parks issues as a result of the trip hasn't been terribly informative, generally couching stories in terms of economics and the parks (visitation being a common story; a couple others scattered - it did draw an editorial from The New York Times, which is a fierce critic of Superintendent Lewis - calling for her dismissal in the past - and Yellowstone policy).

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

  • Picking a Lot of Apples This Day Helps Keep the Bears Away in Yosemite National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Are these the original fruit trees? Apple trees 150 years old? Is that right? Did I miss something?

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Well Kathy, will see how the national parks fair in four years under President Obama's administrations. Lot of economic patch-up work to do after the Bush & Cheney administration debacle. Wouldn't you agree!? However, I believe that President Obama's heart is in the right place with the national parks...much, much more so then Bush or Cheney. See all the national parks well Mr. President!

  • Are Our National Parks No Longer for the People?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I agree with Dennis Gray's characterization of the NPS as a very "top-down" organization, but think it's too simplistic to attribute the visitation decline of the past two decades to environmental groups or the much needed increased emphasis on resource management. Congress has become the most powerful "special interest group", changing the agency into the National 'Pork' Service by reducing operational funding, while adding too many new units and emphasizing expensive, attention-getting projects over true maintenance of existing facilities.

    This has too often evolved a selfish type of manager more concerned with pleasing the pecking order above them than truly serving the public or the parks, Here's a simplified little parable to summarize how the Park Service management really operated during my career. Say you're the Buildings & Utilities Foreman, responsible for fifty outhouses. The surest path to promotion to Facility Manager or Chief of 'Maintenance' in this top-heavy outfit has been to only clean and restock toilet paper in half of them, while diverting money toward building more outhouses. Remember the half million dollar marble & slate outrage that got so much publicity some years back? This sort of thing is a much greater factor behind Gray's "deteriorating facilities" and the so-called maintenance backlog than environmentalism.

    I'm pretty familiar with many of the western parks and worked in four of them. As a visitor, I encountered a few grumpy employees having bad days, but the vast majority did a good job at public contact. Considering that one is likely to encounter a hastily trained seasonal or volunteer, most are cheerful and helpful, if not always well-informed. I did notice a strong tendency in the parks I worked in for permanent employees to avoid the public as much as possible, unlike Parks Canada, where even supervisors regularly spent time at the visitor center front desks.

    Despite this superficial appearance of serving people well, there is often a kind of institutionalized contempt for the public and a discounting of their input. A common opinion I heard repeatedly is that the Park Service has to manage for the "lowest common denominator" because the average visitor is an idiot. For example, I recently tried to report a forest fire near the Mount Rainier boundary and was told "Oh, we know about that, it's actually twenty miles south of the park." I knew the exact location and elevation of the new fire and persevered until I thought I had finally gotten through. Waking up the next day with a bad feeling, I called the adjoining USFS office and was told it was the first they'd heard of it. I had a similar experience trying to report a grizzly sighting a decade earlier. (Yes, they're here!) It was necessary to go through the FOIA office in "the lesser Washington" just to get copies of Rainier's annual budget and organization chart. They appear to think they're the CIA and that is none of the public's business. It seems to me this information should be on every park's website.

    I don't think this arrogance and paternalism is being taught in schools; it is more often learned internally from old hands in BS sessions. This attitude is not just limited to the public. In many parks, the usually better educated 'rangers' resent and look down on the maintenance staff, often rural locals who are sometimes more highly paid because their wages are tied to the regional union scale. Often these locals are more knowledgeable about their parks than managers who transfer every few years in order to get promoted.

    Most rank & file NPS employees and some supervisors I worked alongside in the field were incredibly concientious and dedicated. Unfortunately, petty corruption and irregular hiring and promotion practices by managers were quite common as well. I had roommates in NPS housing who were the sons of high-ranking Interior Department nabobs. For years at Olympic, seasonal laborers were hired from a student hiring authority list that only the children and friends of maintenance supervisors seemed to know about. A fellow seasonal at Rainier was promoted to upper management over a few years after pulling our drunken superintendent out of the ditch a couple times. That super later suddenly retired because of sexual harrassment charges by an employee. Management fubars were always covered up as much as possible, or blamed on the public and external causes, while critics and whistleblowers were routinely punished and purged. Favoritism regarding contracts and concessions were apparent, even from the ranks. Such experiences convinced me that more serious corruption probably existed and still exists behind closed management doors.

    I wouldn't go so far as Frank C and Beamis, but my experience was that the National Park Service is a much more deeply flawed agency than the true believers think. Jon Jarvis had an excellent reputation here in the Northwest and I remain hopeful he can begin to restore integrity to NPS management after being confirmed as Director.

  • The New National Parks Index: 2009-2011 is Now Available Online   5 years 23 weeks ago

    aaaahhhh! It all makes sense now. Thanks a bunch for the clarification.

  • The New National Parks Index: 2009-2011 is Now Available Online   5 years 23 weeks ago


    They're both BLM units, not NPS.

  • The New National Parks Index: 2009-2011 is Now Available Online   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I can't find mention of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (almost 1.9 million acres in Utah that I enjoy visiting every year), or the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Did I miss some details in the lengthy beginning of the book that may have described limitations that explain this?

  • National Park Mystery Photo 12 Revealed: It's Voyageurs National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    That's a nice photo. I grew up at Kabetogama Lake which is the gateway to Voyageurs National Park (VNP). It is the only national park in Minnesota. It was named after the French Canadian Voyageurs who used the interconnected lakes to travel, fur trade, and whatever else they did. VNP is a water park with 55 miles on the US and Canadian borders. The Kabetogama Peninsula takes about a week to voyage by canoe or kayak, and there are several free camp sites enroute on a first come first serve basis. There are no fees to enter and use the park. It is called God's Country by those who have ever been there.

    The Bald Eagle population has increased nicely and people can view the eagles at VNP more than any other national park. What beautiful birds!

    I could go on and on...I love it at Voyageurs, its my favorite place in the world.

  • Fall From Tokopah Falls Kills Visitor to Sequoia National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Diana. I am so sorry for your loss. My name is Matt Bretz. I was the first person to arrive with Stouffer at the bottom of the cliff and together we did everything we could to keep Kevin alive. I will be at the funeral regardless. But I am hopeful that I might also get in touch with family and/or Stouffer before hand. Please feel free to contact me directly at . also, javier, you and i spoke immediately after kevin fell. i am very grateful to you for running and getting help. please drop me a line if you are inclined. I would like to hear more of what happened with you.