Recent comments

  • Cades Cove Loop Road at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Set for a Major Redo Next Spring   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

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

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

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

  • Investigation Of Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Finds Cybertracks to Pornographic Images   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

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

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

    Rick Smith

  • National Park Mystery Spot 4: Standing Tall in the Middle   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

    6 feet

    four score and seven years

    November 19th

    two minute speech

    272 words

  • Investigation Of Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Finds Cybertracks to Pornographic Images   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

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

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


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

  • Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

  • Investigation Of Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Finds Cybertracks to Pornographic Images   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

  • National Park Mystery Spot 4: Standing Tall in the Middle   5 years 30 weeks ago

    Soldiers National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA.

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

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

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

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

  • Curing Society's Disconnect With Nature Could Be As Easy As A Walk In the Woods   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

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

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 30 weeks ago

    y p w wrote:

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

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

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

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

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 30 weeks ago

    Regarding this fine (and shortened) quote:

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

    — Harvey Broome, co-founder, The Wilderness Society

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

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

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

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

  • Curing Society's Disconnect With Nature Could Be As Easy As A Walk In the Woods   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

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

  • Wolf Biologist Killed In Plane Crash in Denali National Park, Pilot Survived   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

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

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

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

  • Dr. Gary Machlis Has Ambitious Plans As Science Advisor to National Park Service Director Jarvis   5 years 30 weeks ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 30 weeks ago


    Both Zion and Rocky Mountain also received some permanent wilderness this year.

  • Wilderness Designations And National Parks Don't Cross Paths Often Enough   5 years 30 weeks ago

    It's been stated here that many of our backcountry areas in the NPS are managed as wilderness areas, so Dottie, I hope that helps alleviate some of your concerns. The folks here seem pretty rational for the most part; I don't think there is a demand for the wiping of our Parks infastructure in favor for the woods. That's not what we're going for. Since most of these "eligible" areas are already managed as wilderness areas, the only differences is to capitalize the letter at the beginning of the word, and, the only real differences, is the permanence. These areas become permanently protected. Forever.

    As a full out conservative with all the respect and desire in the world for the Great Outdoors, I fully hope this Director and Administration create many more official Wilderness areas, so that they will truly be protected as the "backcountry" areas we currently consider them. Nothing changes...just the capital letter at the front. (In many cases.)

    One bill has already been pushed through. I'm sure Kurt covered it when it was. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was given a Wilderness area, and I believe at least one other park was included in this bill. The Beaver Bay backcountry area became the Beaver Bay Wilderness Area...nothing changed managerially. We had the superintendant come to our class to attest to that.

    Also, the comment about loopholes and such...I'm not sure I believe your claims. Wilderness areas are pretty set-in-stone. What I believe you might be seeing in person and on maps is remnants from before the Wilderness area became as such. I have backpacked into the McCormick Wilderness Tract, a USDA FS area, and there are building and logging remnants, as well as a dam from the logging days. There is, in fact, a lot of debate over what to do there...because the dam is wearing out and in danger of failing. Do they fix it, and mess with the Wilderness? Or do they let nature do its thing, and let the lake burst the dam, destroying the lake people use for fishing, and destroying lots of wildworld below the dam in the insuing flood. There's a renegade who is actually patching the dam himself in the meantime. YPW, i guess I can't say anything about what you've seen, but from what I've seen and learned, those are my guesses.

  • Dr. Gary Machlis Has Ambitious Plans As Science Advisor to National Park Service Director Jarvis   5 years 30 weeks ago

    Just on a few of your points, ypw, and then to let this thread go, because I don't have your interest or insights into the specific operation, was only talking to the merits of the integrity of the National Park System.

    -- The airport in Jackson Hole is not owned by the NPS. NPS does not issue permits there, or control the operation. NPS has tried to phase out the airport, but unlike Point Reyes where the issue of the preexisting lease was addressed, it appears Congress did not want to phase out the airport when Congress finally passed legislation in effect recognizing the National Monument.

    -- For Point Reyes, I can't argue about specifics or challenge the Solicitor unless I read the entire legislative history, saw the maps as they evolved, and understood the law. I'd heard the issue was when the wilderness status would kick in, and that there was discussion that congress would not so designate the wilderness until the lease ended, with an understanding that it would not be renewed. But I don't know myself.

    I have read other parks' legislative histories, for example once when a Member of Congress was insisting that a mining operation be permitted to be continued. He said the miner ran a clean and well managed operation, and clearly had not so despoiled the land that people did not want it as a National Park. You could read in the discussion how painful it was for other Members to challenge this colleague. At first they put the discussion over to later consideration.

    Finally the Committee Chairman carefully explained that if Congress wants to permit that mine to continue, Congress can authorize it, but then the area should not be designated as a national park because that is not what parks are for, to be free of such commercial operations. Over and over, people try to install a special interest in a national park, often with brilliant rationalizations, and the insistence that it will not affect the park system as a whole, or the area under consideration. But in the end people need to confront that same simple question: do you want a national park here, or not?

    Because if you chip away at the authority of the national park service just a little bit here, and then a little something else over there, pretty soon you won't have the national parks of integrity we need.

    -- Presidio has special legislation. Revenue generation was built into the plan. Even with that, many complain that the board is permitting much more than was intended. But again, with its special exceptions in its special legislation, Presidio is not a good example.

    -- NPS does sometimes continue certain uses that are not considered inconsistent with the park. For example, in places farmers have been permitted to continue operations when it had been determined that the historic setting that was a purpose of the park requires the continuation. For example, where the farm helps preserve the historic setting. I have no idea how the cattle permits at Point Reyes are provided, if they are part of the original legislation and are grandfathered in, if they are being phased out, or if they are considered consistent with park purposes. So I cannot tell from what you describe. But I accept the statements from the NPS that congress did consider the way NPS should deal with the oyster operation, and that was to phase it out.

    -- I don't know what the commercial operation situation is at Golden Gate. But concessions do require a justification, and presumably they have one properly done for each concession. I was involved once in trying to justify a concession proposal where not far away, private businesses operated. The scrutiny was fairly intense, and it took a lot to justify the new concession. Presumably, Golden Gate would have the same level of scrutiny, consistent with the purposes and law of Golden Gate.

    -- For historic structures, the law does provide for special historic leases, with the idea that continued use and maintenance is the best way to protect an historic structure. In many ways, this authority seems to some people as inconsistent with the basic idea that parks are for all the public, because some lessees of historic structures use them for non-park purposes and can close them to the public. But it is a law. This is the controversy you've read about in these pages about Fort Hancock in New Jersey, in Gateway NRA, the companion to Golden Gates. The authority clearly exists in the law. Whether the historic leasing regulations as written are too flexible or not flexible enough is a different question.

    But this authority is only for historic structures, and this inconsistency would not apply to other leases. And, it begins with the premise that the structures involved are key resources for the park, and require maintenance. I don't think this exception would apply in any way to the Point Reyes situation.

  • Investigation Of Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Finds Cybertracks to Pornographic Images   5 years 30 weeks ago

    Correction - He was cleared of any "criminal" misconduct.

  • Dr. Gary Machlis Has Ambitious Plans As Science Advisor to National Park Service Director Jarvis   5 years 30 weeks ago

    I suppose the radio program you mentioned was the KQED Forum program from several months ago with Kevin Lunny, Gordon Bennett, and the editor of the Point Reyes Light. Of course Bennett (representing the Sierra Club) didn't present himself well when he referred to her paper as the "Point Reyes Blight".

    I will say I am a fan of the DBOC and would like it to continue operations. I don't know the Lunnys personally, but I'm sure that he's done his research. I've taken a huge interest in this. Apparently Senator Feinstein has too. I've heard that she's personally arranged for and sat in on meetings with Lunny, Jarvis, and Neubacher. Her home near Stinson Beach is just a short trip to Point Reyes and I'd think on a good day she can see the mouth of Drakes Estero from her home.

    There's a whole lot of precedents for preexisting commercial operations to continue under NPS jurisdiction - or for new ones to be started depending on the status of the unit. I can assure you that Golden Gate NRA doesn't need a new lodge in the Marin Headlands in order to properly serve visitors. There are plenty of hotels/motels in Mill Valley and Sausilito that could serve that goal, as well as the rest of Marin and San Francisco. The commercial interests in the Presidio are hardly visitor concessions. They're commercial enterprises, such as Sports Basement (which has three other locations not on NPS lands) or the Presidio Bowling Center. Then I suppose there are some commercial operators that raise eyebrows such as the Presidio Golf Course as well as the Wawona Golf Course in Yosemite NP. I suppose the most controversial addition to land under NPS jurisdiction was the Jackson Hole Airport, which in fact is completely within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park.

    I'd also note that a simple look of the map of Tomales Bay would indicate that pretty most of the water area is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service - either Point Reyes on the west or Golden Gate NRA on the east. I don't have a map of where the oyster racks are, but from what I've seen the commercial oyster farming operations do seem to be within the NPS jurisdiction. It would certainly be difficult for the NPS to ban such operations, as it has zero control over the land area along Highway 1 and the State of California has the mariculture and mineral rights. It's far more complex than saying that commercial enterprises other than concessions can't remain on NPS areas long term.

    I've even seen some strident talk about getting rid of the road, parking area, and pit toilet at the oyster farm. That would take away a prime kayak launching site. Kayaking is still legal 8 months out of the year and the NPS is tasked with balancing recreational uses with natural resource protection. I don't know how convenient kayak access at the Bull Point Trailhead parking lot is, but the current oyster farm location seems to be what the NPS recommends. I also can't understand some aspects of the DOI's Solicitor General report - especially where it mentions that the "oyster farm tract" is slated for conversion to wilderness status. I've seen the map that accompanied the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act and the official park map that lays out exactly what's in the wilderness plan whether or not it was potential or full wilderness. The northernmost 3/4 mile of Schooner Bay doesn't appear to be in the wilderness plan and zero land area surrounding Drakes Estero is in the wilderness plan.

  • Dr. Gary Machlis Has Ambitious Plans As Science Advisor to National Park Service Director Jarvis   5 years 30 weeks ago

    My understanding is the only commercial businesses that can remain on park lands long term are, like concession services, specifically sanctioned because park purposes cannot be achieved without the service. All others should be phased out.

    I agree that science should not serve a predetermined conclusion, and hope my comments could not be construed otherwise. It would be troubling. I hope the NPS studies were as conscientious as possible.

    But, I think we need to consider how neutral 'science' may actually be these days. Look at how Fox Channel is using 'scientific reports' funded by the insurance companies to attack the President, or the way drug studies reflect preexisting bias. You must know how clubby scientists can sometimes be with colleagues' work. As social scientists since Gunnar Myrdal have recognized, 'objectivity' may be impossible to achieve, and it may be better to acknowledge the context and ideally to identify existing bias.

    And, I think we underestimate ( " heads should roll" ) the difficulty of operating as a government agent in this world of high-paid litigators, lobbyists, and people who's access to elected officials like Senator Feinstein allow them to rewrite an agency's management system, etc. Add to that politically-motivated underfunding of needed studies and you place your public servants in impossible situations. How should a Regional Director like Jarvis evaluate the struggles of park staff working in this environment? Fire them all?

    On the question of funding science, I well remember efforts some years ago to document mammal populations in the new parks in Alaska and to develop housing for park employees in local villages so they could be close to their work. (Not in far away Fairbanks like the other agencies.) Even though the local communities agreed with the proposal for NPS presence, Senator Stevens consistently blocked these efforts to get the data and to work closely with the resource.

    I had some acquaintances in the Senator's office who told me that there was a concern that if the NPS could document population losses from poaching it would have the evidence it needed to crack down on the poachers. Ultimately, NPS made progress in these areas, but it took years and years, and most of those parks have fewer staff than in the 1980's.

    I am not saying Senator Feinstein was deliberately underfunding Point Reyes to promote oyster culture; I do not know. But she must be aware that the NPS, like many agencies, has been fighting with an arm tied behind its back. The central office staffs needed to back up and mentor park staff have been decimated, and many experienced people have been pushed out. A focused attack on primary precedents of park law, on behalf on an individual commercial user for a private purpose, with no benefit of the doubt to the agency struggling in this environment seems to me to be a pretty cheap shot for a supposedly progressive legislator.

    Like you I hope the NPS tried to do its work with the highest standards, not with any predetermined outcome in mind. Despite the scrutiny, it is commendable that mistakes were acknowledged, but even more so that fundamental management principles are not tossed out because of the political heat. After all, throughout the process, Director Jarvis must have known he was a potential candidate for the job as Director. If it were in anyone's interest -- if they were 'motivated' as NAS would have it -- to pander in this case, it would be to pander to a senior Democratic senator at the beginning of a Democratic Administration.

  • Dr. Gary Machlis Has Ambitious Plans As Science Advisor to National Park Service Director Jarvis   5 years 30 weeks ago

    First of all I'd like to say I made a few edits to correct some spelling mistakes and a few grammatical errors (I wrote "pore" instead of "pour" and just decided to rephrase about going over the NAS report), and when that's done the responses can be out of order.

    This whole effort appears to be an attempt to make the NPS argue from a position it could not possibly win, with inadequate resources, because even if an aquaculture operation could be shown to have no negative environmental affects, it deliberately obscures the key point that a commercial operation is not appropriate inside a national park.

    There are already commercial enterprises in Point Reyes NS: the cattle ranches and dairy farms. There's also the Drakes Beach Cafe.

    There are commercial operations inside of NPS boundaries. Nearly every single park concession is a profit-making enterprise, whether it's Delaware North Companies in Yosemite and Sequoia or Xanterra (rather extensive) in Yellowstone, Zion, Grand Canyon, etc. DNC even runs a permanent commercial operation in the High Sierra Camps from within the wilderness area boundaries of Yosemite. The orphan uranium mine in Grand Canyon operated for years and theoretically could be reopened. For years several mining operations ran out of Death Valley NM and I understand that there are still several mining claims that could go into full operation. If you want large-scale development, there's the Presidio of San Francisco. Lucasfilm has a big operation right in the NPS boundaries. The Disney Family just built a museum on the life of Walt Disney. I go there and shop at a profit-making sporting goods store (The Sports Basement). Within parts of Golden Gate National Recreation Area there are approved plans to build a couple of hotels that would effectively serve the same purposes as lodging available a few miles away in Marin County.

    I suppose you could be right that the sides on this are fitting their reports to achieve a predetermined conclusion. I think it's disingenuous to state that the NPS reports on Drakes Estero weren't simply science in the interest of serving a predetermined conclusion that the oyster farm was causing harm to plants and wildlife. However - I do find it troubling that a federal agency would do that. If indeed they felt that the 1976 Act mandated the removal of the farm, they wouldn't have to tweak a report to help their cause.