Recent comments

  • Visitation to National Parks Is On the Upswing, Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Partly to Blame   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Interesting thing about how they count visitation to Yellowstone. In the past visitors were physically counted as they entered the park; that is, bus drivers would report total passengers and entrance rangers would count the number of visible passengers in each private car. When gates were not staffed, for example at night, an estimate would be made. Since 1995, when the park installed automatic "car counters" which vehicles drive over when entering, bus drivers still report number of passengers, but private vehicles are simply mutiplied by an arbitrary number which varies by month. For example: January is times 2.3, while July is times 3.0. What this means is that if I enter the park in July, by myself, I am counted as three people! Of course it also means that a vehicle with six people in it would also be counted as three people. Based on another formula, a certain number of vehicles are not counted because they are considered to be employees, concessionaires etc. So really, comparing pre 1995 and post 1995 figures is kind of like comparing apples and oranges.

  • Reader Participation Day: What "Must Have" Article Do You Pack for a National Park Visit?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    My best walking shoes with a good pair of sox.

  • Still No Signs of Missing Hiker in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    The Traveler received the following message, which we'll post for those involved in this search:

    All of AJ's family, friends and coworkers appreciate the huge effort the Park Service, the various law enforcement organizations and volunteers are putting into finding AJ. We cannot thank you enough.

    Lou Barfield

  • Reader Participation Day: What "Must Have" Article Do You Pack for a National Park Visit?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    A compass !!

  • National Park Mystery Photo 13: Beam Me Up Scotty!   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Nope, not Rushmore.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 13: Beam Me Up Scotty!   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Mount Rushmore

  • National Park Mystery Photo 13: Beam Me Up Scotty!   5 years 28 weeks ago

    It looks like a modpod egg chair. I think they were designed for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Originals are pretty rare and expensive. Did not know the NPS had any of these.

  • Reader Participation Day: What "Must Have" Article Do You Pack for a National Park Visit?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I always try to bring a tree or wildflower guidebook. But like Kurt & his wife, I only sometimes remember it. So...I started to leave an extra one in my truck, although it may not always apply to the region I'm in at the time, it does often enough to make having it worth while. Now I have a tattered one I take with, and a less tattered one I refer to at home.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 13: Beam Me Up Scotty!   5 years 28 weeks ago

    No, not Falling Waters.

  • Reader Participation Day: What "Must Have" Article Do You Pack for a National Park Visit?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I never forget my Nat'l Parks Passport books. These books record our visits to 120+ NP units. We'll be visiting Theodore Roosevelt NP as well as other North Dakota sites next week.

  • Reader Participation Day: What "Must Have" Article Do You Pack for a National Park Visit?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Remember those binoculars we found? Always have them...

  • National Park Mystery Photo 13: Beam Me Up Scotty!   5 years 29 weeks ago

    At Falling Waters, Frank Lloyd Wright house.

  • Reader Participation Day: What "Must Have" Article Do You Pack for a National Park Visit?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Of course that would be my digital camera with a 12 zoom (for all of the animal shots!), brand new memory cards, and extra batteries!! Even if it's the same park we've been to a few times before, I can't help taking tons of pictures. And one of these days I'll have them all scrapbooked!

  • Refuge Watch, A Good Site To Bookmark on Your Browser   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Thanks, Kurt! The plug is much appreciated. Your site was a big inspiration in the creation of Refuge Watch.

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    To distill a whole bunch of research (google "ecology of fear" wolves sharks) into a couple of sentences:

    Wolves in Yellowstone don't kill large numbers of elk, but the presence of wolves makes the elk stay away from the stream beds where they are more vulnerable to wolves. The per elk impacts on riparian willows (and thus beavers & trout) are greatly reduced. [William Ripple and several others.]

    The same thing happens with sharks & dugongs, dolphins, seals, & maybe turtles in Shark Bay Australia: in seasons when the sharks are present, the dugongs & turtles stay away from the seagrass beds with the more nutritious seagrass species where they're vulnerable to sharks, and forage on the edges of beds near deeper water where they are safer but the seagrass is less nutritious. [Mike Heithaus & his students; I suspect there is some cool video on his website or maybe by searching Heithaus on youtube.]

    Because they've moved to lower quality habitat away from streams more elk die of starvation (directly and indirectly) and fewer elk are born, so the population size of elk is reduced from what it would have been without wolves. But, for population dynamics, the alternative is a much larger population of elk, large enough to again increase death from starvation and reduce fecundity, and greatly impact the vegetation and the rest of the ecosystem in the process.

    What I don't know about (and I think no one knows about) is what the elk response to wolves would be in Theodore Roosevelt NP: would the elk be chased out of the areas that are most sensitive to elk overgrazing & trampling, or do the areas where elk are most vulnerable to wolves not align with the most sensitive areas as they do in Yellowstone? Until we know that, introducing wolves might possibly make the elk impacts on the ecosystem worse instead of less.

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    As the author alluded, one of the options that has been considered to help balance the elk population of Rocky Mountain NP is the reintroduction of wolves. When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone some 14 years ago, the benefits to the park's environment were quickly seen: "Changes in elk grazing behavior have allowed streambed vegetation like willow and aspen to recover from years of overbrowsing, and these re-established trees provide habitat for native birds and fish, beaver, and other species." (Cite: http://www.defenders.org/programs_and_policy/wildlife_conservation/imperiled_species/wolves/wolf_recovery_efforts/northern_rockies_wolves/background_and_recovery/index.php) Meanwhile, populations of elk and other species that wolves prey upon have continued to thrive.

    Of course, wolf reintroduction carries its own set of controversies. Not everyone is happy to find wolves in the wilderness, even in our national parks. But I, for one, would much rather see the "excess" elk become food for wolves and other predators than to see them picked off by sharpshooters. If we must manage our wilderness, let's use nature's tools instead of just our own.

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Thank you to everyone who has commented on the post - I like hearing your perspectives, and am glad that so much thought has been given to this topic.

    I want to second Kirby's point, that the ecosystems in which the elk live are important. I agree wholeheartedly. I intended for the post to convey that we should do something about the overpopulation, not that the elk should take over at the expense of the ecosystem or be allowed to multiply until they ate their way to starvation, in writing this:

    I understand that a strained ecosystem ultimately will result in pain for the elk and other species, and that we must address the issue.

    I also wanted to raise the question of whether the method of control proposed is in the best interest of the elk (in balance with the ecosystem) or simply the best solution for humans.

    For example, the Park Service proposed several alternatives in its draft Environmental Impact Statement, including relocation and birth control. I recognize that pursuing these options may or may not be possible at this time, and that shooting the elk may be the only answer, at least for now.

    But I believe that when we are looking at killing something as a long-term solution, it's important to ask the question of who benefits. In this way, we can move closest to making the best decisions for what lives in our parks.

  • So Beautiful, So Endangered   5 years 29 weeks ago

    THANKZ!

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Other than that park, there is NOTHING to see except sunflowers.

    And some of the most critical migratory waterfowl habitat in North America - in potholes, reservoirs, and lakes across the state. North Dakota has a lot to offer if you're inclined to look at nature with ecology-tinted glasses. Which leads to this:

    I don’t have all the answers, but I think about those bulls, and I want us to make these decisions with the greatest thought and consideration for them.

    This is not how we need to approach natural resource management, conservation, or even preservation. On any level, we need to be focusing on ecosystems rather than species. The charismatic megafauna stir the emotions, as in Donna's experience, but we do a disservice to the very animals that inspire our love for nature if we start emotionally separating them from the ecological systems with which they are inseparable. An overpopulation of any grazing ungulate is disastrous for an ecosystem (reference whitetail deer here in Michigan) and the remedy has to be prescribed with the greatest thought and consideration for the health of the ecosystem, not the resident species of greatest popularity.

    These moments that define our connection with nature, our Biophilia, as E.O. Wilson calls it, are a treasure of being human. But they must be a catalyst for an intellectual approach to conservation of ecosystems.

    Like Donna, I don't have the answers, but I do think the proper questions are clear. "What is best for the badlands and grasslands of western North Dakota?" should trump "What is best for the elk?" The answer to the latter is simply, "See question #1"

  • National Parks Lost A Strong Advocate With the Passing of Art Allen   5 years 29 weeks ago

    I've been a participant in Art Allen's and listserves since 2003. His efforts in developing these listserves have brought many former National Park Service employees and managers in close contact with each other. He managed these two listserves as "free speech zones" but discouraged commentary that amounted to personal attacks.

    Over these years, I had the privledge to have had personal correspondence with Art. I found Art to be totally dedicated to the National Park idea. He was also concerned about the need to improve and maintain high professional standards amongst NPS managers and staff.

    A little-known fact few people knew about Art is that he was Edward Abbey's supervisor when Ed was stationed at Arches Natonal Monument during the early 1960's.

    Some years ago, PJ Ryan, editor of "Thunderbear," conducted an outstanding interview with Art. This article can be found at http://www.workingnet.com/thunderbear/264.html.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Search Under Way for Missing Hiker in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Thank you, Michele, and all of the East Rowan High School friends. It is comforting to know so many people are praying for us.

    Lisa

  • Too Many Deer in the Nation's Capital? Rock Creek Park Holds a Public Meeting on Wednesday   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Deer have become so tame in DC and MD. I was walking on my front yard and a fawn and mother stood 10 feet away. I finally shouted and stepped forward and they moved off. I was at a trap range and two deer stepped right onto the range and grazed. They do not care about the shots nearby. Obviously these deer are not hunted and too used to humans to have much fear.

    Rock Creek Park is denesly used park with bikers, hiker and cars. It is too small to allow hunting safely.
    The deer population has risen with dogs being leashed so they have less to worry about being chased by dogs. Lack of human hunting and landscaping and cleared land with strips of woods allow deer good grazing and access to the land.

    Really the only limit on deer are car crashes and starvation. Cars probably account for the largest deer killed than any other cause.

  • Mammoth Cave National Park Finds "Sister Parks" In China   5 years 29 weeks ago

    This is great! I live near the Stone Forest but am an expat from America. I'll have to visit the Mammoth Cave National Park next time I'm in the U.S.!

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Theodore Roosevelt National Park is not very big. I can see it becoming over-populated quite easily. Also, it's in North Dakota. Have you been there before? Other than that park, there is NOTHING to see except sunflowers. Let the good farmers of North Dakota enjoy the opportunity of putting 100% natural meat on their table, eh?

    The writer of this article is very idealistic and unrealistic at the same time. Welcome to the top of the food chain. Elk is tasty! You really ought to try it.

    We've learned a lot about how to control these populations, and I trust the Dept. of Fish and Game to take care of it.

    This comment was edited to remove a gratuitous comment.--ed.

  • By the Numbers: Death Valley Weather   5 years 29 weeks ago

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog often.

    Margaret