Recent comments

  • The World's Top Ten National Parks   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Rick -

    Thanks for a great article - and some tempting suggestions for travel! I'll look forward to seeing other suggestions you receive.

    My international park experience is rather limited, but here's one that might interest some readers.

    The current political situation may make this park a bit less attractive to tourists these days, but Nairobi National Park in Kenya has a lot to offer for those who would like to see some classic African wildlife without spending a king's ransom on a major expedition into the bush.

    This isn't a "wilderness park." Located on the outskirts of the capital city of Nairobi, this was the first national park established in Kenya. The location makes the park easy to visit, but proximity to the city may be a negative for some visitors. You can see the skyscrapers of Nairobi from parts of the park, and during my single visit to the area, I found it a bit surreal to be sitting in a vehicle watching a black rhino or a lion while a British Air jet passed overhead.

    This is a small park - only about 28,000 acres, but wildlife migrate in and out of the area via the unfenced southern boundary. The park has a nice variety of wildlife, including black rhino, lion, cheetah, leopard, zebra, buffalo, giraffe and gazelle. We saw all of those and more in a single day. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in the park, but that includes seasonal migrants. The annual wildebeest and zebra migration in July and August is an attraction for some visitors. One drawback - no elephants in this park.

    The park is touted as a success story for protection of Kenya's rhino population, and is providing animals for reintroduction into other areas. The Kenya Wildlife Service website claims this is "one the few parks where a visitor can be certain of seeing a black rhino in its natural habitat."

    An interesting sidelight on the topic of poaching and law enforcement in parks: During my visit I talked with one of their rangers, who was on duty at the park's single, short nature trail. (This is lion country – long hikes are not encouraged :-) He was dressed in combat camos, and in addition to his sidearm had an AR-16 slung over his shoulder.

    I asked him about the poaching issue, and after finding out I was a ranger in the U.S., he warmed up a bit in his conversation. He commented that poaching used to be a problem, but they had largely solved it. How? This is my paraphrase after over a decade, but the jist of it was: "The park is closed at night, so after dark if we hear anybody out there in the bush, we just shoot. In the morning we go see if we hit anything." (Maybe my leg was being pulled a bit, but he seemed pretty serious – and from the reports of success with the black rhino, whatever they're doing seems to be working. I guess it pays to observe closing hours here!)

    Some may regard this park as a Safari for Dummies (or city-slickers), but I found it to be a memorable wildlife viewing opportunity.

  • New Solar Power System Puts This Park in the Forefront of Alternative Energy Use   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Thanks to all of you who are interested enough in this topic to comment! (We also appreciate it when the discourse remains civil :-)

    My article wasn't intended to be a commentary on the pros of cons of Xanterra - or any other company - but rather an example of what I feel is a positive step in using alternative energy. Perhaps this project will encourage similar efforts in both the private and public sector.

  • Rangers Catch Snowmobilers Riding Illegally in Yellowstone National Park's Backcountry   5 years 26 weeks ago

    I'm glad to hear that Yellowstone NP authorities caught these snowmobile riders in the act, and that appropriate actions are being enforced. I spent last summer working in YNP while living in Cooke City, MT. The snowmobile riders that I encountered up there were some of the most disrespectful visitors to the backcountry up there.

  • New Solar Power System Puts This Park in the Forefront of Alternative Energy Use   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Anonymous and/or editor:

    Poor taste? Ok. I'll strike the last two sentences of my comment, and please tell me if there is any sarcasm in the rest of my comment; if you have any problems with the facts I presented, please let me know:

    I'm glad Xanterra is using solar power, especially after diluting "mineral" baths with tap water at their Saratoga Springs resort.

    I'm surprised to see the NPT crowd rally behind Xanterra and its new owner, Denver billionaire and supporter of conservative Christian causes, Philip Anschutz. With his net worth of $7.8 billion, he could single handedly wipe out the NPS maintenance backlog. He's also served on the board of directors of the National Petroleum Council, an American advisory committee representing oil and natural gas industry views to the Secretary of Energy. (Luckily, after external pressure, his corporation gave up plans to drill for oil near a major Native American rock art site.)

    Be constructive? I did say I was glad Xanterra is using solar power, and I truly am glad. However, I do not think we should let a solar power plant blind us to the truth about its owner and his role in pressuring Congress to get what he wants.

  • Yellowstone Geologist Worries About What Goes "Bump" At Night   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Thanks for the clarification and the reply. I will say though, by way of criticism, that as a journalist specializing in the coverage of National Park issues you should know that is not nearly a generic term as you apparently believe; and it is quite a sensitive subject within the NPS. I am surprised you would use the title in such a fashion. Even in Yellowstone Mr. Heasler would not dare to refer to himself as such. If he is not a "Doctor" with a phD then he is no doubt perfectly comfortable in being referred to as "Mr. Heasler." We are not all "rangers" any more than we are all "physical scientists" or "lead maintenance mechanics."

    Back to our regularly-scheduled article...

  • New Solar Power System Puts This Park in the Forefront of Alternative Energy Use   5 years 26 weeks ago

    The Dangling Rope development in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area has been using a large solar system for power for a number of years. And it is publicly owned. While the solar field is not nearly as large as the new one at Death Valley, and the power needs not nearly as large, at the time it was installed it was considered quite ambitious. You can view it using Google Maps here.

  • Yellowstone Geologist Worries About What Goes "Bump" At Night   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Hank is a geophysicist by specialty with expertise in heat flow and geothermal systems.

    I referred to him as "Ranger" as that's how the majority of NPS employees are generically referred to, much as you would refer to a cardiologist or an orthodontist as "Dr." than "Cardiologist Heasler."

  • Yellowstone Geologist Worries About What Goes "Bump" At Night   5 years 26 weeks ago

    I'm curious, what is Mr. Heasler's background? The article variously refers to him as a "Ranger" and a "geologist." Being referred to as a geologist confers the impression that he has at least a masters degree in the field, though that is not a universal use I suppose. Or is he "Dr." Heasler? Is he truly a ranger? Is he in the 0025 series? If he isn't, why would you refer to him as such? His public NPS phonebook listing lists him as a "supervisory geologist" whatever that is...

    Thanks...

  • New Solar Power System Puts This Park in the Forefront of Alternative Energy Use   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Frank,

    Your sarcasm is in poor taste. Be constructive.

    This comment was edited.

  • New Solar Power System Puts This Park in the Forefront of Alternative Energy Use   5 years 26 weeks ago

    I'm glad Xanterra is using solar power, especially after diluting "mineral" baths with tap water at their Saratoga Springs resort.

    I'm surprised to see the NPT crowd rally behind Xanterra and its new owner, Denver billionaire and supporter of conservative Christian causes, Philip Anschutz. With his net worth of $7.8 billion, he could single handedly wipe out the NPS maintenance backlog. He's also served on the board of directors of the National Petroleum Council, an American advisory committee representing oil and natural gas industry views to the Secretary of Energy. (Luckily, after external pressure, his corporation gave up plans to drill for oil near a major Native American rock art site.)

    I'm so glad national park visitors are helping line the pockets of the likes of Philip Anschutz. His solar project makes up for everything.

  • Planning to Visit Apostle Islands National Lakeshore? Leave Your Gun At Home   5 years 26 weeks ago

    "Hope for the best" -- you mean like park visitors have been doing for years, with very few incidents where a loaded gun was needed.

    The ones who need the guns are the poor rangers who are left out there to deal with the crazy visitors on a daily basis. Those are the only ones who need to be armed.

  • New Solar Power System Puts This Park in the Forefront of Alternative Energy Use   5 years 26 weeks ago

    I saw these same panels a week ago, Jan. My understanding is that they are designed to track the sun throughout the daylight period. Jim pointed this out in his article.

  • Climate Change: Glacier National Park's Shrinking Rivers of Ice   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Global warming 'irreversible' for next 1000 years: study

    Climate change is "largely irreversible" for the next 1,000 years even if carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could be abruptly halted, according to a new study led by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    Well, I guess we don't have to worry about doing anything about it if it's irreversible for 1000 years! Say goodbye to those glaciers, but enjoy them while they last!

    The study, however, is a government report, and the government has been known to be wrong about a few things (Iraq/Katrina/Vietnam/Japanese Internment/Native Americans/ETC).

  • New Solar Power System Puts This Park in the Forefront of Alternative Energy Use   5 years 26 weeks ago

    I visited the solar field yesterday. All the panels face due east and are tipped to maximize summer sun. When I use a solar panel, I make sure it points due south and maximize it for winter sun. Anyone know what the thoughts were behind this set-up? I hope it wasn't an expensive mistake!!

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Bottomline is, upgrades should be done in moderation. They are supposed to make the historical sites more comfortable for people, and not to alter it's general look. I'm all for the ACs and restrooms, but not so much interest for the supposedly new "parlor" and concessions. I guess it'll destroy the historical feel of the place. It may attract a larger number of people thus creating a crowded atmosphere. Nevertheless, thanks for the great article Jim.

  • The Future of the "Gateway Arch" is On the Table—Will You be Part of the Discussion?   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Sabattis: de-authorization is not the same as destruction! The country has many world-class structures that are not managed and maintained by the federal government: the Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, and St Patrick's Cathedral to name a few. The Arch is magnificent architecture - but there is no reason to have the NPS manage it. The Park (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) has more staff and a bigger budget than such parks as Redwood, Acadia, Zion, and North Cascades. Does that make sense? 150 FTE positions for 91 acres in the middle of a city? The NPS would save money just paying the St. Louis Police to do law enforcement at the place. .

  • The Future of the "Gateway Arch" is On the Table—Will You be Part of the Discussion?   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Mr. Danforth said the St. Louis waterfront needs " a major museum or other world-class attraction designed by an internationally acclaimed architect."
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the Arch fulfill that criteria?

  • The Future of the "Gateway Arch" is On the Table—Will You be Part of the Discussion?   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Whenever the Gateway Arch is mentioned on Traveler, I'm always disheartened when comments come out advocating its delisting. To me, the Gateway Arch is one of America's most-precious landmarks and is one of the crown jewels of the National Park System, along with the National Mall, the Statue of Liberty, and Mt. Rushmore. The Arch is simply a beautiful triumph of human achievement, and my heart always soars on cross-country trips when I first see that arch soaring above the St. Louis skyline.

    With that being said, I think there is a need for additional visitor services in the overall Park. There's definitely a need for additional food/drink options in the area, and I could definitely see a role for additional museum space, a performing arts venue (perhaps outdoor?), or other visitor services. Hopefully there would be a way to expand the offering of what's available here without unduly impacting the Park's role as a Park, or the overall majesty of the views of the Arch from around the area.

  • The Future of the "Gateway Arch" is On the Table—Will You be Part of the Discussion?   5 years 26 weeks ago

    The Arch is beautiful. I grew up near it. I've gone back to it since I've left. I walk in the open spaces beneath it. It is a monument, not an amusement park. It is a feat of engineering. It is a marvel. The grounds are open and beautiful, and invite peace and enjoyment.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 26 weeks ago

    We've come full circle. :) What the administration does with this proposed rule will tell a lot about what groups it listens to the most. If I had to bet, I'd guess that the rule will be a bit more restrictive to cater to the liberal side of the party (Sierra Club, etc.) while still leaving some elements intacts to please the others.

  • Great Basin National Park: It's More Than Simply A Cave   5 years 26 weeks ago

    This park has a really nice variety of things to see and do - it's worth the drive to get there!

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 26 weeks ago

    I think that's correct. Schneider's point is a narrow one: the freeze itself isn't going to block the regulation, but the fact that a new administration will be evaluating the comments and writing the final rule, if there is to be one, could stop any change in NPS policy on mountain bike access.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 26 weeks ago

    As I understand things, while the bike rule is not directly affected by the freeze placed on new rules and regs, the NPS isn't obligated to place it into effect once the comment period runs its course, so it could wind up facing the same outcome as rules that are directly affected by the freeze and which the new administration finds serve no good purpose.

    And let's not forget, administrations don't always pay much attention to what the public does, or doesn't, want. Remember the Yellowstone snowmobile saga? During its public comment period(s), public comment overwhelmingly favored a phase-out of the machines, and yet the Bush administration turned a deaf ear.

  • Secretary Salazar on Guns in Parks: He'll "Take A Look At It"   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Well, to be accurate, the guns rule wasn't in the freeze mix anyway, as it already had been placed into effect before President Obama was sworn in. That said, it's still the subject of two lawsuits.

  • Secretary Salazar on Guns in Parks: He'll "Take A Look At It"   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Just in: Bill Schneider reports in New West that neither the guns-in-parks rule or the mountain bikes-in-parks rule is being affected by the freeze on implementing the previous administration's regulations:

    http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/national_park_gun_and_mountain_bike_rules_unaffected_by_freeze/C41/L41/

    Schneider, by the way, is an astute commentator on controversial issues like these and one of the few truly neutral voices of reason out there. Reading his various reports and discussions on the New West website will prove valuable.