Recent comments

  • It Ain't Sexy: Charting The Next Two Decades At Apostle Islands National Lakeshore   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Excellent mind-boggling post, Kurt. You've made the government-written draft easier to wade through.

    While the Islands are some of my favorite places in the world, thinking that they would lose most of their charm and beauty by converting to B&Bs and losing their historic and pristine flavor turns my stomach. I believe the buildings and trails should be rehabilitated, not commercialized.

    True, the courthouse in Bayfield is a hike up the hill and land to purchase is in short supply. Finding a place for the NPS interpretive center and its offices will be difficult, but I'm sure it can be done. Ownership would be far preferable to leasehold any old day and would provide a permanent foothold on the land side for generations to come. Remember, many people who visit that area don't necessarily travel out to the islands, but they can garner a wealth of information from a centrally located center.

    If you've never been to the Islands, plan a trip. Pick any island, or a few, to explore. Spring through fall are ideal for family visits. Let winter be for the more adventurous. Historically, the Islands human habitation goes farther back than whites care-taking lighthouses. The islands were for a generations summer fishing camps for Native Americans. Ever spent a summer in muggy northern Wisconsin? Then you will appreciate the breezes off Lake Superior, the goosebump, teeth-chattering, shivering delight of the clear lake water for a refreshing dip. The lesser developed Islands are wonderful places just to be. I miss the shush of the water on sand and rocky shores, the wind in the trees, the birdsong, the black sky away from lit towns that allow you to see the heavens.

    Leave your gadgets behind. Do cellphones even work out there? No matter. I wouldn't take it anyway.

    The Apostle Islands are wonderful little gems. Let's preserve them in their unpolished state.

  • How Far Should You Move a Nuisance Rattlesnake? At Great Basin, Inquiring Minds Want to Know   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I'm not sure what the issue is with Great Basin snakes, but I assume it's similar to problems with longer translocations of nuisance rattlers alluded to in a 2001 study Relocation of Nuisance Rattlesnakes: Problems Using Short-Distance Translocation in a Small Rural Community, which included this information:

    Recent studies indicate rattlesnakes released well beyond their home range (LDT) become confused and tend to wander long distances. They apparently attempt to return to their home range where they grew up and knew their surroundings. Many snakes managed with LDT die within a year, unable to adapt to their new environment (Johnson et al. 2000 [massasaugas, Ontario], Hare and McNally 1997 [diamondbacks, Tucson], Reinert 1999 [timber rattlesnakes, Pennsylvania). Other studies indicate translocated snakes' aberrant activity patterns (Nowak 1998 [diamondback and blacktailed rattlesnakes, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona], Sealy 1997 [timber rattlesnakes, North Carolina]). Our own long term studies (11 years) using radiotelemetry near Portal, Arizona, indicate blacktailed rattlesnakes know their home range intimately, seldom range out of it, and frequent the same refuges, hunting sites, and opposite sex meeting locations year after year (Hardy and Greene 1999).

    I guess the bottom line here is that longer translocations leave the rattlers extremely upset, confused, and more likely to take lethaly dangerous risks while trying to find their way back to familiar habitat.

  • "Bad Times" Aren't Always All Bad – These Two Ideas for "Improving the Parks" Fizzled   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Tramways aren't always successful, either. One was eventually built at Mt Hood, going from the town of Government Camp up to the famous Timberline Lodge. It was a low budget setup, and used old city buses suspended from a cable as tram cars (really!) It was also a failure, only lasting a couple of years. You can find a couple of old photos of this rather odd contraption at Scroll down to the end of the page.

  • How Far Should You Move a Nuisance Rattlesnake? At Great Basin, Inquiring Minds Want to Know   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Snakes moved long distances – more than one kilometer (.62 miles) – have survival rates conspicuously lower than those moved shorter distances.

    Did any of the studies you read explain why the survival rates drop on longer moves? Thanks in advance.

  • Rare Fossilized Sea Star Turns Up On Beach at Olympic National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    “This is indeed fabulous and beautiful and so amazingly unusual.” ...Until, on the advice of the Burke Museum (what did they expect the Burke to say?) it was ripped from the rock where it has resided for the last 20 million years or so.

  • "Bad Times" Aren't Always All Bad – These Two Ideas for "Improving the Parks" Fizzled   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Thanks for the interesting piece, Jim. I'd never heard of the Crater Lake tunnel idea before. These administrative histories found on most unit's websites make fascinating reading. I would encourage anyone passionate about their parks to check them out.

    Long time employees in the Maintenance Division at Rainier say it is very expensive to keep the road to Paradise plowed during the severe winters, but necessary because Glacier Bridge cannot bear the snowload. That, plus potential damage to the historic Paradise Inn and other infrastructure from the tremendous annual snowfall, make clearing the road daily the cheapest option. Undoubtedly a tram would have had high maintenance costs as well, and probably would not have been able to operate in the frequent strong winds.

  • What Priorities Should The Next National Park Service Director Address?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I recently joined the National Park Service as a Temporary - working on a special project. I am a retired, senior (70 years old) in extremely good health, have high energy, well educated, held responsible postions in the Industrial World (VP, General Manager of a couple of Global Companies).

    To make it short, I work with some really great people, have grown to really appreciate the Park and would like to remain a part of the Park but, not in the volunteer sector.

    Due to many circumstances, I do need the income but, more than that, while the public looks on the volunteers as good folks and tolerates them in their jobs, the "internal" family of the National Park Service gives very little respect. About the same as is shown, the "temporary" employees.

    I, reiterate, I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the job, the park and with the people but, I do sense a "keep my distance" from the "family".

    As I have approached them on the idea of becoming a regular employee - and, offered eveidence of more than ample qualifications, shown a dedication and energy in my work that is equal or more to any of the regular employees, I seem to get a bit of double talk, non acceptance or, in some cases, a tiny level of fear from the thought of having to give a strong opinion.

    I am very serious, I have observed, studied, discussed and read every available publication on the job, the duties, the needs and the skills required. Beyond any doubt, I am more than capable of doing any task that is related to the job and, unless some really bad situation occurs, see no reason why I would not be perfectly capable and be able to excel for the next several years.

    The bottom line, is, if I had a suggestion to the top ranking official of the NPS, it would be to motivate his people to seek out and recognize willingness, capability, dedication, qualifications, maturity, discipline and, perhaps, some wisdom over simply a fresh face, someone who knows someone, strictly youth (don't get me wrong, youth has many advantages), a friend of the family - and look to the real knowledge that can be offered to the public, the customers that should be provided the best and servioe and highest satisfaction.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    How many do we need? I'll tell you how many we need. We need to keep building them until they stop making money. It is simple if "people" and I am talking the whole population, not just the loud ones, don't want it then it will be built and fail. I know for a fact that walmart would not build in a spot that they expected would lose money. Did our soldiers fight for a walmart... your right they did. That is our way of life in this country, and in many ways this debate, as well as the walmart is a honor to all that the country has to offer.

    How far is enough? I cannot build on the border of a park, how about a mile, or 2 miles? Lines on a map are there for a reason. (the cell tower is a more complex issue, we had something around here with a golf driving range that was built next to a drive in theatre,the lights from the golf driving range was ruining the theatre...but I digress) .

    How does a Historical neighborhood maintain its character... you have zoning laws, to ensure that the development is compatible with the area. Interesting note on zoning laws, part of what makes Washington D.C. such a wonderful place is that there are no tall buildings to over shadow the monuments. Do you know how they have preserved their atmosphere? There is a law that no structure in the city can be taller that 2 times the width of the widest street the building is on. Simple solution.

    Ultimately it falls down to the state and local governments, and from the sounds of it, they are not helping much here.
    On a side note, in my area, Walmart built a store as an anchor on a project to reuse the land of a closed steel mill. It redeveloped what could have become a dangerous eye sore and turned it into a valuable resource for the inner city area. (Ohh and they refused to take the HUGE tax credit for building on a abandoned industrial site) They also built a store on a reclaimed landfill, however that store closed when it was determined that the developer screwed up and the store became dangerous.

  • Surf Is Decidedly Up At Cape Hatteras National Seashore Thanks to Hurricane Bill   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Sadly, this ol' "Gnarly Surfer Dude" is land-locked 250 miles from shore, but such is life...

    I will add this bit of GREAT news that precedes this storm:

    CHNSRA NPS biotechs were able to rescue ~200 pre-emergent/emerging turtle hatchlings prior to the storm surge, as well as relocating several other newer nests to higher ground! Said hatchlings will be released after the storm passes.

    Local rental agencies have advised non-residents to leave prior to sunrise on 8/23, as Rt. 12 is expected to overwash during times of high tide in several places along the seashore during Bill's passage through Sunday.

    NCDOT Ferry traffic between Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands may also be suspended due to swell levels in the inlet, if necessary.

    Bill is expected to be mainly a wave event for CHNSRA, and should be exiting by the beginning of next week. This is the first tropical cyclone to affect the East Coast and CHNSRA in 2009, ending what has been a very quiet spring and early summer Hurricane season.

  • Upon Further Review: "Where's the Spare?"   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Good story, well told. I haven't gotten to your Hey Ranger! books yet, but this story bumps them up the reading priority list!

  • Boat Explodes in Marina at Lake Mead National Recreation Area   5 years 31 weeks ago

    By any chance........was this boat ALSO operated by a fireman as was the one at Glen Canyon?
    Sounds like the fireman here in town whose house was destroyed by fire last winter - because he was using an unapproved heater!!!

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Dude how many Wal-marts and StripMalls dowe need? Your question is enough's enough well your right when's enough enough?

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    The cell tower issue was handled amicably between Alltel and the NPS. They eventually found a spot north of town attached to an existing water tower.

    Of course I'm not sure how far this can go. The closest NPS unit to where I live is John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California. That's located right on California State Route 4 (a multilane freeway) with a post office next door, a gas station across the street, plus a motel (The John Muir Lodge), car wash, and a supermarket nearby. The visitor center is a converted veterinary office. I used to pass this place on a daily basis when I did jury service in Martinez. That was a case of the city growing up around the site before it became a federal site.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I do not subscribe to the theory that "just because it's outside the park it's appropriate"
    I live in Black Hills, on a wooded lot. It's a large piece of property.
    This does not make it acceptable to build something, say, of this magnitude on the property next door.
    Even if I am outside the boundaries of the National Forest.
    Whether or not the goal is to either make money (likely) or just riun the area (unlikely), it's still not an appropriate location.
    The last place I lived had 2 Supercenters - in a city of 50,000 people. Didn't matter which part of town you went to, there was this giant paved-over area called a "parking lot" & a complex of surrounding buildings. None of which particularly blended in with their surroundings (how could they???), which is exactly what the end result will be if this goes through.
    55 acres of buildings & pavement adjoining an historic site from our historic past.
    A lot bigger blight on the landscape than a cell tower.......

  • Upon Further Review: "Where's the Spare?"   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Thanks, Owen -

    I'm glad to say one of my co-workers handled the tire changing caper...but he never mentioned a thank you note.

    Over the years, like most rangers, I did receive some nice notes of appreciation from visitors. Perhaps the most unusual was one of the largest arrangements of fresh flowers I've ever seen. It arrived at a ranger station at the Buffalo National River after several of us were involved in the successful rescue of a large group of teenage canoeists. The group leader, who took the kids on the river after we'd advised against the trip due to the weather forecast, sent the flowers and a nice card.

    The florist's delivery driver was a bit amused at the surprised reaction to the flowers by a trio of male rangers. I suppose back in the late 1980s, "macho rangers" didn't receive many literal bouquets, especially deep in the Ozarks :-)

  • Upon Further Review: "Where's the Spare?"   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Thank you Jim for sharing one of many of your true experiences as a national park ranger. Did you ever get a note of appreciation in the mail?

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I remember that a similar drama was played out regarding something on a smaller scale. There was a proposal to build a cell phone tower in unincorporated Gardiner, Montana. That community just happens to border Yellowstone National Park with the Roosevelt Arch ("For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People") right next to the town. I suppose that the protest was about such a structure being within eyesight of the Arch.

    I guess that one was a little bit more complex, since this was a place where people actually lived and wanted the service that the tower would provide. Not only that, but I remember visiting the town and seeing what else was in eyesight. The local high school was only a few hundred feet away from the entrance, and one could turn around after seeing the arch and notice the electronic scoreboard at the football field. From what I understood, some local residents weren't too pleased that the NPS was protesting the building of a structure in their town in a place where the NPS had no jurisdiction.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    If you are so worried about this or any other lands, find a way to buy the land. If not someone will and use it the way THEY see fit, not the way you see fit. In this country land owners still have rights to the land they own.

    It's simple, buy it or shut up.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Anon one, I am not saying that landowners do not have the right to do what they want with their property. But this isn't just a simple land sale from an owner - Walmart has to petition for a special use permit from the Board of Supervisors. As far as "forcing my assumptions" on anything, you seem to agree with me that the developers will get their incentives for building, after all, they are running a business and it's reasonable that they would want to profit from their efforts. No developer builds WITHOUT incentives. Yes, I'm assuming it's for greed more than economic relief. The developers stand to gain far more than Orange County. And it's not a "maybe" that there are 4 Walmarts within 20 miles radius - check a map if you don't believe me. You seem to assume I'm saying that Walmart wants to move there to "ruin the battlefield". No, Walmart wants to build there because they want to profit from this arrangement. I agree with you that the "real" battle should be how we preserve these spaces, it doesn't matter to me if it's a Walmart or a Target that's at issue here. If the state of Virginia (or any other public entity) REALLY wants to preserve this space, they will rezone or purchase the land. I have no quibbles with you there.

    Anon two, you are preaching to the choir - I know that Orange County is ultra right-wing, and anti-government. It's too bad they have so little respect for shared spaces.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Bat, if I may inform you, Orange County is pro-business and ultra right wing, and saving the environment is the least of there concerns. Trust's living fact!
    It's always a parking lot first and parks last!

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I am still not for or against this project, but I can tell you that your entire comment is based on forcing your assumptions onto a situation. Lets put your arguement to the sniff test... Of course development companies are involved with a development, "its likely.." that they will receive incentives to build, have any incentives been discussed offered or approved? If not, then that point of your arguement is out. The developers will profit, that is what developers (and every other business) tries to do, that is how amoerica runs. Walmarts smart growth is far better than almost any other retailer in this country, sure you cannot build a building without roads, sewers and lights, but what if they are doing their best to actually work with the locals on the development. 4 walmsrts within 20 miles, o.k. maybe, but walmart feels that there are undeserved customers in the area.

    I don't buy the notion that somehow walmart is just putting this up to ruin the battlefield. That they are running around the country plopping these buildings down intentionally to destroy our heritage and history. "How much cheap Chinese underwear do they need? " Who are they, i would assume that you mean walmarts customers, aka the locals.

    As I stated in my earlier comment, you are fighting walmart, (assuming that the fight really is PRO battlefield, and not just ANTI walmart) but your real battle is with the local communities and government that are not preserving these spaces. Local, state or national parks should be in place to protect these places, and they are not. Fighting to change that, is a far better fight then trying to battle each and every company that tries to build.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    The Supervisors claim that it will bring much-needed business and jobs to Orange County, which is rural and economically depressed. It doesn't pass the sniff test - instead of relief it smells like greed. Walmart's two partners in this venture are development companies - who do you think will be collecting rents on the retail space? And it's likely the Supervisors would grant them easements or tax incentives for developing there - so the county won't be profiting that much - the developers will! Walmart claims that their compromises (toning down parking lot lights and less obtrusive signage) speak to their commitment to "smart growth". Walmart's plan is to build 240,000 total square feet of big-box development, less than 1/4 mile from the entrance to the battlefield. That's not just retail space, but parking lots, lighting, new road access, water and sewer construction as well. Does that sound smart to you? Anyone familiar with that area can tell you that there are already four Walmarts within a 20-mile radius. How much cheap Chinese underwear do they need, anyhow?

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    O.k. I hear everyone's complaints, and I understand them. and I agree that the wal-mart location is likely to be inappropriate. Just to play the other side for a second from a different view. It's not all about money, it is all about a line on the map. If this land is part of the battlefield then why is it even available for development? If the government and the people care enough about this land then why is it not protected inside some sort of park designation? The community could always zone the land to make it impossible for development. If they did not, then they opened themselves up to the walamrt request, and if denied, they will still be open to more development.

    Where does it end? What is the right balance of protected space vs a companies right to exist. What if it was not walmart. People tend to have a very drastic opinion of walmart (I for one don't shop walmart, I am a Target person). What if they wanted to build housing there? The person who owns the land purchased it without any restrictions, so now, why are we trying to place restrictions on how it is used? I agree that historically significant land should be preserved, I agree in the existence of national battlefields, but if this land is so valuable historically then some government agency needs to step in and purchase the land. Otherwise the land owner is free to do with it, whatever the law allows.

    Turns out that there is a lot of hollowed ground in the U.S. where do we draw the line? Cities like San Fransisco have moved all of their cemeteries from the historical locations to outside the city... is that wrong? there may be a walmart on one of those sites. What if a walmart tires to lease space in one of the new World Trade Center Buildings (a very real possibility)?

    2 things worry me, 1) is this just a handy excuse to stop a walmart (turns out most of us shop there, even the protesters!) and 2) will someone find some historical reason to prevent me from using my land in a lawful manner?

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    FANTASTIC - now hopefully the Board of Supervisors will see fit to agree with the planning commission's failure to approve the project & history will be preserved.
    Mega-lo Mart needs to learn that respect for our national heritage should ALWAYS come before corporate profiteering.

  • Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide for a Warming World -- Red Knot and Other Northeastern Migratory Birds   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Ray Bane wrote: "The updated countywide plan will include an expected three meter rise in sea level over the coming decades."

    Three-meter rise in the next few decades? Where are you getting these outrageous numbers, Ray? Even a quick trip to Wikipedia reveals that a "probable maximum value for sea level rise in the next century is 80 centimeters", which is no where near the 300 cm you've pulled out of thin air. A recent study predicts between 7-82 cm of sea-level rise by the end of the twenty-first century, which isn't too far off of the IPCC's prediction of a 18–76 cm rise.
    Other scientists forecast the rise to be about 2cm a year, for a grand total of half a meter, which is consistent with the trend over the last few centuries.

    Now take a look at these predictions, both based on models. Both are quite a range. It is possible that over the next century, we'll only see 7 cm of sea level rise. Take out a ruler, find the 7cm mark and ask yourself if this is the environmental Armageddon you've been expecting. Look at the other numbers in the range and ask yourself if, over the next century, these will also bring about the catastrophe alarmists like Mr. Bane predict.

    One study begins that it's "well established that past rates of sea-level rise due to ice-volume reduction have reached up to 5 m per century" and references several studies that produced this finding. While this can't be used to predict sea-level rise during and interglacial period, it shows shoreline ecosystems have been able to cope with far more rapid inundations than we now experience.

    And there is no promise that sea levels will continue to rise; that's based on a lot of shaky assumptions. There are many other factors that affect sea levels. Take for instance a recent study titled, Snowfall-Driven Growth in East Antarctic Ice Sheet Mitigates Recent Sea-Level Rise. How many other systems or occurrences might slow or mitigate sea level rise, thereby completely voiding current predictions? Sea level rise has leveled off since 2006, which incidentally correlates to the deep solar minimum we're still experiencing.

    As for Fire Island and Long Island, both are very young geologically speaking; Long Island in its present incarnation was formed out of a glacial moraine 21,000 years ago when sea levels were much lower and Fire Island did not exist. Somehow, life coped with these massive climate changes in the past.

    Something tells me it will again, IF such changes are occurring that is.

    As for solutions to this "crisis", there are many market-based approaches that could be pursued, and I've discussed these in previous posts.

    Government intervention, however, leads to stories like this from the UK: Seven arrests in suspected £38m carbon credit fraud.