Recent comments

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    That's funnier than most attempts at humor I've read recently! You ought to submit a version of this story to national magazines like The Atlantic or the libertarian-oriented Reason. I wouldn't bother with Harper's, though; unless it's changed, the editors wouldn't see the humor.

  • Brady Campaign Sues Interior Department over Concealed Carry in National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    "The Bush Administration's last-minute gift to the gun lobby, allowing concealed semiautomatic weapons in national parks, jeopardizes the safety of park visitors in violation of federal law," said Mr. Helmke. "We should not be making it easier for dangerous people to carry concealed firearms in our parks."

    This comment shows a lack of understanding of concealed carry. Concealed carry permit holders have been through a thorough background check and completed classes in gun safety and handling. These are the good guys. The real "dangerous people" don't care about the laws and certainly would not be in favor of any law abiding citizens having a legal right to carry a gun. That could be dangerous for them in carrying out whatever evil intent they may have. The bottom line is this.... dangerous people will and always have had guns at their disposal. They just don't want anyone else to have them. In other words, allowing concealed carry permit holders to carry guns in National Parks makes them safer for everyone except the criminals.


  • NPCA, Park Retirees File Lawsuit to Halt Change in National Park Gun Rules   5 years 28 weeks ago

    In this article, Kurt characterizes the new rule-change as "National Rifle Association-driven".

    Well ... certainly, the NRA liked this idea, was doubtless instrumental in hustling around Congress etc on it's behalf, and otherwise cheerleading & pitching-in any way they could. Sure ... but 'NRA-driven' is a significant enhancement of the capacity they wield.

    Right off the top, if the NRA et al were able to "drive" gun-laws in this country, gun-laws in the country would be way, way different than they are. Agreed?

    The NRA would for sure "support" the new regulation. Where their presence would have a positive effect (it would not, in all situations), they would participate in "lobbying" key persons, or groups. They would willingly help "promote" and "publicize" it.

    For opponents of the new Parks gun-regulation, who want to know who their 'enemy' is, presenting the change as something that the NRA 'pulled off' in this coup, poses the suggestion that the way to minimize the chances of more changes like this, is to seek ways to minimize the NRA & its public role. Take the NRA down a few notches, get these usurping interlopers out of the Halls of Congress, and this gun-nonsense will abate. Hmm.

    More accurately, the new rule was driven by factions within Congress, and the national political parties. They had a friendly Administration in the White House, and 'went for it'. The NRA was high-fivvin' 'em all the way, you bet - but "driving"? Hmm.

    The guns-in-Parks rule-change was mainly "elected Representative/Senator/Politics-driven". The way to reduce the chances of more of this kind of stuff is to focus on the Congress, who was actually responsible, and not to 'kid' ourselves that the NRA "drives" laws in this country.

    The important thing to be considering now is the outlook of President-elect Obama. He is the one who will have the greatest weight in determining how the changes move forward, or don't.

    Of & by his own devices & nature, Obama is a gun-opponent. He doesn't like guns and would like to see them gone. However, after serving in a high position with the main gun-control lobby, and considering a role as chairman & leader of the whole movement, he then withdrew from the organization and subsequently distanced himself from the gun-opposition camp as a whole.

    The combination of his stated position on the 2nd Amendment (support) and his appointment of Salazar to Interior suggest he will permit the new regs to stand.

    Neither this lawsuit by former Parks staff, nor the one by the Brady organization, strike me as containing anything that is going to have Judges sitting on the edge of their chair, head cocked & listening intently to the penetrating logic of the complainant. The reasons given for bringing suit are primarily "opinions" and "emotional appeals", and are all subordinate to the Law of the Land pertaining to firearms. NPCA, like Brady, has no substantive case.

  • National Park Quiz 36: Management   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Great quiz! Please correct the answer key to show that B Historic Jamestowne is the correct answer for question number 5. The text describing the answer is correct, but the incorrect letter (C, indicating Montecello) is listed.

    [Ed: The correction has been made, with thanks to Kevin.]

  • This Park Combines Scenery and History on a Desert Island   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Well, we can have a bit of literary fun with the terms "desert" and "deserted" as they apply to this story.

    In the context of the story and the absence of a source of fresh water, "desert" was the intended word.

    However, a case could be made for either, since the majority of the islands in the park are uninhabited. According to several sources, when the term "desert" is used as a noun, it often refers to a warm and arid land that usually receives less than 10 inches of sporadic rainfall per year; when used as an adjective, it can refer to "an isolated tropical island with few or no inhabitants," "a desolate or forbidding area," and so on.

    As noted by other comments, I'd rate this park as a fascinating spot, but the nature of the terrain does have some "forbidding" aspects.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Well, Rick, I do have a friend up that way who operates a skytrekking operation. Maybe I could get him to cut me a deal. The trip I have in mind would still be pretty expensive, since I'd like to see some other parks and float some rivers as well. Will you lend me seven thousand dollars?

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Kurt notes that if we get a good cellulose-conversion process going we might become greedy, over-harvest the forest here on the Olympic Peninsula, and thus generate an environmental movement backlash against our excess.

    The problem is, though, that logs yield more value if they are turned into lumber & pulp, than if they are turned into fuel.

    Obviously, both log-prices & fuel-prices vary, but even with the lowest log-prices and the highest fuel-prices, it will be a challenge if not a 'stretch', to make a profit turning logs into SUV-fuel.

    Logs are just worth too much.

    Take the case of firewood. Around here, it sells for $150/cord. Pulp-logs, the cheapest kind, sell for about $300 a cord-equivalent, whole, with no additional work. Today, that $300 buys 7 barrels of crude, but the logs can't come anywhere close to producing 7 barrels worth of energy.

    So at what price-points do logs begin to match the energy-value of oil? Well, it's obviously going to be pretty 'extreme' - that's a safe call. I would guess conservatively that the price of fuel-energy has to rise to 'destructive' levels, before it makes economical sense to turn logs in fuel.

    Until fuel goes really-really high, you'll make more money selling your logs to the lumber & pulp mill, than you will selling them to the distiller.

    ... So in the parallel universe we inhabit, Conservationists continue to manage the Olympic timber stands properly, and therefore we continue to get away with decorating the hill-sides with handsome clear-cut patch-work quilting.

    ... Although, we steadily increase the amount of selective cutting on the Peninsula, and this trend may strengthen to the point where it begins to reduce the quality of our hillside artwork ... though fortunately this type of forestry causes the remining trees to become even more valuable, enabling us to work less and hike in the Olympic Park more! We'll learn to live with less-handsome, evenly-forested hillsides. ;-)

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    The impact on National Parks that mountain biking induces is much higher than hiking or climbing (currently accepted). The disruptions to wildlife and ecosystems testify of this, and should be scientifically assessed. Hiking and climbing are low noise, low energy sports , compared to high speed biking downhill.
    Sabine, l'ensemble des enquêtes scientifiques déjà réalisées, et il y en a beaucoup, ne sont pas d'accord. Les vététistes ont le même impacte sur les sentiers que ceux qui vont à pied, tandis que ceux qui utilisent les chevaux (ou bien les motos) peuvent créer des effets fort négatifs sur les sentiers et sur le terrain en général. Voir ce site:

    And I apologize if you don't speak French. I'm just relying on your name, which suggests that you may. I study foreign languages and try to use them whenever I can. (Everyone, I just wrote that the scientific evidence is to the contrary of Sabine's opinion; see the referenced website.)

    Kurt, if you feel I'm violating a rule of etiquette by writing in another language, let me know and I'll edit this post.

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Sorry, you lost me on this one. I myself are more than happy that federal agencies, like the NPS, are required to go through such a thoughtful process, because the alternative often seems to result in harm to the parks and resources. This is also the only way that the public can play a meaningful (or at least theoretically meaningful) role in oversight and involvement in the management process. Streamlining when it comes to things like this usually benefits a single user or group to the detriment of the public.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Ahhh, but if we as a nation really begin to focus on biofuels and agree that cellulose is a much, much better fuel than corn, perhaps all the slash from those clear-cuts has a future!

    And once that slash enters the system and is converted to inexpensive liquid gold for our ah-toe-moe-beels, folks will look out across those vast, tall, dense forests on the peninsula and see much, much more cellulose still standing that could be converted to biofuel. And since trees are renewable, the lumber companies could garner credits for carbon sequestration to boot (after pocketing subsidies for the cellulose, of course) that they could then sell to the energy companies that are polluting the air with their gas and oil drilling operations in Utah!

    That will lead to more clear-cutting, and in the process create a movement to rise up against the tree harvesters and their harvests. Problem solved.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Because there's a thousand years worth of oil-shale?

    Because folks see Saudi Arabia in the Rockies?

    The Olympic Peninsula clearcut logging plantation system maximizes the CO2 draw-down capacity of this highly productive ecosystem, so we get a 'bye'. ;-)

    Nah ... really it's hard to say for sure. It may well have more to do with how the eco-movement works, than anything actually at stake or in the offing.

    To have a 'movement', over a sustained time-frame, there has to be new and somewhat novel concerns coming along to keep interest up. If folks will bite on 'energy in the Rockies', then the chicken done got to the other side of the road.

  • This Park Combines Scenery and History on a Desert Island   5 years 28 weeks ago

    But going back to the original question, a "dry island' is one without a source of fresh water, and a "desert island" would be one without rainfall, I imagine. Thus, the right term would seem to be "deserted island!"

  • Interior Officials Release Rule Change to Allow National Park Visitors to Arm Themselves   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Maybe good people like you will never need someone to protect you from a criminal, if you do don't let them bring a gun to protect you.

  • Pruning the Parks: The $100 Million National Visitor Center Fiasco   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I couldn't help but notice in LBJ's remarks mention of the Capitol Visitor's Center. The final price tag on that fiasco? $621 million. Yet another lesson that it takes more than good intentions to ensure that public money is well spent.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Just to keep the thread drift going, any thoughts on why there's so much uproar over energy development near the Utah parks and not a peep about the clear-cutting that runs near, if not up to, the southern boundaries of Olympic?

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago


    No problem with the late-night comments, but the explanation is appreciated - Thanks!

    Carsten with an "e" gets lots of good returns.

    Mr. Lein's account no doubt addresses the $64 question: Why did it take over 40 years to form Olympic National Park, after everyone knew that the Peninsula was an exceptional habitat?

    1.) Because the enormous trees in the lowlands were considered too valuable to have locked up in a Park. The State objected, industry objected, land-owners objected - and Conservation-oriented environmentalists objected.

    2.) Even more important than #1, the production of Olympic Peninsula managed timberlands is the heaviest and most valuable of any forestry in the U.S.A. Only a few locales on earth exceed the per-acre timber-wealth of this Peninsula.

    Therefore, when late-19th C. Preservation activism began lobbying to make a Park of the whole Peninsula, their goal 'mysteriously' eluded them ... for nearly another half a century ... until the first cut of the old-growth forests was nearly complete and the timberlands had been successfully converted to plantation.

    Paradoxically, it is a credit to the principles of Conservation by which the timberlands have been managed, that to this day Preservation-principles still rate these commercialized forests as worthy to be converted into Park. ;-)

  • This Park Combines Scenery and History on a Desert Island   5 years 28 weeks ago

    One of Nevada Barr's novels, Flashback, is set at Dry Tortugas NP. Most NPS employees whom I know who worked at the park always felt there was something strange about the Fort. I visited the park at least 4 times a year when I was stationed at Everglades. Besides being a marvelous combination on natural and cultural resources, it is a spooky place. I was reminded of that when I read Flashback. It is also one of the great diving and snorkeling sites in the System.

    Rick Smith

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I'll be smiling for days thinking of your very clever & amusing post, Ted. Thanks!

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Your observation, "...Hazard trees are those trees that, due to disease or structural failure, are at imminent risk of falling and striking stationary targets. The EA also identifies those "targets," such as public restrooms, that could suffer from the ill-timed collapse of a hazardous tree that was not properly felled in time," made me smile. When I was at Big Bend NP in Oct, several Port-A-Potties at the Cottonwood picnic area/campground had been washed off their mooring platforms by floods. If the comment section could accept images, I'd one or two.

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Well put, Anonymous, well put.

    We're not suggesting the NPS overlook or sidestep NEPA, the Organic Act, or the Management Policies -- indeed, there are many times when we wished the agency would closely adhere to them (see Yellowstone snowmobiles) -- but couldn't the agency in Glacier's case have simplified the process some way, some how, spared the EA authors some long days, and spent more time on getting to work on the problem rather than running up printing costs?

    You raise an interesting point when you cite another park that developed its own hazardous tree removal criteria. Why can't the NPS simply make copies and pass them out to the other 390 parks? Granted, there are differences from park to park (I wouldn't imagine there are too many hazardous trees in Arches), but the survey forms and rating criteria should be similar, no, as with soundscapes, air pollution, and museum impacts?

    As for my volunteering, judging from some of the language I've seen I'd have to insist on being paid;-)

    Beyond that, there are many, many fine writers in the Park Service. Amy Vanderbilt at Glacier is one, recently retired Bill Tweed another, and don't overlook Dick Sellers and his fine books on the NPS. Indeed, we'd love to see some ranger contributions here at the Traveler.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    The impact on National Parks that mountain biking induces is much higher than hiking or climbing (currently accepted). The disruptions to wildlife and ecosystems testify of this, and should be scientifically assessed. Hiking and climbing are low noise, low energy sports , compared to high speed biking downhill.
    As a citizen , I request a thorough review of the proposal at the US Congress level, to assess if it violates the mandate of our National Parks. For instance, modifications of rules to favor mountain biking are likely to open the way for other high impact sports, including firearm sports and motor-engine sports in the wilderness of National Parks. Another high impact sport, BASE jumping is outlawed. Mountain biking has more environmental impact than BASE jumping. Nationals Parks were set up precisely to avoid this sort of human impact on the environment and the wilderness, therefore the assessment of the proposal should occur at the federal level.

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Amazingly enough there are a couple of reasons for going through a planning and NEPA process, even to cut down hazard trees.

    1. The National Environmental Policy Act, as well as the NPS Management Policies (remember that issue?) require the NPS to fully consider potential impacts on resources. This applies even when the NPS does some things as simple as removing hazard trees.

    2. Sometimes simple things, aren't that simple. A few years ago I worked with a National Park that had an energetic hazard tree removal program and an equally energetic hazard tree program manager. In talking with the manager of the program I asked what standards he used to evaluate whether the tree was hazardous and whether removal was called for. I expected to hear a detailed description of considerations of location, condition, visible damage, etc. Instead his reply was "I know them when I see them." In looking at the program he managed we found that his park removed more "hazard trees" than the adjacent National Forest removed through timber sales. Unfortunately the law that established the National Park he worked in called on the NPS to preserve and protect the same trees and habitat that he considered hazardous. (The trees were hazardous because they were "big and old" the same reason the park was established). The park was advised to reconsider their hazard tree removal program. It went through a planning process and came up with a set of standards to apply rather than gut feeling to act on.

    3. Over the last couple of years Glacier went through a planning process to address avalanche control issues related to the operation of the adjacent Burlington Northern train tracks. It was burdensome (just ask the BN people who employed a host of lawyers and lobbyists to plead their case). However, it needed to be done. (See #1 above). The BN folks complained that it was a burden and the issue was a simple one--snow removal and safety. But in examining the real issue, it was more complex than that. It also involved pesky things like wilderness, endangered species habitat, and core issues surrounding how National Parks should be managed. Should the NPS have given BN a pass to on their snow removal project?

    4. In the end, however, these plans and environmental documents should be written in English and not the language of bureaucrats. Maybe what's needed is not a wholesale planning pass on seemingly simple projects, but a crash course in clear writing. The Park could probably use a volunteer like Kurt to teach it.

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Kurt & all,

    Having some familiarity with bait & its use, I'll bite:

    a.) how well & meaningfully would you think the punky regulations and tottering structural-organization of the Parks-regime compare with the accumulation & hazards of deadwood in the forest-regime?

    b.) if chainsaws & dynamite are effective against forest-decrepitude, what tools might be similarly useful against the decay at Parks?

    Does a Stihl fit Sec. Salazar's hand, or is it more-suited to glad-handing?

    How does President-elect Obama feel about the drip-torch?

    We do have fundamental guidance for such issues & questions as these.

    For deadwood in the forest1.:

    "[The Secretary of the Interior] may also, upon terms and conditions to be fixed by him, sell or dispose of timber in those cases where in his judgment the cutting of such timber is required in order to control the attacks of insects or diseases or otherwise conserve the scenery or the natural or historic objects in any such park, monument, or reservation."

    Forget the Rangers: we have lots of skilled & underemployed loggers who don't fall under NPS asininity.

    And for deadwood in the office2.:

    "[The Secretary of the Interior] may also provide in his discretion for the destruction of such animals and of such plant life as may be detrimental to the use of any of said parks, monuments, or reservations."
    Well, at least it's certainly poetic. ;-)

    1, 2 Both from National Parks Organic Act, the basic law of our Parks, and short enough to read in a few minutes. Recovery from the shock & nausea may take longer.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago


    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Good points about the mines and homesteads; I'd forgotten about those.
    Concerning your earlier comment about the NPS taking over, I guess it's not paranoia if they're really after you. I'd probably have a different perspective if I or my family were Peninsula natives. I'm sure the numerous Native Americans there have an even different perspective.

    I posted late at night after a grueling week clearing massive amounts of snow from roofs & helping friends
    evacuate portable possesions out the path of the coming floods here. That's no excuse, just an explanation, so
    apologies for my several unclear remarks. Since this thread is about mountain biking, I was trying not to hijack it too much more than we already have. I was focused on your comments about trails, where I have a bit of experience. I should have said that Olympic trails are less wild than they used to be, though apparently not as well-maintained. Even the (trail) development faction is probably not eager to expand bike use though. Maybe that was part of your point? Aren't they allowed, even encouraged, on Spruce RR trail? FWIW, I saw bootleg bike tracks deep in the backcountry on numerous occasions, so if that occurs in a place as rugged as Olympic, it's probably not uncommon in many other Parks.

    The book I tried to refer to is Carsten Lien (with an e, not an o), Olympic Battleground: The Power Politics of Timber Preservation. It's been years, maybe I should re-read it. It's an exhaustive history of the ebb & flow around the establishment and expansion of the Park. As I recall, the NPS resisted the idea of a Park initially, then had grandiose road-building plans as usual, even hotels. A fair amount of logging was also done within the boundaries by the NPS. Sorry I can't offer better examples, but I'm pretty sure the gist of it is that neither faction was consistently dominant in the early decades.

    The sewage spill was no accident, though I'm sure management used that excuse. Probably the details are in
    the PA newspaper archives. I should have said "into the Lillian drainage...".

    I'm glad we can at least agree that NPS management is a "closed & draw-bridged shop, and that as part of
    their insularity & defensiveness, they will react strongly (even 'overreact') to critics within their ranks". Well said!
    I don't find the abstract labels you mentioned particularly useful, but read all your posts, so blog on.

  • Accessibility in the National Park System   5 years 28 weeks ago

    My favorite park for accessible access is the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Coast Guard Beach located in Eastham on the Cape. During the summer months between June to Labor Day, the parkink lot is closed to all but the park staff and visitors who are disabled. All other access to this beach is by shuttle bus from the Little Creak Area. This beach area includes ample bathroom and shower facilities. A nice wood ramp down to the beach, with a side ramp to a viewing area. For those that are wheel chair dependent, the life gaurds can provide a specially designed wheelchair with flotation tires that you can use to get you over the sand reach the waters edge.

    Semper Fi