Recent comments

  • At 55 and Counting, Wright Brothers National Memorial Enjoys Its Monumental Facelift   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Great article, Bob!

    Thanks for bringing this project to light. Prior to the 2003 "Centennial of Flight" celebration, the entire WBM complex had become rather worn looking, to say the least. Decades of exposure to salt air and simple visitor wear and tear had taken its toll.

    After many years of just passing it by, I have made at least one visit each year over the past two years, and was very happy to see the facelift that the entire unit has enjoyed. It's also great to see that the restoration of the monument itself was financed through cooperation between the NPS and NGO's like the First Flight Foundation, helping the financially strapped park service as well as providing a sense of civilian ownership.

    Another item of note: December 17th marks the 105th anniversary of the Wright Brother's maiden flight, and the First Flight Society will hold it's annual day-long Gala event at the WBM complex. From the First Flight Society Website:

    The day's activities include a ceremony at the Memorial . . . the induction of a major figure in aviation into the Society's Shrine . . . a thrilling fly-over of civilian, military and historic aircraft . . . and an annual luncheon and formal Ball. This annual celebration is a joint effort of the First Flight Society, the National Park Service, the military and many other participants.

    If you're in the area, make plans to attend this unique event!

  • 28 Years Ago, the National Park System Gained Millions of Acres   5 years 37 weeks ago

    d-2 and Rick -

    Thanks for the additional insights into this part of NPS history.

    Rick, you and the others who made that initial foray into the new areas in 1979 did a superb job in laying the foundation for rangers who came after you. That had to be an incredibly challenging assignment - and as you note, one of the most rewarding ones... especially since it turned out so well. The story about the award ceremony is a classic!

  • Rescued Yosemite Hiker Has Lots to be Thankful for This Year   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Lucky guy, glad all ends well. Honestly I can't think of a nicer place to get stuck for a week or 2. If Steve F. would like, I will send him a copy of my photo from above Red Devil Lake from early Sept. (it was much warmer then). I can easily see why a couple of feet of snow would have stopped any progress in country like that. Nothing but rocks , and granite slabs and wind exposure. It's nice to hear a rescue story where somebody did almost everything he should. Again, Lucky Guy! Terrible shame about the Japanese Climbers...

  • 4-Year-old Dies in Fall off South Rim of Grand Canyon   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Anyone who says that they "would not let go of a child's hand for one second" either does not have children or lives in a dream world. This is real life and the world is an imperfect place. My heart breaks for the parents of this poor kid. The memory of this event will haunt them forever. It's too bad that some idiots focus on how such a thing could only be an act of negligence. Wake up, idiots.

  • 28 Years Ago, the National Park System Gained Millions of Acres   5 years 37 weeks ago

    I think they did a pretty good job, considering what was at stake, how enormous the controversy was, how many PRIVATE SECTOR lobbyists were engaged, and how complicated the task was. I thought most of the politicians had more courage than most of the agency people or the private sector. They had to stand out there and take the hits.

    Maybe it could be easier for the private sector to do something slick behind closed doors. but then, how much would the average citizen be able to affect the outcome? The private sector would just tell you what they were going to do, and unless you are a big stockholder or can file a successful lawsuit, you are stuck.

    In the case of this law, more people testified on this legislation than any prior law in history, except the Civil Rights Act.

    I don't think these things should be easy.

  • 28 Years Ago, the National Park System Gained Millions of Acres   5 years 37 weeks ago

    In 1979, I was one of a small group of NPS rangers (21 in total, I believe) sent to Alaska in the summer to establiish an NPS "presence" in President Carter's new national monuments. We held public meetings, gave countless interviews, did monument patrols, answered dozens of phone calls from Senator Stevens' and Representative Young's offices and enforced the new regulations in the national monuments.

    It was a summer to remember. The opposition to the monuments adopted a logo of a husky peeing on a sign that said "national monument". I still have a tee shirt with the logo. It is one of my most treasured momentos of my years in the NPS. We made several arrests for hunting inside the monument boundaries, all of which garnered headlines in the Anchorage and Fairbanks papers.

    When I left the state in early October, I realized that not only had I seen some of the most breath-taking country on our planet and met some of most interesting people in the US, I had also participated in the shake-out that reached its culmination when the President signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in December, 1980. As d-2 notes above, many Alaskans favored the compromises contained in ANILCA because in the summers of 1979 and 1980, they saw what life would be with national monuments and no further action.

    An interesting footnote: Toward the end of the summer, the Alaskan law enforcement community held its Alaska police olympics. We were initially denied entry, but since we were all sworn peace officers, they finally allowed us to compete. We won our share of the medals that were awarded at a banquet by Representative Don Young. I will never forget his comment after he awarded a number of shooting medals to NPS rangers following awarding our relay team a medal. He said, "Well, one thing we now know about rangers. They can shoot straight and run fast." He was right.

    Rick Smith

  • 28 Years Ago, the National Park System Gained Millions of Acres   5 years 37 weeks ago

    D-2, thanks for providing "the rest of the story." Nothing ever seems to be easily accomplished when it involves the federal government and politicians, does it?

  • 28 Years Ago, the National Park System Gained Millions of Acres   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Kurt -- it is such a kick to see so many pieces, and comments, in this website about Alaska over the past several days. Now with this piece you bring it all together, by highlighting President Carter's Alaskan National Monuments.

    -- On how long it took to get the Alaska Lands Act (ANILCA) passed, it DEPEMDS on how you count.

    Ted Swem, the NPS genius who headed the national park service planning team and first defined (in 1973) all the areas included in Pres. Carter's Monuments, wrote a piece in the NPS newsletter about the origin of the park proposals. He mentioned NPS studies going back to the 1930's, and also the effort to create large national monuments -- including a two-unit Gates of the Arctic NM -- for President Johnson to establish. But in a last-minute conflict with Sec. Stewart Udall in January 1969, most of these proposals died.

    Then, in 1973, Ted's team submitted their proposals through the Director to the Secretary (Rodgers Morton) to be sent to the Congress. Morton had to coordinate his proposals through the Nixon then Ford White House. Several bills started to be introduced from that time on, either based on the Morton/Swem proposals, or on larger conservationist plans. When Carter was elected, the Administration revised the Ford proposal, led by Secretary Andrus. That is when the national preserves were identified, so as to close the "national parks" to sport hunting. Andrus prepared draft legislative language, introduced by Senator Scoop Jackson, Rep. Mo Udall on behalf of the environmentalists introduced the famous "H.R. 39," and Senator Stevens his bill on behalf of the opponents of the parks and refuges. Ultimately, there were many more. From the beginning Senator Jackson maneuvered to have his bill end up as "the" bill.

    But all the bills died at the end of 1978, forcing President Carter to create the Monuments, even though Senator Mike Gravel said Carter did not have the guts. Not the first time Gravel was wrong. The concept of ending all further Presidential Proclamations under the antiquities act was fully supported by Carter and Andrus, and was one of many ways included in the final bill to salve the opposition or anger of those in Alaska who opposed the parks. Carter and Andrus wanted a bill passed by congress, a concensus vehicle as much as possible.

    Throughout, Carter and Andrus made numerous efforts to avoid vindictiveness, and achieve a balanced bill that accomplished Rogers Morton's Vision Statement to "Do Things Right For the First Time." In their efforts at statesmanship, Andrus and Carter reminded me of Abraham Lincoln. Carter said he thought that many years in the future, historians would say Alaskan conservation was the most important thing achieved in his Administration.

    But Kurt, you are also right about the key point, that at a time Alaska was being carved up for development and land disposal, the President and the Congress insisted that CONSERVATION be built into the development plans. rather than as an afterthought.

    You mention Dick Proenneke and Lake Clark National Park. I had a chance to meet Dick Proenneke at Twin Lakes about a year before Carter and Andrus make their proposal in 1977. I have never seen such a beautifully CRAFTED piece of woodworking or architecture as that cabin. At that time Dick thought he would have to leave his cabin as soon as the park was created, because he said BLM had told him he did not have a legal claim, and would be run off by the NPS. He accepted this philosophically, saying the most important thing was to protect large, beautiful parklands for the future, not what happened to him.

    Despite the flack that everybody in Alaska was against the new parks, if it had not been for the support of so many Alaskans like Dick, I think the bill would not have passed, or at least, so many areas this large would not have been created. There is an amazing, long list of inspired people who, working together (and sometimes in opposition), made these great national monuments happen.

  • Study Says Loss of Wolves Damaging Olympic National Park's Forest Ecosystem   5 years 37 weeks ago

    we need to reintroduse wolfs, why? it is because, the elk and deer heards are tearing up our forests! they are eating the plants that contain river banks, they eat the shoots of new trees. if we allow controlled hunting, people from all over the USA will come to Washington, to hunt the elk, and even with the hunting being controlled the elk numbers will still drop like flies.

  • China Moves to Designate its First National Park   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Thanks, Sabattis, for bringing up the Kobuk Valley National Park.

    What a special place. Is there anything else like it? And yes, other than the Kobuk River, and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes (that actually might not be on federal land), tourists don't usually go there. But it is a crossroads of the arctic and the subarctic, of the flyways and caribou migration routes, midway between the coastal zone and the Interior, of nearly every phase of Alaska pre-history, and a nearly complete ecological zone.

  • National Park Quiz 31: World War II   5 years 37 weeks ago

    You're welcome, Fred. When my wife and I toured "Big Mo", I was puzzled by the fact that it was impossible to get a good view of the USS Arizona Memorial from the quarterdeck of the battleship -- that is, from the part of the Missouri where the Japanese surrender ceremony took place. Finding out why was a real revelation. The symbolism is very powerful. Those unfamiliar with the setting might want to take a look at
    this site. It is the single best photo I have ever seen of the two vessels' relative positions.

  • National Park Quiz 31: World War II   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Although I lived on the island of Oahu for many years, I never knew why the Missouri is placed the way it is.

    Thanks for sharing this piece of history with us.

  • China Moves to Designate its First National Park   5 years 37 weeks ago

    If this is truly the "first" National Park - it sounds like this really raises the question of what is a National Park. It sounds like China is interpreting a "National Park" to be a place that is oriented towards visitation in a way that does not necessarily apply to all of the US National Parks - say like Kobuk Valley National Park in the United States.

  • National Park Quiz 31: World War II   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Nice catch, MRC. I fixed it. This was an especially dumb mistake on my part. Several months ago I even started to write an article about the Minidoka redesignation and expansion, emphasizing the satellite site on Bainbridge Island. Might still do it.

  • National Park Quiz 31: World War II   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Minidoka is a National Historic Site since May 2008. It was vastly expanded in size but downgraded from NM to NHS by this years Omnibus Bill.

  • Climbing is Capped at Mount McKinley and Climbers are Left to Wonder What’s Next   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Dang! Your right on target Bob! Bobby Kennedy did indeed scale Mt. Kennedy in 1965 and with the world famed mountain climber Jim Whittaker. I kept thinking along it was Mt. Denali. Thanks for the research.

  • Study Says Loss of Wolves Damaging Olympic National Park's Forest Ecosystem   5 years 37 weeks ago

    From Sightline Daily
    Bringing Wolves Back to Washington
    Posted by Eric de Place
    11/21/2008 11:05 AM

    "In Washington, state officials are already drafting a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. (The section on the history of wolves in Washington is especially fascinating.) The plan is undergoing scientific peer review now and will be available for public comment in early 2009. We expect that the plan will develop a management scheme for wolves that have returned to the state on their own; it likely won't have provisions for actively reintroducing them, not even into hard to reach places like Olympic National Park where they would surely thrive. I think that's a shame -- but the public comment period will be an excellent opportunity to offer corrections to the state's plan. Stay tuned."

  • Study Says Loss of Wolves Damaging Olympic National Park's Forest Ecosystem   5 years 37 weeks ago

    the hunters need to stay away and the wolfs need a reservation to keep pochers away

  • Study Says Loss of Wolves Damaging Olympic National Park's Forest Ecosystem   5 years 37 weeks ago

    hunters need to stay the hell away and it would all be fine

  • Reading the Fine Print – Did the NPS Ever Manage This National Monument?   5 years 37 weeks ago

    All good points on wilderness. On the other hand, without the provision to land on skiis or floats, we probably would not have gotten nearly as much Wilderness in Alaska.

    Plus, although perhaps NOT in Southeast Alaska, in Interior Alaska there is some strange connection between the small, single-engine airplane and the sense of what is wild in Alaska. I know it seems weird, but the mythos of wild country in Alaska is as much about airplanes as it is about sleddogs. There is a whole literature on this Alaskan romance of the small plane. Read Sheppard's "Flying North."

    We also thought at the time that restricting flights to small, fixed wing aircraft would have minimal physical impact, due to landing on snow cover, or landing on lakes or rivers. We tried to make it clear that by definition aircraft could not be a subsistence means of access, but the ambiguity of the language, and especially the interpretation, of the law means that preverse interpretations of the law have seemed to allow ATVs and aircraft. But during the debate, the very powerful republican Senator Hansen, who had been trying to show some flexibility to the need of some money even in the subsistence economy, had finally had enough. He barked: I don't care: if it is by air, it is sport hunting, NOT SUBSISTENCE!

    A series of weak leaders and strong pushes in the Reagan and the two Bush administrations have slowly confused an already complicated law.

    I was moaning one day, years after the law was passed, about the way the Reagan-Bush people had twisted the Alaska lands act (ANILCA), to a very senior and very distinguished chief of staff to the Senate committee with jurisdiction. I said something infantile about how this law cannot handle the bad faith from the people implementing it. This guy looked at me like I was born yesterday and said: ALL laws are like that. ALL laws require good faith!"

  • Reading the Fine Print – Did the NPS Ever Manage This National Monument?   5 years 37 weeks ago

    MRC -

    Good comment about wilderness in Alaska, and the impact of a lot of small aircraft.

  • Climbing is Capped at Mount McKinley and Climbers are Left to Wonder What’s Next   5 years 37 weeks ago


    I doubt the NPS spends an "exorbitant" amount of money on SAR at Denali. (Compared to pork barrel spending and the millions spent on planning, research, etc, NPS SAR expenses are mere pennies.) They do, perhaps, risk an exorbitant amount of rescuer's lives on Denali.

    I suspect that the poop on Denali is more impact on the aesthetics and safety of the human experience than it is on the environment.

    This may be a justified case of limiting access to improve the quality and the safety of the human experience.

    I think your Parunaweep (Zion) example is a better case of the NPS participating in unjustified closing of an area to human visitation.

  • Climbing is Capped at Mount McKinley and Climbers are Left to Wonder What’s Next   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Interesting questions, Beamis. Unless you made the purchase of (costly) insurance mandatory, it’s likely that the fatality rate would increase dramatically after you announced that climbers must pay the full cost of SAR operations conducted in their behalf. People in desperate trouble would be disinclined to ask for help, and that’s a ticket to disaster. Anyway, climbers have always been disposed to “take care of their own,” and that is the ethic at work on Denali (no mountaineers that I know of call the peak “Mount McKinley”). The SAR team positioned at about the 14,000 foot level on Denali during the climbing season consists of ranger volunteers. They are there because they love it, and because they care about fellow members of the climbing fraternity. I’m not sure the NPS would save much money if this service were discontinued. For one thing, the SAR personnel would still be on the NPS payroll and working in some other park. (I do understand that military/contract helicopters needed for high-altitude rescue are expensive.) BTW, the SAR work on Denali is more dangerous than most people appreciate. There are lots of ways to get killed, and that includes the air shuttle from Talkeetna. Several years ago, three ranger volunteers and their very experienced pilot died when their plane crashed in bad weather en route to Denali. As for your Obamacrats comment, I can only say this: Please don’t ever again mention feces and “sink your teeth into” in the same posting.

  • Climbing is Capped at Mount McKinley and Climbers are Left to Wonder What’s Next   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Anon, if Bobby Kennedy ever climbed Mount McKinley, I sure don’t know about it. I think Bobby Kennedy Junior may have scaled McKinley in the mid-1990s. (Perhaps one of our readers could help with this?) Be that as it may, you are probably thinking about Bobby Kennedy’s summitting of (the then newly-named) Mount Kennedy in 1965. That climb is very well documented because the mountain (in the Canadian Yukon) was named in honor of President John F. Kennedy and was climbed for the first time ever by a team that included JFK’s brother Bobby. Alas; I can’t help you on the fitness program front.

  • Climbing is Capped at Mount McKinley and Climbers are Left to Wonder What’s Next   5 years 37 weeks ago

    One market focused approach to reduce climbers would be to have them sign a waiver from receiving an immediate rescue or else be on the hook for the FULL amount of a SAR. It seems downright stupid for the government to be spending exorbitant amounts of money and risking their employees lives to rescue those who have willingly exposed themselves to extreme danger. That's how private insurance works and the NPS should be no different. The SAR account should always be full and ready to serve those who have the means and responsibility to shoulder the burdens of their voluntary activity.

    As for the observation that:

    Warming temperatures have already melted enough ice and snow to expose large amounts of human feces originally buried 14 feet beneath the surface.

    This definitely sounds like a public works project that the Obamacrats could really sink their teeth into. Someone should alert Rahm Emanuel that Americorps needs additional funding to procure some pooper scoopers, enviro-hazard bags and a contingent of "volunteers" to set out for Alaska to start cleaning up the mess that global warming has exposed upon the pristine slopes of Mt. McKinley.

    The dawning of the green collar economy is now upon us!