Recent comments

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Regarding the Fallow/Axis deer in Point Reyes. They were given by the San Francisco zoo to the local landowner in the 40s to add variety to the hunting. Once the place became wilderness, hunting was stopped and the non native specie started displacing the native deers. A few years ago, people started agonizing over how getting rid of the non native deers, and that contraceptive idea was floated to appease local environmentalists who could not live with the idea of killing those deers. From what I remember, the contraceptive program was extremely expensive (they had to shoot the contraceptive in the deer, then examine their droppings to make sure it worked) and was not 100% effective. I'm no scientist, but I'm not sure that I get the benefits of doing that contraceptive experiment. Could we save some money, kill those remaining deers and use the money saved somewhere else in the NPS?

  • The AARP Seven-Tip List for Economical National Park Visiting is One Tip Short   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Darn it, Ken. Now you've gone and ruined my dinner. All I can think about is that trout! :(

  • The AARP Seven-Tip List for Economical National Park Visiting is One Tip Short   5 years 38 weeks ago

    The cafeteria at Yosemite Lodge has a great Trout dinner with veggies for about $7. HOW CAN YOU BEAT THAT!

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Lepanto, your assertion that "most regional offices HAVE been cut" is not supported by the evidence.

    The FY2008 Park and Program Summary shows on page 12 that none of the 8 regional offices' budgets have been cut. In fact, the difference between FY2006 and the FY2008 President's Request is +8.89%. Since 2001, the regional offices' budgets have increased by roughly 30%.

    I advise looking at the data before asserting anyone is trying to "starve the beast".

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Roger, I don't doubt you've got plenty of coyotes, but I seriously doubt they were legally introduced. Coyotes are considered vermin in the southeast, with many people ranking them right up there with kudzu and fire ants. Here in South Carolina, coyotes were illegally introduced in some counties by hunters who enjoyed running them with hounds. Now coyotes live in all 46 counties of the state and the coyote population has spiraled out of control -- much to the chagrin of those of us who appreciate turkeys, foxes, cats, and the other creatures they regularly kill. I'm not saying that coyotes have no role to play in this ecosystem, only that they have grown too numerous.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    I'm with Ted and Beamis.

    This webzine deserves some props!

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    I have heard that elk and coyote were also introduced into Mt Rogers National Receartion Area. Can any confirm this? We live 6 miles from the park and coyote sighting in the last few years have skyrocketed.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Lepanto,

    I agree that a "starve the beast" tactic is being used, and that it is underhanded and unattractive ... but.

    "Starve the beast" is very similar to "demand destruction", which we are currently watching cut the price (and use!) of crude oil several fold.

    "Demand destruction" is applauded by some enviro-Liberals as a method to force folks to reduce CO2 emissions, etc, whether they want to or not. (It also slashes the money flowing into the coffers of Russia, Venezuela, Iran, etc.)

    The Democrat/Liberal faction, meanwhile, consistently bloats government using every device it can find. Conservatives respond by making excess government employment unpleasant and unrewarding, trying to force people (with guaranteed jobs) to reduce their dependency on government featherbedding by finding a more-agreeable position outside government.

    "Too many chiefs and not enough indians" is the classic sign of inflated government payrolls. The readiness with which opposing points of view agree that Parks management is top-heavy, gives us fair notice that when proponents of smaller government get the chance, the Parks System will be in the line of fire as reformers attempt to "starve the beast".

    I agree also with Beamis, that the Democratic victory in the White House & Congress is unlikely to change things at NPS to their liking. Even without the global economic problems, Obama is coming down well to the Right of where some of his supporters inferred he would stand. And I second Beamis' motion that National Parks Traveler be listed as a Parks Story of the Year!

    Ted

  • The AARP Seven-Tip List for Economical National Park Visiting is One Tip Short   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Blessed are the senior retirees!
    So many times within and around many of Our National Parks have they given this scruffy backpacking scrambler a ride,
    a beer, fed me, shared the warmth of their fire, let me use the shower in their room etc.
    Thank You!

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    It is a strategy to destroy the competence of government and the confidence of the American people in their government.

    That goal was achieved long before the current OMB or White House ever set out on their current course of destruction.

    Again, I will ask (my broken record----again) how does the scenario, which lepanto so aptly describes, allow y'all to continue to be inspired to put your faith and trust in the criminal enterprise known as government to do the right thing for the national parks? You all seem to have this quaint and barely coherent notion that just getting the right people into positions of federal power will solve the deeply systemic problems that plague the management of the parks and suddenly make everything right for Bambi and his friends in the Enchanted Forest. Pure poppycock!

    That fatuous notion is nothing more than utter and hopelessly idealistic nonsense and mark my words people, things will NOT improve over the next four years due to a Democrat sitting in the Imperial Palace and holding a majority of seats in the Star Fleet Command. This ship is going down and a cute and nattily attired captain at the wheel ain't gonna save what is left of their tattered empire, especially the national parks. They are going to suffer right along with the rest of it.

    Merry Christmas to all of my fellow NPT readers. It has been a fun and exciting year trading comments and insights and if the truth be known I think this forum's existence has been one of the bigger stories of the year for the national parks. I wish it and you all a happy and prosperous (as best as can be achieved in a Federal Reserve caused hyperinflationary depression) new year.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    The CBS News affiliate in San Fransisco reported on Jan. 28, 2008: Controversial Deer Slaughter Resumes At Pt. Reyes

    "Hunters from White Buffalo Inc., an East Coast company, shot between 8 and 10 fallow deer Monday morning in the Point Reyes National Seashore before weather conditions curtailed Monday's planned removal of the non-native deer species from the national park.

    The eradication is intended to preserve the park's native black-tailed deer and tule elk populations.

    John Dell'Osso, spokesman for the Point Reyes National Seashore, said the deer were shot in the Limantour wilderness area of the park. The deer are shot once in the brain by sharpshooters and additional lethal removal efforts this week are weather dependant, Dell'Osso said.

    The extermination of non-native axis and fallow deer began when an experimental contraceptive drug was used on 80 deer last summer. Since then 400 deer have been shot, Dell'Osso said.
    ...
    Dell'Osso said helicopters are used to herd the deer to other locations and shooting the deer in the brain is a humane lethal method of removing the deer.

    The National Park Service approved a plan a year ago to get rid of 1,200 non-native deer, claiming they were a threat to the native species in the area.
    ...
    The Park Service contracted Connecticut-based White Buffalo, which killed about 400 of the deer in the summer and fall. The company returned last Friday to continue the job."

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago


    Tahoma,

    most regional offices HAVE been cut. Key functions, like contracting and project management, that small parks cannot handle, are becoming disfunctional, because of lack of staff.

    Meanwhile, under this departing Administration, significant new responsibilities in "accountability" -- functions I think are mostly useless and just serve to tie up the parks, have become ADDITIONAL burdens on the regional offices. The Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Interior are setting it up so a park cannot get the funding it needs without first getting thru this maze of "accountability" paperwork; because the smaller parks do not have the expertise, they need backup from the Regions or they go further into the financial black hole.

    While you are right that there are not enough workers, too many at the higher level, that disproportion is caused by the twin problems of money squeezes and all the extra "reporting and accountability" expertise. That means parks are discouraged from hiring either young permanents or seasonals, and so are left with only the aging permanents, and, that some of the functions cannot be done by the GS 5s, 7s & 9s that used to run the parks. For example you cannot run or get funding for a maintenance program unless you are a systems manager with the skill and tolerance of tedium to handle the maintenance computer programs. These jobs will not accept the lower wage-grade maintenance people. In short you cannot get the money into and the work done for impoverished parks without the now-required skills in the Regions. Because there is very little movement in these positions, because it is harder and harder to see the results of your work, and the NPS is not hiring and moving people around, some of these people can become uninspired to put it mildly.

    How should this problem be solved?

    This is not a problem created by the National Park Service. My personal paranoia is this system was devised by people hostile to government, people in OMB and the White House and congressional republicans. The republicans even have a term for it: "starve the beast."

    It is a strategy to destroy the competence of government and the confidence of the American people in their government.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Thanks for the clarification. I guess I must have heard the term "white deer" used in reference to the Point Reyes' axis deer and fallow deer at some point or other; I just don't remember it. (Is there some vernacular word term for the park's Tule elk, too?) The info Kurt furnished about the use of contraceptive technology for this wildlife population control need is absolutely fascinating. Does anyone know about the status of the contraceptive program for the feral horses at Cape Lookout National Seashore?

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    See Friends of the White Deer

    The Park has a contractor slaughtering the Fallow or Axis deer introduced to the Point Reyes area in 1948. The former Channel Islands unit superintendent is speaking out.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Actually, they're not "white deer" at all, but rather non-native Axis and Fallow deer (and the Fallow deer can appear white in color). Axis deer are native to India and Sri Lanka, while Fallow deer are more commonly at home in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor.

    In short, both were introduced to the Point Reyes area back in the 1940s, before the national seashore existed in name, by a local landowner. Park officials have a plan to remove all these non-native deer by 2021. You can learn more at this site.

    In the fall of 2008, the Seashore began focusing solely on contraceptive methods to control the non-native deer population. Over the next few years, the park's ambitious deer contraception program will involve veterinarians and wildlife contraception experts and utilize the most advanced techniques to ensure that the remaining deer herd is safely and humanely controlled. Park biologists and wildlife experts have determined that application of fertility control methods to the estimated 100 - 150 remaining deer over the next 5 years will likely result in a non-reproductive remnant herd. The non-native deer will not reproduce and will live out their natural lives within the Seashore over the next 10-15 years. The Seashore's contraception program is one of the largest studies ever attempted with free-ranging wild deer.

  • At Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Old History Made Way for New History   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Ted, it's interesting that you mention the Soviet approach to public architecture (huge-heroic-stylized). The arch was a product of its time, so some people are naturally going to try to make something of the fact that the arch was designed and built during the heyday of Soviet public architecture. Though the design of the arch may not have been propaganda-inspired, the result was the same. Had Stalin lived to see the arch he would have understood what the designer intended even if he didn't know squat about the settlement of the American West.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    What "white deer" experiment at Point Reyes?

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    That's great news. Hopefully, it'll work out better than the white deer experiment in Point Reyes.

  • At Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Old History Made Way for New History   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Bob & Ann,

    It's too bad that the National Parks System gets saddled with things like the Arch, and Mt Rushmore. They make me queasy. We sure made fun of the Soviets for doing this sort of stuff. I was reminded of our ridicule of Russian pompousness, in the early days of the Iraq war as the populace made sport pulling down Hussein's idolatry, (looting) his palaces.

    Today, we could use those surplus Cold War ballistic missiles & warheads to peen the profile of Lenin ... or Lincoln ... into the face of the Moon. How cool, huh? Both, facing each other!

    I like seeing the use of the phrase, "the slow motion Holocaust that was the Indian Wars". In Washington State, the North Cascades, Rainier and Olympic units are organized in a joint archaeological survey. One of the lead guys at Rainier includes in his main paper that the idea is gaining credence, that disease spread from the colonies in Mexico Indian-to-Indian decimating as it went, first arriving in the Pacific Northwest cultures in the 1570-1590 time frame.

    I have seen reports, that Lewis & Clark included in their logs, that they asked about the 'extra' abandoned cedar-plank lodges at the Pacific Coast where they wintered, clearly enough to house far more natives than then in the area, and were told they had all died of disease. The logs also recorded that the L&C command noticed lesions & scabs on the vulvas of the women, identified them as known venereal diseases, and forbade the men from taking comfort or pairing with the local females.

    The first colonies on the East Coast noted that the natives were present at saturation levels 'everywhere', but then watched them die off massively ... of diseases which they recognized.

    Biotechnology will probably soon enable us to make accurate determination of the diseases that killed ancient people. These techniques will enable us to track in detail how decimating epidemics swept across the continent, freeing up the scene for European immigrants.

    Although the early settlers did not have the Germ Theory of Disease, they certainly knew the nature of contagion, and they were certainly quick to quarantine & burn sick-houses, and to prevent the entry of carriers into their communities. They knew what was happening to the Indians.

    The account of the loss of the North American native population is a long ways from being fully-told, and some of our finest nature-Parks are likely to be caught up in the story.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    tahoma,

    I agree, and NPT statists ignored my two cents about the hundreds of millions (inching toward billion) spent yearly on regional offices and "special" programs. They refuse to address the fact that the federal leviathan spends more on regional offices and than on operations of the 58 national parks in the system. Their deafening silence speaks volumes.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    I'd agree with Ted's point that all government budgets are political, but not that the NPS is a "trim if not lean organization". Trim and lean are relative terms; perhaps he meant compared to other bureaucratic agencies. I worked at four NPS units in my career and every one was bloated and top-heavy at the management level: way too many chiefs and damn few indians.

    The National Parks could operate just fine, perhaps better, if future cuts came off the top instead of from the ranks as has almost always been the case. The wildly expensive regional offices should be eliminated. Retire the assistant superindentents, landscape architects, project coordinators, contracting officers and the rest of the development crowd. Times are hard and visitation has been declining for two decades. The NPS needs to learn to be satisfied with what what they have and truly maintain it, rather than constantly pushing for more, more, more. That six-figure marble & slate outhouse that got so much publicity some years back was just the tip of the iceberg. Just my $.02.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Dear Ted Clayton:

    Your's is a non-answer answer:

    ITEM: There was no reduction of the NPS budget during the time of the economic meltdown. Your original thesis is that Kurt's list was entirely composed of matters that were, in fact, determined by the economic meltdown. This plainly is not true.

    ITEM: You make it appear that you think that political finesse of an Agency has nothing to do with its funding. You cannot really believe this. Is political skill totally determinative? Obviously not: the larger political circumstances of course have an effect on the ability of an Agency to get funding. I used to do this for a living, and was frustrated by a few higher-level idiots who would send me off to get money for a program, even if it was a really dumb program. Ocasionally you can get blood from a rock, but not regularly. You need a good product. The fact is it is not that hard to sell the "product" the National Park Service brings to the American People and their elected representatives.

    Sometimes, it is EASIER a case to sell than the Pentagon and the CIA. Yes, there are a few cranks (you see them blogging on this website for example) who have an entrenched antagonism to the NPS, but the vast majority of people have a benign attitude toward the NPS. The political problem of the NPS is that the support for the NPS is wide, but not DEEP (compared to the Pentagon, for example). The NPS needs constant object lessons, examples in the real world, narrative stories, great opportunities, to excite the electorate. That is hard to get, unless you adopt a LOCAL political strategy, to get funding on a park-by park, or program-by-program basis. But most Park Rangers are purists who believe the American people should give them the money on a NATIONWIDE basis, and go away to let the Service run the System without political involvement. Even the Pentagon occasionally has a LOCAL strategy, such as when it distributes contracts and defense industries in the congressional districts of key Members of Congress.

    I have personal knowledge of many examples where the NPS brought an issue to the public, even when no funding for the project existed in the President's Budget, and because of political finesse, got the money in the final appropriation, as passed by Congress and signed by the President. For example, the reason the Valley Forge example is so irritating (you do not respond to any of the examples) is that only a few years before, when the Toll Brothers were going to build a suburban development a stone's throw from this newly proposed mega-development by "ARC," very skillful people inside the NPS wired it so that $9 million was appropriated to buy out Toll Bros. The Secretary of the Interior was so livid at the time that, when asked by the Philadelphia Inquirer to discuss it -- the newspaper naively assumed the Secretary would of course see the "victory" over Toll Bros. as HER victory, she refused to even answer the question. But the Secretary had made her bones by opposing federally-acquired land purchases. She was rolled, because the NPS and the allies of the NPS brought the issue to the public and rolled the Secretary and the Office of Management and Budget.

    What has happened more under the two Bush Director's of the National Park Service than ever before, is the unwillingness of the Senior leadership of the NPS to go after the money and fulfill the Agency Mission, despite the White House.

    ITEM: On the meaning of the word "politics" or "policy" as I earlier used it, I meant that it was not the policy of the Secretary of the Interior, or the Director, or of the key congressional Committees to fund certain projects, for their own reasons, NOT because of economic difficulties, or balancing the budget.

    There ARE cases, coincidentally, when you are right, and the policy issue and the budget issue do merge with the NPS. The major example of that is hiring permanent government workers. It is seen widely that the government must reduce permanent employees, so to reduce the long term cost of retirement and healthcare. If the NPS was able to significantly EXPAND its permanent work force -- for example to finally hire enough maintenance workers to make sure park facilities were not in a constant state of decay -- but the hard lift is not the absolute cost of ANY expansion of the NPS, but the possible precedent to OTHER federal agencies who would also want to expand their workforce.

    This permanent workforce issue is huge, but it can be overcome, but to agree with you in one very narrow way, if the public is really aroused. For example, when despite the fury of the White House, the government got rid of all the rent-a-cops at airports and hired properly trained, permanent (and accountable) government guards after 911. What happened at the Boston airport, when terrorists walked through "security" with box cutters was just too much for the American people, and they demanded government employees. Will they also so demand government food or pharmacy inspectors? Or will government continue to be pushed by OMB to "outsource" vital services? It is a matter of how emphatically the issues are brought to the attention of the American people.

    If you don't think bringing such issues to the attention of the American people is an aspect of the political skill the NPS needs to, and once did, have, I suppose the gulf between your sense of what politics is and mine is unbridgeable.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Anonymous protests:

    If Bush is checking out, what's the real need in even mentioning him anymore?
    Even if we were burying him instead of re-designating him as Former President George W. Bush, he would continue from the grave to play a conspicuous role, for years. Actually, he will remain an active & important figure on the national stage. Heck, we're still talking about Richard Nixon, and rather often...

    Indeed, President-elect Obama himself is not shunning or ignoring Bush. On the contrary, the two are working rather closely & constructively together on affairs of the nation, and we should anticipate this role to grow & expand. It is in the interest of both men, and the country, that they succeed at it.

    I disagree strenuously with most of Bush's decisions, and voted for other people. To suggest, however, that we ought to be berated for talking about him is a mistake.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Dear Lepanto,

    I know that it has for years been the norm among Parks-aficionados to ascribe the failure of the government to fund the Parks at the level sought by Parks & their boosters, to "politics", as though this is a special and even nefarious situation.

    But, isn't that how most funding is determined? By politics? Doesn't the funding of the Pentagon go up & down, depending on political alignments? Haven't we funded welfare at high levels during periods dominated by Liberal politics, then slashed that funding during periods dominated by Conservative politics? Etc?

    That the funding of our National Parks is political, is not a unique burden borne by the Parks. It is more the norm that funding is political.

    Furthermore, it does not seem that the funding of agencies is primarily driven by the internal political skills & resources of an agency, but rather by the goals & preferences & orientation of external political parties & entities who apportion funding and other considerations by their own criteria. Agencies may indeed be well-advised to hone their ability to best-deploy what political leverage might be available to them, but the utility of this enterprise is ultimately subordinate to factors external to themselves

    Again, the Pentagon & CIA & Co. are all very well endowed with political savvy & connections, yet when it's their turn in the political doghouse all they can do is grab a blanket and shuffle off to the backyard.
    ----------

    I doubt that the economic crisis will lead to dramatic budgetary problems in the National Park Service, immediately. The agency is already maintained at a modest level without luxuries (which is how both government & the voters seem to prefer it) ... which politicos like to slash during hard times as a display for the voters. It's a trim if not lean organization already ... no sense creating an unnecessary spectacle by precipitously goring the Park budget.

    Instead, the consequences of the economic meltdown for the Parks will tend toward decisions that foster an image of being 'connected' to the events affecting the country as a whole. I expect decisions - originating from the economic distress - that help present the Parks as 'relevant', as attuned to the trials being borne by 10s of millions of Americans.

    Look for such courses & policies as will resonate well with average people, that avoid the appearance of enviro-experimentation, and that put out the welcome mat for non-elite lifestyles ... and if those lifestyles also involve the purchase of recreational machines, and travel to Park destinations to use them, then all the better.

    The new bicycle regulations, the changes to firearms rules (priced a pistol lately?), the selection of Ken Salazar for DOI, these and other matters current with the Parks, I think should be seen as exigencies in response to or reinforced by the economic downturn. And I expect momentum for this sort of thing to build, rather than dissipate, and the main explanation behind this broad shift will be the economic meltdown.

    Yes, as you say, in 2009 (and beyond) we could see the Parks budget slashed, but if so that will because the economy has badly deteriorated. Under such circumstance the distress of the country will make dire budget problems at NPS seem unremarkable, since others will be receiving the same treatment.

    The economic challenge will likely foster a turn to 'populism', and reduced influence by theoretic, scientific, and enviromental input. Populist, very pragmatic, and on account of the economy.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    If Bush is checking out, what's the real need in even mentioning him anymore? Too bad you still suffer from BDS. I'd just as soon move on and not read about it everywhere, including here. He's old news.