Recent comments

  • Assateague Island National Seashore Rangers Troll Internet For Big Catch   5 years 40 weeks ago

    The woman was ignorant for bragging, it never gets you anywhere. As for posting incriminating evidence, that was without a doubt stupid. Not knowing the law is no excuse. Banning ORV from the beach is not the answer. There should be more patrols by rangers to keep the fishermen in check and inspect their catch. To keep the traffic at a minimum they (rangers) should use ATVs or SideXsides (ie. Polaris Razor or Yamaha Rhino, and etc.) to transverse the seashore more efficiently.

    Great work to a watchful eye in a world where the PC is the communication tool of the world. Keep up the good work.

  • Interior Department To Be Sued Over Cape Hatteras National Seashore Plover Habitat Decisions   5 years 40 weeks ago

    This issue has been dictated by egos and money and plain ole personal gain by people that have no clue as to the history, area, and people that live there. It was promised as recreational, created and designated as recreational, and yet law suits are being fought over something that has already been designated as recreational.
    The redundency here is appalling and quite insulting to the families and businesses that used to thrive in the area. The idea that here in the United States where freedom is being fought for and defended in foreign countries and not being allowed by our own citizenry is dictactorship in the making. For one group to say how and when and where and what anyone should do IS dictatorship and should be avoided at all costs. Cohabitation between the people and wildlife had been going on without much to-do about it until government and special interest started blurring the lines. It is sad indeed to see that several good attempts to establish a good thing for all has been turned into an all out showdown between those who would dictate to the American public how they should live and keep their own backyard and hard working honest people who just want their own backyard to be kept how they have known it most of their lives, free. Free to access, free to roam without restrictions, free to drive, to fish, and to enjoy. Amen!

  • National Park Service Draws Criticism for Winter-Use Plan for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Sabattis -

    The timeline actually leaves out Brimmer's ruling altogether, and only mentions it in reference to the Bush Administration's referencing of it in publishing their rule in the Federal Register on Dec. 9th. The GYC is obviously picking what they want to put in their timeline and not being as thorough as they could be.

    Whats even fishier to me though are the NPS actions along with Brimmer's, in November. The NPS complained after Sullivan's ruling that they wouldn't have time to come up with an interim rule for this winter. However, they did actually come up with an interim rule, publicly announcing it on Nov. 4. They opened up the comment period and started the wheels in motion on all the procedural requirements so that the rule could be published in December in the Federal Register in time for this season. After actually starting that whole process, they get Brimmer's ruling 4 days later and stop the whole process.

    I don't think Brimmer expected the NPS to actually come up with a new plan, or he would not have waited so long to issue his order. Once Brimmer sees the NPS' new temp plan, he has 2 choices: 1) issue his order and stop the NPS from promulgating the new temp plan; or 2) not issue his order and let the NPS continue with their process of instituting the new temp plan as Sullivan ordered. The wheels were in motion, the temp plan was on its way to being properly implemented. But Brimmer decides to put an end to it after the process had begun.

    That is what is fishy in this whole situation, and that is why Brimmer's ruling, while expressly claiming not to overrule Sullivan's, does in fact completely supplant what Sullivan ordered as to a temporary rule for this season. Obviously Brimmer's ruling does nothing to change Sullivan's decision as to the permanent plan. And obviously, this season will have the 2007 temp plan in place, unless somehow Sullivan does something drastic and shuts everything down (which I don't see happening).

  • What's the Latest On The Search for An Interior Secretary?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Yikes! Well at least he's better than Mike Thompson (who voted against roadless areas in Tongass for example)!

  • At Yellowstone, It’s Fluffy the Snuggle-Bud One, Coyotes Zero   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I guess, Bob, that's why I'm in part not convinced that feral cats couldn't colonize Yellowstone, though there's no evidence that they have to date despite decades of visitors losing cats and people on the borderlands with cats. They strike me as very resourceful animals. And, perhaps, they haven't colonized because the food is better where there are people (I've read that's how cats and humans developed; cats chose humans because of the food source) - less so than the inability to survive super harsh winters and a lot of predators. Fluffy ends up at Horse Butte - not a bad place to end up, if you are a cat; on a peninsula with homeowners - why do you think the buffalo try to go there to calve in the spring? (it would be a safe place if it weren't for all the Department of Livestock agents).

    I think feral cats could potentially colonize Yellowstone, but it's maybe unlikelier that cats would want to. However, I need to talk to my new friend more on this - I haven't spoken with him since this story broke.

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • Petrified Forest National Park is Still Being Stolen One Piece at a Time   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Thanks for a good reminder about a long-standing problem.

    There are plenty of tales about such thieves, including one man who was seen loading a hefty chunk of petrified wood in the trunk of his car. When contacted by a ranger, the guy's explanation for how the 60 pound piece of contraband got into the trunk was that his 4-year-old son must have put it there when dad wasn't looking.

  • At Yellowstone, It’s Fluffy the Snuggle-Bud One, Coyotes Zero   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I've heard lots of similar comments, Eric, and I have a theory. (Well, at least an hypothesis.) Cats that live in coyote territory either wise up or get eaten. The ones that become coyote-wise (perhaps because of a close call) are thereafter very good at coyote evasion. I recall one veteran feline that I encountered while pheasant hunting on a farm near Gregory, South Dakota. This cat (according to the farmer) never spent a day of his life indoors and dealt with coyotes on a a daily basis. From a distance, I saw a coyote trot within about 50 yards of that cat and the two animals barely looked at each other. I assume they had simply gotten used to each other. Coyotes regularly visit our little neighborhood here in suburbia; one even curled up and went to sleep in the flower bed across the street from my driveway. Nevertheless, as far as we know, there have been no indoor/outdoor cats killed by coyotes in this vicinity. I guess that just goes to show you something or other.

  • At Yellowstone, It’s Fluffy the Snuggle-Bud One, Coyotes Zero   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I live in ruarl farm land borderd by BLM on three sides. we have lots of feral cats, and lots of cyotes.

  • At Yellowstone, It’s Fluffy the Snuggle-Bud One, Coyotes Zero   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Thanks for filling out the story, Jim. I thought there might be another person out there who appreciates cats.

  • At Yellowstone, It’s Fluffy the Snuggle-Bud One, Coyotes Zero   5 years 40 weeks ago

    This story came out a week ago just after the Thanksgiving Day holiday. When I read it, it brought a big smile to my face - because I love cats - and it seemed ironic because I had a conversation about escaped domestic cats in Yellowstone on Thanksgiving Day.

    We spent Thanksgiving with a friend, and one of the other guests was a former wildlife veterinarian of Yellowstone National Park. It turns out we are neighbors - though we were both 20 miles away for the dinner. Anyhow, I asked him a question that had been on my mind awhile. Could escaped domestic cats ever colonize Yellowstone and become part of the ecosystem like they had in so many other places? For instance, I told him in the town of Bowling Green, Ohio, where I was born, they for a time had a leash law on cats. When that happened, within a year, there was a rabbit epidemic in the city - there were rabbits everywhere. Cats are huge predators in many urban and other eastern ecosystems where other predators are missing.

    Anyhow, he assured me that cats couldn't survive long in Yellowstone, though they did (and dogs too) indeed escape from homeowners on the edges of the park. Coyotes and other predators would get them; they would have trouble surviving the harsh conditions, especially in winter. He said there was no chance of this happening.

    Then, I read this story. This cat ended up in Horse Butte, which has a lot of people living on it - and so it's a little more like the suburban/urban ecosystems. And, while I think the wildlife vet may still be right about a wild feral cat population in Yellowstone, it was funny that this story came out so soon after a discussion about it.

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Haven't we developed enough land? I'm quite certain there is an empty building somewhere that Wal-Mart can utilize. When we moved into our home 4 1/2 years ago, we were able to hear the coyotes howling at night. Now we rarely hear them, maybe once a year. This is all due to development. Come on Wal-Mart find some property that's already been developed and leave nature well enough alone.

  • World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is Established by Presidential Proclamation   5 years 40 weeks ago

    MRC - There actually is a prominent memorial to Japanese internment already... the cumbersomely named National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II is located just off the National Mall in Washington. It, along with other prominent memorials such as the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and the George Mason Memorial, is part of the "National Capital Parks" Unit of the National Park System - and I haven't yet seen a satisfactory explanation as to why those Memorials don't get "counted" while others do. Still, the Memorial is very well done in my opinion, and I highly recommend it as a stop for anyone's visit to the Nation's Capital.

    I think you raise an interesting point about the possibility of an assembly centers, but the so-called "assembly centers" were not so much office buildings in big cities, but instead were more typically fairgrounds or racetracks that often evolved into semi-permanent camps. This excerpt has some poignant details on them:

    While this far-flung Memorial will be difficult to administer, the National Park Service may decide to establish a separate Superintendent for the Tule Lake site, while giving the current USS Arizona Memorial superintendent jurisdiction over the Pearl Harbor sites. A similar approach is used for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, which has separate superintendents for the Seattle and Skagway units.

  • National Park Service Draws Criticism for Winter-Use Plan for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Kurt - Yes, I did confuse Judges Sullivan and Brimmer in my original post - I of course meant Judge Brimmer when I referred to Judge Sullivan. I blame it on too many judges and posting too late at night!

    As to the point about the agency's ability to move with alacrity when it is political expedient to do so , and while there is some argument that perhaps the NPS could have resorted to a sort of unilateral "interim rule" as was done last year, Judge Brimmer seems to have precluded that possibility. His order specifies to reinstate the temporary rule until "an acceptable rule to take its place is promulgated." I think it would be very hard to interpret an interim rule as meeting the standard of "an acceptable rule to take its place" - particularly since Judge Brimmer reverted to the 2004 rule, and not to the 2007-2008 Winter Season interim rule.

    Anonymous - The reason the GYC timeline is fishy is not for placing the 720 plan on Tuesday December 9th, its that it is only in the bullet *following* the December 9th decision that they refer to the November 7th decision by Judge Brimmer. A normal timeline would place the events of November before the events of December, not after.

  • Petrified Forest National Park is Still Being Stolen One Piece at a Time   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Isn't there a senator from Arizona with a park-friendly record, and a House member who chairs a parks subcommittee, who might be able to get some additional rangers on the ground for this park?

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   5 years 40 weeks ago


    I'm newly aware of this situation, so I'm not familiar with the entire history of the site. But your first post in this comment string is educational in that regard. My own first post was a quick reaction to reading the article and commentary.

    As for the 1993 CWSAC, I will have to familiarize myself with that document before answering those questions.

    My gut reaction is, protect it if you can. If the attempt to chase away Walmart fails, hopefully the locally concerned will learn from the experience and get to work saving and protecting other parcels in the path of economic development before the threat becomes so immediate. Unfortunately we haven't learned this lesson yet, despite the gradual erasure of one historic site after another.
    It's not impossible to chase the giant away, if the coalition is ready to take concerted, prolonged action.
    If the Big Blue wins, maybe we'll see some impromptu live reenactment of battle with guns and ammo purchased at the Wilderness Walmart!

    National retailers participating in land use/management decisions that might effect their own bottom line?? Not likely to benefit the preservation efforts in any serious way. (Again, I'm unfamiliar with any such efforts that could be seen as successful.) Especially unlikely for Walmart, which is one of the only national businesses, retail or otherwise, that is still making profit during our current recession. What's in it for them? They're winning the game, so why do they need to generate warm fuzzy publicity amongst the preservation set? But why not give it a try? It couldn't hurt.
    (But I'm cynical in that regard. And personally worried that such an agreement would morph into national sponsorships dictating NPS names and decisions: The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvanis National Military Park sponsored by WALMART, filled with Kodak picture spots, and video monitors running interpretive films starring Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie replacing live Park Ranger Interpreters... )
    As you alluded to in your first post, I fear the only way to beat a money-making machine is to beat it at it's own game: buy the land out from under them. OR, as they did in Manassas, show Disney the door through a multi-year, well-funded, and well-publicized publicity action.

    In no way did I intend to support the current bias in Civil War interpretation within the NPS. (On a visit to Antietam a few years ago, the Interpretive Ranger that delivered the orientation demonstrated heavy bias towards the Confederate Army, and when questioned became quite dismissive of the idea that slavery was a big part of the story. I was amazed that the NPS would allow such one-sided interpretation.) I'm with the non-government historians: to recognize the full meaning of a site, we need to tell all stories., hopefully without telling the visitors what they should feel.
    Another book you might be interested in this regard: "Race and Reunion", by historian David Blight. The author examines how the story of slavery, and indeed all African-American connection to the story of the Gettysburg, was immediately ignored in the name of national healing.

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Wal-mart needs to go somewhere else. On second thought, don't we have enough Wal-marts? Do we really need one more? I don't think so. They'll probably build this store, then build a bigger and better one a few years later, and this store will sit empty and broken down forever. Enough of corporate greed.

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Dear Warren Z:

    I am not clear from your post: are you saying that the Priority I, Class A site should, or should not be preserved (IE:preserved by either adding it to the park or some local equivalent protection)?

    You say, park boundaries should stop somewhere. A truism, sure, but in this specific case the question is, should this parcel be protected? If not, are you also saying that the 1993 CWSAC report should NOT be considered the authority for protection, as it has been? There was a great series of exchanges and meetings among park superintendents in the later 1990's, resulting in what seemed to be a consensus that the report's recommendations ARE legitimate. These recommendations DO NOT suggest that all parcels have the same high priority for conservation.

    On the other hand, if you agree the parcel is historically significant, and the 1993 Report remains the gold standard for evaluation, then what exactly are you recommending be done in this particular case? Certainly there are many other parcels in the region that Wal Mart could consider.

    How 'bout if Wal Mart and other Big Boxes sponsor a nationwide land use planning initiative? It could recommend to local governments that they identify critical landscapes, and develop more creative wise use and smart use development/preservation tactics and strategies. Such regional land use strategies, pro both conservation and development, is happening now within some national heritage corridors. Why not here?

    BTW, I agree with you about the pro-Southern interpretive bias in the NPS. Arguably, Fredericksburg-Spottsylvania was once, and still may be, a center of that school of history and interpretation. However, at the strong urging of many reputable non-government historians, there is a growing movement to recognize the Meaning, not just the tactics, of the Civil War and, central to that Meaning, is the role played by slavery.

  • Petrified Forest National Park is Still Being Stolen One Piece at a Time   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Thank you for putting this message out there. The theft of resources from our parks is a serious problem. Hopefully NPT readers will spread the word!

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   5 years 40 weeks ago

    There is an excellent book that chronicles a similar situation with another Civil War battlefield in Northern Virginia.
    The Book is titled "Battling for Manassas", by historian Joan M. Zenzen. Interesting reading... I don't believe it's in print any longer, but try and get it from your library if you can, especially if you are a member of the coalition working against the Walmart development.

    It could be a big-box retailer, or a strip mall of locally owned businesses, some crunchy-granola grocery store, or a national theme park chain...
    Anyone who tries to develop land directly adjacent to a Civil War battlefield will most certainly meet with prolonged opposition.

    Can we be realistic here? The NPS/historic site boundary has to stop somewhere. If friends of the battlefield in question are concerned about viewscapes, or being tainted by proximity to the commercial world, or that the land to be developed is historic but not protected by the NPS, then the local community and coalition of protectors has to get involved.
    The coalition that came together last summer to draft a letter to Walmart CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr. is well intentioned for sure. But they have to do more than just draft a single letter. The effort to chase Disney out of Manassas was a multi-year process, and took the involvement of nationally recognized historians and celebrities (that happened to live in the area) to get involved and fund the effort. If the NPS (or any of the community partners in Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania) didn't have the foresight to acquire and protect the land in question then maybe it's just too darn bad. A shame to some, but the process has to end somewhere.

    Let's please get away from the Walmart vs. Whole Foods tangent. These same broad strokes used to paint stereotypes were used in the comment string concerning loaded concealed firearms in the National Parks, and were just as ugly and ineffective in that debate.
    I assure you that ANY corporation expressing interest in commercial development on historic land would meet with the same opposition. The Civil War preservation crowd is nothing if not tenacious, vocal, and consistent in it's vocal opposition to ANY commercial development on or near hallowed ground.

    Interestingly enough, there is a noticeable Confederate bias in much of the Civil War interpretation that occurs on the battlefields managed by the NPS (a topic of discussion for another comment thread for sure), so I'm not so sure that your rebel yell in the neighboring Wilderness Super Center parking lot would be unwelcome by the Gray and Green working on the battlefield!

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   5 years 40 weeks ago

    It sounds as if this parcel was going to be developed no matter what. This is just a thought. In other parts of the USA, WalMart has built attractive buildings as well placed landscaping around the parking lot and the road that it was facing. Recently we were in New Hampshire and saw a WalMart that, if it hadn't had the sign, I would never have thought it was one. When I was north of San Francisco some years ago, there was a WalMart that was attractive and I couldn't believe how attractive they had made the parking lot. If WalMart is going to build there, see if they will work with the locals concerning the outward appearance of the building as well as the landscaping of the property. It doen't have to be a big box on a bare piece of land. Believe it or not, it could be a good thing for tourists to have access to WalMart or Target, etc. Maybe you all have never forgotten anything or needed cold medicine, aspirin, lost your sunglasses, etc. on a trip, but it happens. This could be a good thing for everyone concerned if people are willing to look at it in a different way.

  • Interior Officials Want to Allow Concealed Carry in the National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    As a CCW holder, I completely agree with the right to carry anywhere and see no reason national parks should be exempt from the right to carry!
    CCW holders have to pass background checks for both the state they have registered in, and the federal government. There's absolutely no reason they shouldn't be allowed to carry anywhere.
    Why should I have to pull over, take my gun out, unload it, lock it and the bullets away, then continue just to go into or through a park? Just because I have it doesn't mean I'm going to shoot an animal with it. It's for protection, not for poaching!
    The individuals to worry about are those who are carrying illegally! Those who do not get a CCW because they do not pass the requirements, due to having already been arrested for breaking the law or for unlawfully using a firearm in the past. They will be carrying in the national park regardless of whether this law exist or not! The only protection a person has at that point is his/her self or the national park service rangers who are few and far between.

  • National Park Service Draws Criticism for Winter-Use Plan for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I have been following this issue for some time now from a completely legal perspective. As Judge Sullivan's most recent opinion reads, he struck down the NPS' new permanent plan as being "arbitrary and capricious," which is a legal term of art which basically means there is no rational connection between the facts found and the choice made.

    While the Organic Act creates two obligations for the NPS ("conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wild life and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations"), the history around the passing of the Act, the Amendments to the Act (in 1970 and 1978), the NPS Management Policies, and judicial interpretation (from cases not involving Judge Sullivan, Brimmer, nor the issue of snowmobiles in Yellowstone) all support a legal reading and interpretation of the Act that favors conservation over use and enjoyment when the two are in conflict. Notice that nowhere in the Organic Act, nor anywhere in other Acts that the NPS must follow (NEPA, EDA, etc.), nor in the NPS Management Policies, is there anything about the economic integrity of a surrounding community being protected over preserving the National Park.

    Now, the Organic Act has been interpreted to allow for use and enjoyment that causes impairment - as long as that impairment is of great value and necessary to fulfill the purposes of the Park, and the impact is minimized to the greatest extent possible.

    Snowmobiles may be a great way to see the Park, and it is fact the machines and guidelines in use now are incredibly cleaner and minimize impact more compared to practices and machines of the past. The fact remains that there is still some impact, according to NPS' own science. The fact that impact is better than it was before is great, but really of no importance; same with the fact the impact may be less than that caused in summer by motor homes and other motorized vehicles.

    Judge Sullivan stated NPS gave insufficient reason for why the impacts are necessary to fulfill the purposes of the park, and as a result, use and enjoyment are elevated as a goal over conservation. Therefore, what his ruling says is that even 540 is too many in light of the explanation given for that number, and he required the NPS to try again. He gave no other guidelines as to what they should do going forward. Theoretically, the NPS could come back to Judge Sullivan with the same number, along with a better explanation for why that number works in connection with the minimal impact, and Judge Sullivan would then have to allow such a plan.

    However after Sullivan's ruling, the NPS stated they would not have time to come up with a new temporary plan for this season as they continued to work on a new permanent plan for the future. Yet, in early November, I think on the 3rd, they came out with a new temporary plan (the 318 limit), and opened up the public comment period. Then, 4 days later, Judge Brimmer makes his ruling. His express words say he cannot and is not overstepping his bounds with respect to Judge Sullivan's ruling, but in effect he has done just that since Sullivan stated the 540 number coupled with NPS' explanation of coming to that number was "arbitrary and capricious".

    If Brimmer had ruled before the NPS came up with their new temporary plan of 318, then the NPS' decision to follow Judge Brimmer's order as opposed to Sullivan would be more understandable. But by coming up with a new temporary plan, then getting the new order from Judge Brimmer, and subsequently trashing the new temporary plan shows the NPS' is in fact ignoring Sullivan.

    So where does that leave us? If you follow the actual law of this issue, the GYC has the better LEGAL argument on their side, as no where in any Act pertaining to National Parks and specifically Yellowstone is there any mention of the interests of the local economy. Unfortunately for Brimmer, the local economy is the main influence on the rationale he has used in his rulings throughout this entire issue. It seems the GYC was content with the 318 plan, which shows they are not some radical environmentalist group since they were not calling for the complete phaseouts of the Clinton era. And Judge Sullivan seems to state he would allow a certain amount in the park as long as the NPS could adequately support why that amount is necessary and the impacts are lessened to best extent possible.

    To answer a question of Sabattis from earlier, the reason the GYC timeline seems wrong is that Tuesday the 2004 temporary plan, minus the sunset provision which originally terminated the use of the plan at the end of 2007, was made into law by the Bush Administration. It is true that Brimmer's order was on Nov. 7, but the NPS decision to follow it was signed into law on Tuesday, and no matter when Brimmer ordered that, the timeline is stating that it simply was made law on Tuesday.

    The GYC waited to file their petition in Sullivan's court until the published decision by the NPS to follow Brimmer was made into law. I am not really sure why they did this, as they could have gone back to Sullivan seemingly as soon as the NPS published their decision in November to go back to the 2004 temporary plan and follow Brimmer's order.

    As for this winter, it seems as though the 2004 temporary use plan will be in effect, unless Sullivan does something about it in the next couple days. I guess technically, he could do something about it in the middle of the winter season, but that just seems ridiculous to me. My guess is the new administration will come up with a new permanent plan that allows some snowmobiles but puts more of an emphasis on snowcoaches. I don't see the complete phaseout happening, but that is just my opinion.

    Strictly legally speaking, Sullivan has followed the law throughout this issue more faithfully than Brimmer. That doesn't mean the law couldn't change. If this issue continues, its possible it could get to the Supreme Court, and they could decide that economic issues do play a role in the interpretation of the Organic Act. That of course is simply pure conjecture.

    Sorry for the length of this comment, but I felt this needed to be said.

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Kurt, I find it interesting that you lament seeing the Golden Arches from the Olympic ski jump because nothing says crass corporatism to me louder than the Olympics. It is the very essence of commercial exploitation on steroids.

    So if your view from this hallowed mountain spot is of the very symbol of mass commercialization maybe it was by design. There may have been a bidding war for the "official" Olympic viewshed, with the highest bidder being McDonald's instead of Starbucks.

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Frank C., there have been multiple zoning discussions involving the Spotsylvania-Wilderness-Fredericksburg battlefields.

    No one is sitting on their hands, except perhaps for the fact that the local government does not have one overall land protection and development strategy for all these areas.

    It is an extremely high-development prone area (on a major exit of Route 95), and the tendency by local government is to work on land use preservation one parcel/crisis at a time. Almost like spot zoning. It would be better if a concensus plan could be developed identifying both appropriate development areas. At one point there was a county planner who wanted to work that way, but one or two of the local elected officials either lacked his sophistication, or philosophy of planning.

    Many parcels of land have been purchased, too often at the last minute, in the heat of a "develop it or preserve it" conflict. Many of these conflicts have involved numerous local voices showing up at hearings to protest an insensitive development. Several have been resolved, some of them involving a compromise both by developers and preservationists.

    Previous efforts in the area to negotiate with Wal Mart have shown Wal Mart to be less open to working something out in common good than other developers, in the opinion of local groups. On example: when Wal-Mart proposed to develop George Washington's "Ferry Farm" in Fredericksburg, an NHL because of archeological value, there was no middle ground toward a compromise. In the perception of the local preservation group in their communications to Congress on Ferry Farm, they said you either raised the money to buy the land out from under Wal Mart, or Wal Mart built whatever it wanted, in the way it wanted to.

    Frank C., I don't rightly know if Superintendent Smith has been out in front of this one or not. He, personally, is an Interpreter by background, without a career of land use protection strategies behind him. However, the second-level staff are well known for their expertise and tenacity from multiple land use fights throughout the 'reigns' of the last 4 or maybe 5 superintendents. My guess is this park has been way out ahead of this issue for a long time. This group has received a lot of support from Senator John Warner (R-VA), who is retiring at the end of the month. Warner also had a brilliant staff. They knew how to wait until local political support gathered on behalf of the protection of a specific site.

    So, if I were to guess, I would think Superintendent Smith would be smart enough to back up all his Alpha-staff, but I would worry about what will happen with Sen. John Warner and his great staff gone. I would guess leadership will have to fall back on the Civil War land trust groups.

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I also doubt people would so rabidly protest an REI or Whole Foods. It's so easy to blame Wal-Mart, but in their defense, as they have also said, the area was zoned for commercial development. It's also at the intersection of two State highways.

    A fair amount of blame here rests with government for its zoning decisions and for building major highways on or near "sacred" land.

    An umbrella group formed to fight the big-box store, the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition includes Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, the Civil War Preservation Trust, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Parks Conservation Association, Piedmont Environmental Council and Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields.

    Certainly these groups could have raised enough cash to buy the 55 acre lot in question. Why have they been sitting on their laurels until now?

    And where has Superintendent Smith been up to this point? He slams Wal-Mart: "Wal-Mart's answer seems to be: It's zoned commercial, so we have no responsibility." I don't believe that is Wal-Mart's answer, but I agree that they do not have a responsibility in the zoning of the land.