Recent comments

  • Interior Secretary Plans Free Weekend Entry to National Parks to Boost Tourism   5 years 39 weeks ago

    This is a watershed event: the first official recognition that - wait for it - fees deter visitation!
    In prior administrations (both Clinton and Bush) the party line was that if you could afford to travel to a Park you were rich enough not to mind the entrance fee. Low income people just didn't visit Parks, so there was no need to accomodate them.
    Then something funny happened. A whole lot of us suddenly found ourselves a whole lot lower income than we used to be. We feel the pain of that $5 or $10 or $25 entrance fee.
    Perhaps the new administration has seen the light.
    NPS began to implement entrance fee increases at 95% of fee-charging units between 2005-2009, starting as soon as they got permanent authority to set rates without Congressional review in the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. They were planning to peg fees to the Consumer Price Index, with automatic increases every three years starting in 2011. Thank goodness Congress pushed back and that plan has been shelved. Bomar froze fees at 2007 levels and I have not heard of any plans to change that. Salazar should make sure that stays in place.
    Canada has announced a two-year freeze on their Park entrance fees as well, with the stated intent of boosting tourism.
    Despite their importance to tourism-based economies, our public lands were not set aside as commodities to be marketed and sold back to us. They are places where everyone should have access and be welcome. I wish Park entrance fees would go away, but there is little political support for that. Lacking that support, they should at least remain frozen and any increases should undergo public notice and congressional review. These fee-free weekends are a great idea, one that should grow and spread.
    Thanks Secretary Salazar!

  • Trekking to Dick Proenneke's Cabin in Lake Clark National Park   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Just saw your blog entry, I have seen this documentary on Dick Proenneke, it is a wonderful story. I hope your trip went well. I will visit the cabin after my kids are grown and out of the house, so a couple of more years for me. Please let me know how it went and if you have any photos or videos I would love to see them. My email address is listed with this if you can send.
    Thanks and nice to meet ya,
    Kennesaw, Georgia

  • National Park Quiz 57: Canyons   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Great quiz!

    The observance of Arizona time at Glen Canyon NRA's Dangling Rope Marina in Utah is interesting. I visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park over Memorial Day and became a bit disoriented by the time zone split there. The South Unit is on Mountain Time, while half of the north unit -- everything on the north side of the Little Missouri River -- is on Central Time. The North Unit visitor center, almost spitting distance from the meandering river and time zone boundary, observes Central Time. So, visitors traveling north between the two at, say, 3 p.m. or so, may find themselves at a closed visitor center when they arrive at 5 p.m. Central Time. The ranger at the North Unit visitor center said even park staff get confused sometimes. It seems to make more sense for the entire park to pick a time zone to observe despite what side of the river the North Unit visitor center happens to be on. Glen Canyon clearly does it right!

    Also, unless things have changed in the last five or six years, there is one trail leading to the floor of Canyon de Chelly that is open to visitors without a guide. I hiked down to the White House Ruin in 2003, one of the most beautiful canyon hikes in northern Arizona outside of the Grand Canyon. Of course, it's hard to tell if this trail is still open to the public without a guide because the park's Web site lacks a ton of basic information. The park map on the Web site implies that the trail remains open.

    [Ed: Thanks. I'll check further into the Canyon de Chelly rules pertaining to trail use. Meanwhile, I've edited the answer explanation.]

  • Upon Further Review: A Cat on a Leash   5 years 39 weeks ago

    I agree that taking cats for hikes on a leash is a great idea and much safer for the cat (not to mention the birds!). My cat also enjoys traveling and happily hikes for a couple of hours with our two dogs. I think it is helpful to start them when they are a year or younger and walking with an extendo leash works best. With our cat, the trickiest part was getting him to walk at a good pace and not stop and start too much. In part I think he learned from the dogs but offering treats helped him get the idea and picking him up and carrying him when he stopped helped too. It may not be for every cat but it is a joy for ours...

  • The Denali Road Lottery Offers Regulated Leaf Peeping at Alaska’s Denali National Park   5 years 39 weeks ago

    I can't say exactly what method they'll use, but it's a simple matter to assign ID numbers to all entries, however submitted, and then select winning entries randomly.

  • Mules In Grand Canyon National Park: Should They Stay?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    I agree with most of the posts. I took the 1 day mule ride yesterday. It should be on everyones list of things to do if they can. I would certainly understand the complaints of hikers. However, hikers have other trail alternatives that don't have mules. When I was younger I could have hiked the trail, but now that I am able to afford the trip to AZ and the Grand Canyon, I am greatful that I was able to see the panoramic view from the plateau.

  • How Low Is the Bar For National Park System Inclusion When You Add a Gas Station?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Doc, I'll willingly acknowledge that there are more than a few gas pumps scattered throughout the national parks. You can find them in Yellowstone and Yosemite, just to name two. I just can't think of any "gas stations" lying outside a unit of the National Park System that was specifically integrated into a park. It'd make more sense if Jimmy once owned the station, pumped gas, and checked your oil.

  • How Low Is the Bar For National Park System Inclusion When You Add a Gas Station?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    I question two gravity gas pumps as being a "Gas Station" in "Kings Canyon National Park". Billy Carters "Gas Station" in Plains, Ga, is presently a "Museum" which makes more sense in a NP. Also you do not make mention of the Carters world famous "Worm Farm" that used to be advertised in "Popular Mechanics" back in the '50's and 60's. I've been through "Plains, Ga" If you blink, you might miss it. Check it out on "Google Earth".

    There seems to be several "gas stations" within the NPS. Check out the following:

    Mt. Rainier National Park Longmire Service Station - Washington
    N 46° 44.968 W 121° 48.828
    10T E 590601 N 5178007
    Quick Description: This service station is one of the only National Park fuel stations that was never modernized. Outside stand the 2 original pumps, and inside are interpretive signs telling about the station and surrounding buildings.

    Semper Fi

  • Body Recovered in Grand Canyon National Park; Thought to Be That Of Missing Hiker   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Oh no! How very sad. Well, at least the family knows now; not knowing is so very difficult. My prayers are with them.

  • The Denali Road Lottery Offers Regulated Leaf Peeping at Alaska’s Denali National Park   5 years 39 weeks ago

    I see that for 2009 entry by web is permitted as well as by regular mail. This is clearly more convenient, but I wonder how the randomness of the lottery will be administered with these two different types of entry. Will paper entries be digitized or vice versa? And I have read that computers are not capable of truly random choice but must follow some program or algorithm. That would not be the same as putting all entries in a huge drum and picking out the winners.

  • Interior Secretary Plans Free Weekend Entry to National Parks to Boost Tourism   5 years 39 weeks ago

    I actually have a different perspective. I believe we should be charging more for entrance fees. I recently spent a week in Yosemite with my wife - cost us $20 to enter the park for a whole week. If it had cost me $50, I would have paid it without even thinking about it, and the Park would have some much needed money for additional improvements, maintenance, rangers, programs, etc. Of the ten times we entered and exited the park, there was a ranger in the booth only three of those times. Free entry will only increase attendance and put more stress on parks that are already seriously straining. Just a different point of view.

  • Interior Secretary Plans Free Weekend Entry to National Parks to Boost Tourism   5 years 39 weeks ago

    My Gosh...wonderful concept but I see the laws of unintended consequences coming into play here. At least I now which weekend to avoid from the article. I think that a month long or summer long fee waiver would be much better as it would spread out the rush to enjoy the parks. Some of the parks IE Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, etc. are already a nightmare in season on the weekends. I maybe wrong but I don't think anybody will get their best impression on the NPS on these weekends crushes

  • Interior Secretary Plans Free Weekend Entry to National Parks to Boost Tourism   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Sweet, perfect timing for my week adventure in Yosemite!
    That is if this means I enter the park on the "free day" and go on my backpack for 5 days, no problem?

  • Protest Against American Revolution Center at Valley Forge National Historical Park Planned for May 15   5 years 39 weeks ago

    This is just my 2 cents worth, but I think that the American Revolution Center should be at Yorktown, not Valley Forge. Most of the same men that were at Valley Forge also marched South to defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown, VA. Yorktown is the real capstone of the Revolution, not Valley Forge.

    I do think that something should commemorate Valley Forge, but I think that an entire center on the war is going way too far. I think the state of PA ought to put money into buying battlefield land for preservation. I was really dissappointed to learn that most of the Brandywine battlefield is lost entirely to development while visiting a few years ago. Even the French and Indian War "Braddock's Defeat" site is lost to a sports park. Brandywine could have been another site like Gettysburg! Not to mention the nearby Wyeth studio as a major tourist draw etc.

    The beauty of a battlefield park is that the land is preserved from development, so reforestation and habitat can flourish without the fear of destruction from development. My wife and I loved to walk Manassas battlefield park in Virginia to see the herds of deer grazing and do some birdwatching. All of which would be lost if the state didn't preserve the land as a battlefield.

  • How Low Is the Bar For National Park System Inclusion When You Add a Gas Station?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    These late 19th-early 20th century railroad towns are significant in our settlement history, and I think there is a place for an example in the NPS.

    I beg to differ. The country is well stocked with these types of towns. All you have to do is casually drive the blue highways of the lower 48 and it isn't very long before you stumble into one. I have been visiting and documenting these towns for many years and they surely don't need Washington bureaucrats to "keep them encapsulated from development or just crumbling away."

    That part of Georgia (I know it quite well) is by no means bereft of these types of towns, nor is nearby northern Florida, southern Alabama or for that matter all of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee, Montana, Oklahoma or most all of Texas east of the Pecos. These examples of our "settlement history" are still most assuredly with us and not about to vanish any time soon.

    Some of my favorites: Colby, Kansas; Bell Buckle, Tennessee; Quanah, Texas; Chatsworth, Georgia; Monticello, Florida; Milford, Utah; Clifton Forge, Virginia and Bridgeville, Delaware.

  • Mount Who? How Did This Famous Park Get Its Name?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Sure glad they decided to pass on using the Needles for the sculptures! They are a spectacular natural landmark that too many visitors to the area miss. In some parts of the country they might be considered "National Park worthy". But that's a well-worn topic...

  • Mount Who? How Did This Famous Park Get Its Name?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    My apologies, Bob. Strike "NPT" from the third sentence but leave "NPS".

  • How Low Is the Bar For National Park System Inclusion When You Add a Gas Station?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    One of the legislative missions of the Jimmy Carter site is the interpretation of Plains as a small, southern, 20th century town because the Carter story is imbedded there. These late 19th-early 20th century railroad towns are significant in our settlement history, and I think there is a place for an example in the NPS. There aren't many of them left that have an association that can keep them encapsulated from development or just crumbling away. Given the mandate, the inclusion of the gas station as a vital focal point of the town's social life and automobile transportation history makes sense. Others, like the school and railroad depot were included in the original legislation, while another focal point, the post office, was already under federal ownership and "protection." Furthermore, the gas station's function and appearance have been an issue for many years. This piece of legislation can keep it from being a perpetual eyesore.

    That said, I agree with many of the comments that the site doesn't need to grow into a historical park and the preservation of every president's story within the NPS is a bit ridiculous. Furthermore, I'm no fan of Carter's politics, but to be consistent with the original legislative intent, I do believe the acquisition of this historic structure makes sense.

  • Mount Who? How Did This Famous Park Get Its Name?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Some sources credit David Swanzey with naming Mt. Rushmore. Swanzey was married to Carrie Ingalls, sister to Laura Ingalls Wilder.

  • Traveler's Checklist: Yellowstone National Park   5 years 39 weeks ago

    We've gone over this a thousand times, but in this particular case, let's look at it again. The hazing of bison in the park, according to the NPS, was to make room for buffalo being hazed from Montana by the Department of Livestock. Those bison were being hazed from a peninsula just outside the park boundaries in Hebgen Lake called Horse Butte. Awhile back, there used to be cattle on this peninsula in the summer months (after brucellosis can be spread) leased to a man named Munns from Idaho. That property has since been sold to a family named Galanis who don't own cattle, don't want cattle, and want wild buffalo on their property. The peninsula itself is mostly in the Gallatin National Forest, though there are about 100 - 200 people who live on the peninsula on private property. Many of those private citizens have formed a buffalo advocacy group called Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo (HOBNOB) to protest Department of Livestock intrusions onto their land and to promote wild buffalo on the Butte.

    None of this has mattered. This year, Department of Livestock helicopters once again flew as low as 20 feet over private land to haze buffalo back into the park, they continued that hazing well into the park - and as I understand it, well inside the Wyoming state line. That action has prompted the hazing from Madison Junction to Fountain Flats of bison more than a dozen miles inside the park boundary.

    Of course, even if there were cattle, we would support wild buffalo populations just as we and others have supported wild elk populations (who also have the disease and have been strongly suspected of spreading it - I believe they have, but there are very knowledgeable hunting advocates who even doubt that). The onus of doing business when you are trying to restore wildlife populations should be on the cattle grower who is currently heavily subsidized for leasing on public lands (public lands have preferenced cattle over wildlife, especially wild buffalo). The locals in areas who want wildlife (and some produce cattle) should be allowed to keep the Department of Livestock from enforcing their draconian provisions. The cost of management of buffalo hasn't stopped Montana from losing its class free status on brucellosis anyhow. The cost of having brucellosis hasn't outweighed the cost the state has spent supposedly trying in vain to prevent it. Stockgrowers in Montana have tried to prevent buffalo that don't have brucellosis from being moved to other areas in the state, trying unsuccessfully this time to pass laws in the legislature designed to stop that movement. And, we can go on and on, all of it adding up to the reality that brucellosis is a red herring here, that the issue is about grass, about who controls it, and what sorts of species should have preference over it. Indeed, when talking about buffalo in other parts of the state, stockgrowers give up their hand and mention competition for grasslands. However, if that's the issue, then the Department of Livestock wouldn't have any authority to stop buffalo from moving over public lands and over private lands where the owners wanted buffalo. They've masqueraded this as a livestock disease issue to assert their barony over Montana (despite the reality that at most, livestock makes up 1.5% of Montana's GDP).

    So, all of this has led to NPS hazing of bison that are nowhere near the boundaries and to delays. Kurt has posted NPS spokesman Al Nash's defense of the hazing on this site. They probably should have posted a press release alerting travelers last week to the delays. I think those management operations are over, although Buffalo Field Campaign members told me Sunday at a prayer ceremony for the buffalo lead by Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse that the buffalo continue to move back and forth across the boundary and that it was hard to predict if there would be another round of hazing.

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

  • Mount Who? How Did This Famous Park Get Its Name?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Check out the Traveler article at this site, Frank C. Aren't you being a little harsh with us poor little overworked and underpaid Traveler writers?

  • Mount Who? How Did This Famous Park Get Its Name?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Actually, it was originally known as Six Grandfathers to the Sioux. "Rushmore" is a desecration. NPT and the NPS continue to ignore the Sioux history of this site, and the NPS in particular glorify the Anglo history while sweeping the turbulent history of Federal and Sioux relations under the proverbial rug.

  • Traveler's Checklist: Yellowstone National Park   5 years 39 weeks ago

    One of the complaints about bison outside the park is that they carry a disease that gets into the cattle populaton. So there is a concerted effort to keep bison within the park

  • Traveler's Checklist: Yellowstone National Park   5 years 39 weeks ago

    While I have never personally read anything about studies related to bison damage of thermal features, there is a long history and controversy over bison numbers in Yellowstone. Most of those arguments - and the arguments about elk are more famous - have to do with the amount of carrying capacity in Yellowstone's Northern Range. Since the late 1960s, the NPS has maintained that the carrying capacity of the range is much higher than people have previously imagined, and regardless would follow a policy of natural regulation, essentially arguing that the ecosystem is a better regulator of populations than human management.

    Others have disagreed vehemently, though again the focus has been mostly on elk numbers. Bison numbers have never been allowed to reach a high enough of a number for the data to be conclusive. Nevertheless, the scientists who have disagreed with NPS scientists have argued that Yellowstone is not an intact ecosystem (that natural regulation therefore is a myth and should not serve as the basis of policy), that carrying capacity is much lower and that there has been damage to smaller mammals and to vegetation (especially riparian vegetation) as a result.

    For me, the argument of carrying capacity ultimately has no bearing on the slaughter and hazing of buffalo because either way, it convicts the NPS/Montana policy on bison. Either carrying capacity has been reached, and then you have no good reason to bottle bison inside the park - i.e., they should be treated as wildlife and managed as wildlife; all other species to some degree or other are allowed outside of Yellowstone (even wolves have it much, much better than bison). Indeed, in this case keeping bison in the park is a detriment to the park. Or, carrying capacity hasn't been reached in which case there should be no artificial population numbers that are set (as currently are set by the Interagency Bison Management Plan, though those numbers are hypothesized based on migration patterns, not on range carrying capacity). While the park's ability to hold more bison would seem to justify hazing bison back into the park, actually it more strongly suggests a policy of leaving things alone - since there's not too many bison and no reason to be moving them around within park boundaries.

    As for damage to thermal features by bison - your original observation - I've never read of any features destroyed by bison (not saying it hasn't happened, but I've never read it). I have read plenty of cases of humans destroying thermal features. Perhaps, there are too many people, and their numbers should be culled. That is not exactly a modest proposal (and not a unique one, either, to Yellowstone); it's just not clear to me how it could mean anything (if your observation is correct) except allowing the free migration of buffalo into Montana outside the park so that these potential stressors are relieved. Do we value the small number of paranoid cattle operators (or even fewer - none - in some areas), or do we want to protect Yellowstone and what we take it to be (a place of unique features that values wildlife)? Perhaps, we have not stressed enough how Yellowstone itself is hurt by the IBMP over and above what happens by imposing absurd boundaries on one particular kind of wildlife.

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

  • How Low Is the Bar For National Park System Inclusion When You Add a Gas Station?   5 years 39 weeks ago

    We are most assuredly now on a very steep slippery hill, headed to the ravine below.