Recent comments

  • Lame Duck Bush Administration Hastens to Weaken Environmental Protection Laws   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Mr Janiskee, do you think an Obama administration will be any better, guess what "it'll be worst," then you'll be wishing for somebody else. its easy to pick on George Bush, but nobody remembers his leader ship during 9/11 and afterwards. President Bush has done plenty for this country and the environment and our national parks which i greatly cherish, lets look beyond the negetive and quite gripping. and be appreciative! for what we have.

  • Lame Duck Bush Administration Hastens to Weaken Environmental Protection Laws   5 years 46 weeks ago

    As long as we are compelled, under threat of imprisonment, to surrender a hefty portion of our net worth to the IRS each and every year we can bitch as loudly as we want.

    This year especially there is no lesser of two evils. There is socialism or fascism. The true American spirit should guide every voter to have no part of either.

  • Lame Duck Bush Administration Hastens to Weaken Environmental Protection Laws   5 years 46 weeks ago

    No matter whether you think that Obama or McCain ought to be the next president, let's all get out to vote tomorrow. No one can bitch who doesn't.

    Rick Smith

  • Is Climate Change Driving A New Forest Regimen in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    A very interesting discussion of a complex - and very important - topic. The connection between the beetle and the grizzly was fascinating!

    As Kurt notes, the results of mountain pine beetle infestations can be seen in large parts of the west. Another inevitable result will be some dramatic fires in coming years.

  • NPS Entrance Fees Waived on November 11th for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Beamis - an excellent question!

    First, here's why there is no entrance fee at the Smokies:

    The land that is today Great Smoky Mountains National Park was once privately owned. The states of Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as local communities, paid to construct Newfound Gap Road (US-441). When the state of Tennessee transferred ownership of Newfound Gap Road to the federal government in 1936, it stipulated that “no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed…” to travel the road.

    You can read the full explanation here.

    Congress keeps tinkering with the fee program, so it's had some changes since I retired in 2001. I did a little research, and believe the following is accurate, but I'm happy to have anyone weigh in with corrections if needed.

    The current version of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (REA) was enacted in 2004, and runs for ten years. Fee program funds are restricted to designated uses, which currently include "projects to reduce the backlog of infrastructure maintenance; trails; cultural resources projects to rehabilitate historic structures, restore cultural landscapes and protect museum objects; visitor orientation and education through visitor center improvements, amphitheaters repair and replacement of exhibits; repairs of campgrounds; replacement of informational signs; and, backcountry user education."

    Parks which collect fees retain 80% of the money for use in that park; the remaining 20% is distributed by the NPS Washington Office. That money goes to parks which don't collect fees, parks which raised limited revenue through fees, and for special projects.

    So, parks such as the Smokies can receive part of that "national 20% pot." In the bigger picture, the NPS budget was handled as follows during my career, and I suspect it's still basically the same: Congress appropriates money for park operations each year, which the Washington office then doles out to all parts of the system. That process can be complicated, but factors including fee revenue available to each park help determine how much each individual park receives for the year.

    You'll find more than you probably want to know about the fee program at an NPS site and Interior site.

    Finally, here's the official explanation for why there is a fee program: "The rationale is that those who use specific services and facilities should pay for a larger portion of the costs, rather than require taxpayers who never use the amenities to assume the entire cost."

    I hope that helps!

  • Lame Duck Bush Administration Hastens to Weaken Environmental Protection Laws   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Yea for President Bush... these laws should have been gutted years ago. GO President Bush, slash, slash away...

  • Is Climate Change Driving A New Forest Regimen in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    I wasn't aware that climate change was so serious. I thought we were just talking about a quarter of a degree or so. I don't understand how such a very small change in temperature can change the temperature variances on the mountains.

  • NPS Entrance Fees Waived on November 11th for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Jim----not wanting to stray any further than we already have, I'd like to ask how does Great Smoky Mountains National Park manage to operate without charging any entrance fees whatsoever? It's one of the nation's busiest and is also quite large in acreage.

    What makes it different from parks like Yosemite and Zion that charge money to enter?

  • Winter's Not Far Off In Glacier National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Jane -

    What a wonderful shot - thanks for sharing it!

    This is a good reminder that the resources in our parks are worth protecting for all to enjoy.

  • Don't Forget Buffalo National River When You're Looking for Fall Foliage   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Craig -

    I hope you have good weather and a wonderful trip! This time of the year was always one of my favorites when I worked at the Buffalo.

    Yes, this is one of those "under the radar" parks for many people - and I suspect a lot of those who enjoy using it would just as soon keep it that way :-)

  • NPS Entrance Fees Waived on November 11th for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families   5 years 46 weeks ago

    For those who want to skirt the entrance fee for political or other reasons -

    It's an interesting question about whether an entrance fee is "double taxation," since taxes are not paying for the services provided by the entrance fees.

    I suspect that given their choice, most NPS employees would prefer to eliminate fees completely, if those same dollars could be provided from appropriated sources. (The exception might be the employees who are hired to collect the fees :-) Other than the revenue generated, the other main plus of entrance stations is some element of security at the gate, and a chance to provide information to visitors when they arrive.

    Unfortunately, the reality is that the political decision has already been made to squeeze as many dollars out of visitors as possible, with the goal in some quarters to turn the park's into a self-supporting business, run as much as possible by private enterprise. Given the state of the economy, I wouldn't place any bets on the odds of replacing fee revenue with tax dollars, and would guess that fees are here to stay.

    That said, under the present system, Congress long ago figured out they could cut funding to parks by charging a toll at the gate, and fee dollars are the source of funds for projects that directly benefit visitors. When visitors (for whatever reason) find ways to avoid paying a fee, what's really being penalized is visitor services.

    So ... as long as you don't hike any trails, drive on any roads, enter any buildings, attend any programs, or flush any appropriate fixtures, let your conscience be your guide when it comes to ways to skirt the fee. (I'm having a little fun here, because some of those facilities and services are being paid out of appropriated dollars, but some do depend on fee revenue. I'll leave it to the conscientious objectors to figure out which ones they've already "paid for" on April 15th.)

  • Don't Forget Buffalo National River When You're Looking for Fall Foliage   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Jim,

    My family and I are going to northern Arkansas this weekend. Should be a great trip for fall color.

    I have spent many a week floating the Buffalo at Gilbert.

    It so nice to see a report about the Buffalo as it seems to be forgotten as being a "National Park"
    .

  • NPS Entrance Fees Waived on November 11th for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families   5 years 46 weeks ago

    If you don't want to pay an entrance fee (maybe for political reasons) or you can't afford to pay an entrance fee, you can avoid doing so by entering the park when fee gates/visitor centers are closed, entering the park on foot, entering and leaving a park on back roads, or visiting an employee of the park. You can also try taping a receipt to your car window. Or course, these don't work in every situation and park, especially historical parks, so I suggest coming up with a disability for maximum fee-free access. Entrance fees are a form of double taxation and Americans hold the right to civil disobedience as a means of protest.

  • NPS Entrance Fees Waived on November 11th for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Why veterans? How about nurses? Fire fighters? All law enforcement personal? Paramedics? Social workers?

  • Lame Duck Bush Administration Hastens to Weaken Environmental Protection Laws   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Originally posted on 11/2 but edited on 11/3 to insert a missing word without realizing it would change the location of the post.

    Bob,

    I share with you the dismay about the power of executive orders and think that perhaps in most cases they should not have the force of law. That said, I do take issue with the tenor of your post.

    My issue with your post is not the statement of facts (it seems fairly clear that the Bush administration is rushing to weaken environmental protection laws and regs), but in

    1) the presumption that you know all the motivations of the Bush administration, perhaps best illustrated by

    To his Republican base, and especially the powerful interests to whom he is beholden, George Bush is saying, “I have fought the good fight to get rid of those ridiculous constraints on economic development.” To the rest of us he is saying: “Put that in your hookah and smoke it, you tree-hugging, bunny-loving, eco-freaks!”

    2) the assumption that any weakening of environmental protection laws and regs is a bad thing. Sometime laws and regs are a good idea at the time and at a later time are no longer needed. Sometimes laws are bad to begin with. I want "cleaner air, cleaner water, healthier wildlife habitat (although the last not at the expense of human habitat), but that doesn't mean that I believe the every environmental law and reg is a good thing. It seems to me that frequently once you involve law and an unthinking bureaucracy, things have to be done whether they make sense or not.

    Mark

  • Lame Duck Bush Administration Hastens to Weaken Environmental Protection Laws   5 years 46 weeks ago

    It's unfortunate that raising concerns about environmental issues is so quickly cast by some as a liberal vs. conservative or a partisan issue. As pointed out above, administrations of both parties have used their final months in office to push through whatever fits their agenda. That may be a reality of our "system," but I don't think it makes for good public policy.

    Whether or not you object to the current rush to modify public land policies and regulations probably depends largely upon your view of government regulation in general. It doesn't require a detailed analysis of history to confirm that little or no regulation has often resulted in serious harm to the environment, human health and our quality of life. It's also easy for the regulators to get out of hand. The difficult trick is finding an appropriate balance.

    I agree that environmental (and other government regulations) can often use some adjustments, but logical and responsible decisions on complex issues will rarely result if they are based solely on the ideology of the "party currently in power," and if they are rushed through to meet a deadline based on political expediency.

    If the current changes that have suddenly emerged on the scene in recent months are so critical, I have to wonder why they weren't brought to the table in the first year of the administration instead during of the final months. Perhaps the answer is that in at least some cases, they simply can't withstand reasoned analysis - or they would be seen as a political liability for someone running for reelection.

    One of my greatest concerns with the current administration has been the way it has made a mockery of the public comment process. A case in point is the current "review" of public comments on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act.

    According to news reports from the AP and other sources, Interior received about 200,000 comments on this proposal. If public input is to have any meaning in our system of government, a reasonable analysis of those comments should be made as part the decision-making process. However, the agency reportedly intended to complete the review of those comments with a team of 15 people working over a 4 day period of presumably 8-hour government work days.

    Several commentators have noted that this effort by Interior would require about 6,250 comments to be reviewed every hour. That means that each member of the team would be "reviewing" at least seven comments each minute, or as one observer put it, just about long enough to slide each paper across the reviewer's desk and into the trash can.
    Yes, some of those comments are form letters, and can be categorized as "for" or "against" fairly quickly. Others, however, include thoughtful and detailed material which deserves at least an honest reading.

    Whether you agree with the proposed changes or not, if our system of government that supposedly grants "power to the people" is to function in a healthy way, those who are elected or hired to act in the best interests of the people need to perform those duties in a manner worthy of their hire. Sadly, I don't see that happening in situations such as the one I've just described.

  • Lame Duck Bush Administration Hastens to Weaken Environmental Protection Laws   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Bob, I'm giving you a gold star for candor and truth. Keep hammering at the truth "for the pen is mightier then the sword"!

  • Lame Duck Bush Administration Hastens to Weaken Environmental Protection Laws   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Frank C., yes we have a Constitutional Republic (federal republic) that operates on the liberal principal of a "liberal democracy", a formal Constitution installed with free elections (do we?) protection of civil rights (do we?) and the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Under the Bush regime it's a form of government that cuts between oligarchy (ruled by few) or theocracy and some say even bent on fascism...and not much on democracy! Hardly a form of government that aids or meets the needs of the general populace and the environment. Just remember Katrina, remember A. Gonsalves, remember Enron, and now the potential economic collapse of the U.S. economy. Bush & Cheney, the two man wrecking crew, now has plans to bury this country in a potential environmental quagmire to cripple the next presidential candidate from installing sane and intelligent guidelines to protect the environment. Is this tailored to benefit the multinational corporations that have total disregard for are long and hard fought environmental laws. Categorically yes!

  • Lame Duck Bush Administration Hastens to Weaken Environmental Protection Laws   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Mark: Most environmental protection laws could use some tweaking, including adjustments that loosen unnecessarily restrictive provisions. But let's demand that our federal, state, and local governments make these adjustments the right way, not by hasty administrative fiat that ignores science, violates the public trust, and in the worst examples, flagrantly breaks the law of the land. I reserve a special kind of contempt for public officials that behave that way, and I suppose that's why I deserve no better than a blue star for the tenor of my remarks.

  • NPS Entrance Fees Waived on November 11th for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families   5 years 46 weeks ago

    The rank and file of the NPS do not have any kind of pass or card to gain free entry into other park areas. Some WASO mucky-mucks have them but are presumably for "official" use only.

  • Lame Duck Bush Administration Hastens to Weaken Environmental Protection Laws   5 years 46 weeks ago

    One day all that we will have is concrete streets, buildings, factories, city skylines... all of these beautiful things that make up "human habitat"! When you wake up in the morning you will be able to walk outside, take a deep breath of not-so fresh air and ponder how much better off we are without all that awful wilderness getting in the way, just look at China! By all means, keep your blinders on... and stumble right off the face of the Earth!

    Editor's note: This comment was edited to remove a gratuitous insult.

  • NPS Entrance Fees Waived on November 11th for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Wow, some interesting comments on a post that was primarily intended just to let people know about the upcoming opportunity for vets. I hadn't expected to reopen the wide-ranging debate about fees ... but that's ok :-)

    I would like to answer one comment from the above:

    Do NPS, USFW, BLM, USFS employees always have to pay full costs for their rec time spent on these lands?

    Based on my personal experience, I'd say "normally yes." I worked for the NPS for 30 years and can honestly say that I never asked for nor received a free ride at any other federal area I was visiting. (Since I lived inside the boundary of places like Grand Canyon, I didn't pay the entrance fee to come and go from home at a park where I was a resident.) That's not to paint me as a saint - I just didn't want to put that entry-level employee at the entrance station in an awkward position. At one point in my career, there were actually some people conducting audits of fee operations by trying to talk their way into parks because they were government employees, or under some similar guise, and if they were successful, the fee collector and the supervisor were formally admonished or subject to disciplinary action. Do some employees flash an ID at the entrance at parks and get in free? Almost certainly so. Similar supposed "perks" occur in almost any private or government enterprise, but I really don't think it's widespread.

  • NPS Entrance Fees Waived on November 11th for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families   5 years 46 weeks ago

    While we are exempting Americans who have served their country from NPS entrance fees, what about returned Peace Corps Volunteers?

    Rick Smith

  • NPS Entrance Fees Waived on November 11th for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families   5 years 46 weeks ago

    "In brief, where do you stop with the freebies?"

    Since these parks are already taxpayer funded isn't an additional entrance fee just a form of double taxation? Why should anyone have to pay a fee?

    $25 a pop to get into Bryce Canyon is a hard pill to swallow, especially for local residents who DO NOT make the kind of money that allows them to afford such luxuries. The parks are now, by and large, the province of the more well off among society and the steady rise in entrance fees we have witnessed in the past few years will only further continue that trend.

  • NPS Entrance Fees Waived on November 11th for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families   5 years 46 weeks ago

    It's always hard to argue down proposals for expanding veterans benefits, and the one you suggest is especially difficult to oppose on ethical grounds. Who could be more deserving than a military veteran when it comes to freely accessing America's public lands? So, put me in the "yes" column. (I would also cheerfully add actively serving military personnel to the list of the deserving.) But what about policemen, firemen, and others who serve and protect? And wouldn't there be a whole bunch of other constituencies with plausible "me too!" arguments? In brief, where do you stop with the freebies? BTW, I agree that it's asinine to instruct people that they shouldn't confuse honoring vets with glorifying conflict. Who on earth would draw a conclusion like that, anyway?

    Truth-in-endorsing disclosure: I'm strongly biased toward veterans benefits. Among other things, they helped me fund my college education and buy my first house.