Recent comments

  • Stranded Boaters Rescued from the "Narrows" at Zion National Park   5 years 43 weeks ago

    Nice to know stupidity is still alive and well in our national parks. We don't need to arm ourselves. We're dumb enough to kill ourselves off. But reading the story makes me remember our one trip into the Narrows--what a spectacular place. I used to think God lived in Zion. Now (nothing personal) I know She lives in Glacier. Whenever anyone's faith flags, all they need is a trip to pretty much anywhere outdoors. If you don't believe in something higher than yourself after a trip to Weeping Rock, or Glacier, or Yellowstone where my stupid 12 pounnd cocker spaniel tried to get "et" by a buffalo by barkin at it through the closed car widow, then there is no hope for you. God bless Teddy Roosevelt for his recognition of these treasures.

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    Interesting discussion on this topic. And it's surely one that will continue to pop up from time to time.

    A key problem with un-billed SARs, however, is that the NPS seemingly has no dedicated national SAR fund from which to reimburse parks for SARs. As a result, funds are redirected from elsewhere, to the detriment of those programs. And then, as Chief Ranger points out, different parks track SAR expenses differently.

    Anyone out there know why the Park Service hasn't created a dedicated SAR fund, or why parks don't follow the same paper trail in tracking their SAR expenses?

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    A topic we can all get our teeth into. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion. Much better than guns in parks. Search and Rescue is a huge operational cost to the National Park Service. The question to bill cannot be asked nor explored until the service can accurately identify the true cost of doing this business. Of the 391 units in the National Park Service I'd 3 of them report the same. Absent a pay code for this type of work too many of our employees and volunteers provide this service without any of us knowing what the true cost is. We do not look at what we paid out the previous year and factor it into our budgets as a line item. Each unit is left up to reaching that magic goal of $500 dollars to get a major SAR account and reimbursement from the regional and national level. It's not a mystery where that funding comes from, it is however a mystery of who's smart enough to use it.

    A second issue is certification/qualification. If we look at the staff that predominantly provide search and rescue many of them spend an incredible amount of time maintaining structural fire, ems, instructor certifications and law enforcement. It's not a bad idea of professionalizing SAR, however if we do let's increase the base budget and factor that time and cost associated with it so we don't have the same 5 people taking on the work load of 15. It all comes down to supply and demand. Before those of you who provide rescue to the general public say "no" too quickly, think about where the money is coming from. If the National Park Service could provide equal reimbursement, staffing and training to all of the units that respond day in and day out to SAR missions I'd think you'd hear a resounding "No". When they don't and parks are left footing the bill it leads to one thing.....shortfalls for field staff.....and at the end of the day once again we see our front line heroes pay the price. So who really should be paying for Search and Rescue?

  • National Park Mystery Photo 1: Wow – This is One Big Boulder!   5 years 43 weeks ago

    trip to jelly n 1969 from ogden, of 2 adults w/4 kids... n main park near geyser... out on side of road picnikn'.... big bear comin up road feddin car to car.... tnen a pick up truck with 2 adults suddenly jumep out of truck on opposite side... they forgot to roll up window...!!!!!end

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    ronlee67 -

    Thanks for some excellent first-hand perspective.

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    reading this article and comments changed my mind somewhat. There are questions, though Public lands are exempt from local taxes. Local police, fire and EMS staff and equipment are often involved in SAR operations. Shouldn't there be some compensation to the local taxpayer? Then there is the moral hazard issue. Do people take needless risks because they know that someone will bail them out?

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    I think the "crazies" out there are quite rare.

    I spent some seven years on one of the busier SAR teams in Colorado. We clocked between 100 - 150 missions a year. I don't recall a single mission where a parent recklessly put their child in danger. I can count perhaps 5 or 6 where an adult acted irresponsibly which resulted in a rescue/recovery. Two died in separate incidents while thrill skiing off a cliff. One was caught in an avalance. All three were "expert" skiers. In another incident our team was providing support for a mountain marathon. One gentleman from Arkansas who was diabetic decided to challenge himself by not hydating for 24 hours before the race. He crashed and burned about six miles into the race on a hot August morning. We have had a handful of suicides. Not a single taxpayer's cent was spent to rescue/recover these people, yet they were cared for by our team. Of course it seems appropriate to charge or fine the guy from Arkansas for his stupidity but it's not worth the trouble. As for the others.....? Well... they are dead!

    There are no ski resorts in our county. I have read news articles averaging perhaps a couple per year where skiers in Colorado have gone "out of bounds" at resorts and into danger zones to end up missing, injured, or worse. These incidents generally get more press coverage so perhaps the public gets the idea that irresponsbile people are the cause of more SAR missions than is actually the case. I know that our missions rarely got press coverage and the vast majority were successful missions and did not involve significant irresponsibility by the victims.

    In my experience, outdoors people, are generally quite responsible, care for the environment, and take pride in their skills to remain safe. A good many of them know more about survival than the average person. They are clearly not a burden on the system.

    There will always be people with bad judgement. Everyone is a novice when they first venture into a new environment. We have to take care of them along with the others... no charge!

  • Change is in the Wind for Offshore Energy Leases. How Might Parks Be Impacted?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    P M -

    You're correct about reports of offshore winds being both stronger and more consistent, at least in certain locations. I've read the same information a number of times recently.

    Here's a link with a 2008 summary of a study underway to map areas with the best potential for wind power projects.

    A University of Delaware study in 2007 seems to have some pretty good data to support their claim that "the wind resource off the Mid-Atlantic coast could supply the energy needs of nine states from Massachusetts to North Carolina, plus the District of Columbia--with enough left over to support a 50 percent increase in future energy demand."

    More about that study is found at this link.

    A big question is whether that potential can be put to use while meeting the challenge you identified:

    Hopefully a constructive balance can be made preserving the coast and harvesting the wind.

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    "Seriously, why is this even being debated?"

    It's being debated because some people have different opinions. I personally don't feel having a child in tow should give someone carte blanche to act recklessly and expect rescue with no repercussions. Someone mentioned above that local law enforcement often have the discretion to bill (or presumably even file charges against?) people that take unnecessary risks that require SAR. That sounds like a good system to me. But what if the people with the 5 year old know they might get a bill? Will they hesitate then? Should we make it clear that no one gets billed under any circumstances so these folks can go wild and put their children at risk without threats to their finances or liberty? I would think it would be in the best interest of the 5-year-old if the parents could expect some serious repercussions for putting the child at risk in the first place. Making sure the parents know there's free rescue available seems like a horrible thing to do for the welfare of the kids when their parents are this ignorant to start with.

  • Snowbound Couple Rescued From Fire Tower at Dinosaur National Monument   5 years 43 weeks ago

    Ron -

    Thanks for providing some excellent information on this subject.

  • Snowbound Couple Rescued From Fire Tower at Dinosaur National Monument   5 years 43 weeks ago

    quoting Anonymous: "In the State of Colorado, which Dinosaur NM is in, the State covers all SAR costs through a special hikers tax generated from the sale of recreation gear within the State".
    This is not quite accurate.

    1. The state does not "cover all SAR costs". In Colorado all mountain SAR teams are volunteers and raise their own funds. They are not supported by the state to the extent inferred in that statement. There is a Search and Rescue Fund adminstered by the state Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). This is not state money. Is is money provided through the voluntary purchase of a COSAR card ($3 per year/$12 for 5 years) or through a 25 cent surcharge on hunting and fishing licenses, vessel, snowmobile, and off-highway registrations. 2/3 of the money from COSAR card sales is put in this fund (presumeably the remaining 1/3 is DOLA's share for administrative costs).

    In Colorado, county sheriffs have the authority/responsiblity for SAR in their jurisdiction (not the state). The first priority of the fund is to reimburse local Sheriffs for the costs incurred while conducting a search and rescue for a licensed person. Since the sheriff's have working agreements with their local volunteer SAR teams, there is rarely any significant direct cost to the sheriff for most SAR missions. Each year, any remaining monies in the fund can be used to reimburse the local volunteer SAR teams to help pay for training and equipment (team equipment, not personal equipment.) These reimbursements are in the form of a grant, and teams must apply for the grants.

    2. It is not a tax nor is it hiker specific. Anyone may purchase the COSAR card and many do to help support the SAR.

    3. It is not a tax that generates money "from the sale of recreation gear".

    Simply put, people who obtain licenses and permits for hunting, fishing, and operating off-road vehicles pay a 25 cent surcharge and others may volunteer to buy A COSAR card to help fund the SAR Fund. The fund is small and does not cover even a very small percentage of the cost of SAR in Colorado. By far, the largest portion of the cost of SAR is born directly by the SAR teams and the individual contributions of time, equipment, training etc. of the team members.

    A common misconception is that the SAR Fund provides "insurance" for the contributors. This is absolutely not the case, nor was the fund ever established for that purpose. Sheriff's have the option to charge for SAR expenses and ocassionally a sheriff is tempted to try when his direct expenses are exceptionally high. I'm not aware of any that were successful, not to mention the uproar that would occur from the sAR community who oppose such action.

  • Change is in the Wind for Offshore Energy Leases. How Might Parks Be Impacted?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    I wish I could remember where I had read an article about how the wind offshore blows more constantly at higher speeds then the wind on land. Having to transmit power from a few miles offshore is much more efficient then transmitting it from the midwest to the coast. Hopefully a constructive balance can be made preserving the coast and harvesting the wind.

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    There is no such alternative if you are injured, stranded or lost in the wilderness.

    What business do they have in the wilderness. If someone goes into the wilderness or climbs a mountain just for fun why shouldn't they pay for any expense incurred. If someone else has to pay for their rescue why not also pay for their equipment and send them to school to learn safety in their hobby. If a child wanders away from camp and gets lost that is different. If a grown person makes a decision to put their life in danger for a thrill they should pay for their foolishness.

    That is the way I see it but, if someone wants to furnish the equipment and volunteer their time and expense or solicit money for that purpose then "God bless them"

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    Never charge for this service!

    If you charge for this service, it is NOT the idiots that wandered off recklessly that you will be "punishing" -it is their CHILDREN who they took with them who will suffer!! These same people who didn't bring a beacon or even a map for that matter are the same ones dragging a 5 year old up a mountian, and when things take a turn for the worse you NEVER want a parent to hesitate to get emergency help for 5 YEAR OLD because they are trying to figure out if they have room on a credit card for the bill! Seriously, why is this even being debated?

    P.S. if you can not pay for an ambulance ride and it was deemed medically necessary, it's free in Maryland for this exact reason. No one should hesitate to call for help for someone in life or death circumstances because of the cost.

  • Bear #399, And Other Grizzlies, Are On the Prowl In Grand Teton National Park   5 years 43 weeks ago

    Followed that bear for 3 years...watched its habitat and behivor....Cant wait to see new cubs this year
    She is one devoted mother.....and caring deeply for her cubs....Spend 6 months in Tetons every year
    Great write up and great job...see u guys in the park

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    No... for all the reasons listed by the professionals. In reply to the comment about calling 911 and having to pay for the ambulance: I'm sure that there are many people who put off calling 911 who opt instead to "tough it out" only to have their situation worsen. Some, of course, arrange their own transportation from a family member or friend to avoid the cost of an ambulance when that seems overkill. There is no such alternative if you are injured, stranded or lost in the wilderness.

    In my experience in mountain rescue most teams are volunteers, drive their own vehicles and supply much of the equipment at no cost to the taxpayers. We don't need government assessing charges to victims when the services are provided free by volunteers. For the limited number of paid rescuers (generally park rangers) they generally are hired for other duties and respond to rescues as needed. Except for the cost of training and equipment, there is very little impact on their agency's budget.

    BUT MOST IMPORTANT! Regardless of how smart or stupid someone is, each life is precious so let's not castigate some for the predicaments they get in. Likewise everyone should feel confident they will receive rescue services when and if they need them without respect to ability to pay. Throw out the rescue fee and the ability to pay is a non-issue. I don't want to ever hear again of a young lady who refuses help "because my Dad will kill me when he gets the bill!"

  • Update: Will a “Chop and Drop” Strategy Rescue the Presidio’s Contemporary Art Museum Project?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    Allowing Fisher to put his museum on the Presidio would be a tragedy. This museum will house soley his collection, which he is not giving to--just permitting it to be viewed by-- the public. He has insisted that he curate what is shown, when it is shown, how it is shown, what will be lent out, and what will be shown from other collections. No self-respecting PUBLIC art museum would ever permit such unilateral, unreviewable control.
    So what this amounts to is allowing a private collector to build his own museum on public land, to run however he wishes. But not just ordinary public land. For here we are talking about a National Historic Landmark District, and not just that, but at the very top, center of its Main Post, the universally acknowledged "heart of the Presidio", the "Plymouth Rock of the West". Could anything be more unjustified?

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    I have mixed feelings about this. Just yesterday I was enjoying my day off hiking in my park when I came across a man collapsed on the side of the trail. I identified myself as a ranger and asked if they needed help. They said he had simply gotten light headed. No one in the party had water and it was 83, in the desert, on a trail rated moderate. They refused any help but I advised them to go back down and get some water before doing the trail. They ignored me and hiked as fast as they could up the trail. I tried to keep up to keep my eye on the man but they out paced me. I later found out that the same man had later become a SAR and had to be carried out. What do you do when a ranger advised them that they weren't prepared but they ignored the warnings?

  • Help Ken Burns Chronicle the Parks   5 years 43 weeks ago

    My GreatGrandfather, Senator John Conness, US senate 1863-1869,the Junior Senator from California introduced the Yosemite Grant legislation into the US Senate. The was the first preservation of Yosemite Valley and the Wawona Grove of Giant Sequoias. He was a member of Abraham Lincoln's "Kitchen Cabinet" and urged Linclon to sign this. It was signed in March of 1864. While this was not my greatgrandfathers original idea he did introduce, and lobby for it in the middle of the Civil War.
    I hope you have acknowledged this in your film. Mt Conness is on the eastern boundry of the Currrent Yosemite National Park just north of Tioga Pass. It was named for John Conness by the Whitney survey party earlier. John Conness was a member of the California Assembly in the 1850's and responsible for the state legislation that formed and funded the Whitney Party to map the eastern boundry of California. Naturally Whitney named the highest peak for himself.

  • Snowbound Couple Rescued From Fire Tower at Dinosaur National Monument   5 years 43 weeks ago

    All valid points I must say. I live in this particular area around Dinosaur NM. I also have a great insight into the problems related to hikers and just all around tourists. It's not so much "bad decisions" as it is being uninformed. People travel from all over the world and have no idea the vast wide open areas here and what dangers are present. It's clear that these folks' destination was the the wildlife refuge and not the national monument. Had they been to a Dinosaur NM visitor station, they may have been more informed. People in general are going to when put in such a situation, do what THEY think they need to do to survive...not what they are told to do. These people were found and brought to safety which is what the SAR program is all about. Yes Moffat County SAR is unpaid volunteers, and that is why they do it so well. Mostly the County suffers the most because if the rescue isn't hunting related, or the person hasn't purchased a basic "hiking license" in which the whole fee goes to Colorado SAR then the search usually goes uncompensated and thats where the peoples tax dollars are used to pay for someones "uninformed decision". Very little ever is there any Criminal Culpability to a lost hiker so it turns into a civil litigation game to be able to be re-paid.

  • Creature Feature: Burmese Pythons Prowl the Everglades, and That’s Not a Good Thing   5 years 43 weeks ago

    I do not have many anecdotes about Python Pete. He was just in training when I left my seasonal position there. At that point he was still tracking pythons in net bags and was given a toy once he found them.

  • Creature Feature: Burmese Pythons Prowl the Everglades, and That’s Not a Good Thing   5 years 43 weeks ago

    Thanks for the clarification on the "burst" python, RangerLady. I made the correction in the article so I won't be guilty of perpetuating this error. As for the tree-of-heaven, I see we are in agreement that this is a particularly nasty invader. When I write about python research and control methods I'll be sure to tell about Python Pete and his work. Saw some neat footage about PP while channel-surfing one evening, but I can't remember the program (NGC?). I have some photos of the little guy somewhere. Do you have any PP anecdotes to share?

  • Fall Into Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Kills California Woman   5 years 43 weeks ago

    Its easy to fall in. Most parts don't have rails. I have pics of me and friends playing very close to the edge. If we slipped we would have fell to our death.

  • Snowbound Couple Rescued From Fire Tower at Dinosaur National Monument   5 years 43 weeks ago

    the county, who else?

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 43 weeks ago

    NO,NO,NO Listen to the professionals, the people who volunteer for this duty day and night. If they say no, then its a bad idea. Currently local law enforcement can use judgement if they want to charge someone. So if someone dose something that is judged to be dum, or reckless, or whatever there is currently a means to get money from that person. Many states do have SAR funds to pay for rescue operations and as always and forever Mountain Rescue Association teams do not charge for rescue.