Recent comments

  • How Valuable Are Fossilized Mammoth Bones To the National Park System?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    This would only be appropriate in the National Park system if there were very unique geological characteristics associated with the site. Simply because there are a lot of fossils here - and they are apparantly readily accessable - is not sufficient reason. There are lots and lots of places around the country with fossils of all types. If we accept a national park for mammoth fossils, then I can see dozens of other sites that should also be national parks because they have fossils of other types of extinct animals/reptiles/etc. Let's not saddle the National Park system with another unfunded mandate.

  • How Valuable Are Fossilized Mammoth Bones To the National Park System?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    While Monticello is no doubt significant, consider that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation "as a private, nonprofit organization . . . receives no regular federal or state budget support for its twofold mission of preservation and education". If a private, nonprofit is able to preserve and educate without taxpayer funds, why should it be placed in a political system that cannot maintain its current historic holdings?

    Monticello is a model for how NPS historic sites could be operated, and the management of NPS historic sites serves as an anti-role model.

  • Can You Still Get Off the Beaten Path in National Parks?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    For Canyonlands/Arches, in the summer I highly recommend camping up in the La Sal mountains in Manti-La Sal NF, and day-tripping into Arches (& Fisher Tower). The Squaw Flats campground in Canyonlands (Needles district) requires arrival well before noon to obtain a campsite, especially one of the isolated sites where you won't hear your neighbors' generators. Both have wonderful dark sky at night for stargazing.

    In the southern Sierra, as an uncrowded alternative to Sequoia, try Mountain Home State Forest (not state park). Even the first weekend in August the campgrounds (classic overbuilt picnic tables, fire rings, pit toilets, and water every few sites) were half full, although the Tulare county park campground at Balch Park (with flush toilets & showers) was full. Biologically interesting: sequoias in mixed stands with giant cedars & sugar pines (well over 6' diameter), as opposed to sequoias in groves in filled in meadows nearly everywhere else.

  • Bear Grass in Glacier National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    I can confirm that some years there is definitely as much beargrass in Glacier. And, yes, it's cyclical. Wish I could remember the cycle!! ;)


  • Can You Still Get Off the Beaten Path in National Parks?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    And for NPS sites, it's hard to beat smaller, out-of-the-way national monuments like Sunset Crater, Wupatki, and my favorite, Lava Beds. These places are relatively empty even during summer months, and if you go in the off season, prepare for extreme solitude. On many occasions, I've driven the twenty-some miles through Lava Beds without seeing another vehicle on the road.

    There's lots of solitude waiting for those willing to venture beyond the asphalt and away from visitor complexes.

  • Stimulating the National Parks: Good For the Short-Term, But Then What?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    The truth is that what you've got in the Washington office are mainly bureaucrats, agency wonks and simpering sycophants all with spines of linguini. If y'all are looking to WASO for some faint signs of hope or the promise of systemic change you really need to learn the ways of the Imperial City and try to understand that it no longer works and the parks need a new set of stewards.

    I know you're tired of hearing it from me but your faith in Leviathan to do the right thing is misplaced at best and downright pig-headed at worst. So far, just the taxpayer money wasted to keep a dying General Motors afloat for an additional three months would've been sufficient to erase the entire NPS maintenance backlog in one fell swoop. Why was money given to the rusting Detroit monolith instead of the NPS? Where do you think the average taxpayer would've preferred these confiscated funds to have gone? GM or Yellowstone? That's an easy one to answer. Why did the mandarins in DC do otherwise?

    Do y'all really think these clowns care about the parks? If they did it has certainly been within their power for them to act in concrete ways. Why haven't they? If you don't start realizing that the national parks are not a genuine priority at any level of the federal government, your faith in them is nothing but a suckers game. Nuff said?

  • A Look Back On Search-And-Rescue History In Grand Teton National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    I was lucky enough to sit in on a brown bag lunch presentation by Ranger Renny Jackson while attending training at Grand Teton National Park. Ranger Jackson is in incredible speaker and shares his vast amount of experience with an ease that can only come with complete confidence in your training. I highly recommend listening if you have the opportunity - it will swell your chest with pride knowing such amazing people wear the green and grey.

  • Comment Now: General Gun Regulations for Areas Administered By the National Park Service   5 years 46 weeks ago

    I personally am a skinny 25 year old that backpacks alone in pursuit of landscape photographs. I am always very scared in our National Parks as I'm almost always alone. Bear spray doesn't cut it- so why can't I protect myself with a pistol my dad got me so he didn't have to worry about me getting mauled, robbed, or whatever. I think there should be extremely strict penalties and mandatory fines for misuse. And If anyone shoots at a ranger there should be mandatory jail time. I don't know if it would be possible to monitor but convicted felons with guns in national parks should a top concern.
    zack weinstein

  • Stimulating the National Parks: Good For the Short-Term, But Then What?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    "We need patriots again in the Washington Office of the NPS, people who believe that Congress meant it when it passed the 1916 Act establishing the NPS, people who are dedicated to making sure the parks have what they need to carry out that Mission."

    Thank you.

  • Bear Grass in Glacier National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    T J Hileman's photographs are wonderful. He was a member of my HILEMAN family.

  • Stimulating the National Parks: Good For the Short-Term, But Then What?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    To Sabittis:

    "What Went Wrong?"

    Well, for starters, we have had two NPS Directors in a row who spent their time teaching the NPS staff to cut out ESSENTIAL parts of the Mission, rather than fighting for the needed funding. NEVER has the NPS had such listless and ill-prepared leadership.

    Beneath these Directors, the staff responsible for the NPS budget and the Congressional staff constantly hammered the parks to find ways to live within these impossible restrictions, rather than take the kind of aggressive action the great Directors (like George Hartzog) and and the previously-competent NPS and Hill staff took to make the case to get the needed money.

    It is not rocket science to make the national park areas a national priority. Americans believe the most important places that tell the American story are important, and it is one of the easiest selling jobs in Government.

    Rick Smith and others are right, of course, that the NPS could use good staff in Washington to make the case to Congress and to all the Interest Groups in Washington. But, numbers alone will not matter if the NPS is not willing to take the bit in the teeth and make a real effort. A big Washington staff that just kow-tows to the geeks in OMB (who get brownie points for shackling rather than promoting the government agencies under their thumb) is no use at all. We need patriots again in the Washington Office of the NPS, people who believe that Congress meant it when it passed the 1916 Act establishing the NPS, people who are dedicated to making sure the parks have what they need to carry out that Mission.

    But if we have anything like a repetition of the last two Directors, and the kind of people they appointed to key positions, don't expect a handful of legislative staff to make the sun rise.

  • Can You Still Get Off the Beaten Path in National Parks?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    The country is large and it is quite easy to get to places that are quiet and isolated. You don't need to seek out national parks exclusively because there are state forests, state parks and a myriad of other lands (in the West you can't beat BLM properties) that offer the solitude and open space that many are searching for.

    It doesn't matter if you're looking in the pine barrens of New Jersey or the Appalachian highlands of Alabama, the live oak forests of Florida, the sand hills of Nebraska or the thick hardwoods of New Hampshire. There is a lot of territory out there to enjoy.

    My favorite place for sheer size and the immensity of quiet is Yellowstone. A few minutes from the road and the natural world is your oyster.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Hiked Angels Landing last Sunday, March 1st. Made it to the first set of chains. This is NOT an amusement park and I would question the intelligence of any parent taking a child under the age of 16 on this hike. Even at 16 I would want to make sure as to the maturity of the child involved. Even though I made it to only the first set of chains, there is enough excitement and danger in the hike to that point. Anyone making it up to Scouts lookout after Walters Wiggles has certainly accomplished something. For me it was the hike of a lifetime. I don't feel bad about not making it all the way. In fact, I am pleased that I made it as far as I did. I am 62 and have gone through 6 heart bypasses (at one time). If I can make it, anyone can, BUT exercise extreme caution. This is not expedition everest at disney. This is real.

  • Can You Still Get Off the Beaten Path in National Parks?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    In almost any decent-sized national park area, once you are a half mile off the road, you are virtually alone. This does not include, of course, highly popular trails like Vernal Falls or Shoshone Lake, but choose wisely and you will have all the solitude you want.

    Rick Smith

  • The World's Top Ten National Parks   5 years 46 weeks ago

    I thought some of you would be interested in the following statistics from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is amazing how many protected areas there are in the world. Unfortunately, some are not very well protected pr managed. And, as the report notes, and as Gary Davis argued a few weeks ago on NPT, we have a lot of work to do with marine protected areas.

    Worldwide Coverage of Protected Areas
    According to IUCN/WCPA data, as of 2007, there were 106,000 protected areas covering some 18
    million km2, or about 11.63% of the Earth‘s surface (need to add source – and update with latest numbers before publication). While estimates of marine areas under protection are complicated because country reports may contain some land area, best estimates as of 2007 were that there were 4,435 marine protected areas covering 2.35 million km2, or only about .65% of the ocean surface. Particularly alarming from those figures was the fact that critical marine ecosystems were severely under-represented.

    Overall, however, significant progress has been made in growth of protected areas over the past
    decade. IUCN records show that in 1962 there were 9214 sites covering 2.4 million km2. By 1992 these
    figures had grown to 48,388 protected areas covering 12.3 million km2. As of 2003, the UN List of
    Protected Areas (the most recent issue at this writing) contained 102,102 protected areas covering more
    than 18.8 million km2, or about 12.65% of the Earth‘s land surface (UN List, 2003, p. 21), notably
    slightly more than the 2007 in terms of surface coverage but less in terms of numbers. As these data
    show, growth between 1992 and 2003 was significant, with a doubling by number and surface area. As
    noted above, 2007 shows further growth in numbers.

    However, not all protected areas were being effectively managed and even though more areas are
    being protected, the proportion of species threatened with extinction continued to increase. As concluded by the 2007 Millennium Development Goals Report, ―Despite increased efforts to conserve the land and seas, biodiversity continues to decline…. ―Unprecedented efforts will be required to conserve habitats and to manage ecosystems and species in a sustainable way if the rate of species loss is to be significantly
    reduced by 2010.

    Rick Smith

  • Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park Could Shut Down For Structural Strengthening   5 years 46 weeks ago

    The Ahwahnee has both its fans and detractors, so this project should inspire a few opinions.

    No question there's a lot of history associated with the building, and a basic goal for any park building should be structural safety - especially in "earthquake country." However ... that's a lot of money in today's budget climate to put into one building. Pundits could suggest the work could be funded with about one season's cash flow, given the rates currently charged to stay in the hotel.

    It will be interesting to watch this one play out in the priority process.

  • When It Comes to National Parks, is it an "Earmark" or Prudent Spending?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Yes, this tension between "professional" funding distribution and distribution of the funds by Congress will always be there.

    There is need for both, and the balance can go to far, either way. We have seen some horribly micro-managing congressional staff on the appropriations committee, who think they should run the NPS down to every detail. But:

    The fact is, as long as America is a representative democratic republic, there must be politics in the system, and smart and dedicated professionals will accept that, and learn how to work with it.

    The American people and their Representatives must actually back and believe in the spending or the program, or it will die. Professionals and bureaucrats, when left to their own devices -- even when extremely meritorious -- tend to look inward and not pay attention to the politics. NPS professionals in particular tend to see politics as distasteful, and political decisions as chaotic. But it is suicide to think you can ignore, or not be good, at the politics.

    Sometimes, Congress initiates wonderful programs or projects the bureaucracy never would have supported on its own. Many of the wonderful initiatives first had strong backing by an enlightened public. They are not all whim and fancy of an over-powerful Member of Congress. Sometimes, without the strong power of a strong Member of Congress, good things would never get done at all.

    We need our public servants to be effective at communicating with politicians and with the public(s) that motivate the politicians. You don't have to "lobby" to effectively communicate. This ability should be a critical ability for every park superintendent, and no superintendent should be appointed if that person is not already skilled at partnership and politics, with a small p.

    Politicians need to know that delivering for the broad needs of the National Parks System -- not just construction projects -- is a critical measure of their success. It will not improve things by repressing those congressional people who are effective at getting money. It should be the goal to have every park -- and every agency -- develop the ability to sell their mission to the American people and their reps.

    If they cannot do it, they don't deserve the money. This is a democratic republic folks. Those Members of Congress are written into the Constitution. Park superintendents and rangers, strange to say it, are not in the Constitution. Neither are high-minded public interest organizations.

  • Believe it or Not, Yosemite National Park Once had a Zoo   5 years 46 weeks ago

    The conservationist ethic is a great legacy, Redwood. I know that many people would find it odd that a professional lion hunter could be a conservationist, but I most emphatically do not. This was the 1920s, after all, a time when truly scientific wildlife management was a distant dream and getting rid of predators like lions and wolves was considered necessary for protecting livestock and human lives as well as insuring that hunters would have more deer and elk to shoot.

    It's the people who see nature's workings up close and personal who are most likely to gain an appreciation for its wonders and learn the importance of interacting with wild species and their habitat in responsible ways. Some of the most ardent conservationists in the first half of the 20th century were people who had killed lions and wolves. That even includes "environmental saints" like Aldo Leopold.

  • Believe it or Not, Yosemite National Park Once had a Zoo   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Jay Cook Bruce was my great grand father. He was a great hunter and fisherman and left a legacy of conservationists. His son, my grandfather, taught my family to appreciate and conserve nature. I believe the dogs pictured above were Ranger, Duke and Scout.

  • When It Comes to National Parks, is it an "Earmark" or Prudent Spending?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    In this case the significant issue with earmarking is this:
    - the National Park Service is given an amount of discretionary funding in the budget
    - without earmarks, those funds will be directed towards projects determined by the mostly career staff at the National Park Service
    - withe earmarks, those funds are directed towards projects determined by individual legislators, largely based on seniority and the "luck of the draw" in the committee assignment system

    There's a case to be made that decision on spending taxpayer dollars are best made by elected legislators, and while the elected officials must surely be left in charge of the big picture, there are certainly many who would make the case that individual project decisions are best made by the career staff (admittedly with oversight by political appointees) in the executive branch of the government.

  • Committee: Keep Mount St. Helens Out of the National Park System   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Part of the ORV opposition to NPS management is the strong local snowmobile lobby. They routinely ride to the crater rim from the south, even a bit beyond:
    At least there is now a non-motorized corridor for climbers and skiers.

  • Committee: Keep Mount St. Helens Out of the National Park System   5 years 46 weeks ago

    I too am disappointed by what I see as a short-sighted decision by the local committee. The eruption of Mt. St. Helen's is an iconic event in our Nation's history, and it seems to be a very notable omission from the National Park System.

  • When It Comes to National Parks, is it an "Earmark" or Prudent Spending?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    It's no way to manage anything!

    On a related note I worry what will become of the parks when the inevitable federal bankruptcy occurs in the very near future. There are no contingency plans and the way things are going now the collapse will be much sooner than anyone can imagine.

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that they come out of the looming fiscal disaster with some semblance of care and stewardship. The federal charade is ending and something unknown will take its place. Let's hope for the best.

  • When It Comes to National Parks, is it an "Earmark" or Prudent Spending?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    the problem, you see, is that politicians go back to their states and districts, stop into their favorite unit of the National Park System, and ask what needs exist. They then are given a (usually long) list of projects waiting for funding, and then head back to Washington with a number in their head that they then inject into the most convenient appropriations vehicle.

    The folks back at the park, I'm told, more often than not don't know about the appropriation until after the fact. The other side of the coin is that in these times of staff shortages, does the National Park Service have the contracting staff to process all these projects, if they somehow get funded?

    I think we can all agree that this is no way to manage parks.

  • Where in the World is Paul Fugate?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Wow, fascinating, if sad, story. Thanks for it. :)


    My travels through the National Park System: