Recent comments

  • Climber Dies In Accident In Grand Teton National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    On top of this, climbing guide George Gardner died on the Grand last month. Also, yesterday, there was a traffic fatality in the Grand Teton NP - a 16-year-old boy was a passenger in a single vehicle rollover; an 8-year-old boy has life threatening injuries.

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

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    This is the second geologic incident since my recent visit to the SW of Colorado, Utah and Arizona, first was the massive rock slide in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison a short 8 weeks or so ago and now this...! It proves the world is a dynamic place and changes, even ones that normally occur on geologic time scales of millions of years, can and do occur, in an instant. I am privledged to have experienced these wonders prior to their falls and hope many will appreciate the fragility of most of our natural wonders, get out there and experience nature's grandeur knowing nothing is forever.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    After visiting the red rocks of Arizona and Utah for five summers, I hate to see this happen! Red rocks are unbelieveable. Just a note, I just retuned from Alaska.....the same thing is happening to the glaciers...makes you wonder about Global Warming!

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Anonymous, but, why should we be giving more operational funds for a park like Yellowstone, for instance, that makes such horrible management decisions? Whatever we think about budgets for parks, it doesn't do any good if the parks are mismanaged. And, while I don't really agree with many of the proposals outlined here, at least I understand what is driving them - a sense that the Park Service is making a lot of bad management decisions and that something needs to change.

    As for user fees, I totally agree - that all user fees are obnoxious if they are for things really held to be public goods - whether it's for a bus ride or for entering a national park. But, I think that's another discussion. When it comes to user fees and national parks, it's a small issue - the poor are already priced out of most of the crown jewel parks before user fees are ever involved. The issue of user fees, like the issue of park management, can't be treated in isolation from considering other systemic social ills.

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

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Saw the Wall Arch and hiked the trail last year which was a little tricky; but worthwhile. It is very fortunate that no one was injured when the Wall Arch collapsed. Glad we got great photos of it.

    Last year was my first time seeing quite a few National Parks (Wow!) now that I'm a retired senior. As far as walking across an arch, in our travels we did see a European tourist walk across one of the arches in Canyonlands merrily taking pictures like it was Disneyland. I couldn't look. I thought he was a gonner. This is the arch that goes across the steep wall at the top of Canyonlands. He was nuts! I got dizzy just looking over the pile of rocks at the base of the arch to see the canyon. He obviously never heard that you can easily have vertigo set in when you are at heights. Plus you should respect our National Parks and climb only in designated areas.

    Thanks.

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I like the idea of having everyone pay a simple $10 tax each year. I would rather pay this than $25 each time I visit a park, and it wouldn't be a huge financial burden on anyone to pay it (ie - eat out one less time or skip your Starbucks once a month).

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I just was at Arches last week with my wife. It's a great place. We hiked to Landscape arch, but were out of time, so we didn't make it to Wall Arch.
    Make sure you take the ranger guided Fiery Furnace tour if you go. You get to see perhaps the coolest part of the park with narrow fins in a maze-like formation. It was our favorite part of our stop there

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   5 years 49 weeks ago

    "What would be the reaction if the National Park Service only oversaw 'national parks,' ie the 58 units that carry that distinction? What if some/most of the other 333 properties were spun off, some back to the states, some to NGOs, some to the National Trust for Historic Preservation? Give the NRAs and national preserves to the BLM; that's surely a better fit, and perhaps even the national seashores."

    This would be a very good start Kurt. I think some NRA's adjacent to National Forests could be a good fit for that agency, as well as the Bureau of Reclamation which currently manages similar type areas of their own.

    Off the top of my head I can see the state park system of Florida being a good fit for the Canaveral Seashore; the Mormon Church running Pipe Spring N.M. (they have a lavish budget and an expert staff for managing their historic sites and parks) and maybe have the presidential homes of such past chief executives as Hoover, Johnson and Carter turned over to private trusts or universities in much the same manner that their libraries are run. It is fun to consider the alternatives while stirring up the paradigms.

    A decommissioning board or whatever you want to call it would be a very useful tool in trimming the excess fat and steering some of the smaller, less nationally significant units towards the care and oversight of more locally focused entities.

    As I said all of these things would be a good start, as is this thread.

    Thanks for the forum to share.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    When I heard of a collapse at Arches, I freaked out! I'm going there soon! I'm sooooo glad it's not the delicate arch. Whew

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   5 years 49 weeks ago

    YES. Nothing short of complete separation from the political umbrella is satisfactory. As I've stated in previous discussions, the least painful manner of maintaining the system in its present form is the creation of a NPS business unit, with some painfully strict modifications from most "big business" operations. Some examples are:

    1) The "Director" post, or chairman, president, Big Kahuna, or whatever, is a single term position with duration of a maximum of 5 consecutive years. This position is supported by 5-7 "regional" managers with similar term limits, each charged with specific geographic responsibilities which are determined by an ability to actively render first-hand accounts of issues pertaining to a segment of the NPS. They are in-park managers, geographically dispersed such that they can physically be on-site at any unit in their territory within a matter of not more than a few short hours, particularly to function as liaison between the unit and the NPS offices during times of importance (e.g. weather-related events, wildlife issues, search and rescue, and other "major" issues including earthquake, volcanic or other "natural" disaster relief) to give credence to allocation of resources to ease conditions within the NPS unit in question. Additionally, the Director has the primary responsibility for private sector fundraising activities, acquisition of additional lands as required to maintain the overall health and long-term protection of the system as a whole, and to function as the public "face" or the organization.

    2) Speaking of fundraising and how it is planned and executed to maintain a system that is solvent, the following is to be implemented immediately:
    The NPS will collect a minimum flat $10 per person "tax" (precise final amount to be determined from actual current fiscal obligations) from every US citizen annually, NO EXCEPTIONS / EXCLUSIONS. EVERY citizen of the US pays, even those who choose to dwell "off shore". This will form the basis for the annual minimum operating budget of $3BB. Additionally, the parks are to be run as a "for profit" business, with SEVERE limitations on overall profitability. Quite obviously, all costs of doing business are to be inclusive in the fee structure charged for lodging, meals, entrance fees, permits, etc. and are to include ALL costs associated for staffing, personnel, equipment, REGLUAR required maintenance on structures, roads, trails, and grounds, and more than I care to include in this post. A detailed investigation of current annual operating expenses specific to current salaries, vehicle costs, building maintenance, road repair, grounds maintenance (e.g. snow removal, landscaping as required to maintain pedestrian and vehicular traffic, etc.) would be undertaken and modifications of entrance and associated fees would be implemented by the end of the first fiscal year of operation.

    3) To encourage "private ownership" and pride in our national treasures, the NPS will be allowed to sell stock in the NPS, a kind of personal stewardship in our land. A maximum, or cap on purchasing a designated overall percentage of available shares is too implemented such as to avert the possibility of one person, family, corporation, trust, etc. of gaining a "majority" in the overall Park Service Business. These shares do NOT include a voting right in the general operation of the business unit or the nomination of Board members, Director or Managers. In return for the purchase of stock, to encourage promotion and visitation, dividends will be issued BASED ON ANNUAL PROFITABILITY. The park service will be encouraged to maintain a "percentage over costs" of profit, with a finite dollar volume to be determined, and 100% of those profits are to be returned to the general operating fund. ANY profits over and above the "cap" as stated in the annual allowed budget will be returned as dividends to the shareholders. If profits do not reach their annual allowed cap, no dividend is to be issued.
    Example: fees collected from the "citizen tax" and each park unit, if budgeted properly, should allow at a minimum for the continuation of the service as a whole. An attendance rate of say 1-20% over projections makes the system more solvent. And at >21%, portions of the profits are returned to the stockholders, beginning with the first percent over 20.

    4) Salaries at the Manager, Board and Director levels are quite meager given the responsibilities with which they are charged, generally <$150K at the Director level. This is indeed more of the "true" public service opportunity. But upon leaving the NPS, WITHOUT the corporate "golden umbrella", your visibility to the private sector would be such that acquisition of the high-6+ figure remuneration position would be almost guaranteed, provided you've shown some level of competency. This differs from our current political system where you actually gain more by being incompetent, hitting the lecture circuit, teaching "How to Circumvent the Law" at universities, going on talk shows and writing a book about your experiences. Or you can go the way of Kenneth Lay and the rest of the Enron buttheads and rot in your country club prison, "not knowing how we're going to get by with just our one $12.5MM house".
    Unfortunately, on this thread I can only begin to articulate the overall business plan, but I have factored in more checks and balances to keep any one person from gaining total control and manipulating the system than you might imagine. No one person signs off on anything. An odd-number of regional managers report to an odd-number of general Board members. Each group initially functions within their own group prior to presenting issues to their superiors, such that those in the field know and understand the scope of the entire system just as well as do those up the food chain. The Board Members have the critical responsibility of trying to triage prior to presenting a short-list to the Director. The Director is similar to the current President of the Senate, who is called upon solely to determine issues when voting is hopelessly deadlocked. And even after balloting has been cast on issues, prior to funding being allocated, three signatures are required, one from each level of the management team, and who is chosen to represent the team BY the team, with no fewer than 1 dissenting vote on each level. It sounds more complicated than is it in practice, and at first glance it seems like total gridlock, but I've been involved in something similar in the past, and the tri-level committee functions quite well. What it prevents is any one person or group manipulating the direction of the overall team.

    There is much more to discuss along these lines. I know someone's first objection if going to be, "How in hell are we going to get anyone competent and diligent enough to undertake this responsibility for that kind of money?" My initial reply is that SO many of you are absolutely thrilled with your political representatives now, be you Dems or Reps, why would the fiscal concerns bother you? Do you have a clue what Representatives, Senators and the President are paid at the current point in time? How about your governor, state senators and representatives, mayors, etc? Another objection is bound to be,"Geez, this'll take FOREVER to set up." I estimate not more than 2 years, max, from inception, primary "billing" of the public tax thru collection of initial revenues to first issuance of stock certificates. Let's not argue the list of candidates at this juncture for Managers, Board and Director posts. But let's also no longer debate whether or not the general idea is feasible, or whether or not the time has finally come, due to political mismanagement and simply not caring enough to act to protect our public interests, and create the private trust that we, as Americans, deserve and are entitled to protect of heritage and safeguard our future.

    Reporting live, from La-La Land...........

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   5 years 49 weeks ago

    There's nothing wrong with thinking bold, with truly thinking outside the box. Brainstorming produces dozens of ideas and possibilities, but not all will fit, and you don't enter into such a process expecting all to fit. You simply carry hopes someone will suggest something that does fit.

    I think a director in the form of the Fed chairman would be a great start, as long as she/he is the right person for the job and the supporting legislation that creates the role includes a political shield...as well as a system for ensuring this individual doesn't get too carried away.

    The NGO model raises concerns; look at what The Presidio Trust has become. Formed, in theory, to help the Presidio become self-sufficient, the trust has turned the Presidio into a business commons and threatens to dilute the history of the place. Imagine if that played out across the entire system.

    Beyond such a change in leadership, perhaps serious consideration needs to be given to breaking up the National Park System. I know that's blasphemy in some circles, but if you look at the existing 391+ units, you've got an untenable mix of national parks, of historic structures, of the arts, etc, etc.

    What would be the reaction if the National Park Service only oversaw "national parks," ie the 58 units that carry that distinction? What if some/most of the other 333 properties were spun off, some back to the states, some to NGOs, some to the National Trust for Historic Preservation? Give the NRAs and national preserves to the BLM; that's surely a better fit, and perhaps even the national seashores.

    Perhaps if these various scenarios and others not mentioned become part of a national discussion there will be a clamoring for better funding and a serious look at how the National Park Service conducts business. But to discard that idea or this idea for being too idealistic or doubting that the backbone exists for serious change benefits no one.

    The biggest danger to the parks, I fear, is to do nothing but let the current course play out.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   5 years 49 weeks ago

    If you look to the Virginian-Pilot for "facts" then you'd do well to look to China for religious freedom...Phil G.,you don't know bird doo-doo about "facts",otherwise you would side with the truth.Piping plovers DO taste like chicken.That's why we like 'em!

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    The forces of wind, water, temperature and time are not to be denied. Erosion giveth, and eventually erosion taketh away. Mother Nature functions both as master sculptor and over time, when she decides she's seen enough and her work has served its purpose, she trades hats and becomes demolition crew. You go Girl!

    Just a gentle reminder that, as much as we like to see to the contrary and believe that things as we see them are the way that they are, were and will be, the planet is actually never quite the same at any two moments in time. The careful observer will AWAYS notice minute evolutionary modifications in the environment, from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour, as Nature's job description does not include the term "stagnant".

    For what it's worth, you can walk around, through and lean against most of the arches in Arches. Some fools I've seen have tried (a couple actually succeeded) in scrambling up to the zenith of Delicate and Double Arch. Be advised that if you are seen by or reported to the authorities, you are subject to arrest, fines and most unceremoniously escorted from the park. And no, refunds are not included. Revocation of passes is, though.
    As it should be.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    My thoughts exactly...I could see some misguided nuts wanting to put re-bar in all the arches so they don't move. This is nature at its finest.

  • Backcountry Volunteer Survives 100 Foot Fall While Canyoneering at Zion National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    What's up with park volunteers and employees going out and getting themselves hurt? I thought that was for us - the dumb park visitors!!!

    I sure hope Kaitlyn pulls through. When we last visited Zion two years ago, we encountered the gal from the backcountry desk out on the Horse Pasture Plateau with a friend. It was her day off and she was out enjoying the park. I guess that's the draw to work there. I wish I had a job like that!!!

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   5 years 49 weeks ago

    So, is the answer to propose a Fed Chairman like position a la what Kurt talks about here, who is relatively independent but ultimately becomes accountable to almost nobody? Or, is the answer to have an NGO, or a corporate oligarchy, who is accountable only to their largest funders?

    Or, is the paradigm shift that we are talking about not radical enough? The only way that accountability for public lands happens if there is a radical decentralization of decision making in society - that is, a society made up of units small enough for individuals to have voice. However, that doesn't happen when you have big capital and big government, either or both. Right now, the choice is between corporate control or government control, but neither is free from corruption, both prove almost impossible to stop if either makes the wrong sorts of choices. Unless we are willing to take on anything that keeps us from having a voice, then there is no way that we can have reasonable discussion about what to do in our parks.

    In the short term, the only question is what is the biggest danger to the parks, but apart from a long term analysis of what we need to do, it's kind of silly. You don't remove politicization from decision making in the parts; all you can do is reduce the amplitude of it - make it smaller and more innocuous. However, what that typically has meant in our society is ceding government control for private control, which does nothing to reduce the amplitude when mega corporations control everything. We need to make them smaller and broken up as well. That starts, frankly, with community organizing - with building local community. And, in the meantime, just hoping and praying that the rest doesn't go completely to hell.

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

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Another culprit would have been Time - many millions of years of it...

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Kurt, as long as the federal government is at the helm you can expect these same types of problems to continue ad infinitum. The very nature of centrally planned bureaucratic management always works against efficiency, good sense and an orderly set of institutional priorities. All you have to do is look at public education, the military or transportation planning to see it writ bold: IT JUST DOESN'T WORK! You don't arrive at an $8 billion backlog in maintenance by paying attention to details and growing an organization wisely.

    In the NPS it starts with very simple things and quickly blossoms out from there. For example, just in the way that it hires seasonal and permanent employees is a boondoggle that has become more and more cumbersome with each passing year (nowadays even a seasonal naturalist must pass a background check from Homeland Security) with the result being that many potentially good hires walk away from the agency due to the aggravations of landing a fairly low paying entry position. Moving up the ladder is even more complex and harrowing. Only the persistent survive, not necessarily the most talented.

    Then try and get rid of a bad employee! Good luck if it takes you less than a year and hundreds of man hours in documentation and painstaking performance improvement plans (PIPs: a real acronym---no lie) and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    When you start delving into all of the waste on unneeded projects, politically motivated decision making and being slaves to the latest trend of the moment like podcasting and diversity enhancement initiatives it is little wonder that the parks are in as good a shape as they are in their currently shabby state of being.

    I think it is foolhardy to think ANY government has the ability to reform its inefficient and wasteful ways. We've known that military procurement has been a steaming cauldron of fraud and mismanagement at least since the Sixties and the postal service for even longer and I won't even go into Fannie and Freddie Mac and the trillions of dollars of losses it is about to rain down upon the heads of taxpayers for generations to come. Does anyone out there seriously believe that the NPS will be the lone exception in being able to overcome the curse of federal governance?

    If so, I think your optimism is misplaced and not supported by history or good sense. Let's try something else.

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Look here people: the 2nd Amendment is a cornerstone right guaranteed by the Constitution and along with private property rights is at the very core of our freedom as citizens of this formerly grand republic. I am allowed to carry a gun in the state parks and forests where I reside and it should be no different in a national park unit (which my state has aplenty). What is the big deal? If the NPS rangers are allowed to carry them, then so should I. End of discussion.

    Guns in the hands of law-biding citizens makes for a safer and freer society, whether they are carried in the heart of the city or along the shores of Yellowstone Lake.

    People having guns just don't scare me. The more the merrier. People driving while talking on a cellphone now that's SCARY.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    And don't forget the collapse of the Old man of the Mountain in New Hampshire

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Political Observer: I see that the letter was written on December 14, 2007 (sometime ago) and after counting the votes: it was 37 Republican Senators to 7 Democratic Senators. It looks like a party line vote to me. I'm sure it's political pull since it's an election year. I thank you for the information. However, this letter vote does not persuade me to think differently that hand guns should be implemented into the National Parks as policy...nor implemented into its political arena. This vote only tells me that the NRA has wicked clot in politics for profound marketing reasons which is for greed and power. Please don't tell me differently! Again, I appreciate the information.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I'm glad I visited and walked this trail when I had a chance to back in 2001. This is the second great american landmark to become a mere memory that I have had the privilege to see firsthand. The first was Cinder Cone and its associated lava flow in Lassen Park California, which I visited for the first time in 1980. It had such spectacular features as the lava field, which up close looked like water waves frozen in mid crash. You couldn't walk on it or you'd be cut to ribbons. The cinder cone itself featured a perfectly 200' cylindrical hole in the middle that bottomed out in some similarly frozen lava. 20 years later the cinder cone had collapsed in on itself and the hole was a mere 20' feet deep. The lava field was a mere shadow of its former crystaline self with trees growing throughout; it was beginning to blend in with the background landscape. Since it had been there since the mid 1800's, I couldn't believe the amount of erosion that had taken place in the last 20 years, a sure sign of how "global warming" has accelerated the erosive forces for that hitherto slow-changing landscape. I presume that the change in level of rain and snowfall was the primary culprit.

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   5 years 50 weeks ago

    There was a request for information on the 51 Senators who sent the letter.

    The link below will take to you the U.S. Department of the Interior website where a copy of the letter is posted. You will probably need to paste the link into your browser--not sure if the link will be active on the page.

    It is actually two letters--one with 47 Senators and then a follow-up with another letter with 4 Senators.

    You will see that it is not all Republicans and even if it were the point remains the same--you have a majority of the U.S. Senate telling Interior to change the rule. The matter was settled when the letters reached Interior.

    http://www.doi.gov/issues/response_to_senators.html

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Off the top of my head, I can't think of any arch in the park you can "walk over." Under and past, yes in many cases, but the NPS frowns on you walking over them.

    Landscape Arch you can't even stand under due in large part to its fragile nature. You can walk along fins, which are some of the building blocks of arches. In general, if a named arch can be found on a USGS topo map, park regulations prohibit you from climbing onto it.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Kurt: Are all the arches at Arches National Park open to visitors to walk over? Was the Wall Arch open to visitors before the collapse to hike over? The geology of this special place amazes me with all of its beautiful and unique features carved in eons.