Recent comments

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Bob Janiskee;

    I am pleased & amused by your sortie into the satiric & sardonic. A wise move (tho wisdom is seldom cheap, much less free...).

    Naturalistic & ecological venues have long been cursed by their stuffed & anal demeanor. Those who learn to loosen up the treatment will move ahead, while those who stay behind, will, um, stay behind?

    Yeah - like the Prez is going to pull up to the Hurricane Ridge road toll-booth and hold up traffic while the attendent tries to sell him an annual pass! Bwa! ha! ha! ha! ha!

    ... And as for the live ammo flying overhead & riddling your igornant page: "Call me anything you want, just don't call me late for dinner!". ;-)

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Barky, the most successful government run genocides are usually perpetrated upon their own subjects. On this infamous list Chairman Mao comes in at #1 with a figure estimated to be between 40-60 million dead Chinese with "Uncle Joe" Stalin a distant second with around 35-40 million dead Soviet citizens of many different ethnic varieties. This makes Hitler's Holocaust appear to be quite the pittance on the world stage of 20th-century mass killers.

    Stalin's famous quote on genocide still rings as true as the day it was uttered: "One death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are a statistic."

  • The Wilderness Act At Age 44   6 years 2 weeks ago

    tahoma et al;

    You raise several interesting particulars about Olympic Nat'l Park, in the context of Wilderness.

    Let's consider those boardwalks first. Most boardwalks are in the vicinity of Ozette, at the north end of the Olympic Wilderness Coast. The name encompasses the largest lake on the Olympic Peninsula, the short river that empties it, the coastal Cape & beaches adjoining it ... and the Native Tribe (and Reservation) that lived there for thousands of years. (The last remaining families moved to the nearby Makah Reservation, and the Ozette Native sites are now unoccupied.)

    The reason there are boardwalks in the Ozette area is that this is what we call a 'cedar swamp', so the ground is often too wet & mucky to make a reasonable trail. Some will object, "Then why put a trail there at all? Since it is Wilderness, why not just let it be Wilderness?".

    Before this country was Wilderness ... before it was Park, the entire perimeter of Lake Ozette had been homesteaded. They built the first modern-style boardwalks. The surrounding forest was extensively but usually selectively logged. Indeed, much if not all of the Olympic Wilderness Coast strip was logged in the days before steam engines and heavy equipment. It was practical for ox-teams to skid large logs a short distance downhill to the beaches. Once on the beach, logs and other products could be towed or loaded on small ships and taken elsewhere for processing and marketing. Timber-stands further from the water were, in the early days, too hard to get to and it was not practical to move logs long distances overland.

    So the coast-forests were extensively 'cherry-picked' (not usually clearcut, in the early days) - and cedar was extensively salvaged for roofing shakes (always, in fact, the most valuable component & biggest economy-driver in these coastal forests). Even easier than logs, obviously, cedar-blocks were brought down to the beaches, then loaded onto small ships. No roads serviced this rugged terrain.

    And before the settlers, homesteaders and loggers, this Wilderness had been the core-home of accomplished cultures for millenia. And, they had modified it to suit their needs, extensively. The most conspicuous Native impact in this region, are the 'prairies', important examples of which the Ozette trails pass through. These are extensive fields or meadows, which the tribes kept clear by annual burning. See "Natural History of the Ozette Prairies". For those with a keen interest in Ozette & its issues, be sure to also collect this hard-to-read but provocative & fascinating "1895 Map of the Ozette Prairies"

    This is far from "untrammeled" country. It is anything but a place "... where man
    himself is a visitor who does not remain." These are the leading characteristics that define "wilderness" in the Wilderness Act. Man has made this place his home for thousands of years, and European settlers flocked here.

    The Olympic Wilderness Coast is extremely picturesque, and it is easy to agree that it merits special status & protection. However, but for a brief tragedy that saw most of its owners die, then be bought out by timber companies, then bought out by the Park, it would be today as it has been for thousands of years: Prime human habitat, fully occupied and extensively trammeled.

    The Wilderness Act has doubtlessly enabled the preservation of regions that might otherwise have fallen under on-going industrial development, and that is a good thing. However, the very foundation premises of the Act are often little more than romantic whimsies that defy fact & reality. However much incidental good it has done, no matter how ardently it might be embraced, as a policy statement & guide, the Act is flawed & weakened by both the way it was written, and the way it has been applied.

    I am all for 80% solutions, realistic compromises, and incremental & step-wise progress. The Wilderness Act has largely lived up to my own personal standards - 'flexible' and 'desultory' though they often are. But as a formal document meant to serve as official government policy, it ought to be heavily rewritten, or replaced.

    It is a delicious irony, that this Olympic Wilderness Coast is held up as a "jewel" among our Wilderness treasures, despite a profound human presence and the presumed depredations of a century & a half of logging & loggers. Both of which folks either ignore or are unaware.

    See the lead image at The Last Wilderness: Lake Ozette, An Introduction for, clearly & paradoxically, plain photographic evidence of extensive logging right up to the edge of Lake Ozette - and on the side usually thought of as "Park". The fact that it has been logged does not impair anyone's enjoyment of this delightful country.

    The facts & realities in the case of the deservedly famous Olympic Coast Strip plainly indicate that the natural values we all seek can, have & do coexist with humans & human activities. Humans and their enterprises do not necessarily 'sully' nature, and we do ourselves no favors to make such an assumption.

    The Olympic Wilderness Coast stands as strong evidence that the Wilderness Act, its authors & many supporters have the underlying ideas & conditions significantly askew. It would do us good to reexamine what it is we are really after, and what kinds of requirements must be attached ... leaving aside those which encumber rather than clarify the goal.

    The confusion & contradiction of Wilderness Act is dramatic, and that could impair the next incremental steps we might make to an even-better set of environmental & habitat policy-tools for tomorrow.

    By accepting that humans & wilderness are not incompatible, we stand to benefit by the inclusion of regions in which it is not so easy as it is on the Olympic Coast to overlook the fact that trammeling & occupation by humans are part of many other none the less for wear & tear natural habitats.

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 2 weeks ago

    The quotes below are from Frank C's original post:

    We must be careful before tossing a morally loaded grenade like the word "genocide". Applying a mid-20th century term to historical actors is problematic at best.

    The word "genocide" did indeed come into use during the 20th century, but that does not mean it cannot be used to describe actions prior to WWII.

    As the above numbers show, American Indians were not completely wiped out of North America.

    Neither were the Jews, nor the gypsies, nor any of the other socio-ethnic groups targetted during the Holocaust and other, similar events. Saying that a particular race was not completely eliminated as a reason not to use the term genocide is lame at best.

    Additionally, American Indians played a role in their own fates; they did not submit to concentration camps to be numbered and gassed. They made treaties, traded, conducted warfare, intermarried, and so on.

    Quite true, absolutely. The problem is only one of technology, however. The intent of American governments, both colonial and federal, was to drive away the natives and claim lands. They were only so successful because of lack of the means to make the job complete. The level of crimes that were perpetrated by Europeans on native populations were no less immoral simply because they didn't have the means.

    We ought to lay down labels of blame and instead try to understand the complex set of events Columbus set into motion.

    It is far too late to lay blame on anyone. At this point in time, the past is simply series of facts to be decoded and understood. The problem is with the trivialization of horrendous events. Our nation has many, many blemishes, and to excuse them away with semantics is disingenuous

    What happened here was not genocide; it was a lopsided war with one side possessing superior technology and the other side having no immune system to smallpox and other diseases inadvertently introduced by Europeans.

    Laying aside the fact that some military commanders used smallpox as a weapon (in well-documented incidents), the very idea that a lopsided war eradicates a race of people is the very definition of genocide! Every genocide committed on the planet can be traced back to a lopsided war! This is true of the Nazis or the Hutus or the Khmer Rouge (in which case, it was intelligentsia who was targetted for elimination). Superior military forces systematically killing the weaker people -- the definition of genocide.

    I suspect the historians you are mentioning are only looking at the Holocaust as the sole, representative incident of genocide. Or that they are unwilling to have any shadow tainting American history.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Interior Officials Want to Allow Concealed Carry in the National Parks   6 years 2 weeks ago

    It's simple Dave, National Parks are NOT immune to crime. If they were, there'd be no argument.

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 2 weeks ago


    With all due respect, the fuller context of the quote does nothing to change the force of it. It's not particularly different than the saber rattling we see by any President who claims to want peace. Peace is always cheaper.

    Is it that common when saber rattling to claim that all of a people should be annihilated who rise up in war?

    If you want more for Jefferson, there are plenty of assimilationist quotes, which are no less egregious.

    As for the so called consensus among historians, which there isn't on this question, the issue is whether it's appropriate for historians to be making moral judgments. When historians are doing nonsensical things like ranking American presidents and making moral defenses of historical actors, then they are no longer doing history. They are doing things that any person can do who can justify the moral principles to the historical record. This is an especially touchy subject for me because my own academic background is in both history and philosophy, and one thing that drove me from pursuing history further was the maddening tendency of many historians to engage in moralizing as though they were engaging in history.

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

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Please note that I've added the following comment at the beginning of the referenced article: **Warning: If you do not understand the concept of satire, do not read this article!!** [Ed. The warning's been removed, having failed to serve its purpose. Nastygrams continue to pour in. Where's a foxhole when you need it?]

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    This is certainly not an objective view of National Parks. You've failed to understand and learn one thing those of who have worked for government have learned, that the more things change the more they stay the same. All Presidents get special treatment when they visit ANYWHERE. I should know, my husband was a Secret Service agent for 28 years. You just outed your political persuasions and Democrats are really bitter people, aren't they? You still can't over losing an election eight years ago. I'm sure you will have the same bitter feelings when you lose again this time so you'd better be prepared. May I suggest meds and a good psychiatrist to overcome those negative feelings. They aren't healthy and you've still get a long way to go. Until then, please bite your fingers before you post any further immature MySpace-like crap. Then again, maybe your're just upset you weren't given the same treatment. Get over it.

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I realize that your personal pride in the product you post is in full swing, but the first response to your blog pretty much covers the maturity of your current product. All you accomplished with your rant was show a pretty advanced case of BDS.

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I think it's great that the POTUS is visiting what has to be one of the most hallowed places in our country. I wish I was there with him. I'd give him a free tour also. But... he doesn't need me when he has an incredible author and guide like Mr. Boritt, who happens to live there, by the way. Who cares if he doesn't wait in line, doesn't pony up the admission fee, or gets free tours. This is a guy that works all day every day on behalf of our country..... he's the President, for God's sake. I just wish he'd get to other places in this great country.

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 2 weeks ago

    The Jefferson quote above is taken completely out of context. Here's the entire quote. Some important omissions:

    . . .we wish them to live in peace with all nations as well as with us, and we have no intention ever to strike them or to do them an injury of any sort, unless first attacked or threatened. . .

    Let them then continue quiet at home, take care of their women & children, & remove from among them the agents of any nation persuading them to war, and let them declare to us explicitly & categorically that they will do this: in which case, they will have nothing to fear from the preparations we are now unwillingly making to secure our own safety.

    Jefferson uses the word "war" nine times in the full quote. Jefferson wanted peace with the Indians, not war. But if any tribes were persuaded by other nations (here Jefferson refers to England) to declare war on the United States, those tribes would suffer the consequences (Jefferson is saber-rattling). Jefferson was certainly not talking about the elimination of all Indians here. And Jefferson certainly didn't intend to eliminate every American Indian.

    As for not allowing trained, "bona fide" historians do history . . . that's appalling. How many NPT readers, if the topic were switched to global warming, would argue that even though there is a broad consensus among scientists that climate change is happening, that we ought to ignore those scientists, or that scientists are "distorting" global warming?

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I usually enjoy reading your blog entries, but what the heck is your problem with the President getting an advance tour of this precious national treasure? I guarantee that every President gets this type of privilege, whether you are a supporter of that President or not. And, I also guarantee that if you were a supporter of the sitting President, this article wouldn't even have appeared. It's just this type of inane, snarky, sarcastic sniping a la The Daily Show and The Colbert Report that continues to snuff out any real discourse or cohesion in this country, and I fear our young people have largely learned to deal with these matters ONLY with this mindset. You, and we, are better than this. I'm not a major proponent of Bush, but I also am not a proponent of this constant disrespect and childish rancor shown to our leaders. If it was Clinton or Obama or McCain or Nader or whomever that was currently our President, I'd have no problem with this type of "special treatment".

  • Yellowstone National Park Reporting Bullish Visitation   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Proving that Europeans, who are used to paying VERY high gas prices, are finding gasoline, as well as everything else, a bargain in America. The weak dollar has made it so. We have had our turn when, no doubt, there were many Parisian residents commenting about how they hardly heard a French voice at the Eifel Tower.
    As a long time resident of the Yellowstone area who was unable to visit the Park much this summer, I still find the Park Service numbers curious because of the fact that almost every single friend or family member who HAS visited this summer, has commented about how much SMALLER the crowds seemed compared to previous years! I have heard it over and over, from people who vist the park constantly, and have for years.
    One friend suggested that the Park Service has altered the way that they count visitors. He said that in the past they used to count only vehicles, and extrapolate an average per vehicle, while now they actually count people in the vehicles. Another jokingly suggested that they use the "Top Box Office" method used by the movies. Count the money and decide that "The Dark Knight" is the number two box office champ of all time, when in reality it is like thirtieth when adjusted for inflation. In any case it would be interesting to find out exactly what process is used, and how it may (or may not) differ from the past.

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Jim Macdonald;

    My kudos & thanks too, Jim, for your impressive research on the Indian-policies of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Most compelling.

    Ted Clayton

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Jim Macdonald et al;

    We will know that the buffalo have recovered and are safe, when they take their place beside other large herbivores in the State Hunting Regulations. As the animal spreads from its present restricted locations it will become a valued & sought-after big-game species.

    Indeed, experience in Yellowstone shows that it is important to thin & control buffalo, to forestall several problems. Their instinct to form into large, dense herds makes them extra-picturesque, but it also exacerbates a range of issues that naturally arise with large grazing animals. Heavy trampling-impact, over-grazing, disease-transmission, among other challenges ... most of which can be readily ameliorated by hunting.

    I realize that many who read The National Parks Traveler are not hunters, and some oppose hunting on philosophical grounds. However, to reach the goal we all share, of expanding the habitat available to maintain or restore especially the larger species which have been excessively reduced or extirpated, it is crucial to integrate multi-purpose lands into a broader & larger habitat-management perspective. It is unrealistic to expect that as a general case, such expanded management practices will entail any Park-like ban on hunting. Indeed, hunting remains under discussion even for some Park situations.

    There is an Alaska buffalo hunt. Their herd is maintained at 400-500 head. It was established in the 1920s, in the vicinity of Delta Junction. Later (1970s), an agricultural development of some 10s of thousands of acres was created in the same area (for much the same reasons it was selected for the buffalo herd). Conflicts between the herd and the barley farmers have lead to valuable experience with the challenge of maintaining such a commanding species in the presence of economic & infrastructure assets. The Delta herd also shows that a population of Plains Buffalo can be maintained within a designated area, and not spread elsewhere. These are important precedents, for those who would like to see buffalo more-widely reintroduced.

    It may be a significant side-thread of this topic, that Alaska is actively investigating the prospect of re-introducing Wood Buffalo (extirpated there). This species is still available in Canada. They differ from Plains Buffalo in lacking the strong herding instinct. They scatter on the land, and are better-adapted to use brushy & forested habitat ('the woods'). They are also significantly larger than the Plains variety.

    It is probably worth bearing in mind that in most of the potential habitat that we have available for bison, Wood Buffalo would be a better natural bet than the Plains type, and would probably pose less of a management challenge.

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Good research Jim! We must not let bona fide historians distort or de-sanitize the rich cultural history of the great Lakota Nation...even if means using the word "genocide" to it's most appropriate means.

  • Hanna Forcing Evacuations, Closures at Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout National Seashores   6 years 2 weeks ago


    My pleasure. When I saw what had happened that day, I had to document it. What's going on down there right this minute from Hanna has to be as bad or worse.

    I hope these pictures do help others not familiar with the area to understand what so many of us have been trying to describe this summer.

  • Hanna Forcing Evacuations, Closures at Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout National Seashores   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Sad but true: Nature bats last!

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 2 weeks ago

    On the issue of Washington and Jefferson, both make genocidal comments on indigenous tribes as well. Washington is often seen as less so because he chose to negotiate with tribes as sovereign nations rather than force war on them. However, for Washington, letters show this was a practical consideration more than anything bordering on respect for the tribes. Washington had promised all this land for the veterans of the Revolutionary War, but the problem was that this land was controlled by indigenous tribes. He had two choices - he could start another war or he could negotiate. He figured it would be far easier and less costly to negotiate, to take by treaty for far less blood than what could be taken by war.

    •“For I repeat it, again, and I am clear in my opinion, that policy and economy point very strongly to the expediency of being upon good terms with the Indians, and the propriety of purchasing their Lands in preference to attempting to drive them by force of arms out of their Country; which as we have already experienced is like driving the Wild Beasts of the Forest which will return as soon as the pursuit is at an end and fall perhaps on those that are left there; when the gradual extension of our Settlements will as certainly cause the Savage as the Wolf to retire; both being beasts of prey tho’they differ in shape. In a word there is nothing to be obtained by an Indian War but the Soil they live on and this can be had by purchase at less expense, and without that bloodshed, and those distresses which helpless Women and Children are made partakers of in all kinds of disputes with them.”–George Washington, Letter to James Duane, September 7, 1783,

    Jefferson was extremely hostile toward indigenous people and said outright that he would annihilate every single Native American if they attack the United States and not succumb to treaty making:

    •" ...if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe we will never lay it down tilthat tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the war they will kill some of us; But we will destroy all of -them. Adjuring them, therefore, if they wish to remain on the land which covers the bones of their fathers, to keep the peace with a people who ask their friendship without needing it, who wish to avoid war without fearing it. In war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.”–Thomas Jefferson, “To the Secretary at War [Henry Dearborn],”August 28, 1807,

    And, as has been noted, Lincoln and T. Roosevelt were not any better.

    It's not for any of us to say what the Lakota might do with Mt. Rushmore, but I cringe every time I have seen the monument. It must be the ultimate branding of the conquest of this country over the land that I can imagine. I guess it would be like putting a temple to James Polk in the Grand Canyon.

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

  • Yellowstone National Park Reporting Bullish Visitation   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I think we need to remember that while gas prices here are high, they're at least half of what the Europeans pay at home, so that alone is quite a savings for them. That, plus the weak dollar, has made American vacations -- and SUVs -- very affordable for them this year.

  • Yellowstone National Park Reporting Bullish Visitation   6 years 2 weeks ago

    To add to the anecdotal evidence, I spent two weeks this summer as a volunteer host at the Museum of the National Park Ranger at Norris in Yellowstone. I was stunned by the number of foreign visitors who came to the musuem. I regularly heard French and German, some Spanish, and several unknown languages, probably among them Dutch, spoken on almost every day. It reminded me of several stops at Mather Point in Grand Canyon during which I was sure that I was the only native English speaker at the overlook.

    Rick Smith

  • Hanna Forcing Evacuations, Closures at Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout National Seashores   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Thanks for sharing the pictures, Dap. Helps put things in context.

  • Yellowstone National Park Reporting Bullish Visitation   6 years 2 weeks ago

    we were simply shocked last week by the huge, huge numbers of SUVs driving through Yellowstone, presumably a great number being rental cars.

    Same experience for us when we visited in early August. That's one of the reasons I can't get myself to accept the gas-price theories of visitation decline. In all of the National Parks we visited it was bumper-to-bumber RV's with a lot of SUV's thrown in. Compared to my last trip out west in the 90's, it seems the amount of RV's has exploded. I think a lot of people complain about gas, but I wonder how many actually change their habits.

    At Artists Point in Yellowstone, Anglophones were a minority - and a relatively small one at that! German definitely carried the day, with a hefty dose of French. My wife and I were playing a game of seeing how far we'd have to walk before hearing the next English words. Out of the many hundreds of people we encountered in our 15 minutes there, I'd say a liberal estimate would be 20% were English-speaking. Anecdotal, to be sure, but it's too universally noticed not to point to a trend.

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

  • Hanna Forcing Evacuations, Closures at Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout National Seashores   6 years 2 weeks ago

    These are 2 turtle nest enclosures on Ramp 49 to the SW in Frisco, NC. Pictures were taken ~9:30AM on Labor Day Monday, just after high tide. Had to run along the toe of the dune as the beach was a salt river. The smaller in the foreground in not in its hatch window, while the larger one is. I don't know what this type of repeated flooding means to the eggs, but I've read recently that rain storms can drown them.

    Looks like Hannah's landfall coincided with low tide, so any damage will be minimalized somewhat. South beach should still see the worst of it, being a south facer.

    These pictures show just how volatile even such small weather event can be in this part of the world. Just imagine what such overwashes mean to bird nests. 2008 has actually been a pretty calm year, until just recently.

    Sorry if these pictures come in very large. This was my first try at link-uploading photos.

  • Big Bend National Park: Is It Ready For A Mountain Bike Trail?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Ted et al,

    I just don't know enough about the topography of the proposed trail sites to weigh in on the width issue. I know of a number of state parks that have narrow multi-use trails, including some trails in the GW National Forest in Maryland and Virginia (not a park, of course), and most of the state parks permit bikes on the trails provided there's been no rain in the previous 48 hours (a good rule). On such trails I worry more about horses than anything else. As someone noted earlier, the dangers are quite real.

    As for the fun of MTB being in the adrenaline high, I agree in part -- nothing like a screaming downhill. That said, some of the most fun I have biking comes from a nice rolling ride through the spectacular scenery just as the sun starts to drop or rise. Red Rocks in Vegas and Saguaro near Tuscon come to mind. And as I get older, it's likely that that kind of fun will be more and more in my future (sigh).

    I do think that there's merit to the slippery slope concern. I agree it's a logical fallacy in a vacuum, and I also agree that it is a big leap from a bicycle to a 4-stroke, but stranger things have happened. But the park systems rely in part on serious people who care about the parks (such as those represented here), and I feel safe in assuming that such persons would be vigilant for any such leaps.

    That's really the thrust of the issue for me: anytime you post rules in the parks you rely to a large extent on the goodwill and respect of the public to ensure compliance. My own experience in this regard has been quite good -- for every irresponsible or thoughtless person there is a dozen who are there to stop the damaging behavior or notify the rangers. And, not to be a polyanna, but part of me likes relying on that -- yet another reason why I love the parks.

    What a neat site -- if only the dialogue in DC were this civil and substantive ...