Recent comments

  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Stella Maris,

    Spoken like someone who has never actually visited CHNSRA. Some folks seem to think this area is something akin to Daytona Beach, where the beach is just an extension of the highway. That is simply not the case. I submit below photo to give you some perspective on just what this area is like with vehicles on it:

    Now, can you imagine carrying the gear for a whole family to this remote location? Please note there are no roads, boardwalks, etc. for foot traffic to originate from.

    So, taking what you said to task, do you think that ORV use is more detrimental to species than Mother Nature? Have a look below:

    How about this? I don’t see the first tire track or “oil leaching” in this photo, do you?

    These photos were taken Labor Day Monday, 9/1/08, after the passage of a cold frontal boundary. Now, imagine what a hurricane strike would do.

    Quite simply, this area goes under water repeatedly at any and all times of the year. ORV’s are not the greatest threat to the species in question.

    Nature is.

  • A Historian's Take on the National Park Service   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Thank you for the useful interview with Dr. Pitcaithley. Just a few quibbles:

    On his point on Women’s Rights:

    Dr. Pitcaithley states that one exhibit

    panel that provided historical context for the site contained a paragraph or so that represented President Reagan's environmental policies in rather harsh terms

    • Wasn’t the issue actually that the panel stated, rather than environmental policies, President Reagan’s welfare reform policies were directly hostile to women?

    • Also about Women’s Rights, Dr. Pitcaithley states that a

    member of Congress who had visited the park protested and demanded that the text be amended
    . Rather than a Member of Congress, was it not only a congressional subcommittee Republican staff member who visited the site?

    On his point on original sources defanging political-historical controversy:

    Dr. Pitcaithley states,

    The antidote is a strong understanding of the past based firmly on primary source material. Quoting, in context of course, the voices of the participants of historic events does not leave much room for argument. I don't want to be too simplistic here, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility that the NPS might be asked to develop an interpretation not based on the evidence, as it was at the Lincoln Memorial. My experience, however, has been that if the agency bases its interpretive programs on historic evidence, it can steer clear of most political obstacles

    • But isn’t it the nature of history and human experience that there are MULTIPLE points of view, and the practice of an individual historian – and especially an interpretive planner – is to select among all these sources, and in fact even using only original sources in so selecting still must lead to political conflict with some? I have personal experience with this. My father-in-law was close enough to the Atomic Diplomacy at the end of World War II to be selected to be among the observers of the first hydrogen bomb explosion, and was deeply engaged as a reporter during the Second World War in the Pacific. He had no doubt, from multiple original sources, about the motives and actions of the principals involved in Atomic Diplomacy and politics at the time. I was aware of many other original sources that could be interpreted far differently on American motives. Each of us would have been able to arrange entirely different interpretations based on primary sources. Primary sources alone only demonstrate the complexity of human perception and motivation. I myself was engaged first hand in an issue for the NPS that was covered by several hundred newspapers. I almost never saw an article that really represented what I though was going on: that press material became the “first rough draft of History.”

    • A better approach to the issue of politics in interpretation is to trust the methodology of history.

    • Consider such interpretation a forum for multiple voices to offer and document multiple points of view. (not just opinion as we see today on blogs, but real historical research) Let the dialectical process of the historical method sift through the interpretations: it will arrive at a more nuanced appreciation by both public and park interpreter.

    • Recently at Harpers Ferry, I saw a visitor become unglued over an interpretation of the Robert E. Lee – John Brown confrontation. That visitor considered that interpreter to be an apologist for the pro-slavery, pro-Lee interpretation of the Civil War that sees Brown as a reprehensible terrorist (a charge I thought was a little harsh, but understandable). It seems to me, with just a little nuance on the complexity of understanding the politics at the time, that interpreter could have presented the complex motivations. After all, the point of significance of what American public opinion was then (and now) on this issue is: mutual exclusivity of belief. Let the visitor in on the fact that finding out what “really” was going on will be a continuous challenge. Let them know how different ideologies seize on the charismatic event to be the emblem of their cause.

    This is very dangerous ground, but cannot be ignored. Parks are designated because they are at the nexus of what matters. We don’t yet have a perfect way of addressing it. Interpreters are certainly not being trained to address it, and most, out of survival, ignore it. Politicized sites attract devotees of certain ideologies, both the visitor and in some cases the interpreter. As historians and interpreters who work for a democratic government, we have to be able to present the inherently political nature of many sites, without telling people how to vote.

    On his point on whether public historians get into trouble more often than academic historians:

    Dr. Pitcaithley states: “If a member of the public complains about an historical interpretation at a public site, it means two things: 1) that person cares about history, and 2) someone is paying attention to your presentation of the past. I would be more concerned if the public never complained about the discussion of history in public places


    • On the other hand, this is a brilliant insight denied to too many in public service. He is right that the problem is the apathetic person, and the engaged visitor should not be seen as the enemy. Beyond history and interpretation, Dr. Pitcaithley’s point would work just as well as a political style for most of the other challenges faced by the National Park Service (such as challenges to management decisions).

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 2 weeks ago

    If all drugs were legal there would be no violence associated with their purchase and use. I know that irks many people who are champions of the nanny state and want every aspect of human behavior controlled and regulated by government but the truth of the matter is that the prohibition of alcohol unleashed the greatest wave of organized criminality in U.S. history. Once it was repealed the violence and crime ended almost immediately. The same is true of so called "illicit" drugs, take away the heavy hand of prohibition and the violence and crime will subside as well.

    It is not the business of the government to determine what I want to put into my body. Not now, not ever! I think Wal-Mart should sell marijuana seed packs in the spring right along with tomato, corn and asparagus. If I want to buy cocaine tablets in the pharmacy section that should be my right. If I want to take ephedra for a cold it should not concern Big Brother one iota. The drug war is a very efficient way to keep the criminal cartels in business and the law enforcement establishment fat and happy. In that way and in no other the War on Drugs has been a smashing success.

  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 2 weeks ago

    These are thin strips of sand that are repeatedly subjected to the most severe punishment the Atlantic Ocean can dish out. As dapster most correctly points out: Mother Nature is the real bruiser here, not ORV use.

    I've been to Cape Hatteras many times and have never found these vehicles or their occupants to be a problem or a threat to the environment in any way shape or form. I mean if you want to split hairs, every time it rains in Zion the massive oil covered parking lots send waves of nasty petrochemical pollution directly into the nearby Virgin River. I'd be willing to bet this gelatinous gunk is way more voluminous than whatever gets dripped into the sands of Hatteras. I'm sure even more automotive filth gets washed into the Merced in Yosemite Valley and the side gorges of the Grand Canyon but so far I haven't heard anyone complain about what dripping oil pans are doing to the quality of the environment in these places.

    The bottom line is that Cape Hatteras is a barrier strand that comes and goes with the seasons and Atlantic storm cycles and was primarily set aside as a place of recreation, with a sane regard for preserving the natural environment within reasonable bounds. If the Department of Interior proves too pigheaded about how to manage this recreation area reasonably I suggest that North Carolina take over and find a more suitable agency to run a most important asset to that state's tourist economy.

  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 2 weeks ago

    ORV Impacts

    "Preliminary analysis indicates that major storm events may have the ability to �wipe the slate clean� as they move sediment off shore. In terms of the compaction, sediment grain sizes, and beach faunal communities, storms may remove all damage that is caused by ORVs, allowing new populations of animals to inhabit the area."

    "Impacts of ORVs on inter-tidal communities appear to be low. The dynamic nature and location of their habitat waterward of ORV traffic appear to protect them from the impacts (crushing or burying) associated with ORVs. "

    Dr James Perry
    College of William and Mary/Virginia Institute of Marine Science
    Determination of Status of Existing Natural Resource Impacts from Recreational Use of Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Literature Review and Ecological Assessment

    Individual research study conducted in conjunction with the NEPA process that led the Interim Protected Species Management Plan that was finalized and implement in 2007--Note, the older plan is only one year old.

    "To develop a comprehensive literature search which will assist the park service in the development and implementation of a comprehensive off-road vehicle use plan."

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Beamis, I agree with the general thrust of your argument, but I take issue with two specifics. First, Johnny Walker Red is cheap and popular (the world's best selling whiskey), but you really should expand your horizons and develop your sophisticated side. Try a couple of bottles of JW Black Label (but not on the same day). Secondly, dealing in illicit drugs is not a victimless crime. That said, I believe that the war on drugs has been lost, and I share your disgust with the continuing massive waste of law enforcement resources. BTW, I have three close relatives in law enforcement, including both of my brothers.

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Police used to walk away from all kinds of penny ante stuff, maybe by giving a warning or throwing the illegal contraband into a nearby creek and telling the miscreants to beat it. That happened to me in college and the point was well taken and indeed quite powerful without the need to ruin my life and plunder my savings.

    There are all kinds of ways to achieve positive results short of putting someone into the penal system for minor victimless infractions but invariably the modern cop is welded to the use of handcuffs, tasers and immediate incarceration.

    The prison industry is very large and growing in our country and every drug user that is put behind bars means more government payroll jobs. Meanwhile I can buy a case of Johnny Walker Red from the government and the man behind the counter doesn't even blink as I load the dangerous poison into my trunk. They got their cut why should they care?

  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 2 weeks ago

    This controversy is much more complicated than it may seem at first glance. The scientific evidence doesn't imply that ORV beach driving should be totally banned at this seashore, only that it should be subject to reasonable rules benefiting protected wildlife species. Right now the interested parties are arguing about what those rules should be. We encourage Traveler readers to review our recently-published articles on this topic, which include discussions of the circumstances surrounding ORV beach driving at Cape Hatteras.

  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 2 weeks ago

    There is absolutely no reason for ANY vehicles other than emergency rescue vehicles to be driven on the beaches....Many species of animals are adversely impacted by this intrusion. Also what good can come of gasoline and motor oil leaching into the sand and the water? If people want to surf fish,let them carry their gear themselves! It is a sad state of affairs when the comfort of lazy humans trumps innocent animal life.

  • National Park History: “The Spirit of the Civilian Conservation Corps”   6 years 2 weeks ago

    My mother used to talk about how the CCC brought money back to her hometown during the depression. She grew up in Stuart, VA. The CCC was "up on the mountain" building what we now call the Blue Ridge Parkway. On weekends the men would walk down the mountain to spend the weekend in "town" - no meals were provided over the weekends, so the men literally had to walk out to find food. Townspeople would provide meals (and sometimes beds), and the men paid "real money" for the meals. "Real money" had disappeared from the town during the depression, so this was novel. The Smoky Mountains lie at the Southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway - another CCC project.

  • The Denali Road Lottery Offers Regulated Leaf Peeping at Alaska’s Denali National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    After a season of protecting the park and wildlife and protecting the safety of the visitor by having experienced bus drivers why open the road to hordes of inexperienced folks? It is not an easy road to drive and the lottery seems to negate what the park has been practicing and preaching all summer long. Why????????

  • Fall Colors: What Can We Expect Across the National Park System?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    The past two weeks have been absolutely beautiful in Denali Park. The colors are as crisp as I have seen in 30 years here. Snow is falling below 4000 feet tonight. When summer ends we will be in winter.

  • Creature Feature: The American Marten   6 years 2 weeks ago

    We were fortunate to see three young martens playing about 15-20 feet from us as were traveled down the Cleetwood trail at Crater Lake on September 8th, 2008 at about 9:30 AM. Unfortunately, I spent more time struggling to get my camera out of my backpack (DOH!) than watching them, but my 2 companions enjoyed a nice view. They were tussling so much that one nearly slid onto the trail in front of us. Then a larger marten, we assume the "mom", noticed us and rounded up the youngsters and away the 4 of them went.
    What a lucky day and a valuable lesson to keep the camera ready at all times.

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Yes, Barky, there's a very distinct attendance spike in October. The GRSM attendance data for the most recent five-year period (2003 through 2007) show that average visitation in October is 1.13 million, while September visitation averages 883,000. October visitation actually exceeded both September and August visitation in all five of those years.

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Question: is there an increase of GSM visitors during leaf season? That's when I managed to visit the park, and it was absolutely spectacular! I remember hiking up some mountain under the canopy, and hitting the top, and seeing acres and acres of brilliant color. Took my breath away, it did.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • National Park Quiz 19: Trails   6 years 2 weeks ago

    50% are too infirm for trails? Wow! Must be our great American diet ...


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • A Historian's Take on the National Park Service   6 years 2 weeks ago

    What a great article, he touches on a lot of great NPS topics. Hats off to Dr. Pitchaithley.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 2 weeks ago


    I tend to agree with you that our "war on drugs" is not winnable and, therefore, the country needs to devise a different strategy. But, until that new strategy is in place, law enforcement people like the rangers involved here can't just walk away from an incident. The topic, however, is so toxic that no politician will ever be the first to propose a new approach. It will have to come from us, the voters.

    Rick Smith

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I, too, read about this in the Morning Report. The report lists "a number of bags of marijuana and Vicodin pills", but doesn't specify how much. My reaction upon reading the story was, "What a waste of federal time and money." The war on drugs is the older cousin of the war on terror. Wars against ideologies or addictions can't be won. Looks like there might be another "five men and a women" in our already overcrowded jails with as many as 50% of the incarcerated there for drug-related charges. What a waste of money!

  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Lots of people have had very positive interactions with Hells Angels, Marylander. And many others have been bullied, assaulted, and even physically harmed. These are Hells Angels, not Hells Pussycats. (If you know who the Hells Angels "One-Percenters" are, you know that they are some of the baddest dudes on this planet.)

    Yes, Hells Angels are usually well-behaved in public. But law enforcement officials aren't sure what to expect when Hells Angels are around, so they prepare for the worst. I thank them for that, and if Hells Angels feelings get hurt, so be it. When you join the Hells Angels you are making a statement. I just wish that the Hells Angels members whose behavior inclines to the plus side of the ledger would be more choosy about the company they keep.

    In the Lake Mead instance reported here, there was intelligence (the precise details of which aren't available to you and me) indicating that the Hells Angels wanted to make repeated forays into the park and vicinity in the future. The park welcomed them (by issuing an event permit), but the very strong and conspicuous law enforcement presence told them they had better understand that the welcome is conditioned by an expectation of non-disruptive behavior -- period, end of discussion.

  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I feel a whole lot safer being near the Hell's Angels than I ever would being in close proximity to the jack-booted visor helmeted thugs that I saw on television who were providing "security" for the two Welfare/Warfare conventions this past August.

    Or as Dylan most famously put it: [i]"To live outside the law you must be honest."

  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run   6 years 2 weeks ago

    A lot of people are scared of the Hells Angels, but I have to say that the 2 times my family and I have stumbled into one of their rallys they have been very well behaved. Better behaved then the regular tourists around them. In 2006 we arrived in Cody, Wyoming for the July 4th weekend, only to discover to our surprise that there was a Hells Angels rally. We were camping with Hells Angels members literally on all sides. My husband was none to happy, given their reputation and proximity to our children, but we had absolutely no problems. At the rodeo, a must see if your ever in Cody for the 4th of July, the bikers even tried bull riding which was hysterical. I do realize that the Hells Angels have earned their reputation due to bad behavior in the past, but the two recent times we've experienced a rally, they have been more peaceful and well mannered then the regular tourist crowd and absolutely nothing to panic about.

  • National Parks Will Waive Entrance Fees on September 27, National Public Lands Day   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Good points. But if you are going to get down to brass tacks about admission fees (the details of which I wanted to avoid discussing in this brief article), you will need to point out that there are various categories of visitors who don't need to worry about paying entrance fees, such as America the Beautiful Pass Holders, Golden Age Passport holders, Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Volunteer Pass holders (awarded to volunteers who contribute 500 hours of service on a cumulative basis), and certain others.

  • National Parks Will Waive Entrance Fees on September 27, National Public Lands Day   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Two-thirds of the parks don't charge any entrance fees. By my count, only 16 of the top 50 most visited parks charge entrance fees and some of those (like Lake Mead and Acadia) are only seasonal or for parts of the parks. Thus, the overwhelming majority of visitors to the national parks never pay an entrance fee.

  • Federal Judge Refuses to Let County Cut Highways in Roadless Section of Death Valley National Park   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Rs 2477 is a restriction on an 1851 law setting apart all roads and trails as public and 60 feet wide that
    the title to the those set asides were removed from federal control leaving the underlying title in we the
    people of the united states these roads and trails were to be recorded and protect by the counties