Recent comments

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Lepanto:

    "Apples and oranges."

    I wasn't making a comparison of any type. I merely asserted, with the data to back my assertion, that regional offices' budgets have increased 30% since 2001. You bring a strawman but don't successfully rebut my argument with any data.

    "...through the Bush years more than half of the required outlays were not completely funded."

    What data do you have to support this claim? Which outlays were not completely funded?

    "...the info is just not there unless you go office by office and actually ask the people who actually do the work what the staff levels in critical areas were before, and what they are now."

    Well, if the "info is just not there", then you don't really have any evidence. Here you use the "person who" fallacy. Anecdotes like this do not prove anything. Hearsay or anecdote is not statical evidence. "...in science and logic, the 'relative strength of an explanation' is based upon its ability to be tested, proven to be due to the stated cause, and verified under neutral conditions in a manner that other researchers will agree has been performed competently, and can check for themselves." Your suggested method and hypothesis is unsubstantiated and does not qualify as information.

    ...during the glory days of the NPS...

    I have heard about the fabled "glory days". When were they, exactly?

    ...the NPS central offices are empty shells.

    If this assertion is valid, which I've seen no solid evidence to prove it, then almost a billion dollars over the last 8 years were wasted paying salaries to people who didn't actually exist in buildings that did not house any physical capital.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Zebulon: I want to emphasize that the "$3,000 per animal" I mentioned is a recollection. I am virtually certain I read that in a report, but I didn't go back and check. BTW, Almost every time I visit the the Bay Area, my hosts take me to Briones Regional Park in Contra Costa County for a long hike up and down those rolling hills. You live in the Bay Area, so can you tell me if mountain lions live in or pass through Briones? My hosts, who are Pleaant Hill residents, tell me its a "definite maybe," but I'd sure like to get a more definitive answer. I'll be hiking Briones in mid-January.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 51 weeks ago

    $3,000 per animal x 150 animals = $450,000!! Sounds pricey to me, especially since the NPS could probably auction off the right to hunt those deers and actually make money off of it. Then again, I'm more of a numbers guy by trade, and I remember going hunting with my dad when I was a teenager. Point Reyes is also in the San Francisco bay area where everybody (including me) has an opinion on everything.

    On a semi related subject, I learned recently that our local park district killed 2 mountain lions less than a year ago because they were killing sheep right next to a university (which backs up to a park).

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 51 weeks ago

    * Death of a Land Bill. When the Omnibus Land Management Act of 2008 died earlier this month, it took with it many valuable legislative tidbits that would have benefited the National Park System in many ways. For instance, the measure would have designated official wilderness in Rocky Mountain National Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; expanded the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System; expanded the National Trails System; would have allowed members of the military -- active or veteran -- to purchase the National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass (aka, the America the Beautiful Pass) for just $10; established the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park (which perhaps didn't deserve such a designation, anyway) in New Jersey; created the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, also in New Jersey; provided funding for the Keweenaw National Historical Park; revised boundaries of a number of NPS units; and then some.

    Thanks for including that, this is a good example of what a NHL of a Affiliated Area of the national park system should be as the study said not a NPS unit. Plus, I cxan think of other areas of our nations history that need a NPS unit more than the one represented at Great Falls.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Wade,

    I don't know if you have already gone to Zion or not, but in response to your question, the chains do not go all the way up the mountain. There are many times where you are left to figure a way to get up as there may be two options or so. So, a carabiner is out. If the chains went all the way, it would be a disruption for others. Realize that there are people coming down as you are trying to come up; however, most are very patient and will wait for you to come on up or you can wait for them to come down. As far as being afraid of heights, only you can make the decision of whether to go all the way. Good luck.

    Jacqueline

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Lulu,

    Had to laugh at your name of "quitter's corner". My description of that area is that it is like going to the party and not dancing. Thus, in May 2008 I, at almost 61, make the trek all the way to the top. I was just a little over a year post intensive shoulder surgery and not so great of a knee, so I was most delighted when I was able to accomplish this adventure. I don't know that I will ever do it again, i.e. I lived to tell about it and that is my story. Other posters are right about keeping it open; however, the chains do provide a service and I think they should remain there. One girl had her camera fall over the ledge and, thus, lost all of her photos of having been at the top--felt so sorry for her. Some of the folks that died, were, in my opinion, probably not as careful as they should have been as they were experienced and figured that was enough. It was a slow and steady experience for me, i.e. no ridge running from this girl. Can't wait to go back (maybe Sep 09) and get in some of The Narrows this time around.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Look again, Frank C.

    Apples and oranges. SALARY increases are partially covered by budget increases, but through the Bush years more than half of the required outlays were not completely funded. This means they are paying the highest-paid people more, but have less money to pay new employees. This is what started this: why do region offices appear bloated?

    Also, new -- I think useless initiatives -- get funded while critical needs do not get funded. Check out the specifics in the contracting for example. Many senior contract managers have retired. No warrants for small purchases -- under $10,000 per perchase -- are even being issued. There now actually are regions with only one or 2 fully functional contract officers who are able to do all kinds of contracts. The others who remain are being called inadequately trained, and will be squeezed out or already have been squeezed out. I am thinking of a room of contract officers in one region that was once full of workers. Now, there is one supervisor and one contract officer in the whole office. You may not call that a "cut" because of the smoke of the absolute "size" of the budet vs what it is actually going for.

    Again, the way to do this, and the info is just not there unless you go office by office and actually ask the people who actually do the work what the staff levels in critical areas were before, and what they are now. In the offices I know of, if you were to compare the key (workers) staff in the central offices (regions, washington, service centers) with the staff levels FOR THOSE KEY FUNCTIONS during the glory days of the NPS, you will find them decimated. True, we now have people working on wastes of time like "GPRA" or special initiatives of the Director, or reporting, or downsizing exercises (this one is big just now and consuming A LOT of staff capacity) you will find that, where it matters (land acquisition staff for example had a big cut in 2006) , the NPS central offices are empty shells.

  • Alexander Hamilton's "Country Home" on the Move in New York City   5 years 51 weeks ago

    AN UPDATE, inspired by the photo found by RogerB34, of Hamilton Grange.

    I pursued the question to the National Park Service guy who is leading the restoration of Alexander Hamilton's house in Harlem, New York City. Here is a portion of this message to me on RogerB34's discovery:

    "thanks for the picture. It shows details that we didn't know, like the number of treads and risers for the back porch stairs (you can see them in the forefront of the picture; louvered shutters over the rear door transom; single horizontal top panel on the rear door (we surmised the same for the "mirrored doors" inside and this confirms that. We're ordering a print of the picture to see what else we can find under the microscope. The picture looks like the one we have of the fron elevation prior to the move (same photographer?). I think the address was a typo and should read 143 and Convent Ave."

    So, the picture DOES reveal the ORIGINAL (but hightly disturbed) site where Hamilton actually built his house, those are the gum trees Hamilton planted, PLUS, RogerB34 unearthed additional architectural information the national park service can use in order to restore The Grange properly !

    Well done ! There was a time the NPS had the staff to thoroughly review all the photographic sources for a restoration job as part of the Historic Structures Report, so RogerB34's vigilance is obviously appreciated.

    for those of you who have not yet seen the photo, go back up to RogerB34's message, and find the link, above.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Here's another successful elk reintroduction program that started adjacent to a park; it's now established a herd at the Buffalo National River:


    In 1981, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, in cooperation with private citizens initiated another elk restoration project in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. Between 1981 and 1985, 112 elk from Colorado and Nebraska were released … Today, most of the estimated 400-450 elk in the state occur … on National Park Service land along the upper and middle sections of the Buffalo National River.

    You'll find more details here.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Ted: Archery (and crossbow?) hunts are least objectionable in terms of noise control and hazard reduction, but animal rights activists and many others insist that using arrows or crossbow bolts to dispatch large animals is inhumane. (Hunting with atlatls would presumably be even more objectionable, since very few people would be able to hit a deer in a vital area using a spear-thrower.) Incidentally, I didn't mean to imply that hunters in the national parks are limited to archery and primitive weapons in all cases. For example, sport hunting is a traditional visitor activity at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and while shotguns are preferred for small game, the weapon of choice for deer and bear is the scope-sighted high powered rifle. Rifles are also permitted for deer and bear hunting at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which also has shotgunning for waterfowl and upland game (including rabbits, snowshoe hares, grouse, and woodcock). I believe that only shotguns and primitive weapons are allowed at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, where sport hunting for various species is permitted during nearly four months a year. And of course, hunting with high powered weapons is routinely allowed in the National Preserves. The bottom line here is that people who think that sport hunting is a rare activity in the National Park System just haven't looked into the matter deeply enough.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Ted---

    Check the history of Channel Islands. There have been various campaigns to eliminate exotic species on the islands. Don't forget the burros of Grand Canyon. The granddaddy of all such programs goes on at the Galapagos.

    Rick Smith

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 51 weeks ago

    MRC,

    Thanks for the hunt-pointers. That sounds like quite the fence, around Pinnacles! I would be interested in compiling a list of the extermination, control and hunting projects both past, current & contemplated in the Park System. I hear 'blips' about such things from time to time, but have never encountered a resource that gathers the cases together. I would be willing to do the work, if others can give me clues about what has taken place. I would like to put together a chart-type organization of this information, and will share the results.

    Bob Janiskee,

    Your mention of archery and black powder in Seashores & Lakeshores underscores my impression, that these 'elite' hunting-cadres are more-suited, more-acceptable and would be easier for the Parks to manage. I'm aware there are even atltl & spear enthusiasts lobbying for recognition & venues. Thanks for mentioning the Hawaii Volcanoes pig & sheep hunts!

    I'd also like to hear about 'messier' animal-issues that have not necessarily been address/resolved by hunting or extermination or contraception or relocation, etc. The mountain goats in Olympic are one such example. TIA.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Zebulon, the figure I saw quoted for contraceptive control was $3,000 per animal. That strikes me as being on the very low side, since it (conveniently) doesn't take into account the federal subsidies over the years for research and development. It also doesn't take into account a number of risk factors under the general title of "unintended consequences."

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 51 weeks ago

    There is plenty of precedent for sport hunting in National Seashores (not to mention National Lakeshores). For example, Cumberland Island National Seashore annually schedules six archery and primitive weapons (black powder rifle) hunts for white-tailed deer and feral hogs, and waterfowl hunting has been a popular activity at Cape Lookout National seashore for many years. There is also precedent for hunting in some of the 58 National Parks. Hawaii Volcanoes NP, for example, schedules carefully controlled hunts to control feral pigs and mouflon sheep.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Hunting to control and exterminate the population of non-native species has been done a number of times in national parks and even in wilderness areas. Not too far from Point Reyes National Seashore, in Pinnacles National Monument and the Pinnacles Wilderness all feral pigs were killed after the completion of a fence around the whole monument in 2003. The pigs disturbed the soil and the native vegetation in the lower parts of the monument, particularly in the river corridors. I'm pretty sure we can collect a number of such projects so the extermination of non-native deer in PORE is not unique.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 51 weeks ago

    Hunting in Parks? It is being ... I think the word is, "agonized" over by various Park administrations.

    Point Reyes does highlight the special problems of small Park-units, with animal-problems they would like to control. Gut piles do not have to be left; these are small deer. We have strong garbage bags that would be fine for packing out the offal. Bow hunters are well-represented and usually the cream of the hunting fraternity: no need for a 'shooting gallery'. The Park had no difficulty setting things up with "White Buffalo" so they could shoot 400 deer in Point Reyes by January 2008, so I have to think that once they are open-mindedly interested in working out a hunting-solution, the objective logistics of it will not exceed their ability.

    California has had marauding coyotes kill children (coyotes!), are watching several other growing human-wildlife conflicts that are best solved by hunting ... and are looking at reversing their policies suppressing hunting.

    At this point in history, the Parks come across as "deer in the headlights", with respect to animal-problems and the option of using hunting to address them.

    Perhaps, realistically & pragmatically, 'the ice will be broken' to address the problem of the changing behavior of newly-protected predatory carnivores. Ultimately, nature being what it is, predator populations that can see no reason to distinguish between deer and humans will require an 'education program', and hunting is by far the most effective way to achieve that.

    Although people like to view elk standing in a meadow, from the comfort of their automobile, they have a different reaction to having their lawns and gardens trashed by herds moving through. Elk appear to have 'trip-points', at which herds fission and then strike out for new terrain: it is during this phase that phone-lines at Fish & Game and Parks are suddenly jammed.

    The long-term trends do seem to point at the adoption of hunting in the Parks. I.e., once the fallow and axis deer are gone from Point Reyes, we know that the native deer species are also inclined to overwhelm the landscape and do the same kind of damage that got the imported species targeted.

    In the big picture, the notion that hunting is fundamentally offensive and unacceptable is probably untenable. Humans - though classified biologically as "omnivores", are predatory pack-hunters, going way back. Even chimpanzees hunt.

  • Snow Falls in Death Valley National Park   5 years 52 weeks ago

    The picture by Jimmie Affholder showing the Funeral Mountains following a recent snowfall is fantastic. Jimmie has a great eye for taking pictures.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 52 weeks ago

    What?!? Kill deer in a national park?!?!?!

    Ahem.

    It likely would save money and, by being quicker (a number of weeks versus years), save some vegetation. But the national park setting is the controversial aspect of it all. Similar situations are being played out in Rocky Mountain National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and, I believe, Badlands National Park, all which have growing elk populations. And, of course, back East there's a serious white-tailed deer problem in some NPS units. The burning question in all these places is whether to allow a public hunt, use NPS sharpshooters, hire sharpshooters, employ contraceptives, or a mix of all of the above.

    Of course, another alternative is returning predators -- in most cases wolves -- to do the dirty work and, along the way, enhance the overall health of the ecosystem. It seems to be working in Yellowstone, but that 2.2-million-acre park not only is much larger than most of these other places, but also removed from large cities where wolves might get a taste for fido or kitty.

    Now, if Point Reyes National Seashore was also "a Preserve," well, hunting likely wouldn't be such a big deal, as that's how hunting was shoe-horned in some other NPS units (aka Katmai National Park AND Preserve).

    But even if that suffix were added, how do you manage a public hunt in a national park setting that's as accessible as Point Reyes or even Rocky Mountain? Do you want gut piles left lying on the ground? Do you want mom and dad and their two kids cruising by while a hunter is cleaning his kill? How do you prevent wayward bullets from hitting non-hunting park tourists?

    All sensitive questions that have complicated answers.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 52 weeks ago

    Regarding the Fallow/Axis deer in Point Reyes. They were given by the San Francisco zoo to the local landowner in the 40s to add variety to the hunting. Once the place became wilderness, hunting was stopped and the non native specie started displacing the native deers. A few years ago, people started agonizing over how getting rid of the non native deers, and that contraceptive idea was floated to appease local environmentalists who could not live with the idea of killing those deers. From what I remember, the contraceptive program was extremely expensive (they had to shoot the contraceptive in the deer, then examine their droppings to make sure it worked) and was not 100% effective. I'm no scientist, but I'm not sure that I get the benefits of doing that contraceptive experiment. Could we save some money, kill those remaining deers and use the money saved somewhere else in the NPS?

  • The AARP Seven-Tip List for Economical National Park Visiting is One Tip Short   5 years 52 weeks ago

    Darn it, Ken. Now you've gone and ruined my dinner. All I can think about is that trout! :(

  • The AARP Seven-Tip List for Economical National Park Visiting is One Tip Short   5 years 52 weeks ago

    The cafeteria at Yosemite Lodge has a great Trout dinner with veggies for about $7. HOW CAN YOU BEAT THAT!

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 52 weeks ago

    Lepanto, your assertion that "most regional offices HAVE been cut" is not supported by the evidence.

    The FY2008 Park and Program Summary shows on page 12 that none of the 8 regional offices' budgets have been cut. In fact, the difference between FY2006 and the FY2008 President's Request is +8.89%. Since 2001, the regional offices' budgets have increased by roughly 30%.

    I advise looking at the data before asserting anyone is trying to "starve the beast".

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 52 weeks ago

    Roger, I don't doubt you've got plenty of coyotes, but I seriously doubt they were legally introduced. Coyotes are considered vermin in the southeast, with many people ranking them right up there with kudzu and fire ants. Here in South Carolina, coyotes were illegally introduced in some counties by hunters who enjoyed running them with hounds. Now coyotes live in all 46 counties of the state and the coyote population has spiraled out of control -- much to the chagrin of those of us who appreciate turkeys, foxes, cats, and the other creatures they regularly kill. I'm not saying that coyotes have no role to play in this ecosystem, only that they have grown too numerous.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 52 weeks ago

    I'm with Ted and Beamis.

    This webzine deserves some props!

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 52 weeks ago

    I have heard that elk and coyote were also introduced into Mt Rogers National Receartion Area. Can any confirm this? We live 6 miles from the park and coyote sighting in the last few years have skyrocketed.