Recent comments

  • DOI Report: National Park Service Left Tens Of Millions Dollars On The Table In Potential Fees   4 weeks 8 hours ago

    Believe me, Ron, I would love to see free parks. But as long as we have Tea Party influencing Congress, it's unlikely to happen.

    I really wonder how many of those who push the Tea Party agenda also complain about fees. Their goals are simply not realistic at all.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 10 hours ago

    I helped start a jr. ranger program in Nicaragua. It differs a bit from the US version primarily because of the distances involved in the US. Every potential jr, ranger goes through an extensive training course, Upon graduation, often attended by the dignitaries in town, they receive their hat, vest, and the emblems they have earned during the training. Then, they have to volunteer once a month for some kind of environmental work--cleaning beaches, protecting turtle nests, etc. I recommended to the NGO who was running the program that they start small. Instead, the demand was so great that they graduated more than 200 jr. rangers in the first class.

    Another great idea from this NGO, Paso Pacifico, is the following. They got a donation from Bushnell. Every youngster who took a basic bird identification course and then turned in his/her slinghot--usually used to kill birds--received a pair of binoculars. Over 200 have been distributed.

    Look up Paso Pacifico's website. It is the most grass roots organization with which I have ever been connected. I wrote a story for NPT regarding their turtle egg protection program.


  • Maple Sugar Time Coming To Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   4 weeks 15 hours ago

    We're slowly using the syrup we got from a friend-of-a-friend whose family has done it for decades. It sure beats anything you could pick up at the local Safeway. I'd love to see the Maple Sugar Time festival.

  • Photography In The National Parks: Don’t Forget Those National Park Lodge Photos   4 weeks 15 hours ago

    Nice shots. Good memories of the Paradise lodge, and longing to see the Denali. I suppose those two feelings are what you would want to gen with your photos.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 15 hours ago

    I agree, MM. It's a cheap investment in the future.

  • DOI Report: National Park Service Left Tens Of Millions Dollars On The Table In Potential Fees   4 weeks 17 hours ago

    Good point Lee, I am not opposed to all fees, entrance and camping fees seem appropriate if kept at reasonable levels. I do think many of the new fee increases are out of reach for many including sliding scale charges, ie the prime season costs more, charging for hiking and backpacking, the list goes on, sets economic barriers to many citizens. California State Parks are charging 50,00 a night for a prime campsite, that is where this NPS fee authority is headed. Basically, the congress needs to fund the core operational needs of our public lands, I think that is Kitty Benzar's point. How that is to be done is a contentious political debate of this era, it is an interesting issue.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 17 hours ago

    MM, nice post, I have observed the Junior Ranger programs for many years, they have an impact, the kids and parents both enjoy them. One contributor made the point that empowering employees, communications from the bottom up as well as the top down are common sense, I agree. However in all large organizations, the tendency is top down, Harry's points are well taken in my view (Lee's as well), there should be a strong reminder of the above in the context of the 100 year celebration of the NPS.

  • Maple Sugar Time Coming To Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   4 weeks 19 hours ago

    Ah, how I remember sugaring in the woods of northeastern Ohio! One of my first real jobs was helping an old German farmer gather sap from his sugar bush.

    I'm afraid that more and more development might endanger syrup making in the U.S. as more woods are turned into housing developments and shopping malls.

    I really hope that never happens.

    It's great that Indiana Dunes is trying to keep this tradition alive and kicking. But I hope they are using the old fashioned spiles and buckets and not the newfangled system of plastic tubing. Driving the tractor or team to pull the gathering sled was a highlight of my job back when I was 14 or so. (I was much more successful driving the tractor. It usually did what I wanted it to do. But those big draft horses were another matter.)

    To my way of thinking, it's things like this that make the NPS such an important part of America. Not only do we need to preserve an ever vanishing natural world, there are historic places and cultural heritages that also need to be protected before they are gone forever.

  • Photography In The National Parks: Don’t Forget Those National Park Lodge Photos   4 weeks 19 hours ago

    Thanks for sharing these tips Rebecca! There is a special feel to these older stone and log hotels, and I've experienced the challenges you mention with the limited light. Your story reminds me that I need to be more willing to try higher ISO settings at times. (My reluctance to do so is probably an indication of which generation I'm in, and all those bygone years when everything was limited by the film in my camera!)

    For those of us who primarily "shoot for fun," digital has offered the chance to enjoy photography without the limits of film and processing costs.

  • DOI Report: National Park Service Left Tens Of Millions Dollars On The Table In Potential Fees   4 weeks 19 hours ago

    It would be wonderful to have free parks.

    But in a time when Congress refuses to fund them, what alternative is there?

    How about showing us a way to drop fees and still operate and protect our parks?

    Complaining about a problem is easy. Solving it is usually isn't quite that simple.

  • Photography In The National Parks: Don’t Forget Those National Park Lodge Photos   4 weeks 19 hours ago

    Another morning brightened by some great photos and tips. Thanks, Rebecca.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 23 hours ago


    My suggestion is to make all Junior Ranger programs free of charge. No kid should have to buy a booklet to earn their badge. I believe one goal of the centennial is to "create" a new generation of park stewards. Making Junior Ranger programs free would be a good investment.

    If a park couldn't fund this from their current interpretation budget, let the Associations fund the program. Associations already donate money to help fund interpretive programs. I suspect that some parks are already using money from an association to fund their Junior Ranger program. To me, this doesn't involve any "new" money.


  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    It doesn't

    My point exactly. You claimed the Cruz amendment put the parks on the chopping block. Thank you for admitting that isn't true. .

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    Alfred, i've been through the publications approval process a few times, and it's always to be blunt - a stress inducing process. I've had to edit and remove segments in films, and have script rewrites after my first edits were already in the can, recorded and complete. It's a process. I have a unique position in that I not only work on the organizational website, but I also make films about the park. Sometimes, the requested changes are necessary, especially when you have experts in thier fields making sure that the information in the publications has a high level of accuracy. There are standards that the committees strive to meet, many of which are based on protecting the NPS resources, and keeping within its mission. Many publications that stray off this course don't end up on shelves and for good reason. I'm not saying your book is one such case. But, if it's a book on Yosemite, I can see where it might be a challenge to get it placed on shelves in Yellowstone. I can see where the managers would have a hard time trying to get that approved. Now, if it's a standard book about the NPS and resource management, then that might be easier.

    I'm not involved with the physical side of stores, and that's not my expertise, nor realm. My realm is and mostly will always be online. With that, I think there are more options to have books like yours available and accessible online. Add in things like store kiosks, and digital downloading, and there is a greater potential for bringing that "library" of information you wish to see available to the masses right at the store level.

    Trust me, I love going to the park archives and doing research, and part of the fun is digging up old out of print books and publications on various subjects related to the NPs. I also have a library of old park related films, many of which haven't aired in decades, but contain interesting tidbits and materials related to that time period. Edward Abbey and Elliott Porter did a great book on the Smokies, and its out of print, but there are a few copies still around out there.. In fact, its perhaps my favorite book on this place, and Abbey's view on the region's tourism economy cracks me up everytime I read it, because it's so spot on. Granted, as time goes on, it become a bit more dated. I'd love to see something like this publication brought back to life and given to the masses again. The GSMA just published a book called "Mountains for the Masses". It's very much a book, you might like, and seek. It's a book based on the political battles and challenges the park has faced during it's brief (yes, brief) history. Granted, it's one of those books that your average tourist wont care to read. Most tourists gravitate to books and souveniers that will be tokens from their vacation. This book is considered an invaluable reference tool for libraries, agencies and citizens with an interest in how their public land is managed and protected and will more than likely remain on the shelves for a few years. These type of books are always available. And like I said, I think the online realm can make the scholarly publications available to the masses at a greater level. I'm sure eventually you will see the "library kiosk" containing books and videos that might not be available in print, but be available digitally. Type in a few words, and books associated with the keywords pop up on the kiosk, and you can browse through the publication, and if you like what you see, you purchase it and have a download link sent to your phone/ipad device. This is a natural evolution of how things will go. And if only 12 copies a year are sold? Who cares, it's just taking up a few megs on a server. Granted there are a lot of books, and films like the Ken Burns NP series that are hard to stock at high volume, because Amazon and other retail outlets will beat the associations in price every time.

    The goal of the associations should be to provide materials that are special and specific to the place that it is protecting. I was in Yellowstone last year, and felt they do an exellent job there.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    They really need a better wysiwyg editor added into this site. Put it on the list, Kurt!

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    Hey, Gary -- a favor por favor. It is much easier to read a long essay if it's broken into paragraphs with white spaces separating them. You have a lot of good ideas, but my old eyeballs were spinning after about the first twenty lines.

    Now where did I put that Visine?

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    Please show me where the Cruz amendment says Parks have to be disposed.

    It doesn't and neither do my posts. Review the posts above and see if you can follow the conversation without resorting to the puerile denigration: "histeria" [sic].

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    as stated in the black-and-white legislation itself

    Please show me where the Cruz amendment says Parks have to be disposed. It doesn't. In fact "National Parks" isn't a term that even shows up in the amendment. That in itself is proof that your accusations are pure histeria.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    I think Harry's ideas should go beyond the "100 year" anniversary. To me many of his points are simply common sense. I'm in agreement with him when it comes to striking the pen and initiating another National Monument. How many more NM's ran by the forest service and BLM does this country need, especially when there is no real change in how they are managed?

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    And under the Cruz amendment there is no law putting the Parks on the chopping block.

    Clearly and obviously untrue, as stated in the black-and-white legislation itself and in the stories to which Lee linked. You have still not shown, after multiple opportunites, a single legal analysis or story that disputes this. Why is that?

  • Spring Is No Season To Be Cooped Up   4 weeks 1 day ago

    Nice preview. We're weighing some options for April in the Parks.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    Harry, Alfred, two really excellent posts, empower employees, let the visitor know they are important, feedback to the Washington Office from the on the ground employees, these, in my own humble opinion are just top flight ideas for the 100 year celebration effort. Harry, I am not sure I agree with not celebrating adding more areas for enhanced protection, it is something important in my view, but I certainly enjoy your posts.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    Harry, some excellent and realistic ideas there. I especially like the idea of empowering NPS employees. Many sleeps ago, that really was happening. What happened? When I was still in uniform back in the early 80's, there was an effort to delegate authority to the lowest level possible. Some of my Forest Service friends were astonished a more than a bit jealous that I, as a GS-9 Chief of I&RM could make decisions that they would have had to send to Washington.

    Someone tipped me off that one of the best sources of information needed for good management was to actively seek input from our seasonals -- especially first time seasonals. The idea was that they were looking at our park with fresh eyes and could see shortcomings that those of us who had been there awhile might miss because we'd become accustomed to them. It really worked.

    I think it also boosted their morale and enthusiasm when they saw that even they had a say in how the park was managed.

    Your idea #5 is also spot on. It's rare to read the Morning Report's Legislative Activities page every Monday without seeing another bill presented by some Congresscritter seeking to have another porkbarrel monument or river or whatever designated as a National Something Or Other.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    Gary, I happen to like electronic books. A friend of mine who has macular degeneration can still enjoy reading by puffing up the font. His Kindle goes wherever he goes. That said, knowing what to read requires due diligence. He has it, whereas many don't. The books sold by the cooperating associations are not always approved by "experts." And certainly items made in China show little "expertise."

    Years ago, the head of the Yellowstone Association refused to carry my books, pleading not enough shelf space in her stores. Why should she carry a scholarly book selling perhaps a dozen copies a year, when she could carry books selling many times that? That is the market talking, not preservation, and my idea is to get the market back in line. As for your assertion that there are "hundreds" of relevant books on the history of the National Park Service, no, there are barely two dozen that really matter. Among the latest would be Dayton Duncan's magnificent volume from the PBS series he produced with Ken Burns. You want to read that on Kindle? I don't. I love holding it in my hand. But yes, carry the Kindle version--and the DVD set. Just CARRY them is my point.

    Let the visitor know how much YOU think of them. Whether directly or indirectly, guide every visitor to what is good. If society were consistenly about following the herd, society as we know it would not exist. Be a maverick once in a while and stand up for quality, and yes, the Yellowstone Association eventually came around. I have not checked on their stores lately, but the last time I was at Old Faithful, indeed, it looked like a store of which they can be proud.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 weeks 1 day ago

    I agree with you Lee "future" is a word foreign to most Americans -- and certainly to our government. "Future" requires active planning and forethought. It requires vision. It also requires funding.

    If there is one certainty in government today it is the fact that we do not have or will not spend the monies necessary to secure the future survival of our natural and cultural heritage. Make no mistake about this. Slowly but surely we are losing our future through thousands of cuts, poor management and mindless expansion of the National Park System.

    For years National Park Service and other government employees have been told to do more with less. As we all know you cannot do more with less only less. Some activity, program or resources has to be cut. While this may not be visible at first the cumulative impact is devastating.

    Now that I have gotten that out of the way it is time to address Dr. Runte’s challenge. “Using history, I invite you to be creative. As on Apollo 13, you can use only what is already on hand in the Service and Command Modules. Get the astronauts safely home and save the centennial from disaster. No "extra" appropriations; no "PC" seminars; just the materials you already have in both spacecraft"

    Let me make the following suggestions.

    1. Let’s empower our employees. No more top down meetings of NPS management and SES types to decide how to make the most of the 2016 Centennial. I would set up a web site, similar to nationalparkstraveler, and invite our employees to submit ideas, suggestions and give everyone the benefit of their local insights. All wisdom does not come from the top. It comes from those employees who man the visitor desks, give interpretive tours and maintain the parks. We need to listen to employees who actually meet the public to see what the public is saying and what they want.

    2. In regard to park web sites let each park decide what is important to place on their site. One size does not fit all. Large parks with staff can have large and information dense web sites. Smaller parks will have only the basic material needed by park visitors. Let each park decide how to do their own web sites. Many can and will turn to their cooperating associations for help. Others can ask for volunteers. There are legions of Americans who love the National Parks and have the technical skills to create innovative and helpful web sites.

    3. Let’s listen to employees to determine what is the best and more appropriate way to mark the centennial of the National Park Service. One suggestion I would like to make is to see that every employee have a basic library (perhaps six or more books) that will educate everyone about the history and evolution of the National Parks. How this will be paid for is not certain at this time but the cost will be small in comparison to the benefit derived. And, yes I would place Al Runte’s book, The National Parks: The American Experience at the top of the list. (Sorry Al, I hope I am not embarrassing you with my suggestion. For everyone else this is not a solicited announcement)

    4. We have a rich mother lode of information about our parks in both print and electronic format. This information represents the accumulated wealth and experience of generations of National Park Employees. I would like to see nothing better for 2016 than to make this heritage of information easily available to all. Much of it can be found now on the web but no one knows when to look or what to look for.

    5. We need to stop the mindless cheering every time the President declares another area a National Monument. I am not saying that we should not expand the system but we need to do so carefully with severe planning and thought before we act. We need to take care of what we have first and then look beyond park boundaries.

    6. Finally, I would set up an employee email account that would go directly to the Director of the National Park Service where anyone can write in with his or her concerns, suggestions or just blow off some steam. I do not expect the Director to respond to every email but I would hope that Mr. Jarvis and his staff at least look at it from time to time and yes an individual response from the Director would be wonderful for morale. Just imagine how a new employee would feel getting an email message from the Director.

    These are my ideas for all to consider. I am sure many of you will have equally valuable suggestions and I am looking forward to seeing them.