Recent comments

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I think Beamis's comments 9/2 sum up this thread's journey rather well. The upcoming commission is about to examine an organization with an extraordinary mission. In the world of E. O.Wilson, we have a leader and thinker to match the complexity of that mission. I'm looking forward to meaningful results.

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

    Are you folks thinking like Y2Y, The North American Wildlands Network, Freedom to Roam and such?

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

    First, I haven't been to Big Bend yet, so please take that into account for the following comment:

    On principle, I'm fine with mountain biking trails in the parks. Although they are imperfect (meaning they do create ruts in the ground), at least they are less intrusive than motorized vehicles, provide exercise for park goers, and enable people to go deeper into a park than normally would be allowed. I equate this activity to rock climbing and other activities that aren't necessarily unobtrusive but are relatively low-impact.

    Having said that, mountain biking can be hazardous in slow-growth areas (deserts, for example, where cacti and other plants can take years to seed and flourish). So I don't want mountain biking where they can clearly destroy the environment.

    But biking, in general, is better than a lot of alternatives. If good trails can be created & maintained that don't screw up the environment, then hurray for mountain biking!

    =======================================================================

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • A View from Abroad: Don't Let Tourism Overwhelm Our National Parks   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I really like this article from Australia. I especially like this part:

    National parks offer a special tourist experience, but not the full range of tourist experiences. The extra bits of a tourist's time in an area - the accommodation, the fun parks, evening entertainment, restaurants and takeaway joints - belong in the neighbouring towns.

    This is where they will generate the most jobs, have the lowest environmental impacts and best spread the benefits.

    This is brilliant, and something so often neglected in the comments on NPT. The communities around the parks really need to be able to benefit from park tourism. Those who advocate more "touristy" parks should take this track instead: let the surrounding communities do the touristy stuff, and leave the parks themselves as unscathed as possible.

    ========================================================================

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

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

    Kurt et al,

    Europe's Green Belt Initiative concept is exciting and their website is a good resource; I look forward to reading more. Especially, they offer under Database > Publications, The Green Belt Book. Though of course centered on their particular project & setting, the book's table of contents sketches out a good start for others with similar aims.

    I have to think that a crucial, perhaps the central element on which the success of such a project would depend & revolve, is to bring the human inhabitants of a region being considered as a biome-scale habitat or ecosystem preserve willingly & enthusiastically on-side. Furthermore, they will be powerful allies, if their fears are laid to rest and the future of their culture can be seen as secured.

    Getting it right with the locals may well be Job One.

    In the late 1990s, there was an intense & highly scientific public input process executed on the Olympic Peninsula to evaluate the proposal to reintroduce gray wolves at the Olympic National Park. This process was really quite extraordinary, and I never felt that the question, "Why was the process conducted in such an unusual way?", was realistically addressed. On the other hand, had that study been conducted to document the existing social & cultural bases of the communities surrounding the ONP on the OP ... then it would strike me as being much easier to understand.

    I.e., if the wolf-idea was used as an excuse to study the locals, then it makes better sense.

    (The methodology ensured that the resulting data was actually real, objective, scientific data, not a transcript of disputing viewpoints. In fact, many participants objected, because what they wanted was a better forum for engaging in dispute.)

    There is of course a very old, now-marginalized but entrenched meme among preservationists, that the Olympic Peninsula offers our best hope for the protection of a complete, intact habitat. (As Kurt points out, even our biggest Parks were poorly-selected to serve as habitat; Yellowstone being Exhibit A.)

    The wolf-study was thoroughly documented and is available. It dramatically emphasized the local's interpretation & impression of 'outsiders' attempting to make decisions for them, that affected them, without their own positions being important. Gaging & addressing this particular type of concern really seems like the core to a successful regional eco-preserve project ... and that's what they did here on Olympic Peninsula.

    Congress had the study done. Was it a sign that they are thinking in terms of eco-regions?

    As Kurt mentions, there are other settings in North America that suggest themselves as candidates for extended habitat protection projects.

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

    MRC,

    Yes, I'm well aware of the Yosemite Valley infrastructure and Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. However, the European models I refer to operate on a much, much larger scale.

    For instance, in Lake District National Park there are more than 42,000 year-round residents and nearly 23,000 "dwellings".

    Kinda makes Yosemite Valley look like a backwater.

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

    Kurt: "How could you have villages within a national park's boundaries?" Ever been to Yosemite? Seen Wawona? Yosemite Village in the valley? Do you know how many primary schools exist in NPS units, because so many families live there? How about Jasper National Park in Canada? Or Banff? The villages and the people were there before the park was dedicated - or they grew with the staff of the parks. Of course the first explanation is more relevant in Europe, but examples exist in North America as well.

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

    Ted, you raise an interesting prospect, that of borrowing the European model of mixed-use national parks. I've in the past been somewhat befuddled by that model in say, England's Lake District. How could you have villages within a national park's boundaries?

    But in these times, perhaps that model, with a few tweaks, could be a viable solution to genetic bottlenecks in the National Park System. By creating different zones of use -- from official wilderness to economic centers -- perhaps wilderness, wildlife, and ways of life could be better preserved than via the process we now employ to confront these issues. To a certain extent that's what some Rocky Mountain resort towns, such as Park City, Aspen, Boulder, Jackson and Sun Valley, are achieving through the purchase of open space.

    Even more ambitious than what's transpiring in the Lake District is the European Green Belt project, which aims to "create the backbone of an ecological network that runs from the Barents to the Black sea, spanning some of the most important habitats for biodiversity and almost all distinct biogeographical regions in Europe."

    While there long has been talk of creating the Yellowstone-to-Yukon corridor, it seems to have languished. Perhaps by borrowing some of these European ideas progress can be made. Of course, convincing cities and towns that might be involved to go along could be tricky. Or they could see it as sound economic development.

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

    Kurt,

    Yes, I was also surprised at some of the points that came up in a quick read of the prominent sources on Brucellosis.

    Wikipedia begins their Brucellosis article with the passage:

    "Brucellosis, also called undulant fever, or Malta fever, in humans is a highly contagious zoonosis (infectious disease transmitted from animals to humans) caused by eating of raw minced meat is also a common cause of the infection Brucella." (emph. added)
    Relevant exerpts from Federal Centers for Disease Control ("CDC"):
    "Various Brucella species affect sheep, goats, cattle, deer, elk, pigs, dogs, and several other animals. Humans become infected by coming in contact with animals or animal products that are contaminated with these bacteria. In humans brucellosis can cause a range of symptoms that are similar to the flu and may include fever, sweats, headaches, back pains, and physical weakness. Severe infections of the central nervous systems or lining of the heart may occur. Brucellosis can also cause long-lasting or chronic symptoms that include recurrent fevers, joint pain, and fatigue."

    "Brucellosis is not very common in the United States, where100 to 200 cases occur each year. But brucellosis can be very common in countries where animal disease control programs have not reduced the amount of disease among animals." (emph. added)

    "Brucella abortus is a bacterium that causes disease in cattle (and other animals), and also in humans."

    "Humans are generally infected in one of three ways: eating or drinking something that is contaminated with Brucella, breathing in the organism (inhalation), or having the bacteria enter the body through skin wounds. The most common way to be infected is by eating or drinking contaminated milk products. When sheep, goats, cows, or camels are infected, their milk is contaminated with the bacteria. If the milk is not pasteurized, these bacteria can be transmitted to persons who drink the milk or eat cheeses made it. Inhalation of Brucella organisms is not a common route of infection, but it can be a significant hazard for people in certain occupations, such as those working in laboratories where the organism is cultured. Inhalation is often responsible for a significant percentage of cases in abattoir employees. Contamination of skin wounds may be a problem for persons working in slaughterhouses or meat packing plants or for veterinarians. Hunters may be infected through skin wounds or by accidentally ingesting the bacteria after cleaning deer, elk, moose, or wild pigs that they have killed."

    "Direct person-to-person spread of brucellosis is extremely rare. Mothers who are breast-feeding may transmit the infection to their infants. Sexual transmission has also been reported. For both sexual and breast-feeding transmission, if the infant or person at risk is treated for brucellosis, their risk of becoming infected will probably be eliminated within 3 days. Although uncommon, transmission may also occur via contaminated tissue transplantation."

    The upshot of the most authoritative source available (the CDC) seems to be that although brucellosis in humans in our country is rare at this time, that status is thanks to the effort to suppress the disease in wild & domestic animals, and that in the event we allowed those safeguards to lapse, we could indeed see widespread, serious disease in humans in this country.

    The Wikipedia reference also contains a section titled "Brucellosis in humans".



    The newly-reintroduced wolves are willing & qualified, no doubt, but they are also easily distracted and (ahem) find the limited size of Yellowstone even more chaffing, and dispersal a lot easier, than do the big herds.

    The solution that will allow the larger, more-complete habitats that many of us would like to see our National Parks encompass may be to accept a 'mixed-use' and possibly 'mixed-jurisdiction' format. "Impure" Parks in the model of Europe and Alaska could lead to the habitat-preservation and restoration we want. Entities in this form may not offer a uniform or guaranteed 'wilderness experience', but they could enable us to manage very large integrated habitats.

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

    Ted,

    It's been a while since I really delved deep into the brucellosis issue, but as I recall it's pretty hard for humans to contract the disease -- which is called "Bangs Disease" in humans. If memory serves me right, they'd have to be exposed to the blood of an infected animal. Its been years since the last case of human infection in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem involving wildlife, and the instance I remember involved an elk hunter who became infected while dressing out his kill.

    Your mention of the "halo" idea could spur a thread of its very own, one I'm sure that would quickly grow lengthy. As you and many others know, Yellowstone's boundaries were politically set, not biologically, and therein lies the conflict between wildlife and livestock. The same problem can be cited at many other parks.

    In effect, the National Park System is turning into a collection of islands that one day will be genetically isolated if nothing is done to curb sprawl and ensure wildlife corridors.

    As for the size of Yellowstone's elk and bison herds, the wolves are working as hard as they can;-)

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

    How many of those cattle are grazing on federal lands which are leased at a ridiculously low price? It seems to me that those ranchers don't have much to complain about.

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

    It's tricky to be sure what we are actually dealing with, and what the possible choices are with regard to Brucellosis in Yellowstone, because both sides in the debate are untrustworthy & devious on the topic.

    Wikipedia's Brucellosis entry emphasizes that the disease transmits to humans and is serious. By inference, the more-fundamental threat to the cattle industry than the direct effects of the disease on cattle, is that infected herds would have to be destroyed, to forestall the threat of transmission to consumers.

    There is a large U.S. Centers for Disease Control Brucellosis FAQ, which shows that the situation with this disease is broader & more complex than the Yellowstone Park dispute.

    Will killing all elk & buffalo in Yellowstone free humanity (or even America) from the Brucella germ? No. It is a diverse problem, and global.

    Are the herds of Yellowstone too large? By a large margin. "Ridiculous", if the mission is to preserve a 'natural habitat'. Instead, we have effectively the "Yellowstone Elk & Buffalo Ranch".

    Would some like to see the ranching outside Yellowstone reduced or ended, so that overly-large populations of animals can be better-supported by having exclusive access to non-Park grazing lands? It does seem so.

    Are the picturesque buffalo & elk herds being managed with a view firstly to tourism-values, and only secondarily in accordance with solid wildlife science? Sure. Many visitors report that their priority in coming to the Park, is to see the elk & buffalo. More normal population levels would be more-dispersed and much less visible. People see them readily, only because they are over-crowded.

    The dominant token on this game-board appears to be the hope that by having over-large populations of these major herbivores, the chronic feed-shortage will disperse them seasonally into more & larger areas surrounding the Park, maintaining an implied pressure to treat regions surround the Park as though they are extensions of the Park ... when actually, they're not.

    This is an example of the 'halo' idea - that Parks need to be surrounded by an ever-widening 'halo'-zone which falls effectively under Park-management, even though they are not Park and may actually have long histories of other usage.

    The herds of Yellowstone ought to be a lot smaller than they are. That would greatly reduce the risk that diseased animals would travel far and thus expose domestic livestock to their disease. It would also take away a tourist-attraction (great masses of large animals in plain view), and disarm those who aim to use elk & bison to create an enlarged 'virtual' Yellowstone Park.

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

    Plain and simple, whoever wrote this editorial is an IDIOT who obviously knows nothing about the subject !! Not worth any other comments.

  • National Park Quiz 18: A Potpourri of National Park Trivia   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I think you've got me on that one, Eric. If I were the professor, I'd use weasel-speak and say decommissioned units don't count;-) Good catch.

  • National Park Quiz 18: A Potpourri of National Park Trivia   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I always thought that Mackinac Island National Park was the first NP established east of the Mississippi. Do decommissioned National Parks not count?

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

    Not to mention, that there is not a single proven case of Brucellosis being transmitted from wildlife towards cattle. This whole affair is just about fear of loss in the cattle industry. Not based on any fact.

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Getting back to Bob's orginal post, here in the Upper Midwest (which includes T.R. National Park) tourism patterns have been shifting in response to rising gas prices. It's not a simple drop in tourism. The tourism industry has been publicly saying that vistors to certain popular parts of northern Minnesota are increasing because Minnesotans are choosing to save money by traveling within their state rather than driving to, say, the Rockies. I've also heard informal reports that visitors to Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota appear to be driving their motorboats less within the Park, instead hanging out closer to their campsites. (The Park's campsites are accessible by boat only, and dispersed along the shorelines of the Park's lakes. Automobile driving is limited to the Park's approximately 10 miles of roads, and changes in internal use patterns show up more clearly in boat travel.)

    One reason why the drop in visitation at the North unit of Theodore Roosevelt might be related in part to its distance from Medora is the possibility of similar changes in in-state tourism. North Dakota locals have told me that Medora is the favored vacation spot for people in their state. If North Dakotans are trying to reduce their driving because of fuel costs, they may be trying to spend more time in and near Medora, cutting out side trips. North Dakota is one of the states that is getting hit hardest by increased fuel prices, in terms of the percentage of income that its residents spend on gasoline, so it makes sense that they'd be looking for places to cut back.

    The sad thing is that the North unit of T.R. is an incredible place to visit. People who only go to the south unit are really missing out.

  • A View from Abroad: Don't Let Tourism Overwhelm Our National Parks   6 years 2 weeks ago

    It seems our perception of wilderness changes as we become more and more urbanized and we are removed farther and farther from the wild as we become overly dependent upon technologies. To someone raised in the city a farm wood lot may seem like wilderness. I have been to the Grand Canyon several times. I have stayed in a hotel on the rim and have hiked and camped several times in the canyon. The last time I just had a couple of hours and could only visit a few viewpoints on the rim. It was disappointing. While I saw the canyon, I did not experience the canyon. i feel that is true for most visitors. I was told by a ranger that the average visit to the canyon was two hours and the time actually spent looking at the canyon was fifteen minutes. The rest of the time is in gift shops, places to eat, etc. The canyon is just one goal on a checklist. Been there done that. The comforts and luxuries available on the rim seem somewhat incongruent with the true story of the grand Canyon. I now live near Denali Park. There are many ways to experience the park. Guests can backpack in wilderness areas and never see another person. They could travel deep into the park and stay several days in one of the rustic lodges. Or they could be park of the concessionaires quick and crowded tours. I have done all three. Most guests are at the mercy of the companies that are more concerned about making a dollar than truly providing an experience that shares the ecology, history and mystery of the park. One tour goes only 17 miles into this immense wilderness environment and returns guest to gift shops, dining rooms and other places to spend money. The strip outside of Denali has become an eyesore full of expanding hotels and all that accompany them. Most visitors spend more time here than in the park. The park has become secondary and just a lure to get people to spend and spend. There has been talk of trying to build larger luxury hotels deep in the park--not to enable a greater park experience but as new way to get those with the bucks to spend to spend. People will come. people will spend and will feel they have had a wilderness experience--an experience dependent upon comfort and convenience. Thus what we view as wild is degraded. Thus we will continue to bring urban values into the wilds of our parks.
    Unfortunately it is all about money. The wilderness can provide physical, spiritual, psychological, biological gifts to those who give up the urban and meet the wilderness on its terms. But this does not bring in much in the way of dollars. These values are sacrificed. The experiences offered by most businesses associated with parks is to see how many we can get in and not the quality of the experience. I appreciate those companies that offer true encounters with the wild in the wilderness parks. Unfortunately they are relatively few and usually unable to compete with the large corporate entities. The parks and becoming little more than insignificant backdrops to a vacation of catered luxury.

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Frank;

    You're right - currency valuations and their relationships are major drivers in the oil markets and elsewhere. Fuel prices can't be accounted for properly without factoring in the strength of the dollar.

    Lone Hiker;

    So true - it's 'new game time' when the pump-lines start running down the street, and the "NO GAS" signs start going up on the pumps. And with the wild cards in play, it's a standing hazard.

    Good points, both. A complex situation ...

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   6 years 3 weeks ago

    If only there were a direct correlation between pump price and barrel price, but alas, once Big Oil Brother knows the American Sucker will tolerate a given level of gouging, the overall scenario will remain much as it currently stands, with the consumer whining but paying, and oil execs wetting their collective pants in anticipation of the next Gulf Coast storm, insurgent attack or other such nonsense as a "legitimate reason" to adjust the structure of gasoline pricing. Example: this past April the cost of a barrel of oil was the exact same as it was at the end of August. The difference to the American marketplace? August gas prices averaged over 40 cents HIGHER in August, in the time period prior to the Gustav craze. In physics, what goes up must come down due to Newton's Law. It's a shame Sir Isaac couldn't make the oil execs understand some basic theories of science. The only "science" they understand is demonstrating a well-defined ability to manipulate the economic structure of the country. Suckers are we all for fostering this practice by allowing ourselves to be bent over the table each and every time the massah cries wolf.

    And by the way Ted, the data you seek, even if available will prove to be worthless. We haven't hit the "gas line" stage in the current economy, which had a much more far-reaching impact on travel during the mid-70's than did the actual cost of the fuel. Just procuring was the issue back then, not the cost per gallon.

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Ted, you'll find valleys in the data that correspond to World War II and the 1970s oil embargo.

    the problem is probably mainly that strong demand is leaning on the production capacity

    Demand currently plays only a minor part in the overall scheme of oil prices. More of a factor in rising oil prices was the weak dollar, in which oil is traded. The dollar is rebounding against other concurrences (whose economies are now also facing recession), and we're seeing a corresponding drop in the price of oil.

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Beamis notes:

    "Oil prices fell below $106 a barrel Tuesday..."
    And a welcome trend it is! Coming near the end of the summer demand season, following speculative bidding with an eye on Hurricane Gustav (now proving to be fairly mild), and well before the winter cold season, there is strong down-pressure on crude. At the moment.

    From the President on down through the ranks - Left & Right - we are being warned that oil ain't gonna be like it used to was for long. At this point, the problem is probably mainly that strong demand is leaning on the production capacity. Not (yet) that capacity is collapsing out from under us.

    Fluctuations - a 'roller coaster' market - are exactly what's expected as oil heads for The Other Side of middle-aged. Once the real trouble starts, controlling market-oscillations, such as we are now seeing (always a nagging worry..) will be the main rodeo-act.

    I will return to the NPS stats site and see how far back the data go. If details are available for the 1973 Oil Embargo we might see something that is helpful with our present topic (the effect of fuel prices on Park visitation). However, that oil-crisis was precipitated suddenly, lasted only from October '73 to March '74, and was hurriedly patched-over.

    Still, brief & relatively anomalous as it was, it was one of our premier crises of the modern era.

  • Pruning the Parks: Delisted Over a Half-Century Ago, Fossil Cycad National Monument (1922-1956) is a Cautionary Tale   6 years 3 weeks ago

    This truly is a sad story indeed. I was born in Hot Springs and am originally from Edgemont, where I lived until 1984. Some of my fondest memories are those of searching for and looking at fossils when I was a kid ( which I still do), including those that I found in our yard. I never knew that Fossil Cycad National Monument even existed. Other fond memories were field trips to the national forest and the Dinosaur Museum. I hope to one day take my son to my "hometown" and state to see the natural beauty and history preserved there. It truly is sad that he will only be able to view what once was a National Park, by driving down the highway, choosing which window to look out of and guess where it once was.

    Nicolette

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   6 years 3 weeks ago

    "Personal technology" -- cell phone, GPS unit, iPod, etc. -- in national parks doesn't disturb me nearly as much as loaded firearms would.

    Claire @ http://travel-babel.blogspot.com

  • Grammar Vigilantes Busted in Grand Canyon National Park, Barred from Park System   6 years 3 weeks ago

    In reply to Mr. Quadivich about where the money from fines goes. This is a goo d question and one that many people might ask regarding the fines paid for citations rangers hand out for speeding, resource damage, etc. The fact is, none of the money goes to the parks or to the NPS. All fines go to the Crime Victims Fund maintained by the Justice Department. The money is the made available vis grants to many organizations nationwide that help crime victims. So, unlike many local and state police departments, there is no financial incentive for the NPS to issue tickets.