Recent comments

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    "If [National Park Service units] had been managed by other public agencies, they would have been logged, roaded, grazed, mined, drilled, and open to ORVs."

    The NPS has conducted mining in national parks. Check out a satellite image of an open-pit mine in the side of a cinder cone at Lava Beds National Monument. The National Park Service mined (still mines?) cinders here. A satellite tour of other national parks will reveal more mining operations conducted by the NPS. They will also reveal toxic waste storage in a variety of NPS junkyards.

    Roads? Search for roads at the NPS site, and you'll get 14,700 hits. As for "roaded", 8,500 miles of roads, including 1,736 bridges and 67 tunnels, slice through national parks.

    Logged? Well, cutting a 1,500 year-old giant sequoia to protect a 50 year-old cabin, which the NPS did in Sequoia National Park, might not count as logging, but it might be arguably worse. Does removing trees to build parking lots, visitor centers, and other facilities and then selling the wood in the campground count as logging?

    The NPS uses ORVs at least in one national seashore and allows ORVs in several national recreation areas.

    I could continue, but won't.

    My point is not to tear down the NPS, but to urge all of us to remove our rose-colored glasses when viewing governmental land management. National parks are far from pristine, and the NPS has played a major role in facilitating their degradation. My first few seasons, my coworkers and I berated the Forest Service believing the NPS was far superior. I discovered that many USFS areas provide a far more natural experience than parks, and that the NPS isn't perfect, which is evidenced by the current state of national parks. The system is highly political, and this affects preservation.

    If anyone doubts how highly politicized the NPS has become, check out this graph showing the establishment of NPS units by type and year. You'll find that far more NPS sites were created during election years (to curry favor in home districts in the hopes of reelection). And if you check out this graph, you'll see that non-"national park" and non-"national monument" (such as national recreation areas, national historic sites, etc.) consume over 60% of the NPS operating budget.

    So all those expensive (in terms of visitor to cost ratio) sites, such as Golden Spike and Steamtown, which have questionable historical integrity or national significance, are draining resources from Yosemite, Yellowstone, and our other national treasures. Turning some of those over to state park systems or non-profits could help save our national parks.

  • Who Visits Alaska's National Parks?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I am saving & planning, to spend several months in Interior Alaska, to see whether it could work for me to move there. Possibly over this winter.

    In the past, I worked as a logger first on Kuiu Island then at Hobart Bay, in Southeast Alaska.

    On Kuiu, wolf-packs would position themselves close to the edge of camp (a tiny town), then 'on cue' cut loose with a tremendous din of yipping & squealing and weird noises - trying to lure camp-dogs out into the timber. Unrestrained dogs would often dash immediately for them, and those indoors or tied would struggle to get loose. Dog-owners ran frantically to secure their pets. Those who made it into the brush were considered good as dead.

    The Alexander Archipelago of Alaska is especially wilderness-like, even where it is not protected. Other parts of Alaska, I understand, share a good measure of this. The Olympic Peninsula, my home, has a taste of this, and I might like a larger helping.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Having seen, first hand, hundreds of cars parked at Cape Point in rows, I can attest to the validity of the photo you've called into question. It is no exaggeration and I have no doubt the photo has not been altered. Your suggestion of some devious manipulation is, itself, somewhat scurrilous. Check out the photos on the website of The Island Free Press and other websites that overtly oppose restricting ORV driving on our national treasurer.

    I have to agree with "Anonymous", that "[t]he ORV groups at Cape Hatteras are a crass bunch that has insisted on 24/7 access to all portions of the seashore." I spent some time at Cape Hatteras earlier this summer and, curious about the all the silly road-side signs that appear randomly along Hwy 12, I initiated conversation with several locals about the beach-driving issue. I was shocked at how ridiculous and misinformed some locals are. For example, the check-out staff at an Avon grocery store insisted the environmental groups' true intention is to close the CHNSS beaches to all human access, permanently, forever.

    People need to know that not all local residents agree with the loud and threatening proponents of unrestricted beach driving. I brought the issue up about 7 times during my visit. In 2 conversations, the locals seemed overly angry about having beach driving restrictions of any kind. But on 3 separate occasions, the locals, out of earshot of others, expressed quiet support for the wildlife protection efforts. Of these, 2 long-time residents and merchants expressed fear of the unlimited-access proponents who, apparently, are threatening and intimidating locals who openly disagree with them. A couple of merchants refused to speak about it and were visably uncomfortable when I brought the subject up. It happened twice -- one store clerk just walked off hurriedly, disappearing into the back of his store. One check-out clerk said nothing, stared down nervously as she made change and handed me my fishing bait. (Yes, I surf fish, but I walk to the beach and my fishing spot!)

    It is obvious Dare County and the ORV groups who oppose NPS's current efforts to protect CHNSS's natural resources are doing so for their own self-serving benefit and gain. They seem to forget the national park is for any and all who visit the park -- not just the ORV-driving few. They ignore the fact that the Park's mission to protect wildlife and its habitat is paramount to recreation. They also fail to acknowledge that driving on Cape Hatteras National Seashore remains illegal in the absence of a management plan, in spite of the consent decree -- a consent decree that all parties, including the counties and ORV groups, negotiated and agreed to. The deplorable methods they are using to further their own self interests reveal the extremes of selfishness and ignorance. They seem to hold no regard for non-driving users of park, for the creatures that need the Seashore to exist, or for the future generations of humans and animals (if they happen to survive) who will be forever harmed by its destruction and loss.

  • Climber Dies In Accident In Grand Teton National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I wonder how those people drowned at Hoosier Dunes....were they wearing life vests? Was alcohol involved? Were they in an area they shouldn't have been? Fill us in anon. The adventurous souls who lost thier lives on the Grand no doubt were doing what they loved... a highly skilled activity. No doubt there are idiots who try and climb the tetons who have no business being there, but for the most part those that climb there certainly know what they're doing. I'd dare to say a good number of us who visit this site would salute those (and all) souls who died on that mountain, and respect the type of individual who pusues such activity. I've lived in the south and I've lived in Jackson, and let me just say this...nope never mind. I think my message is clear.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    why would people park there cars right on the edge of a beach?no common sense perhaps?

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    "What would be the reaction if the National Park Service only oversaw "national parks," ie the 58 units that carry that distinction? What if some/most of the other 333 properties were spun off, some back to the states, some to NGOs, some to the National Trust for Historic Preservation? Give the NRAs and national preserves to the BLM; that's surely a better fit, and perhaps even the national seashores."

    This is a horrible idea. And I'm appalled that many commenters here support it. Despite the problems, National Park System units are managed WAY better than any other federal land units and almost all state lands. They are permanent, unlike any private or corporate arrangement. And they have a longer proven record of continuous protection than any other public or private land systems.

    The Forest Service and BLM are disasters -- they're rapidly ruining the lands under their "management." We should be taking lands away from them and adding them to the National Park System. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows a wide array of destructive activities. Many of our wildlife refuges should also be transferred to the National Park System.

    The idea of privatizing ANY public lands is totally unacceptable. If you want to see the results of a mostly privatized landscape, take a look at Maine Woods, where conservationists have been working to create a new national park to save the area from private developers and corporations that are clearcutting, subdividing, and developing remote wildlands. The only reason our parks are still intact today is that they were under National Park Service protection. If they had been private they would be long gone. If they had been managed by other public agencies, they would have been logged, roaded, grazed, mined, drilled, and open to ORVs.

    It's a sad day when people who are supposed to be national park supporters are openly talking about decommissioning parks and turning them over to anti-preservation federal agencies, state governments, or private interests. The National Park Service and park system clearly need to be revitalized. So let's do it. But we should not even consider dismantling or gutting a system of park units that took more than a century to create.

    On the contrary, we should be greatly expanding our National Park System. Just look to the north at Canada, or at other countries that are creating new parks. Argentina, Australia, China, Denmark, French Guiana, Gabon, Iceland, and Russia have all created new national parks in just the last few years -- ironically, many with the help of American conservation organizations. Meanwhile, the American national park movement is not only stalled, it's going backwards.

    But there is hope. There is a new generation of grassroots activists across the country who are advocating the creation of new national parks. They are proposing new or expanded national park units to save not only the Maine Woods, but also West Virginia’s Blackwater Canyon, Utah’s Glen Canyon, Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument and Tejon Ranch, Oregon’s Mount Hood, Washington’s Mount St. Helens, and other extraordinary places. This would save millions of acres of endangered wildlands. We should be supporting their positive vision and helping them in their efforts.

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    A year from now few if any people will know or remember that this was a gift from Toyota. Most people will view it as another government vehicle. When I was at Hagerman Fossil Beds earlier this year they had two Toyota Prius's in the parking lot of the visitor center. I have no idea if they were bought by the government or were a gift from Toyota. All I know is with the better fuel economy they are not spending as much of their budget on gas as they would have if they were using another type of vehicle.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 2 weeks ago


    As I understand it, the main distortion-effect of a long telephoto lens is to shorten the apparent depth of field, and it happens uniformly all around the lens.

    If telephotos caused a side-to-side compression, things would always look taller & skinnier than they should ('weird'), when viewed through a telephoto, but they don't: vertical & horizontal proportions are normal, through a telephoto.

    The effect visible in this photograph isn't the normal side effect of any conventional lens: it took effort to achieve this distortion. We should view a larger version of the image: The oddness will really stand out ... as will the questions.

  • Saguaro National Park Officials Considering Use of Microchips To Slow Theft of Namesake Cactus   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Geez, thieves will steal anything ...


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Jim Macdonald,

    You raise several important cautions about the current crop of 'creative' income-generators Parks are working out with corporations.

    Conservatives like to say, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance". That's really true about a lot of things in life ... and in the National Parks. Rarely can we make a single-shot investment to create a certain arrangement, and expect our achievement to remain as-is without further effort ... without monitoring, reassessing, and generally remaining vigilant.

    Privatization of Parks is a worry many respond to. Funding can be arranged with the private corporate sector, though, without putting Parks under private control. We have to stay on our toes, sure - but that's something life demands of us anyway.

    When a girl reaches puberty, it's a wonderful thing. Sure, it could lead to teenage pregnancy. One day, her new-found sexuality could lead her into a relationship with a man who abuses her. She could end up having to drag her children through the trauma of divorce ... and it all started with puberty ... the gift of sexuality.

    Does that categorize puberty as something we shouldn't let get started? Does the chance that things could - and in some case will - go bad further down the road puberty set us upon, mean that we condemn it? Of course not.

    We do have to keep an eye on relationships between Parks and corporations. In addition to the good that can come of it, there are risks. Occasionally there may be improprieties ... it's unrealistic to expect there wouldn't be.

    Overall, though, sensibly-crafted agreements with corporations can be good thing. There is nothing in the deals with Toyota, Canon or Coca-Cola that locks us to a privatized outcome. There are risks in this general course, but they are manageable and we are alert to possible adverse outcomes. That's more than half the battle.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I completely agree that beach driving and wildlife protection can co-exist, but it's not a question of the environmental groups' willingness to negotiate. The ORV groups at Cape Hatteras are a crass bunch that has insisted on 24/7 access to all portions of the seashore. They will not permit pedestrian only areas or wildlife areas as have been proposed in the negotiated rulemaking. And they chaffe at every single seasonal restriction that the Park Service tries to impose to protect nesting species. They want an ORV corridor through areas where there are chicks on the ground, significantly increasing the chance that native shorebirds and sea turtles can get run over.

    The environmental groups want about 12 miles of 67 closed during the breeding season from April 1 to around August 15 as scientists recommend. They will even allow an ORV corridor in these areas so long as the US Fish and WIldlife Service recommended buffers for nests allow room for one. When there are chicks running around, vehicle use should stop in those areas for the few weeks it takes chicks to fledge. The environmental groups want night driving restricted during turtle season -- a commonplace regulation at most every other seashore. That's it.

    So yeah, there can be balance. There can be ORV use on most of the seashore year round. But what will the ORV groups accept to protect wildlife during the breeding season? So far the answer is a big fat nothing.

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Toyota has been making fuel efficient cars that are as reliable as cars come for since the "green" movement was in its infant stages. American car companies could learn a lot from Toyota and it shows as sales of all American cars keep slipping and Toyotas and Hondas increase. I recently was in the market for a used car and was looking for an Accord or Camry. They were few and far between. The majority of what was for sale? American Gas Guzzlers.

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Thanks Kurt for raising the issue. I'm a little surprised by the comments - how much they've changed in the last year when the privatization of parks was a hot topic and almost anything that smacked of privatization was met with suspicion.

    It is a slippery slope to suggest that some Prius's - the car du jour - will open the floodgates toward privatization of parks. And, right now, I doubt people know that Coca-Cola has been donating money, that Canon has a protography project in the park (the live streaming webcam of Old Faithful being one example of their work), and I know I must be leaving out a half dozen other high profile corporate partners in Yellowstone. So, it seems relatively harmless.

    However, the worry of privatization remains. As foundations have to depend more and more for grants and funding on proposals to the philanthropy wing of a corporation, philanthropy arms that have specific strings attached to accepting any proposal, then those who control the funding, ultimately control the product. Non-profit after non-profit already has to contend with this - we can see for instance how the Gates Foundation is to the philanthropy world what Microsoft is to the corporate world (they have specific expectations, they are the main funder of so many non-profits, and so they ultimately figure out how to control the agenda - I speak in this case from firsthand experience). The more that funding is dependent on the desires of the corporations who give the money, then the more we have room for worry here.

    This gift is relatively meaningless as is; the question is in any gifts of this type whether it's considered the first step toward more. More sounds like a good thing, but it's not necessarily a good thing. We are probably a long way from "Toyota presents, 'Old Faithful,'" but we are increasingly seeing the welding of government power and corporate power in the parks, and that will make it all the harder to fight the abuses. When the bottom line comes from a large company instead of the public, then watch out. What happens with bioprospecting (an issue in Yellowstone that has been dormant the past year) agreements, for instance? Are we not to believe that this won't have some influence on policy?

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

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I see absolutely no problem with this. A eco-friendly vehicle in a National Park is fantastic ! Keep them coming.

    If large signs or banners were involved, I would feel differently but that is not the case here. The NP symbol and the mural totally overshadow any small Toyota acknowledgement. The only sad thing I see about this is that an American corporation has not seen fit to meet the eco-friendly needs of America. Thank you Toyota !

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    The other important point to remember is that this photo was taken (by earlier posted info) on a Memorial Day Weekend. OF COURSE the beaches are more crowded on any holiday weekend. The first picture is MUCH more like my experiences over the past 25 years of visiting CHNSRA 4 or 5 times a year.

    Thank you also for presenting a fair and balanced account of the problem.

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Take the money and run? No, take the money, send out a press release, thank Toyota in public and invite the media for a handover envent with photo op. Toyota is doing it right. The amount doesn't hurt them and their cars will be very visible in the most spectacular park.

    The park gets the funds for his education program and the means to get from here to there.

    So what's wrong? The wrong thing is, that Congress does not fund the parks according to their needs - so they have to lean on outside partners. Because that creates dependencies. Not this one sponsorship, but in the long run.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Ted, that is just the effect of a large telephoto lens. The second picture was made from a long distance away with a SLR camera and a long (300+, probably more) lens. Pictures with those lenses show a very narrow angle and that looks like it condenses space. But there is no doctoring, no deciet, just an optical law. If you look at the shadows you see that the beach was crowded and that the cars had not much more space between them than on the parking lot of a WalMart.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    A couple important points stand out about the lower image at the top of the post. One, there is a fence on the sand a short way back from the surf-line, and all the vehicles are on the water side of the fence. There are no vehicle tracks in the sand inland from the fence. 'Out of control'? It would appear the vehicles are actually firmly controlled.

    Second, the image is squashed sideways, to make the scene look more crowded than it actually was.

    Look at the width of the vehicles that are face-on to the camera, especially the car driving the fence-line: it's too tall & too skinny. Vehicles that are sideways to the camera are too short, the wheels too close together, and again, they're too tall.

    If this is Southern Environmental Law Center's picture, I think they have some explaining to do. This image has been modified to make it look like the vehicle-presence was denser than it actually was. This sort of distortion can be done with an exotic camera-lens, but today it is of course simple to alter images digitally.

    Kurt, do you have a larger version of this picture? It appears to be deceitful, and it may have been intentional. A larger version would make it easier to tell just how it was altered.

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    For a corporation to provide largess to a National Park isn't necessary green-washing, or "wonderful".

    For example, the 5 rigs that Toyota provided weren't Ford or another U.S. maker, they were Toyota, right? Of course. That's called "product placement".

    Corporations - automakers leading the pack - pay fancy money to have their product placed & used where it will be seen by large numbers of consumers known to have discretionary income. Park-visitors qualify as preferred advertising-targets. The money & cars provided to Yellowstone are consistent with other advertising-via-product-placement transactions.

    Don't just take the money and run: Butter Toyota all up one side & down the other. Flout it in Ford's face. Stay alert for other product-placement opportunities, and when one presents itself, approach the relevant industry and put it to them.

    Toyota isn't looking for something else out of Yellowstone. There is no compromise-gimmick that will make it's embarrassing appearance the morning after. Toyota already has what it came to Yellowstone for: It's most glamorous, green and fuel-efficient model (the Prius) prominently paraded in front of hordes of nice vacationers who are burning gasoline and driving cars in order to enjoy the environment in the premier American National Park.

    Toyota will write the whole thing off as part of the perfectly-normal advertising budget that it is.

  • Is the National Park Service Obligated to Better Promote Proposed Change in Gun Regulations?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    cwp holders should be allowed to carry any where,all you jurlnist think you speak for everyone but the ones that cause problems in parks don' usually use guns to kill you with,there knives,rock ,sticks, even cliff you going to keep all that out also get real . atleast we should have the right to protect ourselves

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Don't just take the money & run. Take the money in the spirit it seems to be offered. After all, the Prius HAS been a major step in the right direction. If any car company doesn't deserve to be marginalized by claims of 'Greenmail", it's Toyota. How about Dodge, what have they done for the park lately? I also don't see how this let's Congress off the hook either. Their job is to fund the Parks as they are supposed to. Why would it be ok to have a political governance that can't fulfill it's own mandates? They should be embarassed if anything. So, please, take the money & be thankful for the nice show of Corporate conscience, something that seems to be sadly lacking in so many of our homegrown capitalist entities.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker is on to something, and that is the removal of the government/corporate relationship that exists in national park lodging. How much money could parks retain for soap and clean toilets in campgrounds if more than 2% of your $550 a night went to the park instead of large multinational corporations that have been granted a monopoly by a taxpayer funded government agency?

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I say take the money and run. This is really no different, at least in my mind, of when John Rockefeller made a contribution of $5 Million that helped fund the purchase of lands that eventually became Great Smoky Mountains N.P.

    Several of the early eastern parks were made possible by philanthropic donations.

    If Yellowstone was forced to put Toyota billboards next to Old Faithful, then yes, I definitely would have a problem with that arrangement. But I don't think we're losing anything by allowing corporations to make donations to public institutions.


  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    With the economy sinking as fast as it is with no bright light at the end of the tunnel: Take the money and run. That's my opinion. $800,000 can go a long way towards doing something fabulous.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Rangertoo is saying something we need to keep hearing over and over again: no fees !

    NPS right now feels it has no choice but to accept them or face either bankruptcy or wholesale abandonment of the Mission. But for very little money Parks could be supported without the fees. The whole fee idea is just one more way ideologues are trying to split parks from the people and make them dependent upon a commercial constituency.

    These guys who think this way are on automatic pilot, and they inflict their ideology on everyone in every situation. One of the ways the Iraq situation got so messed up is these guys went into Iraq to privatize the banks (the White House head of domestic staff was sent to Iraq to so redirect Iraqi banking), the oil companies, transportation etc. It was no surprise that they abandoned the protection of Iraqi antiquities or government offices.

    Also, Kurt, on your point on concessions, of course the United States should help underwrite the kind of concessions all Americans can afford. American's need to experience these places, and it should be national policy to help them experience the parks.

    I am not against them providing some high-end accomodations to help subsidize the rest, provided that the Elite receives no other special benefits of access to the park. Address overuse through reservations, not pricing policy.