Recent comments

  • Odes to the National Park Rangers Who Wear the Grey and Green   6 years 1 week ago

    Frank, is the problem really one of recruiting subtandard employees, or is it the absence of training, auditing, and mentoring?

    If it's the former, how does the NPS as a Federal agency rise above the plethora of restrictions and preferences placed on hiring and pormotion of women and minorities that now prevails throughout the Federal government, and beyond? Certainly, the NPS can recruit the best of the best minority candidates to achieve the over-arching goal of building a professional staff that is diversified in gender and ethnic background to reflect the fact that the NPS and our parks are for all Americans, not just white males.

    In my era, the NPS worked hard to hire the best of the best candidates, even for seasonal positions. There was a strong preference for candidates with an academic background in the natural, geological, and cultural sciences. Experience as a professional educator was given a high priority for seasonal hiring. Law enforcement procedures and interpretive techniques were part of on-the-job training. Guided walks, formal presentations, and evening programs were audited frequently and evaluated often.

    We were also encouraged to audit the programs of our peers. Observation of excellence in the performance of one's colleagues was incentive in and of itself to achieve a high standard in one's own work as a ranger-naturalist. Of course, positive feed-back from the public helped greatly in that regard as well.

    However, if the problem is mostly due to a decline in NPS training, auditing and mentoring of newly hired employees, then I wonder what has happened within the NPS structure to allow a culture of apathy to flourish? Regardless of the organization, there are two fundamental objectives of management: (1) to maintain standards of performance, and (2) to demonstrate to staff that management cares about them and the effectiveness of their product.

    Could it be that the performance expectations of us former NPS'ers are that different from the general public? My friend, PJ Ryan, editor of the newletter Thunderbear, once said, "The primary reason why interpretation in the NPS has experienced a decline over the decades is that no one has ever sued because they experienced a substandard presentation by a park ranger."

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 1 week ago

    Will someone please provide one scientific reason, backed by real data, to support the extreme closures dictated by the consent decree? I'm not asking for answers such as pristine wilderness, protected seashore, lazy fishermen, loud ORVs, blah blah blah. Give me one real reason to destroy a tradition that has been in place at Cape Hatteras for many decades. Show me one piece of scientific data that proves any animal species is in danger of becoming extinct due to ORV access at Cape Hatteras. The Interim Plan provided more than adequate protection for shore birds and turtles while providing reasonable access to some of the best fishing locations on the east coast. A return to that plan would not be detrimental to the wildlife on the island. The vast majority of ORV users on the island care deeply about conservation. There can be a compromise. Should the wildlife be protected? Absolutely. The consent decree, however, attempts to proctect a handful of birds (some of which are neither endangered nor threatened) through restrictions that go far beyond what is reasonable. I would argue that it has not and will not help the birds at all.

  • NPS Retirees Oppose Carrying Guns in National Parks   6 years 1 week ago

    Could be that maybe one of those fools who are permitted to carry, might just save your life one day.

  • Visiting the Parks: Yellowstone National Park's Shoshone Lake   6 years 1 week ago

    Thanks so much for writing about bats, Kurt. I actually do mention bats in one of my essays in almost just the way you do - as part of a story to suggest that Yellowstone needs new myths, that those myths need to consider what's not being written about.

    It's really neat to read this story about bats, especially in a way that makes them stand out. Prior to this, my dominant memory of Shoshone Lake was being nearly devoured by mosquitoes.

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

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 1 week ago

    Can someone give me one damn good reason why a well managed motorized tram system that fits well ecologically with the Cape wouldn't work? Instead of being wall to wall with ORV's, we could have good spacial geography between acquired fishing posts...and with better visibility. We could have connecting cabs (like say ten light connected cabs to a jeep) to a good in Yosemite. Drop offs and pick ups could be at pre-designated locations which can discussed with the local citizens of Cape Hatteras (and with pro access groups) and the National Park Service. To prevent over crowding, set up a quota system to prevent massive crunch time during peak tourist season. Is possible to set up such a tram system that could be beneficial to wildlife with less human impact on the shoreline and yet still provide the visitor with a quality fishing experience...and with less intrusive motorized traffic on the shoreline. Basically, the theme is to think green! In regards to your comments Stephen C., this is not a "eco-nazi" plot to throw you out of your ORV, but a proposal that might instigate some kind of environmental change that could be beneficial to man and wildlife without all sharp provocative forces clashing who owns the Cape.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 1 week ago

    The true impact of the consent decree will not be felt until next year. The agreement was reached May 1st, after many reservations were already made. The increase in occupancy tax revenues quoted in the article is inflated by Dare Counties increased efforts to collect the tax from private homeowners, which is where the majority of the increase comes from.

    The impact of the Judicial Consent decree that limited beach access at Cape Hatteras National Seashore is having a major and direct impact on park usage and the local economy. According to National Park Service information total visits to the park were down by 144,548 visits in June 2008, or over 20%. Total visits to the park have declined by almost 15% for the total year. (1)
    According to the NC Dept of Revenue, the state taxable revenue reported in Dare County in the May period declined by 16% ($11.8M) compared to May 2007. For the same period Hyde county Revenue was down 15%. During the same time period taxable revenue for the state of North Carolina did not decline (2)

    Walking and ORV beach access are major attractions for visitors to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The unnecessary limits put in place by the consent decree are now having a dramatic impact on the park usage and the local economy.

    · June Park visitor access downs 20.92%

    · June Park Service campground usage down 24%

    · Vehicles on Bodie Island down 27% in June

    No other National Park in the area experienced such a significant decline.

    Visits to Wright Brothers National Memorial are up 8.26% year to year. (3)

    Visit to Blue Ridge Parkway National Park are only down 3.7% year to year. (4)


    (1) Cape Hatteras National Seashore Monthly Public Use Report,

    (2) NC Department of Revenue, Monthly Sales and Use Tax Statistics for the Fiscal Year


    b. Dare County Taxable Sales: May 2008 = $64.2M, May 2007 = $76.1M. ("May data reflects sales primarily in April.." which was the first month of ORV and Beach walker restrictions )

    (3) Wright Brothers National Memorial Monthly Public Use Report

    (4) the Blue Ridge Parkway National Park Monthly Public Use Report

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 1 week ago

    ATTN PHIL G and the REST of the uniformed:

    To all here who state their opinions the Pro Access people are the ones who do not use lies to get our stories told. We can and will show you scientific studies and real data that will and does refute any and all claims by the special interest suing groups. In fact I can point you to all the data you want using the NPS/CAHA website, But I am sure that you will hold your hands over your ears and start screaming so your brain will not be poisened by the truth. I am sure the you PHIL G live greener than any human alive, but to insure your comments are true why dont you post your address , occupation, and please include pictures of your bicycle you use to coomute to your job. I also would like for you to stop putting everyone in the same group I for one have no need for welfare, but unlike you I would like my kids to be able to see the world while not sitting in a sealed glass container. ... lets see you prove your side with scientific data.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 1 week ago

    @Tommy Linday: It is sad to hear about your back and I wish you well. And I understand that you would like to go to remote places despite your condition and need an all terrain motorized vehicle for that. But please understand that your wish is unreasonable in a National Seashore. Please accept that with age and illnesses all of us have to say goodbye to some activities we could do in our youth and can't anymore. It is not acceptable to demand that the public has to allow us each and every action we wish to compensate for our individual limits. Motorized access to undeveloped parts of the shore line is not consistent with the dedication of a National Seashore and must be phased out.

    And to all who complain about the hardship for business owners: Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a national park. It is the duty of its administration to run it to the benefit of the nation and the general public. Not for the local community. As business owners: Be happy to make business with visitors, give your input to the administration, but do not expect the park to be run according to your percieved needs. It is a national park, not your backyard.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 1 week ago

    Dr. Mike Berry speaks the truth here, unbiased! Go to Island Free Press also an unbiased editor and read the truth.

    Now, my turn to say a few things.

    Who are any of you to tell me what I can drive and how much gas I can burn. Why don't you walk to work and save the fuel for the farmers to grow your food? Yes, I farm. I burn hundreds of gallons of fuel to feed you and a few more thousand just like you! Want to know what burns me? Driving 200 miles one way and I can not get on the beach after working my rear off all week to feed you! Opps, someone forgot to tell most of you uninformed non-resident, non-hatteras supporting, eco-nazis that you can not even walk on the beach where there are closures. Let me say it again. You can not walk on the beach where there are closures. Got it! If you wanted to walk three miles down the beach to fish where the fish are biting or just to sight see you can not do it. Again most of you do get that it is not about a handful of birds and turtles. It is about driving on the beach. Get your PhD in science before passing judgement. Want to here the something sad? These eco-nazis have have forced the National Park Service to kill hundreds of other animals so less than a dozen birds can mate on the beach. Look and you will find the pictures all over the internet of uniformed NPS employees with shotguns in hand on our great Cape Hatteras National Recreational Park killing foxes, racoons, opposums and such. Your special interest groups are playing God and are killers not environmentalist! DOW SELC and Audobon are killers!

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 1 week ago

    Just so you all know, the new bridge allready has funds allocated for it from ncdot pending ongoing lawsuites from DOW, SELC and Audobon for public lands they think they own.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Phil G:

    Addressing your comments, sir, I say this:

    -How does the "link to a fishing message board" effect the content of an editorial written by a local journailst? Mrs. Nolan clearly defines both sides of the issue for consideration. Find the original article for yourself.

    -ORV access is written into the original charter of the CHNSRA. Read the above.

    -The same people whom you deride for driving on the beach, wasting war-concerned oil will simply drive elsewhere than Hatteras, leaving local businesses in financial ruin, burning said fuel elsewhere. Again, see above. Do you not own a fossil fuel burning car/scooter/furnace/stove yourself for personal convenience? I would assume that you have a reason to travel, and/or accept goods and services through means of such travel as provided by fossil fuel burning devices. Do you attack them in the same manner? Doubtful.

    -No one expects a handout, as you so wrongly suggest. Just adequate beach access ALONG WITH species proteciton, but not human species elimination.

    Educate yourself before you choose sides.


  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Tommy, I have back problems too and it's sever but I do walk and hike. It's part of the back therapy program. However, would you give up your ORV and take a convenient small tram system to your fishing destination at Hatteras, if such a system could be provided with good ecological planning and sound management?

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    The business and people should have know this was coming. just as we all know the Bonner Bridge will be gone over
    the next 5 to 10 years and they wont replace it because of the enviros. After the next Isabel plows
    thur the area and washes the road out for the 15 million times. the place is disolete its like a closer artic circle just not as cold.
    I visit there about 20 times a year all thoughout the year. It's a beautiful place for sure. The fishing and surfing is outstanding but
    at what cost to the tax payer. A new bridge will cost 100 of millions and millions of dollars at what cost is it prohibitive to have
    access. Have a tax increase of the islanders???? I know Id be pi^%$off if I lived in chapel hill and had to pay taxes on a bridge that
    I would never use or see, only for going on vacation .The cost per island resident would be about 300,000,per resident oh and for vacationers
    tax the vacation home owners? The free lunch is over it you want it you write the check my checks are gone..... to pay the stimulus
    to the poor. out

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Yeah well.....try walking the beach in 2 years when it IS CLOSED TO PEDESTRIAN ACCESS TOO!!
    You are all being mislead into thinking you will still have pedestrian access. You will not! Furthermore, walk the beaches 3 months ago and tell me there was sufficient access. What you dont know is that a large portion of the beaches are open but the access ramps are closed so you cant get to those "open" sections....hence the warcry - "free and open access" Can't have free without the open! Open your eyes!!! You are being made a fool of!

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Yep Phil, I did it, and and I'll bet ya want to know why? Well I'll tell ya. I did it for my kid. With all the negative influences our children are exposed to these days like MTV poluting their minds, peer pressures at school and general madness of knowing their futures aint as bright as ours were promised to us. Spending quality time with our families is more important now than ever.
    Using an ORV to access the beaches on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area is how I spend my quality time with my child two weeks a year, once in the spring and once in the fall every year since she was old enough to walk, she will start high school this year. ORV use, surf fishing and bird watching, in my opinion aint a bad way to raise a kid these days, teaching our children about nature, species and plant identification and a heathly respect for our enviroment is a heck of a lot better than planting them in front of a TV, or just giving them some money and letting them run loose in a mall somewhere.
    I cant even count the times over the years that my daughter has had to educate pedestrians on the proper use of our seashore and areas where they are allowed and not allowed.
    Proper use of an ORV on Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area is a benefit to wildlife, without it the place would look like a landfill.
    The prevailing currents that made the Outer Banks bring trash and debris from cargo ships and dumping off the seashore to the area, With out volunteers with ORV's the wildlife would have no beach to nest on and thrive, because NPS, Autobum and DOW sure aint gonna do it, thats a fact.
    Just because someone drives an ORV on the beach that does not make them an anti-enviro, or evil, far from it. You might just find that they care more than you.

    BTW, we love to watch black skimmers on the north end of Orcacoke, their so cool!

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    You have no clue. I for one have degenerative back disease. For me and my 9 year old daughter to fish, I would need to walk 4 miles, carrying fishing equipment, umbrellas, cooler (No alchohol), etc. I guess you have never been to Hatteras island to make such an asinine comment. Check your premise, you, like DOW, Audobon, SELC obviously have an ulterior motive. OR, are you one who would prefer mankind die off and leave earth to the Animals?

    Editor: The closing end of this comment was deleted for its unneeded harshness. While the Traveler welcomes the debate over this issue, the hope is that that debate can be conducted without directly and needlessly attacking others.

  • Odes to the National Park Rangers Who Wear the Grey and Green   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Here's to that Ranger just the other week, at the Camp Siberia Shelter in Olympic National Park who traded me honest to goodness to die for chocolate for a few hands full of GORP while the wind howled and the rain fell sideways.
    Here's to that Ranger who opened the door a half hour early in answer to my banging so that I could get a Bear Canister (free rental) because I just could not wait to get on the trail.
    My list goes back a little less than 50 years of camping and backpacking in Our National Parks,
    ...back to that first Ranger who took the time to answer a child's millions of questions all day long (what bug is this!)

  • Second Black Bear Euthanized In Yellowstone National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Bravo Ted! It could not have been said better. I think that all of the bear and elk jams in Yellowstone and other parks certainly qualify as an unnatural human-induced circus. Frankly these situations frighten me way more than walking in known grizzly habitat. Your point is well taken and one not usually put forward in this forum.

    Your insights are a welcome addition. I look forward to more of your musings and observations which definitely extend beyond the normal fare of green-tinted left-leaning eco-environmental sentimentalism that seems to predominate among those who support and use national parks. Again bravo, keep the insights coming.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Don't pay any attention to the above comments. This story was linked to a fishing message board and now they are all dumping their trash here. Cape Hatteras is a lovely place, but you don't need an SUV to enjoy it. Go out there and you will see hundreds of people driving all over the place. The country is in an oil crisis and a war and all they are worried about is being able to waste hundreds of dollars in their gas guzzling vehicles to go fishing. They stake claim to it with all the indignity of a welfare queen waiting for their monthly check.

  • Second Black Bear Euthanized In Yellowstone National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Kurt asks:

    But what happens to the bears if they don't have the habitat protections of a national park?

    There are some parts of Yellowstone that are simply off-limits to humans so as not to interfere with grizzlies. Should more limits be instituted?

    Black bears thrive in many parts of North America, without exclusionary habitat protection - without prohibiting human access. Black bears share the landscape with humans across much of our rural terrain. Nothing bad is happening to these populations, due to lack of human-excluding protections (on the contrary!).

    Grizzlies are at least a bit different case, yes, but experience in Alaska encourages us to hope that cohabitation - sharing the land - is not so unreasonable in their case either.

    The essential difference with grizzlies in Alaska, and in many rural conterminous regions with black bear, is that they are hunted. When bear are hunted, the cubs are taught that humans are to be avoided. This probably lasts for at least a few generations after the last negative experience with humans. It is not necessary to reduce the population (it is not even necessary that the hunting be fatal or injurious). In fact, they can actually overpopulate and still remain very wary of humans, if even light hunting activity continues.

    But when all hunting-conditioning ceases, then we have what is observed in the high country of the Olympic National Park: bears begin to regard humans as an inert feature on the landscape. They have no fear or concern about us. The question is, is this the final, stable state in the bears' changing response to humans?

    The sad answer is, not likely. Instead, bears will (individually, at first) continue to 'probe the resource' - meaning humans, and everything about them. They will push & explore the envelope, and this will lead to outcomes that will not be accepted. If a bear learns a valuable behavior - through human negligence or its own insistent investigations - and that animal reproduces, it will one day take the young to teach them what it has found to be of value.

    Wildlife managers across America are now to some degree sitting on a powder keg, with respect to bear & cougar that are insufficiently wary of humans. Exactly to what degree and how long & fast the fuse might be, is the subject of much speculation & disagreement.

    We do bears no favors, to let them reach a state in which they languidly lick blueberries while we fill our cameras. Just as it is our responsibility to instruct our pets that highways and automobiles are dangerous, the same ethic really applies to the conditioning of wild carnivores, that humans are the dominant predator the world over, and that to regard them in any other way - as a potential resource - is a dire mistake.

    Ultimately, if we exclude all humans from Parks, in the hopes that bears will not have to be trained to fear humans, they will naturally disperse beyond the Parks and begin spreading across the country, unaware that humans are different from any other medium-sized mammal.

    Yellowstone Park killed this most recent desensitized bear in hopes to forestall a more general outbreak of similar behavior. If it becomes evident that a free population of bears of unknown extent & distribution has adopted the same psychological stance toward people, then wildlife managers will likely be obliged to eradicate the entire population from some more or less large region.

    That is the powder keg that the Rangers were trying to contain, when they saw what this 130 pound subadult male black bear was doing.

    The underlying source of the problem is less that humans carry food on their backs, than that humans have chosen to treat bears as inert objects upon the landscape ... whereupon they have learned to reciprocate the attitude. Neither animal is inert, and to assume so is a possibly very expensive fallacy.

    What we have in some protected ecosystems today is uncomfortably close to an open-air version of Siegfried & Roy.

  • “10 Best National Parks”? National Geographic, You Have Got to be Kidding!   6 years 2 weeks ago

    "10 best" lists are pointless and ridiculous because each park has its own virtues, purposes and meaning to different people. Sure, you can compile a list of the best national parks based on the quality and diversity of the resources, accesibility to different groups of people, or quality of management, etc., but to do that, you'd quite nearly have to visit and study all 391 NPS units, or at least each of the 58 national parks. How many people have done that? How can you judge if Yosemite is somehow "better" than Yellowstone or other far-flung national parks? Apples and oranges, really. Have you been to American Samoa lately? I hear the local national park there is quite grand, but I have no way to know if it's "better" than, say, Congaree. It's just as difficult to get to American Samoa as it is to get to Kobuk Valley, and it's quite likely that anyone compiling "10 best" lists has been to neither. It seems most "10 best" lists are compiled to boost book sales, magazine circulation and tourism revenue. So, to indulge a bit of futility here, I've compiled my "10 best" NPS units list. It's guaranteed to be different from yours and, like any compiled in any book or blog, have little relevance to anything but my own self-gratification:
    10) Natural Bridges National Monument
    9) Grand Canyon National Park
    8) Great Basin National Park
    7) Rocky Mountain National Park
    6) Death Valley National Park
    5) Colorado National Monument
    4) Capitol Reef National Park
    3) Arches National Park
    2) Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    1) Canyonlands National Park

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    As FrankC observes: Mother Jones? Yes, they could conceivably produce useful information, but if one is serious about presenting a case, corroboration is going to be more than normally important.

    If an information-gatherer is falsifying identies and committing fraud to gain access & acceptance, than that is the material her opponents want to find & document. And if the NRA can be shown facilitating actual offenses such as those, then detractors of the NRA have something useful to their cause.

    Meanwhile, this is the Information Age, and those who ignore information are destined to end up where their opponents hope to put them.

    For the most part, meaningful NRA operatives are 3-button suits, exactly as in the case of their liberal opposition. It's mainly a professional lawyer game, and I doubt either side is attracted to amateur or freelance agents. Since the two sides have been at each other's throats for many decades, any sustained pattern of melodramatic skulduggery would be old news & common knowledge.

  • Creating Cape Cod National Seashore Forced the National Park Service to Think Outside the Box   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Since the "42" typo was only in the body of the article (the abstract correctly specified "47"), will you give me 50 percent credit? :-)

  • NPS Snowmobile Plan for Yellowstone, Grand Teton Bucks Science, the Public, and Itself   6 years 2 weeks ago

    There is a big difference between a vehicle that is being ridden or driven thoughtfully & considerately in the course of transporting oneself and achieving access, and a vehicle that is being used as a source of entertainment, in & of itself.

    In the case of Yellowstone snowmobile tours, each accompanied by a formal guide and restricted to set routes, the usual excesses of riding snowmobiles for amusement are curtailed and the participants' behavior can be expected to remain moderate. They are using the machine to access snowy country, and do not have a license to tear up the landscape at will (a popular activity of choice on snowmobiles).

    Highway motorcycles - which figure prominently in these comments - are nowadays sold as "crotch rockets": they are consumer entertainment products, by definition. The basic intent is to enable one to 'act up', and if there is a shocked & dismayed audience - all the better!

    Congress has in recent years systematically pressed to provide improved markets & venues for recreational vehicles in the context of all public lands, Parks included. Partly this is an economic stimulus idea, and it may also be partly to encourage those inclined toward conservative and consumer lifestyles in contexts which are sometimes dominated by liberal-environmentalist perspectives.

    Some will object aesthetically to the presence of snowmobiles in National Parks, at any level or style of usage. Some are simply offended by the machine, and prefer it not be allowed at all.

    Personally, I find the crasser forms of consumerism somewhat bovine, but I like that hard-working citizens pour unconscionable amounts of money into the corporate development of astonishingly excellent machinery. It is then up to each of us to decide how we personally use the equipment.

  • Creating Cape Cod National Seashore Forced the National Park Service to Think Outside the Box   6 years 2 weeks ago

    As a point of correction - Cape Cod National Seashore is 47 years old. I remember going to visit as a day trip with my parents and siblings when I was a small child. I never realized it had only just opened just after I was born. Thank you for the article and reminding me of such a wonderful place to visit. We currenlty live in Kansas and I will look for an opportunity to visit there again.