Recent comments

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I do not think some of you know what is actually going on here even though you have visited recently.

    1. The 08 restictions included pedestrians. No you could not walk on the beach without facing a $5000 fine/imprisonment and more beach closures. this was done by a federal judge without public/park input.

    2. The seashore has had few improvements for access for pedestrians and ORV's in the last 30 years. In the meantime, the US population has grown to over 300 million people.

    3. The pro-access groups that support ORV use are also proposing more access for pedestrian use that include more parking lots, bathrooms, and boardwalks for pedestrians. This would eliminate the overcrowding of vehicles as most would park in the parking lots. Yes there are a lot of vehicles in the pictures. Its most likely July or August. The other 10 months the beach is mostly a few fishermen or nature lovers. A few dozen at most.

    4. Basically the NPS needs our help getting into the 21st century so the park can be enjoyed not closed. There is room for all if managed properly.

  • Decisions on Controlling Elk in Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Cave National Parks Likely to Linger Into 2009   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Someday we'll finally realize that the introduction of more carnivores into the ecosystem is the only long-term answer that will work. Yes, Fluffy and Mr. Ed are part of the food chain too.

  • Fort Donelson National Battlefield Commemorates the North’s First Major Victory in the Civil War   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Donelson also has a beautiful bald eagle pair that nests very near the fortification area on the water. A nice eagle foto I snapped last Spring, perhaps 50 feet from the Hal Jesperson foto above, is currently on my blog's header image (http://homeschoolrangers.wordpress.com/).

  • Remnants of Golf Course Being Removed from Rocky Mountain National Park   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Hip Hip Hooray. Now take out Yosemite's pathetic 9-hole course too!

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Glad some of you are finally agreeing with me.

    From a post I made back on August 5th, 2007 (Setting Precedents in the Parks):

    <><><> Having the NPS pendulum sway back and forth from left to right, from administration to administration, is more of a problem than ANY of the superlatives I've seen mentioned here. No, that doesn't mean privatize it. It means create some buffers to protect the parks from the direct influence of a potential idiot in the oval office, whether left or right. In all their haste to make the president du jour happy, in the long run, NPS can easily wind up going nowhere and having spent a lot of money in the process. Perhaps consider installing NPS directors in the same way that Federal Reserve or CIA directors are... subject to approval by congress, and largely independent of the whims of politicians. <><><>

    PS -- Canaveral National Seashore, like many other NPS units, is a buffer between civilization and a highly controlled federal area (NASA) and will always remain in federal hands. Just like Claude Moore Colonial Farm is a buffer between CIA headquarters and the surrounding communities. There are many such examples out there that will always stay in federal hands and don't seem to amount to much when compared to the crown jewels of the system.

    -- Jon

  • Will Second Century Commission Succeed With Its National Parks Assessment and Recommendations?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Jim,

    Yes, it's true that NPCA really only made my radar in recent months, with the start of the new firearms regulations comment period. I'd seen them in a blip here 'n there over the years, but never focused in. I don't have a detailed appreciation of the outfit, and could have painted them a little crudely.

    However, I was certainly impressed with how they 'went political', going for some major arm-twisting ... and I thought they did a lot of credit-burning (even bridge-burning) in an effort to 'set the talking points' to their liking ... all to no avail. But exactly which flavor of reality they prefer, I'm not as sure as I would be of the NRA!

    Commissions could be a great thing alright, but since they're generally not self-assembling, a lot depends on the even-handedness of the backers.

  • Grand Canyon National Park Rangers Working to Rescue Stranded Colorado River Rafters   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Steve Schmidt was rafting on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Is there a list of those rescued and those missing?

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I agree that the lodges are reserved well in advance almost year round. I submit that this phenomenon is more a function of exclusionary building, thereby limiting availability, in keeping with the sound business practice of manipulating the consumer by utilization of the theory: "limited supply maintains higher demand, resulting in a perpetually high (read: inflated) fiscal response by the supplier to the general marketplace". This is one of the oldest and most detestable tricks in the business bible folks. What should be raising your ire is that this methodology is successful if and ONLY if supported internally by, in this case, federal land management practices prohibiting or at the very least restricting commercial development inside the boundaries of NPS units while simultaneously maintaining a "dead zone" near to the parks that makes parkland lodging appear affordable due to the lack of reasonable alternatives. This "bonus" isn't something that the property managers ignore when calculating how big a bite to remove from your vacation budget. How else can you justify the meager accommodations for the outlandish investment? Sorry, but I place a slightly different definition on the term VALUE when I'm making an outlay of personal finances, and I do my level best not to give away the store solely for "convenience". You, on the other hand, can and will do as you please, laughing all the way, ho ho ho.

    Am I suggesting a boom in cheap hotel rooms (e.g. Motel 6, HoJo's) to be constructed on NPS lands? The simple thought of which starts my stomach acids over-producing...HELL NO! But I am an advocate of leaving the comforts of home at home. Who needs frilly bed skirts and Pay-per View movies in the middle of nowhere, as many denizens of urban life like to refer to the national parklands? Give 'em hiker rooms, a shower stall (3/4 bath), a decontaminated mattress and a ceiling fan; fresh air and a view of why they came out to the "wilderness" to begin with; memories to take home instead of shampoo bottles, ash trays and mints of their turned down bedding. Lower the overhead by reducing amenities. Maintain or increase overall profitability and place that funding DIRECTLY into the coffers of whatever unit we're debating. Too much to ask?

  • Grand Canyon National Park Rangers Working to Rescue Stranded Colorado River Rafters   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Thanks to the dedicated park service professionals, helicopter pilots, Coconino County officials and the others who put their lives on the line to protect and save those who find themselves in life-threatening situations. Your dedication and skill are appreciated and admired. Thank you!

  • Will Second Century Commission Succeed With Its National Parks Assessment and Recommendations?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Ted, I agree with you overall point, but I don't agree with your characterization of NPCA as a green/left organization, certainly not on one pole of society. As a left person myself, I only wish it were the case that NPCA were outside the mainstream. For the most part, it's been an advocacy unit for the National Park Service, not really a left organization.

    I think this process actually smacks of the mainstream and that the actual public represents a far more diverse range of opinions. But, your overall point is taken. Unless they recognize the need for greater transparency and public input (with teeth) in management, then I wouldn't be disappointed in seeing the ideas shelved. If such commissions prove to be ineffective tools, then we won't be so quick to acquiesce to them the next time someone proposes them. We could be talking about commissions working on almost anything - from steroids in baseball to figuring out 9/11 to this.

    It's a good gig as part of an overall advocacy strategy.

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

  • Will Second Century Commission Succeed With Its National Parks Assessment and Recommendations?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Beamis--

    I always found the agency itself to be pretty tolerant of dissent and critical evaluation. At the Assistant Secrertary level and above, however, there was little patience for the questioning of decisions that originated in those offices. Particularly intolerant of dissent were the people who worked as staff of the political appointees. They simply had little use for the points of view of career employees. In my 30+ years with the NPS, the only exception to this rule was during the term of Secretary Andrus and for brief periods of time during the Babbit years. Otherwise, an employee knew that if he or she spoke out, there was some risk. Some took the risk; many didn't. Those who did are often spoken of in admiring terms on NPT.

    As to the retirees speaking out, I can say that I do so to provide cover for those still working. The last 7 years have not been easy ones for career NPS employees. (Or for that matter, maybe even worse for USFS and USF&WS employees.) They need people with appropriate experience and backgrounds to speak out against 1.) the marginalization of the career leadership in the NPS; 2.) the attempts to competitively outsource NPS science and resources managment jobs; 3.) the shrinking of operational budgets to the point where visitor services and resources protection activities have to be curtailed; 4.) the failure to base planning and operational decisions of sound science and research. 5.) the frantic push for private and public sector "partnerships" that threaten to turn park superintendents into beggars. Current employees can't say much publicly about these things. During the recent "guns in the parks" comment period, NPS employees were ordered not to say anything publicly.

    So, it's kind of a mixed bag as I see it. Maybe the NPS should encourage more dissent than it does, but, based of my conversations with career employees in other land managing agencies, the NPS is more tolerant than the others. Yet, the real pressure, at least during my career, came from the political appointees who were hired to promote a partisan agenda. That's the way the American government system has evolved, and I guess we are stuck with it. That's why I am interested to see if the recently-established Commission will take up the questions that I posted on these pages a couple days ago. I will quote just a couple of them:

    Is the current governance model appropriate? The National Park Service is a bureau within the Department of the Interior. Since its conservation mission is unlike the other agencies in the Department, would it make more sense for the agency to operate as an independent agency within the Executive Branch, much like the National Archives, another agency that preserves and protects significant portions of the nation’s heritage.

    Should the Director of the National Park Service serve a longer term than one driven by the 4-year election cycle? Managing cultural and natural resources requires long-term planning. The NPS Director is unlikely to be able to manage a long-term planning process given that he/she is appointed by the President and subject to Senate confirmation. No NPS Director since 1980 has survived a change of administrations. A longer term would perhaps also free the Director from some of the push and pull of partisan politics that is becoming increasingly common.

    Should funding for the National Park Service be exempt from the annual appropriations cycle? Just as sustained leadership is important for the management of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage, so too is sustained funding. The problem with the current funding cycle is that it does not provide continuity for the multi-year inventory and monitoring programs and trend analyses that are so crucial for natural and cultural resources management. Nor does is provide assured funding for an adaptive resources management strategy that allows park managers to modify components of agreed-upon processes that are not producing desired results.

    These have been interesting threads. I hope we can continue to kick them around.

    Rick Smith

  • Will Second Century Commission Succeed With Its National Parks Assessment and Recommendations?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Internally it is frowned upon as well. I know that in the company I run I want all the feedback, good and bad, that I can get. My survival depends on it. I'm sure that Toyota, Google and Apple are run that way too.

    I certainly don't expect park rangers to mouth off their concerns to AP reporters but it does behoove the agency to have a more open culture of dissent and critical evaluation. So far, this has not been the road to career advancement or a comfortable retirement, J.T. Reynolds notwithstanding.

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I disagree that other types of agencies or management systems can't do better than the feds.

    • State Parks vs. National Parks. I have been to Oregon state parks and they seem pretty well managed. But Oregon is only one state with a pretty small acreage of parks -- most of which are managed for recreation, not wilderness. Many state parks are not well managed. And they are much more subject to local political pressure than national parks. For example, in 2006 the Maine legislature passed legislation to allow expanded motorized access and bridges in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. The Allagash is a National Wild and Scenic River, but it is owned and "managed" by the state of Maine -- one of only a handful of such rivers. The Maine legislature caved in to pressure from a few local anti-wilderness interests and the timber industry, against the wishes of the National Park Service, which only has a minimal role in managing the waterway. The threats by the state are so great that American Rivers listed the Allagash as one of America's Most Endangered Rivers for 2008. The Allagash would be much better protected under National Park Service management.

    If you investigate the NGOs that Kurt mentioned in his latest post, such as The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, or the World Wildlife Fund, you'll find highly respected and decentralized, depoliticized, and efficient organizations that have preserved far more acreage unimpaired than the NPS.

    • NGOs vs. National Parks. National Park Service critics seem to have an inordinate affection for The Nature Conservancy and other land trusts. I am all too well acquainted with the work of TNC, WWF, and other NGOs. WWF doesn't own land and is working in other countries to create new national parks. The same with Conservation International. Good. But while TNC has done some good work, it is certainly not free of political maneuvering. In Maine, TNC signed off on a horrible deal with Plum Creek "Timber" Company to purchase "working forest" conservation easements that are completely toothless. They would allow logging, roadbuilding, mining, cell towers, sludge spreading, a number of "camps," and other destructive activities. In return, TNC has helped Plum Creek greenwash its plans for the largest real-estate development in Maine history -- the size of the City of Portland -- on pristine forestlands near Moosehead Lake. Other conservation groups are outraged by this deal -- TNC never consulted with them before selling out. Moreover, they oppose large-scale wilderness protection in the Maine Woods. TNC also allows logging in Maine, the Adirondacks, and the California redwoods, grazing, and ORV use on a growing proportion of their lands. Most of their lands do not allow camping or other overnight use. Finally, TNC lands -- like all other private lands -- are not permanently protected. For example, TNC was going to acquire and convey the Gray (Diamond A) Ranch in New Mexico to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Instead, they caved in to local political pressure and [url=http://nm.audubon.org/NM_birding/iba/ibawriteups/grayranch.html ]sold the ranch back to corporate ranching interests[/url] that continue to allow destructive commercial livestock grazing and only allow extremely limited public use. None of these things would happen under National Park Service management. In fact, TNC lands could all be sold or developed in the future. All it would take is a hostile takeover of the board, a change in bylaws, and a decision to sell off or develop "preserve" lands, to reverse all the decades of preservation. There is no public oversight or accountability.

    I'll concede that the magnitude of preservation threats to the USFS and BLM are greater than those threatening the NPS (particularly logging, mining, and grazing). But the current political system has created significant threats to NPS preservation, as evidenced by NPT's many "plight of the parks" posts.

    • NPS vs. Other Federal Lands. I have worked for more than 20 years on National Park System, national forest, BLM, and wilderness issues. I am well aware of the threats to all of these land management units. Again, I'm open to seeing evidence to the contrary. But aside from designated wilderness areas, everything I have seen indicates that the threats to National Park System lands pale in comparison to the threats to other public and private lands.

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I'd also like to mention that both Florida and Tennessee run a tight ship when it comes to their state parks. I visit both often and am quite impressed with the sense of pride that their employees show towards each individual unit. Most of the rangers stay put and are generally from the local area where the park is located and this seems to add a certain personal touch that I often find lacking in the NPS where employees are encouraged to move around and not stay too long in any single park for very long.

    I have long advocated that Canaveral National Seashore would make a fine addition to the Florida state park system and you could go ahead and throw in De Soto (essentially a Bradenton city park) and Castillo de San Marcos as well. None of these areas could truly be said to be of national significance and would be better off with more localized control and staffed by community based employees.

    I like what they have done recently in St. George, Utah where the local Congressman from that district helped obtain funds to purchase a dinosaur track site that will be run by the county park system instead of the NPS, as originally proposed. County management of this area is less costly and certainly less bureaucratic and is a sound first step in finding better and more locally focused ways to run natural and historic sites around the country.

  • Will Second Century Commission Succeed With Its National Parks Assessment and Recommendations?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I saw the article. And I think it's a valid concern, under the "keep quiet if you want to continue your upward movement in the NPS" genre.

    But I also believe rangers -- and perhaps you know having been one -- are told early on that it's against agency policy for them to speak out on any NPS-related issue, that that's the job of the public affairs staff. I know this was raised a coupla years ago on the Traveler during a Yellowstone snowmobile back-and-forth.

    That said, I think in any job today -- government, NGO, private corporation -- it's frowned upon to speak ill of your employer. That you might suffer some consequences for doing so goes without saying.

    Of course, J.T. Reynolds, Death Valley's long-time superintendent, often has spoken ill of some NPS decisions under the current administration. The NPCA honored him with an award a coupla years ago with hopes it would serve as a shield of some sort from retribution.

  • Will Second Century Commission Succeed With Its National Parks Assessment and Recommendations?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Kurt, a recent AP article published prior to the controversial superintendents conference last month actually stated that many front line employees were against this money wasting conclave but were afraid to speak up out fear of retribution. I'll see if I can find it in the archives.

  • Will Second Century Commission Succeed With Its National Parks Assessment and Recommendations?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Beamis, I think you don't hear active NPS rangers raising their voices not because they're frightened but rather because 1)They'd prefer to keep their jobs and any chance of upward movement and 2) I believe it's actually against the regs to do so.

    That said, it would be nice if some, under the cloak of anonymity, shared their thoughts on some of these issues.

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Frank,

    One comment re the Oregon state park system, which you know way better than me. I had one encounter with Oregon's state parks oh, about six or seven years ago, long enough that I don't remember which one though I think it was inland of Sixes. I was astounded by the garbage and soiled TP that someone half-buried.

    That said, I also recall some state parks along 101 near Cape Blanco and Bandon that were downright gorgeous and well-kept.

    The bottom line, I think, is that you'll find some national parks that are wonderfully kept, and some that aren't so wonderful. Ditto with state parks. Ditto with corporate-run campgrounds.

  • Will Second Century Commission Succeed With Its National Parks Assessment and Recommendations?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Barky----Ted's mention of the NRA was a reference to previous comments that he made concerning the bias that may or may not be present in a commission depending on who was sponsoring it.

    As for this commission bringing any real and meaningful change to a hidebound bureaucracy I can only point to the fact that the majority of current NPS employees are way too frightened to speak out about problems in their own agency because of a very well founded fear of retribution. Has anyone ever stopped to wonder why it is that only RETIRED employees have the courage to speak out?

    Again, I wish the commission well but really don't expect much more than some platitudinous final report that will soon take its place collecting dust right next to all of the other plans, reports and commissions that came before it.

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Just one more post on this thread.

    "And they especially need to stop claiming that other types of land agencies or ownerships would do a better job of protecting these lands -- that's demonstrably false."

    I disagree that other types of agencies or management systems can't do better than the feds. I invite you to visit Oregon's state parks. If you investigate the Oregon state park system, you'll find it to be very decentralized and well funded. Additionally, you'll find hot showers in campgrounds along with highly maintained infrastructure which includes AFFORDABLE yurts and cabins and clean campgrounds. You'll also find soap in the campground bathrooms. You won't find any of these things at Mount Rainier National Park. A federal representative was pushing to move Silver Falls State Park, Oregon's largest park, to national park status. What would this accomplish? Oregon is doing a far better job than the feds.

    If you investigate the NGOs that Kurt mentioned in his latest post, such as The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, or the World Wildlife Fund, you'll find highly respected and decentralized, depoliticized, and efficient organizations that have preserved far more acreage unimpaired than the NPS.

    As for "politics", I'm speaking of the following definition: "exercising or seeking power in the governmental or public affairs of a state, municipality, etc." As long as public lands are funded by taxes doled out by politicians, interest groups (such as the NRA, ORVers, hikers, the hospitality industry, etc.) will lobby congress to gain favor, and representatives seem to capitulate. The Forest Service is a prime example, and you touched on this with cattle grazing and logging. Taxpayers are subsidizing both because interest groups lobby congress. If public lands were not under the jurisdiction of Congress and were insulated by public trusts boards composed of members from university faculty, conservation organizations, scientists, local businesses, then lobbyists' efforts would be nullified. I have a hard time believing that the Nature Conservancy or other organizations listed above, if it managed the BLM lands you mentioned, could be pressured to allow tarsand development on these lands. The federal government, however, seems highly capable of being influenced.

    I'll concede that the magnitude of preservation threats to the USFS and BLM are greater than those threatening the NPS (particularly logging, mining, and grazing). But the current political system has created significant threats to NPS preservation, as evidenced by NPT's many "plight of the parks" posts.

    If national parks are to remain under the directorate of the NPS, which seems likely, then we must understand the political system to which it's attached. Funding will wax or wane depending on the political administration in charge. Unless we pry loose the politicians' grasp on the NPS, it will continue to be lobbied by dozens of interest groups. Under a parasitic, transfer seeking economic and political system, the battle to preserve these lands will rage with no end in sight at the cost of billions and billions of dollars, and meanwhile the parks will suffer.

    over and out

  • Will Second Century Commission Succeed With Its National Parks Assessment and Recommendations?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Barky,

    Nah, the NRA isn't backing the new commission. The NPCA is.

    There's nothing wrong with the NPCA ... there's nothing wrong with the NRA - and there's everything wrong with both.

    Each sets itself up to speak for a slice of the American people ... each slice at the far opposite ends to the political spectrum from the other. And that's fine.

    The NPCA speaks for a green-left viewpoint, and the NRA speaks for a red-right viewpoint. Each of those is fine - until one of them presumes to speak for the whole spectrum of the nation, because neither of them do.

    There is nothing that says a green-left organization is appropriate to lead discussions about our Parks, and a red-right organization isn't. The Parks are held equally by all of us - Green, Red, Polka-Dotted and just plain Muddied-Looking. Environmentalists don't own the Parks.

    If the Catholic Church resumes to pontificate to Americans, a lot of them will just blow the Church off. If the NRA presumes to speak for our Parks, Greens will blow them off. If the NPCA presumes to do the speaking, most non-Greens will roll their eyes.

    The NPCA wants an environmentalist-driven viewpoint at the Commission, but non-environmentalists have just as good a claim on the Parks, and they each have one vote come ballot-time.

    What we need, obviously, is a commission that is not driven by the views from one far end of the political spectrum or the other, but strives to respect the politics of each individual voter.

    The NPCA is no more likely to fill that role than the NRA ... and to answer Kurt's question, no more likely to come up with lasting or substantive results than previous green-driven leadership moves.

  • Will Second Century Commission Succeed With Its National Parks Assessment and Recommendations?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Ted, where did you get the idea the NRA is backing the commission? I couldn't find that documented anywhere, do you have a link to any evidence?

    Also, what is wrong with the NPCA?

    Regarding the commission itself, I'm convinced that creating commissions is a cheap way to convince Americans that our government actually cares about an issue without actually having to do anything. Looking at some of the names on the list, these sound like professional "commissionaires" who simply sit on these things to collect a paycheck. Looking at the organization the commission will present their report, it sounds like another tome destined for a dusty shelf.

    If our government and elected officials don't care about the parks (which seems to be the case), a commission isn't going to change that.

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

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    First of all, that picture of the crowd at Cape Point is testimony to the popularity of the greatest fishing spot on the coast. It's a big attraction, and only accessible by ORV for most people. It's several miles from the nearest paved road, and the sand is very soft and difficult to walk in. What you can't see is cut out of the picture. The vehicles are "corralled" into a small space due to "closures" and the 4 miles of beach to the north have very few vehicles on them. On the South side, the beach is completely closed to people, so that area is vacant as well. These guys try to "spin" reality by claiming only 12 miles are closed. In fact, the areas they close eliminate total access to the areas they claim are open, barring a helicopter. As you can see by both the photos shown, over wash is a major culprit to bird nesting, along with natural predators(which the NPS are trapping and killing). ORV's are not the problem, they help many American citizens enjoy the beauty, and the dedicated fishermen that frequent the beaches do more to police the trash that washes up on the shore than the NPS by a long shot. I'm afraid the Audubon and Defenders groups are just using this to market for more money. Using SELC to spin "half truths" and "fake science", is nothing but "Tabloid" money soliciting. That's just my opinion of course, but I've been enjoying the OBX for 45 years, and my Dad before me, and my children were enjoying it before our access rights were taken away.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    It seems to me that a recurring theme in the use of public recreational space in general, and National parks and recreational areas specifically, includes a battle between people who want to use machines in their recreation and those who do not. Another recurring theme seems to be whether the effect of mechanized enjoyment of public space is considered in its totality, including its effects on natural resources and wildlife. At Cape Hatteras National Seashore, both these points are in play, the second in particular.

    In my view, public recreational space exists for the enjoyment of all. There should be no debate about this. For Cape Hatteras, the debate seems to center on whether the recreation of machine-based citizens collides with the purpose and mission of the Seashore – as a public resource for all, and as a natural resource and sanctuary and refuge for wildlife. ORV proponents at Cape Hatteras seem to discount that the national seashore and recreation area is for any and all who visit, not just for people who wish to drive on the beach – this includes sharing equally in the natural resource and its wildlife, and not unequally or involuntarily bearing any negative impact of ORV activity. More important, they forget – or are perhaps unaware – that the paramount mission of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is protecting wildlife and the natural resource, not serving people.

    The enabling legislation creating the National Seashore is very clear on why the CHNS exists is clear – that it is to be a primitive wilderness, and that no development or plan for the convenience of visitors be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physical structure prevailing. Given this mission and enabling legislation, it is very difficult for me to understand why efforts to protect the resource and its wildlife can be a point of objection. The law is the law.

    Putting aside whether ORV activity has overwhelmed the natural structure capacity of the Outer Banks – the photo of door-to-door ORVs at Oregon Inlet is absolute and unquestionable fact, and if there were a photo of ORVs at Cape Point at the tip of the Outer Banks on a busy day, there would be a second line of ORVs parked behind the first; the damage to dunes and beach structures on the Outer Banks because of irresponsible driving cannot be denied – the effect ORV activity on wildlife must be considered.

    It must be noted that the current situation with respect to ORV activity at Cape Hatteras and protection of wildlife is because the National Park Service has failed to develop an acceptable ORV management plan for CHNS as required by Executive Order and NPS regulations. Not because “eco-terrorists,” as they often are referred to in Outer Banks ORV circles, have hijacked a process, as the Outer Banks ORV community charges. A lawsuit brought by environmental and wildlife groups based on the NPS’s failure to develop an acceptable ORV plan led to a U.S. District Court Judge signing a consent decree which settled the suit, and which defines the regulations in place now. Provisions of the consent decree specifically protect wildlife that otherwise would be endangered by ORV activity. The law is the law. Worth noting is that the federal judge issuing the decree, rather than being a liberal activist judge legislating from the bench, was appointed by Ronald Regan, and at one point had been a Senate staff member of Jesse Helms.

    The consent decree process included public consultation and comment, and was agreed to by the organizations bringing the case and the National Park Service. And agreed to by the two North Carolina counties directly affected by the case, and representatives of a coalition of local ORV and fishing groups – the counties and the groups having participated in the case as interveners.

    I for one am very pleased that an objective approach toward protecting the Cape Hatteras resource is in place, based in law. Deciding what wildlife species or what natural resource is to be protected based on public pressure or which individuals’ or special interest groups’ purposes are served cannot be considered responsible – or fair to all – in any way.

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    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.

    I forgot to comment on these points:

    • Politics. Yes, the National Park Service is political and so is everything else. I'd like to hear which public agencies, corporations, or nonprofit organizations are not political. In any event, politics is not always a bad thing. In fact, I think the graph showing how new park designations follow congressional election cycles is a positive indicator. It does not at all prove the conclusion you seem to draw -- that the new parks created during these periods were unworthy. It is very difficult to pass new national park legislation, especially since the 1980s. History shows us that most National Park System units took many years to go from vision to reality. What I think is going on is that members of Congress know that national parks are popular. That makes them more willing to go along with park proposals when they know they are up for election. That's a good thing, not a bad thing!

    • Budget, Part II. Why is it a problem that non-"National Park" sites get 60% of the budget? Most of the heaviest-visited sites are not full National Parks. And many involve historic buildings and archaeological sites, which cost a lot to restore and maintain. So what's wrong with allocating adequate funds for them? I refuse to accept that we can't get the funding that is needed for the National Park System. A couple of days of the Iraq war would fund the whole agency for a year.

    I repeat, national park advocates need to stop being negative, obsessing on flaws in the parks, and trying to find ways to cut the National Park System. And they especially need to stop claiming that other types of land agencies or ownerships would do a better job of protecting these lands -- that's demonstrably false. This is the losing approach that has helped to perpetuate inadequate budgets and undermined efforts to add outstanding new areas to the system.