Recent comments

  • Odes to the National Park Rangers Who Wear the Grey and Green   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Owen I agree with you about the important contribution ranger naturalists bring to the experience of many visitors (having been one myself for over a decade in the NPS) but the uniform alone does confer knowledge, depth or insight. I'm afraid that the visiting public is seeing an overall decline in the quality of interpretive services in the NPS, judging by the number of sub-par programs I have attended in the past few years over a wide range of units. I hear this from other people as well. I can honestly say that this was NOT the case until fairly recently. What happened?

    It is a situation that probably stems from a number of factors which includes the dumbed down curriculum of public education (and college as well), the inability to attract people willing to dedicate themselves to turning out superior material for a low-paying seasonal position and the lack of focused auditing and coaching from mid-level managers who are too absorbed in the latest WASO mandated trend such as podcasting and safety campaigns.

    I'm sorry to report that I've sat through way too many programs of late that were filled with bad grammar, lack of a central theme and often end with the depressingly familiar message that the world is going to hell in a handbasket if humanity doesn't come to a screeching halt and mend its wicked ways towards our humble and besieged Mother Earth. It seems that the fruits of a so called "environmental education" have finally come home to roost.

    Maybe rangers should start selling carbon credits after their programs instead of handing out Junior Ranger badges. It would provide a boost for their depleted budgets as well as help to cleanse a tapped out and exhausted planet.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    ORV's have NO BUSINESS on the beaches at all unless they're emergency vehicles!!!!!!!!! Why can't fishermen/women WALK down to the beaches with their gear??????? I say that no ORV's (except fro emergency vehicles) should be allowed in ANY wilderness areas.....They enable people to trash the beauty,hassle the animals with their noise,and pollute the air.

  • Olympic National Park Ready for Wolves?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I live on the Olympic Peninsula, west of Sequim. My grandparents milked cows on the "Sequim Prairie", with about 300 other farm-families. Over the last 40 years, Sequim became the largest community on the Peninsula, as farmland was developed into originally retirement housing, and more lately as a general development for folks seeking a less urbanized home, but with a more suburban character, rather than a 'straight' rural culture. Sequim is a suburban-like 'enclave', within a strongly rural region.

    It is not surprising that Sequim folks show much more interest in reintroducing wolves than the other communities of the Peninsula. This was well-documented in the careful social surveys that accompanied the preliminary investigation of the proposal to reintroduce wolves, during the late 1990s.

    However, it is also true that Sequim some years ago undertook to make pets out a small remnant herd of Roosevelt Elk that would come through their fields and yards each year. Now they have a very much larger herd of elk which likes to spend a much larger amount of its time ... breaking down their fences and trampling their grounds ... and the nice folks of Sequim now often complaint about the elk being such a nuisance.

    It seems doubtful the elk-weary folks of Sequim - who still oppose hunting the elk - have overlooked that wolves could help relieve their present problem. The larger problem is, though, they did not think through their earlier ideas about elk (nor listen to experienced advisers who cautioned them), and they appear to be repeating the mistake, in the case of wolves.

    The greatest concentration of elk habitat and elk herds, is in the western parts of the Olympic Peninsula. Since the Olympics are actually only a rather small region, and the physiography is radially-circularly arranged, wolves introduced at any point in the Olympic area would soon spread to all other areas ... whether their elk-control was wanted or appropriate elsewhere or not.

    Communities in the west of Olympic Peninsula remain strongly rural and resource-based. They opposed wolf-introduction. Candidly, the way Congress approved the social survey upon which further action (inaction) on the wolf proposal was based, seems to have been predestined to lead to the outcome that prevailed. In other words, Congress responded to wolf-proponents request for a study of wolf-introduction, by conducting scientific studies of communities known beforehand to oppose the idea. Documentation is available.

    If the sampling of opinion conducted in Sequim is repeated in other parts of the Olympic Peninsula, you may well be surprised, yet again. Firstly, the Congressionally funded study found & emphasized, that the main objection to wolves was not the wolves, but that interest groups and agencies from outside the jurisdiction, sought to make decisions that would affect the local jurisdiction. Many rural residents would in fact prefer that the Peninsula be as wild as it can be. They live here, and put up with the area's shortcomings, because they like it wild. Sharing the place with wolves is hardly anathema to the lifestyle or philosophy of many residents.

    The Sequim folks made an unfortunate and avoidable mistake with their local elk. It is possible to make a similar short-sighted misstep, with wolves. Elk could be heavily devastated, all across the Peninsula. If it were decided to 'adjust' the population of elk (which some suggest, but could be difficult to justify), wolf-introduction as a way to achieve it could readily prove to be heavy-handed overkill.

    An elk die-off could lead to further wildlife destabilization effects, especially with cougar and deer.

    Wolves are known to be making their way into the Cascade Mountains, not by introduction, but by natural dispersal in the absence of hunting & trapping pressure. These are natural populations which are moving and establishing themselves in a cautious and stable fashion. It is possible, and even anticipated, that some will before long find the Olympic Peninsula, and will gradually work their way into the ecological opportunities that exist here.

    To allow the wolves to come on their own, to 'feel' and 'work' their way in, could give us the best of all possible outcomes - wolves in a truly natural state, and a much reduced risk of radical ecosystem disturbance.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I keep seeing Hatteras Island refered to as a natural area. The "natural" part of the island was "destroyed" when we built the dunes as one of FDR's depression ending work projects(no there is nothing natural about the dunes they are manmade) in order to have a hard surface road. Why build a hard surface road on a barrier sandbar? For developement so tourists (humans) could be attracted to the beaches and money, jobs etc. could be created. These manmade dunes keep the natural process of ocean overwash from occuring, which causes the front of the island to be shaved off and keeps the backside of the island from building. As a matter of fact Hatteras has only been an island for aroung 150 years. We artificially keep Oregon Inlet open with manmade jetties and dredging. Before you side with the misinformed (or intentionally misleading) wildife groups. relearn your basic science on barrier islands. Hatteras is a manmade park. Check Webster for the definition of the word Park. As for the birds check out the science and history of the story; nesting pairs, chicks fledged per year where the nests are/were located it doesn't match what I see the "wildlife groups" claiming. notice effects of hurricanes.
    Beach buggies do not harm the beaches, if anything the tracks attract and hold sand. The dunes are destroying the beaches. My children learned a respect for wildlife and geology by fishing and driving on those beaches. If my only access to wildlife is the nature channel what a shame that would be. The bridge and allowing the sale of alcohol on the island has done more to change and damage the experience of Hatteras than anything else. Drunks and punks drive thru turtle nest enclosures not fishermen and women or their families.

    I had always considered the audobon society as good people. I have seen the light now though. They speak with a forked tongue and deal underhandedly.

    When the park was formed and the land bought beach driving access was promised.

    The NPS was doing a good job, find out the truth about how many birds this year successfully nested outside of the bird enclosures from the last 20 years. Manage wildlife with science and evidence, not opinion.

    How can "they" sue the gov't with my tax dollars? Why can't I use their tax dollars to defend my rights?

    I belive that at the highest level the "do-gooders" are being used. This is not about the birds, a real estate take over maybe? Own eight little spots and the gov't and our tax dollars will maintain and provide someone with 2 islands and a private national park.

    as stated so well above: "When few can have access to our wild areas, few will stand to protect them when they need protecting."

    Please learn the geology and history of Hatteras Island and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Learn the science of the issues. The evidence will lead you to membership in the OBPA and the NCBBA. Bring a fishing rod and your children!

    Tight lines and sharp hooks

  • Study Says Loss of Wolves Damaging Olympic National Park's Forest Ecosystem   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Hunters with firearms are the main control on Olympic Peninsula elk-populations today. Hunters - both local rural folk and veritable hordes in pickup campers 'from the cities' - lobby heavily to manage the herds at the highest achievable levels - the better to successfully hunt them.

    Present limits on the carrying capacity for elk are set primarily by the amount of clearcut logging being done outside the Park on public & private timberlands. Elk - as browsers - do best where most of the growth is in the form of brush and herbage. Once trees begin to dominate a site, they shade out such growth and the area offers insufficient food for them.

    These are, bear in mind, Roosevelt Elk, bigger than typical North American Wapiti, and they travel, live & feed in large herds. Many dozens ... even hundreds in the old days when they had access to extensive forest fire regeneration areas. The limited size of today's clearcuts, may in turn be limiting the size of the herds we see.

    Kurt, it is my understanding that originally, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside the Olympic Mountains (about 30 years before it was made a Park) explicitly as a refuge for the summer calving grounds of the elk herds. The herds head above the timberline for the meadows, as directly & early as the melting snowpack allows. Further, the really desirable forest stands were in the lowlands outside the rugged terrain of the Olympic Mountains ... and both Roosevelts failed to preserve those forests and have been criticized for demurring to timber and State economic interests. By the time Franklin made the Park, the big lowland trees - the real forest treasure that would have astounded people today (I've lived with the stumps all my life...) were gone.

    There are good studies showing dramatic elk increase following large fires of the past (The Forks Burn, 1952, perhaps 50 square miles), and hunters today head directly for clearcut regions (in the lowlands) that have had a few years to 'jungle out', and the elk have learned where they are, but not enough time for tree-regeneration to start killing off the browse.

    Wolves would be expected to drive the elk from low-quality understory where they might now be loitering in the fall within the Park (to avoid the hunters, possibly). Such 'elk parks' are a known habit of the herds, and they do chew-up & trample such sites rather noticeably. They shelter from hard weather and chew their cud within such open-understory, closed-canopy timber ... and will nibble on what little brush grows there, easily overpowering its ability to regrow. But that's just part of being elk ... and possibly avoiding the dominant predator today. [close to Franks' comment..]

    The basic 'problem' with the idea to reintroducing wolves in the Olympics, is that they are expected to follow the herds out of the Park in the fall, as the elk return to the lowland wintering grounds, where they will compete directly with firmly entrenched & highly organized hunters. The assessment of the Park's wolf carrying capacity was about 50 animals. Their assessment-descriptor did not include the private & commercial timberlands, making key parts of the wolf-proposal a wink & blink game.

    Small numbers of wolves have been moving into various parts of the region surrounding the Olympic Peninsula. Since these wolves are not generally being hunted or trapped, it is reasonable that a pack may establish on the Peninsula by it's own devices. This could be a considerably more interesting & valuable process to observe, than another head-butting contest by opposing human groups.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    cape hatteras is not a park, national parks traveler. it is a national recreational area for human biengs.human biengs have been driving on the beach at H.I. for a long time, human biengs that have been driving on the beach for a long time have been long time stewards of the beach. they clean it up, love the enviornment and the wildlife. they dont go around chasing plovers, attempting to band them, killing and maming hundreds of them. oh yes its true. killing predators such as fox and coons. also true. shaking hands and pledging to negotiate in good faith, all the while spinning yarns and decieving honest americans. you really need to get the facts and stop pretending to be for something, when your true objective is totally different.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Who you talk to is the real question. What isn't said in all this is the fact that the Consent Decree in words APPEARS to take all parties positions into account. What it doesn't say is that ALL PARTIES have equal ability to verify sightings of nesting birds. What it doesn't say is Last Year Nests were located at grid X Y, and oddly this year every nesting area was withing close proximity to the access ramps to the beach. The original set aside on some ramps did leave room for pedestrians and vehicles to pass, but with in a week, Incredably, some one violated those particular areas and by Decree, the are was expanded and now did include ramps and access paths. In effect limiting the ability to pass the closed off access to get to the areas that remained open. Blockage from both end kept miles of beach inaccesable for most of the summer. The fishing community was locked out. Oh there was beach available to fish from, but not in areas where fish are normally caught. If you are of the opinion that the poor little birdies are being pushed out, you need to read more. Read the Island Free Press, even read some of the information about these effect birds available on the internet. You will quickly learn that the Piping Plover (PPL) Spring and Summer nesting area is closer to Long Island (oh yea, they have money, their beachs aren't closed) and their wintering area is Fl, GA and the gulf. The PPL at CHNSRA are just lazy mooches. they decided not to migrate, took up residence in an area that is not condusive to their survival. The mooch food off the fisherman ( would that be a reason their nest are located in the BEST FISHING AREAS?) and now they have a few bird wacko's sueing the FED GOV. Remember folks when they win, they get all their cost reimbursed by YOUR TAX DOLLARS. One - it takes away from the money available to run our parks, two- You know a tax increase is in the works to make the agency budget for the following year. three- this is a vicious circle, sue, get money, raise taxes, sue because they have more money to sue for. We, property owners in Hatteras love the bird as much as the next person, but if they can't survive without the wholesale rip off system. This year there were 7 birds fledged. that's 3 more than last year, at what cost? It is multi-millions of dollars per bird... that's the cost. All we're saying is think before you spout off about the poor little birdies that you know very little about.

  • National Park Quiz 14: Historic Houses   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I normally do fairly well on these quizzes, but this one I just blew completely. I only got 4 correct, including the bonus... Apparently I need to pay more attention to the historic houses!!

  • Is the National Park Service Obligated to Better Promote Proposed Change in Gun Regulations?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    As I grew up on the Sol Duc River of the Olympic Peninsula, Lyle Cowles - a lead Park trail-crew foreman - raised his kids next door. My family subsisted largely on deer & elk, with lots of choice fish & beach-food (plus a huge garden & wild fruit). The Cowles were vegetarian 7th Day Adventists. Lyle went ashore with the Marines on Guadalcanal, and his weapons hung on the bedroom wall, though he did not hunt.

    I did not experience an urban environment until about age 5 ... and thought the whole world consisted of forest, mountains, and small roads threading little towns together. I was shocked to see streetlights burning along the freeway ... and everywhere in the city when we got up at 5am in the morning!

    The Park is a sample of how I'd prefer everything to be, but without the borders and extra rules. I therefore like the Park & wilderness. The NPS is far from perfect, but at least on account of it we have decent reminders scattered through the western States.

    I always knew it was goofy to suspend the 2nd Amendment, within Parks, but the irregularity of it never really percolated up the priority queue through other issues, for me. That it (somewhat strangely..) now obviously has, for Congress and the Dept. of Interior, should probably serve as a clue to all of us that there may be more than one side to any particular coin. That seemingly-simple moves may arise from/reflect complex motives & factors. (Indeed, Congress has been prominently 'experimenting' with Park-policy, for many years.)

    Many (contemporary) career Park-people and folks of related liberal-environmental viewpoints have taken positions with regard to Parks and their personal role in & identification with them, which are at odds with various important facts & realities. Park personnel are employees not of an ideal or theoretical notion, but are servants of the truck drivers and waitresses of our nation. Park lands aren't the holdings of abstracted entities, but are the property of the public. Additional layers of rules & red tape might obscure the situation, but we shouldn't let ourselves misconstrue the basic facts. The great unwashed public is the boss. Even Congress is only the trail-crew foreman.

    My off-hand interpretation of the recent DOI ruling to allow local (State) laws to set the firearms regulations on Park lands within their jurisdiction, is that it may be intended as a corrective, to bring career Park people (and additional circles of close sympathizers) around to a more reality-based posture, with respect to whose land it is they are caring for, and who's viewpoint & needs are ascendant. It looks like it could be a 'shot across the bow', to me.

    To let the new ruling induce one to take sides in a conflict between opponents and supporters of gun ownership, is to invade Iraq when the problem is clearly not there. It is a diversion and a misapplication of resources. The options open to Park professionals and like-minded preservationists do not include making a call on the 2nd Amendment (and since D.C. vs Heller, this is plainly a fall-back & regroup point for opponents, anyway).

    Instead, the available actions for the Park & allies mainly center around how to successfully & competently manage the presence of firearms within Park facilities, and how to more-broadly inform & guide the general public (once the formal comment-period & appeals-processes are completed).

    I believe the fear of firearms within Parks is largely a matter of perception, and that what goes on in the Parks will remain close to what takes place now. I - like others who are knowledgeable on the matter - know that certain individuals have long elected to discretely tuck a pistol in their backpack. Few problems arise with such individuals, and few will arise henceforth.

    Thus, what is a stake is not the safety of our Parks, nor the disposition of the 2nd Amendment. Instead, it appears to be a question of who really has the ultimate proper authority to set basic policy. Park firearm policy has been guided by the personal beliefs and lifestyle positions of a dedicated & excellent few, who nonetheless were never elected, do not represent the citizens, and acted beyond their authority. That appears now to be under reconsideration.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    The truth is that under the consent decree the closures at CHNS completely shut down human access to the premier surf fishing location on the east coast, Cape Point, for several weeks. Human access was completely denied, pedestrian as well as ORV. Additional prime fishing areas were also closed. Any reports of this issue that don't reflect that reality are misleading. Official NPS and media reports of the amount of beach open have consistently included areas that are technically open but to which there is no possible access due to adjacent closures. Reality doesn't "depend on who you talk to." This type of action orchestrated by protectionists whose main goal is to severely limit public access to public lands, only drives a wedge between groups who have a common interest in protecting habitat for future generations. Most sportsmen support protecting natural areas and the habitat they include and have historically accepted restrictions to protect the resource. However, actions driven only by the egos of self-appointed protectors will not be accepted without a fight. When few can have access to our wild areas, few will stand to protect them when they need protected.

  • National Park Quiz 14: Historic Houses   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Got 9, not too shabby :-)

    #12 is one of those questions where, once I read the answer, muttered "oh, of course, should've known". TR NP is my favorite NPS unit :-)


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    The below is one of many truthful articles you can find if you choose to determine facts as opposed to opinions. This is not about ORV access, this is not about birds, this is not about turtles. This is about a violation of rights and laws. This is about people losing their jobs, land and homes. I believe many of you that have the narrow view that the consent decree is a good thing would feel very different if your life was the one that was being ruined.

    The below is copied from a letter in The Island Free Press by Dr. Mike Berry.

    There is a clear difference between science-based, socially responsible and equitable environmental management and a growing political movement called "environmentalism."

    Responsible environmental management uses sound science and professional judgment to balance the human needs and rights of people with the need to manage and sustain natural processes. As a public health professional, I will always place the health and well-being of humans first, and I will never accept a political philosophy that suggests people are less important than other species. Increasingly, "environmentalism" places species ahead of humans. Sadly, this new-age philosophy has crept deeply into our political process. Humans should never be completely shut out or deprived of their environment, so that other species should prevail or dominate. With a good understanding of science—knowledge of how the environment works—humans can make rational decisions and manage conditions so as to connect with their environment and at the same time provide for the existence of other species.

    The environmental activist lawyer's comment to the court and to the media in U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle’s court on April 30 that this consent decree and "settlement" represents a "win-win" management program is about as far away from the fact as one can get.

    The park management formula laid out in the consent decree is a new public policy. This new park policy was put together on the fly in about 10 days behind closed doors, without any open discussion of scientific fact, explanation and justification of environmental management strategies, or consideration of the many needs and desires of the general public. In this court-approved settlement, the federal government agrees to respond to the dictates of three non-governmental special interest groups for the next three years. Citizens cannot even challenge the Park Service or these non-governmental groups about this management policy. Essentially, this consent decree takes the Cape Hatteras National Recreational Seashore and turns it into a national maternity ward and nursery for five bird species and turtles.

    Every legitimate public policy in our democratic society is based upon the Constitution. Public policy is intended to provide for the public good and the rights of persons and that begins with the protection of citizens and promotes conditions that enhance social well-being. Citizens have a right to be a part of and have a say in the formulation of governmental policies that affect their lives. However, in this consent decree we have public policy created by dictum and without benefit of comment or review.

    In addition, the consent decree appears to grant special rights to species, overlooking the fact that the Constitution grants rights only to persons. There is nothing in the Constitution that grants any right to a bird or turtle. That fact is seemingly not being taught in law schools these days.

    Traditionally, federal courts interpret and render opinions on the law and protect citizen rights as spelled out in the Constitution or the federal statutes. It has been long recognized that Congress and the courts do not have the technical knowledge or resources to manage national parks. That is why Congress established the National Park Service. Park Service professionals are responsible for making technical judgments and management decisions with regards to the peoples' park. However, this consent decree is the product of a process called "judicial review." Increasingly, especially with regard to environmental issues, this judicial process is properly criticized as "legislating and managing from the bench."

    In the April 30 court hearing, the judge acknowledged about five different times the need for public participation and review, but then, at exactly one hour into the hearing, he completely set aside any public concern or comment and signed off on the settlement. The Outer Banks community intervenors had no choice but to go along with the agreement or have the beach shut down completely. The court knew that and could have at least opened the settlement to include public hearings.

    This consent decree is a classic example of how not to formulate environmental policy. It is good example of why good public policy must always be transparent and provide for public review and comment. The formulation of good policy takes thoughtful planning and organization, time for citizen interaction and review, including science review, much along the lines of what is currently being attempted with the negotiated rulemaking process.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I can't wait until you people realize the true effect this consent decree has put on eastern NC. If this consent decree is not overturned, life as we know it on Hatteras Island and further south will be non-existent. People have already lost their jobs, business' are suffering and homeowners who rent their houses on the island are just begining to feel the effect.
    I ask all you naysayers, how would you feel if some special intrest group decided that your favorite park or golf course had to be closed down because of an animal that is threatened but not indigeonous to that area was spotted and your livlihood was effected by this. I am sure you would fight tooth and nail to protect your income and the losses that would come along with it.
    Before you make your these uneducated stetements like the ones above, learn the facts first.
    This is happening all over this country, special intrest groups are taking over this country, stopping industry, preventing oil drilling and refineries ans keeping pepole from going and enjoying our great land that we pay taxes to support. Its rediculous and one day soon, our Government will stand up against these people and put and end this eco-terrorism!! GO FISH, it will make you a better person!!1

  • Oklahoma City National Memorial is a Fine Memorial, But It's Not a National Park   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker is making an important point.

    Since the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has capture the imagination of so many Americans, there is becoming an immediate 'default drive' to construct a memorial as 'closure' to every tragic drama of death and loss. Not very long after 911 in New York a plane crashed having nothing to do with a world-historical issue. It was a horror of course for the families, and great and real empathy swept the city, so soon after 911. From the perspective of history, it was another tragic plane crash. But it became politically essential and inevitable that the City design and install a memorial, because now it seems a memorial is the only response people can think of to sudden and dramatic tragedy.

    This is not the same as a memorial commemorating a critical piece of American history or to commemorate the life of a historically significant person. Such as the Lincoln Memorial, or the Arch in St. Louis to commemorate western expansion.

    Lone Hiker clearly has no intention of disrespect toward the dead. I don't, either, but I am concerned that even discussing the possibility that a federal memorial is not always appropriate will no doubt arouse opprobrium from some. Part of the problem here is you can't even openly discuss whether such an event is nationally significant during the living memory of the event.

    But to me some of the memorials that immediately follow mass death feel more like large graveyard monuments, of particular significance to the family and friends of those who were lost.

    From a national perspective, how can this be the way to determine what is nationally significant about a site? What if the event that seizes the public's sympathy or fear is one of a kind, with no particular long term significance. What if it is one of a series of far worse struggles with terrorism?

    What would London be today if, at the site of every night of bombing by the Germans the British established a memorial? Over 50,000 people died in London during the blitz, over a period of time. Should the site of every tragedy be frozen for all time?

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    yall are a bunch of ignorant people with more concerned about birds than humans and threatened not endangered at will spin your tales and invent figures that dow/as/and selc seem to make appear out of thin air without
    any shread of proof of those figures..
    pardon my spelling but folks like you posting garbage like this and pawning it on an uninformed / unsupecting public
    and using my tax money to sue is a criminal offense and i hope congress passes the law that dole and her foks want and outlaw suing the fed gov't over trivial matters such as this..
    dow and as have no other purpose than to waste tax payer money of lawsuits

    me out...

  • Oklahoma City National Memorial is a Fine Memorial, But It's Not a National Park   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Meaning no measure of disrespect either to the thousands of victims past and those to become so in the future, but does this set a precedent for the NPS to be given the go-ahead to commence "advertising" this and other soon-to-be memorials to the victims of domestic and international terrorism, particular to incidents that occur within our boundries? This harkens back to a previous discussion about what qualifies as "worthy" of NPS considerations to be in the all-inclusive club.

  • National Park Quiz 14: Historic Houses   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Question 9 seems perhaps a bit ambiguous. [Ed: The Hauptquizmeister agrees that item #9 was more than a bit ambiguous in it original form. Item #9 has been extensively revised and should now past muster.]

  • Oklahoma City National Memorial is a Fine Memorial, But It's Not a National Park   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Interesting points, Bob, Anonymous & Paul "Barky" Dionne:

    Of course, we have memorials that ARE units of the National Park System (the Lincoln Memorial & the Roger Williams National Memorial, for example, of many) and others that are not.

    Many "Affiliated Areas" -- units that are not part of the National Park System but were designated by Congress and do have a built-in relationship with the NPS -- are included in the NPS website, and look a lot like parks in that site. In several cases Affialiated Areas are as significant as National Parks but are not owned or administered by the NPS, so the congressional protection strategy was to make them Affiliated. The Touro Synagogue National Historic Site -- an Affiliated Area-- is, for example, is an extremely important piece of colonial architecture and also has a nationally significant history, but it continues to be an active synagogue and generally the policy is active churches cannot be administered by the US government. The NPS tried to put together a policy statement on Affiliated areas, but it was a pretty silly and contradictory document.

    Oklahoma City National Memorial has very troubling issues all its own.

    First, though, Paul "Barky" Dionne, I would argue that the Oklahoma City experience DID have an impact on the nation. I wouldn't try to compare it to the Port Chicago, of course.

    Prior to OK City bombing, there was building in America a vigilante-type rhetoric and hostility to government. The press was full of government agents being shot at, lots of talk about the legitimacy of the "posse comitatus" movement, talk about government agent's in Black Helicopters and on and on. In Oklahoma City, there was an enormous sense of common ground, and recognition that the many federal workers killed in the building were good community members and what each of them did as individuals and as government workers was important. That spirit in Oklahoma City went Nationwide as people everywhere responded in their hearts to what had happened. When it became known that the killers were anti-government fanatics, that only reinforced the feeling. There was a real lessening of hostile comments by right wing congressmen and women, as they realized that kind of talk no longer would play in Peoria, or any where else. Yes, we still have Limbaugh and some outrageous stuff on the web, but for the most part the American People got a wake up call on who the real enemy is.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, how the park was set up and how it was managed out of its NPS status, THAT is something else. This is the text book case in how not to do, and what happens if you do.

    For the congressional designation of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, there was no normal "special resource study" prepared in advance by the NPS to guide the development of the project or the legislation. An SRS managed by a good team of planners has the opportunity to develop close connections over time with the stakeholders, which leads to the development of the right sort of legislation for a site. Especially in the case of a partnership site, like a heritage area, the most successful sites are the ones where the NPS and the site partners develop a strong relationship long before the bill passes congress.

    But Senator Nichols (R-OK) approached this differently. He is the father of both the park designation, and de-designation. Senator Nichols was never known as a friend to the National Park Service. (Perhaps this reputation is unfair, and I hope Friends of Nichols at this site will get a whole lot of comments demonstrating Senator Nichols as a secret admirer of parks and preservation.) When he ran the finance committee he kept a very tight lid on overall NPS spending, or any preservation spending for that matter. But he had the power to ram an extremely unorthodox bill through Congress to do something he normally did not like to do -- spend money on national parks -- to authorize the creation of the park and spending park money on its development. No prior relationship had been developed with the stakeholders, national or local, and NPS staff.

    Immediately the local stakeholders objected to federal hiring rules and federal contract rules. The first park superintendent was highly regarded in the NPS both for holding up the standards of the NPS, while also for advocating for the needs of the local stakeholders. But he was soon gone. Then Mary Bomar, the current Director of the NPS, was named superintendent, her first superintendency. Senator Nichols conveyed to us in Washington that he was highly impressed by Superintendent Bomar. Soon after, a new deal was arranged cutting out the park status and a great deal of the NPS authority over who the money was spent. Rather than this being a disaster in the career of a brand new and sparcely experienced superintendent, Mary Bomar was instead promoted Superintendent of Independence National Historical Park, one of the real jewels among the historic parks of the nation. The Philadelphia newspapers suggested that the previous superintendent was being pushed out for not being supportive of "park partners." When Mary Bomar arrived in Philadelphia, her Press Release said she had great success working with partners. This is a new meaning of 'success.' There is lots of evidence that the interpretive story in Oklahoma City was very tighly controlled by the local stakeholders, and little sign that anyone asserted the normal expectation that the National Park Service must make sure that the whole story is told.

    It is hard to imagine more inappropriate behaviour than Senator Nichols first ramming through a new national park without a study as required by law, and without developing any relationship between NPS and the stakeholders, never clearly preparing the stakeholders for what a federal designation would mean, and then after the bulk of the money flowed in, working out a way to strip away the federal accountability and designation for the site, but then still continuing to create a pipeline of money to the future. The NPS people working there do not have any authority over the management, but are there to lend the international identity and repution of the National Park Ranger to the site, while depriving the NPS of any authority that usually goes along with the NPS credibility. All the effort conducted in good faith by the first park superintendent to try to implement Nichol's law was completely undermined and cast aside. This is certainly a new definition of "park partnership." Lucky for Mary Bomar that she did not have to stay and work with what had been so quickly created, or broken down depending on your point of view.

    Senator Nichols then went public after September 11, 2001 opposing the federal appropriation for rebuilding New York City in the wake of the attacks there. It is interesting though, in the same way he could not keep Hilary Clinton and George Bush from getting the money for New York, Nichols could not be stopped in the way he went for the park in a lawless way and the money for Oklahoma, and then pulled the rug out.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Raise more money for the NPS, by having a two-tiered pricing structure. American citizens and legal residents pay a reduced price. Foreign tourists pay more. This is done in the EU. EU passport carrying people get in at reduced prices or free at certain museums and sites. This would raise more money for the parks without squeezing taxpayers anymore.

  • Odes to the National Park Rangers Who Wear the Grey and Green   6 years 8 weeks ago

    Who would lead us on hikes if there were no rangers?

    In 2006 my wife and I visited the Canadian Rockies. We found a few park wardens in uniform, but none were involved in leading hikes. When we stayed overnight at Moraine Lake Lodge, the Lodge offered guided walks and evening programs free of charge to all lodge guests. I went on both the morning hike to the Consolations Lakes and the afternoon hike to Larch Valley. These hikes were both led by a Moraine Lake Lodge employee wiho had a degree in the environmental sciences. She was able to do quite well with her groups, and she could field questions about the park as well as about the subject of climate change (her specialty at school). In the evening, she was dresssed in all white as our server in the lodge dinning room.

    The free evening interpretive programs at Moraine Lake Lodge turned out to be creative. They were mostly skits performed by former Parks Canada interpreters who have gone private. They often changed costumes and acted out their roles as park fauna and flora with personality. I found the acting and costumed aspects of these presentations somewhat "over the top."

    As a former NPS park ranger-naturalist, I would prefer that the guided hikes and evening programs in parks be given by uniformed rangers. I would also hold the information content and quality of the experience to an exceptionally high standard. I believe that the outdoor educational mission of the NPS needs revitalization. Attending a guided walk in the company of a uniformed and knowledgeable national park ranger is an important part of the national park experience.

    I would not like to see the NPS go in the same direction as has Parks Canada, but my fear is that this may already be the case in many our parks where visitor services are now provided by park volunteers, Natural History Association employees, and concessioner guide services.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Odes to the National Park Rangers Who Wear the Grey and Green   6 years 8 weeks ago

    Good grief! Buy your own uniform. Nobody has ever funded my work wardrobe...

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 8 weeks ago

    "The National Park Service likes to promote that visitors give the National Park System a 96 percent approval rating."


    One of the problems I have with this statistic is with its implications when compared to the total visitation to our parks. For example, if we were to say that current park visitation is on the order of 100 million per year, and if there is a 96% positive approval rating, then this means that 4 million park visitors per year are having a less than totally positive experience. This is a lot of people for whom a park experience is less than optimum. That's far too many negative impressions to conclude that the status quo is acceptable.

    The NPS is making great strides to professionalize and increase its staff of law enforcement officers. I would hope similar strides could be made by the NPS to regain its former leadership in interpretation/education/ resources management and scientific research. On the other hand, I would hope that all uniformed employees of the NPS, including law enforcement and resources management specialists have, as part of their professional mission and training, the objective to engage the park visitor to enhance their park experience. This objective should be shared by all NPS employees; it should not be a specialty mission reserved for the park interpreter-ranger.

    With respect to the issue of park visits by pet owners: This is a very important and growing segment of society. Many families, and even seniors, are having second thoughts about a park visit because of a perceived anti-pet policy. This did not seem to be the case on my recent (2006) visit to the Canadian Rockies where pets (dogs) on a leash seemed to be permitted on all park trails, other than those routes posted for Grizz.

    On the trails of Banff National Park, the few dogs I encountered were on the leash and well behaved, and I had no difficulties with barking, droppings, etc. Many family pets were encountered with groups hiking in mid-September to Larch Valley above Moraine Lake.

    In Germany and Norway, pets were permitted in trains and restaurants, as well as in the forests and on trails. While in Austria, our German Shepherd even slept with us in a mountain hut on flanks of the Gros Glockner. Are dogs on trails (on the leash) really that big of a problem? If so why are dogs on or off leash permitted in non-NPS wilderness areas?

    I would rather permit pets than firearms in parks. I would rather permit pets than expand campgrounds to provide for motor-home versions of RV's with all amenities hook-ups. I would rather permit pets than expand the capacity of high-end luxury hotels. The price of a room at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite makes me blanch.

    I think the NPS should encourage the use of parks for outdoor education. Hiking and traditional tent camping under the stars should be encouraged. I'm abivalent about the use of pack animals and equestrian use because of trail and meadow damage in areas of high visitation.

    Some purists would say that NPS campgrounds should not have hot showers. At age 63, I think it would be wise to provide such facilities, otherwise the absence of showers contributes to a self-selection for more formal lodging. The Crater Lake Mazama Campground commercial showers, however, are substandard. There should be some means for the park visitor to issue the NPS and the park concessions a report card at the conclusion of their visit. Maybe in this way, we can increase the percent positive park approval rating from 96% to 99% (where it should be).

    There shoud be more primitive, walk-in type campgrounds, however, with no fees and no amenities. Front country walk-in style campsites might have a simple wash house with clean toilets. Of course, the back country should remain as wilderness, and camping should entail minimum impact. Evening ranger programs without slides and recorded music should be encouraged.

    For the larger more heavily visited/impacted parks, the NPS will have to wrestle with and establish visitor carryiing capacities. However, I think that if the carrying capacity were to focus on the private automobile, most of the apparent problems, including in-park crime, would be solved.

    The economic/political importance of parks to gateway communities and regional incomes, will always have to be considered as an entity in future park planning. To do otherwise, will almost certainly guarantee a shorter-than average career for any aspiring park manager. Nevertheless, where there is a conflict, conservation, preservation, and protection of park resources must take precedence over visitor use and tourism. This paradigm, however, will be easier to say than put into practice. Ask any former NPS Director or park superintendent.

    I agree that park developments, including park visitor centers, should be the minimum necessary to facilitate a park visit. They should not become the event in and of themselves. I agree that the Arches NP VC is a bit too much. Certainly the NPS could have done better.

    On the other hand, the VC's at the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park and at Natural Bridges and at Hovenweep National Monuments were the right size and outstanding. I even found law enforcement rangers assisting at the information desk and enjoying themselves as they fielded a variety of visitor questions.


    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 8 weeks ago

    "If it could be some sort of national trust, with an independent board of directors, like other not-for-profit institutions, it would be better." last someone else is on to one of my favorite long-term solutions for the administration of the national parks. Take Washington, DC out of the day to day reality of the NPS and let's see what great things could possibly happen. Glad to have you aboard Barky.

    As for Frank's bad experience with NPS interpretation, which I also had the misfortune of encountering this year in two separate Utah parks, I think has a lot to do with a general lack of standards and accountability within the management ranks of the NPS. Naturalists are just not as important as they used to be. The major thrust in the agency these days seems to be on bigger guns, specialized law enforcement badges and acronym laden, overblown initiatives that most rank and file employees try to forget the day after they are announced.

    Interpretation, maintenance and resource management are all in general decline and importance as law enforcement and fire management is where the action is now. I know of many younger employees tilting towards these areas to become more "marketable" for a career ladder climb.

    For all the hype about interpretive "renaissances" and such the average interpretive programs being offered today are far less creative, well thought out and entertaining than they were just 10 years ago. The old codgers who taught me and influenced my programs were most often dedicated seasonals who generally thought outside the box and loved their craft. Unfortunately they are a dying breed that are not being replaced with rangers who attain the same level of intellectual quality and insight. Even worse is that I don't really think the agency cares.

    Good thread Kurt.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 8 weeks ago

    I have recently volunteered for the US Fish and Wildlife Service at Pea Island NWR located within the national seashore. I have followed the recovery programs for piping plovers along the East Coast since they were listed in 1986. At that time I was located in Rhode Island where our population of plovers had decreased to only several pairs due to heavy pedestrian traffice on beaches and also to limited vehicle traffic. With similar recovery efforts that have finally been enacted on the National Seashore, Rhode Island population of plovers has recovered to somewhere around 70 pairs of plovers.

    Senator Dole, the National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service in North Carolina should be ashamed of themselves for the lack of action over the past 22 years. While political groups and state and federal protection agencies have played games over the last 22 years - the population of piping plovers has declined by half. This is an outrage. There is no reason in this world why people cannot give up travel over a small portion of the coastline during nesting season for the birds. Not only the plovers are suffering but also other beach nesting birds. The damage that is done to the beach itself is also worth mentioning. The repeated travel over the sand destroys the beach habitat for invertebrates and other things living in the sand along the shoreline.

    During my stay at Pea Island, we traveled down to Cape Point and I was appalled at the damage done to the beach front by vehicle traffic. People will still come to the beach. People will still come to fish. It has been proven in Northeastern states such as Rhode Island, on Cape Cod in Massachusetts that both people and birds can survive together on the beach. The problem in North Carolina is that certain groups of people are too selfish to compromise for the benefit of the wildlife.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 8 weeks ago

    The best suggestion I have for the NPS is to free itself from the political toilet that is our "democracy" and create its own federal entity, unbeholden to the garbage that currently is responsible for allocating funding, and function as a self-sufficient "federal business".

    I absolutely love this idea! Although I fear for it (witness how pathetic Amtrak, a current "federal business", is), it would take the politics out of the NPS. Unfortunately, it would bring the business into it, which, IMO, is just as unethical, shortsighted, and stupid.

    If it could be some sort of national trust, with an independent board of directors, like other not-for-profit institutions, it would be better.

    We all know our elected officials are failing the parks. Few alternatives could do worse.


    My travels through the National Park System: