Recent comments

  • Park Service's Top Investigator Pleads Guilty To Theft   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Pat was a peer, then - as the NPS attempted to create a 'line authority' special agent corps - she threw in (conspired) with a small group that had a plan to take control... (I and most others were excluded from the plan and dialogue). Not surprisingly, she and most of the group became the new power brokers/managers of the program. The culture of the NPS seems to breed this type of behaviour. As far as blame - she had her dirty big secrets - she betrayed the trust of the position, she violated the law and she was unethical. She would never have been able to testify for the prosecution again because all of her past (and future) statements became suspect the moment she was caught lying. This same scenario would apply to her official statements, personnell actions and decisions. It was apparent to many that she promoted those she favored and that she held back those who represented a potential threat. Blaming the President: The NPS has very few conservatives in its ranks - and this administration has provided more funding than ever before for the NPS - so any finger pointing in that direction is misplaced. To guage how dug in NPS top managers can be - try to find out which of the law enforcement implementation directives - ordered by the Inspector Generals office several years ago, have been fully carried out.

  • National Parks Contribute Holiday Ornaments to White House Christmas Tree   6 years 19 weeks ago

    What is the big hubbub about the ornaments on the tree? I keep reading stories all over the internet about this. First of all, for me personally as a District resident (albeit one about to move to Montana in a few weeks) the only reason I've been to the Yellowstone Christmas tree was to protest the war in Iraq. And, even then, you're forced to stand on a street corner pretty far away from the tree, which I honestly in all my years here have never seen and never cared to see.

    Nice irony that a tree has been chopped down to honor places where trees are generally left to stand, even long after they are dead.

    If you are coming to DC, come see the town. I don't know how many come just to see the Christmas tree (probably too many); I'm astounded every year to hear a million people come every year just to see the cherry blossom festival. And, as for the homage to the parks, I'm at least glad some local artists got some money out of it. Beyond that, I don't know why this has gotten any smidgen of ink in the press (and it's gotten a fair amount).

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

  • National Parks Contribute Holiday Ornaments to White House Christmas Tree   6 years 19 weeks ago

    I think it's a wonderful homage to our National Parks, and I, personally, would love to see the vistas portrayed on the ornaments. At least, our National Parks have been brought to the front of everyone's mind and maybe in so doing, people will become more interested in their preservation. Laura Bush is a powerful advocate of our National Parks and bringing these images to the forefront is a good way to get people thinking.

  • Former Park Service Director Mainella: Interior Department Called Yellowstone Snowmobile Decisions   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Come on, the parks are funded by tax money. And decision and oversight on the use of tax money is the first and foremost task of politics. So unless you find a different form of finance for the park, they will always be and have to be a part of the political game. Stop whining over political influence and get your voice heard in a constructive way in the political debates. Frankly, I'm fed up with your style of contributions here.

  • Should We Be Surprised That Snowmobile Politics Trumps Science in the National Parks?   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Is it really science...or junk science by agenda-driven enviros??

  • A Mammoth Cave National Park Christmas   6 years 19 weeks ago

    I saw the White House.gov page with all the ornaments but I somehow missed this one. Isn't there an old Star Trek episode where the Enterprise gets trapped in something that looks a lot like this? :-)

  • Former Park Service Director Mainella: Interior Department Called Yellowstone Snowmobile Decisions   6 years 20 weeks ago

    the former Park Service director created an image of a National Park Service not following the letter of the agency's overriding directive to conserve the park system and its resources for the enjoyment of future generations but rather one that kowtowed to political appointees in the Interior Department.

    Yet Ms. Mainella and many other national park advocates want to keep park management in a political system. Does this make sense to anyone else? Ms. Mainella opposes outsourcing NPS jobs, but perhaps it's time we outsource--no, eliminate!--all political appointees (isn't the director a political appointee?) and most management.

  • Mammoth Cave National Park Adding Hiking, Biking Trail   6 years 20 weeks ago

    This sounds wonderful. A great example of mountain biking as an appropriate activity in a National Park.
    Good job Mammoth Cave. And I love the photo Kurt. ;)

  • Don Barry Describes Starving the Beast   6 years 20 weeks ago

    That's a related problem you're describing, and the two issues are by no means mutually exclusive. The fact that there are fewer dollars to go around yet you claim that superintendents haven't changed their tune when it comes to "museum, we see 'em, plus per diem" is MORE of a problem, not a different problem.

  • Don Barry Describes Starving the Beast   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Starving? You gotta be s*@tting me!
    Why don't you guys do a story on park superintendents' travel...WHERE, WHY, HOW MUCH for accomodations and HOW MUCH is spent on food...then get back to us on the subject of STARVING.

  • Alaska Regional Director Responds To Outrage Over Katmai Preserve Bear Hunt   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Alaska public radio ran a piece on the bear hunt on Katmai. There were a number of people giving their take including, bear biologists and even a trophy hunter who unanimously feel the bear hunt out on Katmai was very unethical and really was not hunting , but killing or harvesting. you can listen to the piece by going to www.akradio.org/archive open the "Mixed Signals" 11/24/2007 segment and scroll to the (7) min. and that's where the story begins.

  • Park Trips: Canyonlands National Park's Horseshoe Canyon   6 years 20 weeks ago

    And if you go, don't go alone and let people know your itinerary!

  • Park History: How the National Seashores Came to Be   6 years 20 weeks ago

    It should be noted that Mother Nature made the acquisition of Assateague Island possible. After the March 1962 nor'easter wiped out the development that had just recently started on Assateague Island, the Feds seized the opportunity to buy it up from the property owners who were pummeled in the storm. Opportunism? Sure. But stolen? Unless you can pull together a conspiracy theory that somehow conjures up a storm of historic proportions, I think that's a huge stretch.

    Currently, the long jetty at the south end of Ocean City has caused a huge addition of sand there, while the northern end of Assateague Island (the Maryland State Park portion of the island) is eroding like gangbusters because of that same jetty across the inlet.

    Assateague also has a "problem" with the non-native Sika deer, which has made inroads onto the mainland now as well. Another importation experiment gone awry.

  • Park History: How the National Seashores Came to Be   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Good question. That topic will be addressed in the coming weeks.

  • Park History: How the National Seashores Came to Be   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Where do the National Lakeshores fit into the history of the National Seashores? Such as "Pictured Rocks" and "Apostle Islands" on Lake Superior, "Indiana Dunes" and "Sleeping Bear" on Lake Michigan.

  • Trekking to Dick Proenneke's Cabin in Lake Clark National Park   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Hello friends,

    My name is Michael, and I'm going to the wilderness on May 1,2009,I will be leaving by my self to see Dick Proenneke cabin.Wish me luck on my new journey.Like to hear from you,please email me at . I also have read his book and seen his film.

  • Don Barry Describes Starving the Beast   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Starve? Yeah, like Michael Moore is starving.

  • Park History: How the National Seashores Came to Be   6 years 20 weeks ago

    The sentence that reads “Private property development and related activities are a perennial thorn in the Park Service’s side.” refers to the Fire Island National Seashore in general, not the Otis Pike Wilderness in particular. Frank’s interpretation is understandable though, and we regret that we didn’t reverse the order of the two sentences he highlighted for comment. He is correct in pointing out that the Park Service has no development issues to contend with inside the federally designated wilderness area. The threats to that wilderness area are primarily external ones, and will remain so. It is a matter of opinion whether one can logically use the term “thorn in the side” to describe the severity of the managerial problems that are caused -- whether intentionally or unintentionally -- by island residents. The NPS is charged with protecting the physical and cultural resources under its management at Fire Island National Seashore, including an elongated swath of federally designated wilderness. It is difficult enough to protect federally designated wilderness in the manner the law prescribes when the designated wilderness areas are buffered by extensive backcountry tracts, but it is considerably more complicated when the wilderness is situated in the country’s largest urban concentration, consists of only part of a coastal barrier island, and is in close proximity to residences, vacation homes, and the roads that serve them.

  • Don Barry Describes Starving the Beast   6 years 20 weeks ago

    There's a misconception about neoconservatives and conservatives that some of us have who are neither neoconservative nor conservative. The neoconservatives are "neo" precisely because they support American nationalism through imperialism. They see promoting and advancing Americanism as the main thrust of American policy, and so they will gladly build up government when it serves what they perceive as American interests, especially the military industrial complex. They support globalization (there isn't a great deal of difference between a neoliberal and a neoconservative) so long as it promotes American sovereignty. Some have gone so far as to support the exploitation of space for militarization, figuring that American control of space will ultimately promote American interests.

    Conservatives (paleo?-conservatives) by contrast in the United States have traditionally favored smaller government. Some are isolationist populist types (a la Pat Buchanan), some are free market global capitalists, but they all share in common the notion that the United States government should be de-centralized, that the role of government is to protect the homeland and to make sure that American business runs smoothly, and should leave the rest to market forces, churches, and charities. They otherwise aren't interested in American imperialism, nation-building, or anything that makes government larger, though they usually have little to say about large corporations, except (in the case of the populist types) those that hurt American small businesses by dealing overseas.

    That's a crude distinction, and there are many shades in between, but Bush and his ilk are of the neoconservative strain. Many Bush allies were involved with the Project for the New American Century. They support American imperialism (the spread of freedom - as though freedom were a brand of butter) as the best way to protect and promote American interests. As a result, they don't necessarily have anything against large government expansion but would prefer to promote industries that support the imperial enterprise (and yes, many do use the word "empire" - a talk at the neoconservative-friendly American Enterprise Institute in the past couple years was titled "America is and should be an empire"). So, they talk smaller government when it helps them make the point that the money should be spent elsewhere. However, smaller government is not really their aim, just sometimes a means to an end. It is for these reasons that neoconservative Bill Kristol even suggested that Hillary Clinton might actually be closer to the neoconservative agenda than many of the Republicans running for president.

    Now, many conservatives who are not of the libertarian variety still believe in protecting the national parks and fully funding them because they see them as iconic American places - to protect them isn't far different than protecting the flag or other great American institutions. They see them as a kind of national security interest because they are definitional places. For years, Republicans had the funding of national parks in their platform (don't know if they still do). So, it's a complicated question.

    Still, on the whole, the playbook of conservatives has been to starve government programs like Welfare, then when they aren't working due to lack of funding, claim they aren't working because of government inefficiency (when in fact, the plan all along was to make them inefficient by taking away the resources they needed to run smoothly). As much as I have my own philosophical bent against the systemic exercise of power from anyone - whether they be governments, corporations, or individuals - it's not hard to see the dirty trick played by savvy conservative politicians to promote a conservative worldview. Unfortunately, people's lives (in the case of welfare, the lives of the poor) and the land, plants, and animals (in the case of the parks) are collateral damage in this war. While I don't believe more funding for the parks is the answer over the long haul, I also think people who think like I do should be very wary of supporting those who are shrinking the funding. If people aren't ready to organize and mobilize from corporate greed taking over the vacuum left by a shrinking government, then the parks will only be worse off. It suggests the need again for grassroots organizing on behalf of places we love (much like we see with Buffalo Field Campaign out in Yellowstone, but only on a greater scale). We can't be left with this devil's choice of bigger and bigger government versus non-transparent NGOs and corporations, whether we are talking about foreign or domestic policy, or the parks in particular.

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

  • Park History: How the National Seashores Came to Be   6 years 20 weeks ago

    I would also dovetail the above comments with inholding landowners who have a deep sense of history and pride in their property and who are also regularly demonized by the agency because they are viewed as thorns in the side of "progress".

    We must always remember that many areas that are now national parks were created through shameful acts of government theft, intimidation, deception and coercion. Shenandoah, Grand Teton and the Great Smoky Mountains come immediately to mind but there are many other parks where the historical "legacy" is marked by far less than honorable deeds. To its credit Shenandoah has finally fessed up and now displays an interpretive sign explaining the exploitation and wholesale plunder of the mountain folk who were forced to vacate their private ancestral lands "for the greater good".

    It is high time for the supporters of the parks to understand that there are two sides to the private property coin and landowners are just as capable of being good stewards of the environment as government bureaucrats. In fact many are much better at it because they have the added incentive of pride in ownership and the self-interested motive of preserving the ancestral holdings for the posterity of the clan; concepts a tenured government envirocrat may find genuinely hard to wrap their mind around.

  • Park History: How the National Seashores Came to Be   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Safeguarding the seven-mile long Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness, the only federally protected wilderness in the state of New York, is a never ending battle against many threatening activities. Private property development and related activities are a perennial thorn in the Park Service’s side.

    First, no development threatens the Otis Pike Wilderness. All development in the wilderness was removed when the federal government evicted squatters. So you've set up a false dichotomy, a false conflict, between private property owners and the NPS where no such conflict exists (in regard to Otis Pike). Secondly, the private communities predate the national seashore by more than a century. I think we ought to respect the rights of those historical communities that exist on the island. Without them, the island would be just another tick-infested, poison-ivy-covered sand spit. Finally, if you want to look at threats to preserving the Otis Pike Wilderness (which at 1363 acres is a complete joke), you should point a finger at the National Park Service. The beach is not included in the wilderness area, largely because the NPS wanted wheeled access to the seashore. Additionally, managers and interpretive rangers at both Watch Hill and Smith Point frequently write wilderness permits after quotas have been reached, which leads to an over crowded, over used, highly impacted wilderness area.

    Why are honest, law-abiding private property owners viewed with such disdain? Why are they painted as cardboard cutouts, merely obstacles ("thorns") to the "greater good" that the NPS in its infinite, paternalistic wisdom wants to bring to all? I've lived and worked with the residents of Fire Island, and they're good people. They are not "thorns" in anyone's "side", and they care just as much, if not more, about the preservation of Fire Island than does the federal government.

  • Park History: How the National Seashores Came to Be   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Interesting how the concentration of National Seashores is solely an eastern phenomenon, with th e notable exclusion of the Padre region. I personally I didn't see anything extraordinarily special in the south Texas coastline that would warrant inclusion into this group, but that's just one opinion. I agree that it's long past time to expand our "National" designation to be all-inclusive of our nation, but again, from my own perspective, I would vastly prefer a central to northern section, or almost any section actually, of the Oregon coastline be gain designation as a member into the National club. More pristine, less touristy, more representative of what the coastline was, not what it has become. True, it makes a less user-friendly environment, what with the height of the cliffs and a lesser degree of "good" weather, which is relative to the individual anyway. But I still stand behind the area in terms of the "wilderness experience" that we have discussed of late.

    The management of the eastern coast environments would be better served to ignore the issue of erosion due to "severe storms". One is NOT going to keep these islands from being reclaimed by the sea. The best you can hope for is a delay tactic, which is neither worth the time nor cost involved. Enjoy them while they're here. And if anything is to be considered to increase their longevity, limit or ban the ORV and ATV crowds, cap structure development at current levels, and place a moratorium on road construction. Try planting native vegetation, that will assist staving off the erosive powers of wind and water better than seawalls and artificial reefs, and at 1/100th the investment in time and funds. Concentrate the management efforts on issues that CAN effectively be dealt with, and stop wasting time on plans and actions to combat nature. Mankind always loses that war.

  • Don Barry Describes Starving the Beast   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Something doesn't add up in my simplistic mind. If the neo-cons are starving the beast then why are many of the budgets still going up? Not only are base budgets going up, but program budgets are growing astronomically. Add in the monies that are contributed through non-profit puppet partners. Somebody out there an't tellin the truth.

    Granted it's a different world we live in. Years ago a Superintendent saw a need...and took action. Nowadays he must conduct studies, do public scoping, more studies, fight environmental groups in court, do more studies, then accomplish nothing when a new administration changes priorities.

    Parks are spending more money than ever. I would guess that payroll budgets are soaring (gotta add in all those positions being paid for with program money) but the entry level positions are drying up in favor of researchers and mid level managers who spend their day trying to figure out how to get even more money.

    In a sense "starve the beast" may have its benefits. Tell the guys in charge to get things done with the money they have or we will find someone who can. For every job the NPS advertises there are many highly qualified applicants...there are people who are willing to do the job.

    I think the Administration, whoever may control things at any given time, should focus on rewarding more funding to those who do a good job with their current funding. Lets face it the Government is not well known for its business sense

  • Don Barry Describes Starving the Beast   6 years 20 weeks ago

    If you look at the figures these so called right-wing politicians have grown the government to monumental proportions. The federal budget has bloated astronomically under Bush, more so than at any time since the Johnson administration when the Great Society was delivering guns & butter.

    If the government is gradually phasing out agencies that it finds less important than overseas imperial war making adventures and slopping the hogs at the trough of the military-industrial complex I think we should see this as an opportunity. There are other entities out there to manage lands as well as better funded state and local governments that could begin to take over many of these currently neglected federal properties. Instead of bemoaning the shrinkage of inefficient and unloved federal behemoths why doesn't Mr. Barry get the Wilderness Society fired up to take over some of this land themselves and put their money where their mouth is? Why spend so much energy trying to resuscitate these models of yesteryears land management?

    Future opportunity is nurtured from the ashes of the past.

  • Conservation Groups Will Head to Court Over Yellowstone Snowmobile Decision   6 years 20 weeks ago

    First, I ain't no "huggie".

    Second, I don't worry about perosnla contact with these chemicals due to my extensive education and training in the proper methodology of handling corrosive, toxic, and otherwise harmful subtance. You don't do my type of work if your a careless intellectual midget.

    Finally, genetics and personal biochemistry play a larger role in longevity and resistance to disease than you can possibly imagine. What are perceived to be "small, insignificant" exposure levels to one group are measured as toxic levels to others. Some people have aren't effected by a "normal" dose of Tylenol and eat them by the handful. Others pass out after taking a dose of Vick's Ni-Quil. That specific cause / effect ratio is one of the pet projects in my lab. Sequencing and understanding a mammalian genome is a walk in the park relative to decoding personal biochemistry and the related immunological factors that they influence. That your relatives enjoyed extended lifespans is enviable. But it's hardly worth betting your own life on a similar time frame unless you're willing to copy their lifestyle as well as their genes. Fatty foods and alcohol can to some degree be countered with exercise and an otherwise active lifestyle. They weren't exposed to the barrage of organic waste, microwaves, and other radiation, along with food "preservatives" and additives, including high levels of salt in most all the crap you ingest made outside your own kitchens, that we are forced to endure as part of our highly "advanced" society.

    For what it's worth, I'm not even worried about you. You control your own destiny, not me brother. So live fast or slow, party hard or hardly, eat whatever you want, and you'll die anyway. The only choice you have is a slow, painful death or a relatively quick one. But in either case I'm not concerned. Why worry about things you can't control, like lifespans? (Insert refernece to Jim Fixx and Ule Gibbons here.) But it's possible that some education into the cause and effect scenarios might be useful to you in planning your next big whatever you do.