Recent comments

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 10 weeks ago

    MRC,

    Your point is well taken.

    To succeed in court, the other side must have violated the law. If you use a lawsuit just as a weapon, you need very deep pockets, because if your claim is unfounded, you will lose the lawsuit and lots of money. Environmental organizations are not known for suing lightly. But if a government agency is acting in violation of the law, a lawsuit might be necessary to stop them.

    My point was probably too broad and unspecific. I was refering to our tendency to litigate rather than to negotiate over polarized issues. You are indeed correct that a sound legal basis must be present to make a lawsuit worthwhile. However, groups like Audobon Society have very deep pockets, and can easily steam-roller over smaller, less well-funded groups. I also agree that lawsuits may become necessary to stop even gov't. agency illegalities, but should only be used as a last resort, not as an SOP.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Dear RoadRanger

    -- thanks for clarifying the point about Baltimore. Yours is a very important point. Not enough is known about when a site or museum is self-sustainable, and why not when it is not. Baltimore is an interesting overall case, because it has more successful tourism than the much larger, and presumably higher-quality (re: # of nationally significant sites) Philadelphia. But the issues in Gettysburg and Valley Forge and many others will continue to plague --ASSUMING WE DEMAND SITES TO BE ECONOMICALLY SUSTAINABLE RATHER THAN SEEING FEDERAL APPROPRIATIONS -- until real and predictive feasibility studies can be done as a matter of course.

    -- yes, you are right about Cumberland Is Wilderness, and right about Carter. I think Reagan and the NPS should have made a better solution at Cumberland Is, in the same way NPS followed up on Ickies and FDR and made parks of the 30's and 40's work. And of course, the Alaska Lands Act by carter, and his national monuments is the largest conservation action by any American President.

    -- I don't think MLK site is his legacy, though, any more than other parks created during his time were his. Most were really established by Phil Burton.

    thanks for this dialog.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Frank C.,

    I did indeed misread the author-name, and attacked you for someone else's statements. I'm sorry.

    Frank C, a related issue/question I have been mulling and do not know how to approach, is the relationship between the Wilderness Act, and the Organic Act. Since some "wilderness" are lands covered by the Organic Act, how is the conflict between them resolved?

    I certainly agree - the Organic Act (often held aloft as some shining standard) is in reality not far shy of being an ordinary piece of pork.

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Ted,

    I don't think it's fair for you to characterize an entire group (or in this case groups, plural) as 'my-way-or-the-highway'. That could easily be said about the NRA, or any number of conservative groups. What would happen if, for instance, Sierra Club et al wins this court battle, and the Blue Ribbon Coalition or similar pro-snomobile group sued in a few years to allow the vehicles. Isn't that a 'my-way-or-the-hwy' approach to things? Environmental groups aren't the only ones with tightly-held, strong convictions.

    Such harsh words for people you don't agree with...

  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Dapster, sorry got behind and missed your question on species held up to ridicule. Cannot be a surprise to anyone. Several examples, such as Snail Darter, liverwort, etc.

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Ted, I would disagree that the groups you cite walk strictly in lockstep. While they are all in the same "lane," some certainly are more strident than the others when it comes to appropriate degrees of environmentalism in general and what's appropriate on public lands.

    As to the abilities of electric snowmobiles, some years ago -- but not too many -- a Utah company by the name of Raser Technologies developed a hybrid electric snowmobile that reportedly was just as powerful as a two-stroke machine. Now, why this option wasn't pursued I can't say.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Frank raises an intriguing prospect, that of revising/updating the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916.

    His suggestion particularly struck me today as earlier I was listening to an NPR show about the presidential nominees and the U.S. Constitution and whether it is a static or living document, whether it should be strictly interpreted in the context it was set down in, or whether future generations should be allowed to interpret its provisions in consideration of present-day circumstances.

    Much has changed since the Organic Act was written 92 years ago, and while Congress reaffirmed its key provisions via the Redwoods Act of 1978, it easily can be argued that revising the Act to take into consideration evolution of both the National Park System and societal views of natural resources would not be a bad idea.

    But where would you start? Should each application of "conservation" be replaced with "preservation" in the Act? Should the sections Ted referred to earlier regarding livestock grazing and logging be struck? While it's already clear that the Organic Act places preservation of park resources above enjoyment of those resources, does that section need to be clarified or strengthened?

    How far would you go with a revision?

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Kurt,

    I swung my brush at "environmentalism", not at an environmentalist. Please check the spelling. Sure, there are plenty of us around who know how to squirm out of any stereotype. But there an awful lot of folks who fall in with the herd mentality, too ... and they are indeed assembled into herds that swing institutional and highly politicized brushes. This is the problem I was pointing at.

    You illustrate the problem I'm speaking of in a recent & closely related post, "Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park", saying:

    This is a who's-who of 'My way or the highway' environmentalism organizations. These are the folks who don't care that the Organic Act contains plenty of "discretion" to nuance the single message they want to be heard.

    You may well be an independent-thinking "environmentalist", Kurt, but the "environmentalism" that I criticize is indeed attempting to assert a single 'correct' mental posture ... while ignoring legal (Act of Congress) language that disputes their claim to control of talking-points.

    I made clear in my comment that the "delusion" I was referring to is the idea that a single mental posture or attitude is the only appropriate way to view & interact with our Park resources. I stand by that as the core problem - and weakness - of environmentalism.



    For sure, Kurt, electric vehicles are very interesting, and I'd say, "promising"**. I had visited this reference you provide on the topic, only days ago. At the present time, these machines are woefully underpowered, and will fail to provide satisfactory range. Of course, when (useful) electric snowmobiles cause zero pollution or auditory disturbance, there will still be those (individuals & institutions) who oppose them ... eh? ;-)

    ** My specialty in the nuke plants was 'electrical operator', and my specialty as an electrician was the submarine battery. I have followed electric vehicle technology with acute 'professional' & personal interest for many years.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Ted, please note that the comment to which you're presumably referring was made by FrankN, not me (Frank_C).

    As for the Organic Act, I have read it many times over. I was the only new seasonal interpretive ranger in Zion in 2000 who actually knew that the Organic Act is the National Park Service's founding charter. (One coworker, now a chief of interpretation, thought it was the California law establishing a legal definition for food labeled "organic"!)

    I have advocated for a new charter, one that shuns special interests and places preservation above tourism. The Organic Act is seriously flawed, outdated, and was heavily influenced by interest groups that tilted the balance from preservation to conservation and opened the door for a hundred years of development and industrial exploitation.

  • NPS Retirees Oppose Carrying Guns in National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    As usual, who's the bigger fool? You or the ones your calling "Fool's". These people you are calling fool's are law abiding citizens, that have gone through the rigorous and sometimes expensive task of getting CCW's, ( Carry Concealed Weapon) licenses after a complete back round check, by the FBI and complete proficiency test to be,( Honored) as you would think , with their constitutional rights to carry a weapon for self protection of themselves, their families and even you, in the event they are around when you are in trouble! Yes, they might even help you or yours? They are not the Criminals, they are the Honest Law abiding Citizens that ignorant people like you call fools! Get a dictionary, look up criminal, and you will find the definition of the people that you should be afraid of, very afraid!! My only hope is to have brought an ignorant person up to light of what is really going on in today's society!!!!!!!!

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Frank C.,

    Road building? Who's talking about road building? Well ... you, mainly.

    Snowmobiles don't need roads, remember?

    You consistently caricaturize "access" in ways that are not real, not happening, and not a threat.

    You should actually read the National Parks Organic Act of 1916, posted on the National Park Service website. It shows that there is plenty of room within the law for both access and usage of our National Parks. It's short, but may be a jarring read.

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Ted says:

    People 'of a certain perspective' - environmentalism - have deluded themselves that only one special mental posture is 'right' for those entering the National Parks, and that all other are offenders.

    I think that's an awful broad brush you're using, Ted. I consider myself an environmentalist, but also would like to think I'm open-minded enough to consider each case on its own merits, whether it's snowmobiling, Jet Skiing, or what not.

    That said, these machines have their places, and I don't think one is delusional, as you put it, to believe they're inappropriate in many national park settings. Is one delusional to oppose snowmobiles in the parks, but willing to endorse snowcoaches? Is one delusional because they think park resources should be protected from the heavy erosional forces of off-road vehicles, such as those witnessed in Big Cypress?

    As for the case at hand, I would have a hard time arguing against snowmobile use in Yellowstone if the park only allowed electric machines. The technology exists, but for some reason is not being encouraged, either by the NPS or the snowmobile industry.

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 10 weeks ago

    @dapster: sorry, but that is nonsense. To succeed in court, the other side must have violated the law. If you use a lawsuit just as a weapon, you need very deep pockets, because if your claim is unfounded, you will lose the lawsuit and lots of money. Environmental organizations are not known for suing lightly. But if a government agency is acting in violation of the law, a lawsuit might be necessary to stop them.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 10 weeks ago

    @dapster: Both snow mobiles and snow coaches are only allowed in Yellowstone NP on roads - or to be precise where roads are under the snow. And coaches have much less impact per passenger.

    @Jim: You can run you own snow mobile, but you can only go with a licensed guide - there is no unguided snow mobiling in the park - so if you take a licensed coach or hire a licensed guide does not that much of a difference. Frankly - if anyone wishes to get the feeling of freedom on a beautiful winter day by running a snow mobile through the landscape: Go to a National forest, Yellowstone NP never was a place where this was possible.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 10 weeks ago

    "I have both a two year old son and a 73-year old father. I simply cannot ask them to make the same treks that I am capable of. Does that mean that they should be excluded from viewing our national treasures simply because of the limitations placed upon them due to their age? I think not."
    Although I don't necessarily agree with the total elimination of vehicles from Yellowstone, the idea isn't automatically without merit. Let's face it, 90% of Yellowstone ALREADY is inaccessible except by horseback or foot; and many of these areas contain national treasures that are as great or greater than those visible from the road. So it is in most National Parks. Shall we build roads to every mountain top? To every canyon bottom? To every Alpine meadow or pristine lake? Along the spine of the Sierra Nevada's? Aren't all citizens entitled to see these wonders? I am financially handicapped. I would love to go to Hawaii, but I can't afford it. Shouldn't someone buy me a ticket? There are always going to be places we would like to visit but cannot. I am never going to climb El Capitan in Yosemite, because I am not physically capable. I am never going to vacation in Hawaii, because I am not financially capable. Even the very old, the very young and the handicapped can ride on horseback or in a horse drawn carriage. They did for thousands of years. Whenever I think of all the places I would like to visit, all the mountains I would like to climb, I ask myself if I have seen all that I CAN? Have I driven every back road in Montana, for example. The answer, of course, is no. It wound take several lifetimes for me to do so. Have I visited every state park, snowmobiled every forest trail in the millions of acres of National Forest open to that activity? Soon I realize that there is too much that I CAN do to worry about what I can't.
    Our National Parks were never intended to be substitutes for Disneyland. They were, and are, intended to preserve unimpaired for future generations, a slice of what America was...sometimes before it was even America. When study after study shows that allowing snowmobiles is not in the best interests of doing that; and survey after survey shows that the majority of Americans feel that snowmobiles should be banned (and, yes, Yellowstone is owned by ALL Americans; not just those living within a hundred miles of her borders), then why are we even having this conversation??
    Snowmobiles should be banned. Once and for all, and permanently. Period.
    In the summer, a quota system should be set up allowing only a certain number of private vehicles in the park each day; and when that quota has been met, further visitors (on that day) would be limited to foot, horseback or tour (shuttle) bus. It would be better for the wildlife, it would be better for the air quality, it would be better for each individual park visitor's experience AND it would go a long way toward actually accomplishing the mission of the Park Service.

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Jim Macdonald says:

    "Ironically, that suggests I'm all for cherry picking so long as we are honest about why we are doing it."
    Yes, you're right - 'discretion' is part of both law enforcement by cops, and law interpretation by courts, and that word is just another way of saying 'cherry picking'. The Organic Act is liberally peppered with the word 'discretion'.

    So, true enough, it's not that we aren't supposed to ... use our judgement to fit the law the situation and vice versa (we are), but that we shouldn't delude ourselves or deceive others, that there isn't more latitude & flexibility in a statute such as the Organic Act than our own preferred passage. Obviously, there is plenty of latitude in the Act for decisions & actions that run counter to 'modern environmentalism' - some of them very dramatic.

    But Jim also stumbles, saying:

    "While I am glad at a practical level if we are rid of snowmobiles - not only in the parks but in the forests as well and every place except where the poor depend upon them for survival."
    • Snowmobiles are enjoying an explosive period of technical improvement & innovation, and market enthusiasm. Everywhere there is decent snow, these machines are growing in popularity. (Clean, quiet (fuel-injected, turbocharged, computer-managed) 4-strokes are quickly setting new standards, and attracting new market-sectors.)
    • The snowmobile industry is primarily driven by purely recreational values. It is the entertainment-motive that pays the bills for developing new & better types of machines. And the new machines are considerably more expensive. From the wealthy rancher who runs his fences and moves his cattle to open pastures with a snowmobile, to the impoverished subsistence northerner who run his muskrat trap line with a snowmobile, and everyone in between, utility-users make-do with equipment design choices and model-selections created for the entertainment market. Even overtly utility-oriented models such as the outstanding Ski-Doo Skandic line are adaptations of equipment developed with recreationists in mind.
    • No, we are anything but rid of snowmobiles, and it is not some feeble & tattered underdog who is served by them, but the Bull of the modern economy, the almighty discretionary-income consumer to owns & runs the snowmobile industry.

    Finally, Jim plea-bargains:

    "What drives people nuts with snowmobiles is not the law but the incoherence of the policy and the process that brings it about."
    Actually, I think what drives people nuts about snowmobiles is snowmobiles, pure & simple.

    People hate them, period. Neither the law, nor the policy & process mess is what gets people's goat. It's the infernal contraption itself. It's rhetorically the muddy boots, clomping into their church. "You should wear slippers, like me! And mince thusly down the aisle, like me! You should be in a state of rapture, like me!"

    That's what it really is: one group insisting their own way of looking a things is the only way.

    Ain't gonna happen. No reason why it should. People 'of a certain perspective' - environmentalism - have convinced deluded themselves that only one special mental posture is 'right' for those entering the National Parks, and that all other are offenders.

    The snowmobile defies the 'sanctity' of their 'church', and that's what 'drives them nuts'.

    Problem is, the unwashed are too numerous, have too much money, and way too many rights under the law.

    I entirely agree with dapster:

    "This cannot long stand. A tipping point will eventually be reached, and the ability to sue so readily may be taken away. There is now enough national attention to these issues to bring about such change, but I would not look for anything substantial until after the election/New Year."
    Obviously, right at half the citizens of the USA would like to see President Palin and her ol' side-kick calling the shots.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 10 weeks ago

    One big problem I have with snow coaches (and I'm no fan of snowmobiles) is access. Both modes of transportation are expensive and shut out a great many people. The biggest advantage of snowmobiles over snow coaches - as far as I can see - is that the snow coach choice in the park is monopolized, perpetuating the age old government / corporate rule over the park. So, while they provide access for all kinds of people who might not otherwise see the park in winter, the "all kinds" are almost entirely rich or upper middle class people. And, while Yellowstone, by its very distant nature tends to exclude many demographically poor people from being able to see it (except for poor people without families and with summers largely open), there is never any reason to exacerbate the problem. If snow coaches were publicly owned and free-to-use vehicles, or if there were some kind of progressive scale of cost, or on and on ... it wouldn't be so bad to me. But, as is, eliminating snowmobiles (a vehicle that depends upon some privilege but at least allows for some possibility of avoiding cost) without addressing the access issues involved with snow coaches removes one problem while creating another.

    Others have suggested plowing all or most Yellowstone roads and allowing cars. I'm not sure I'm for that one, either. Others suggest just leaving the park more or less closed and leaving it to those who can get in on snowshoes and skies. I don't really have an answer, just that the considerations are more than environmental versus mode of enjoyment but that they must also consider the public nature of the park and the economic class disparities that also exist in our society.

    And, of course, they need to consider the effect on wildlife. Evidence is mixed on the effect of groomed roads on wildlife migration. With bison leaving the park - often along these roads - to almost certain death, it does no good to continue the debate on these grounds without considering the implications to bison policy. That has to be part of the discussion as well. However, in some way that might be negligible, because bison eventually will find ways to leave the park to better grazing grounds. What bothers me is what I've personally witnessed in the north of the park, where the policy to keep roads open is followed so zealously at times that snow plows have hazed bison off roads within the park just to clear the roads. The bison are forced into full gallops and then get panicked, trip in the snow, hurt themselves, and put visitors in danger. Does grooming roads put unnecessary stress on animals? What will be done to make sure that doesn't happen?

    So, for me, economic class, remembering the land and the wildlife as equal considerations in the process, and of course noise and air quality, all fit into it. Aesthetically, I'd prefer to see skis and snowshoes; however, if we can, where we can, we should find other ways of access, so long as we consider fairness. If fairness becomes too costly, then it's generally not worth doing at all. So, if a clean snowmobile is either a fiction or just costs too much to do in a way that allows a wide variety of people from different classes to use them, then I don't want them. That goes for snow coaches - as it stands, I don't want them, either, for anyone - until access to them is fair. If a middle class person like me isn't willing to spend the money for my family to take one, I know it's downright impossible for many other people.

    One other note - I read a lot by politicians about the parks being for "benefit and enjoyment of the people" and that environmentalists forget that. There is a fallacy lurking. The mode of enjoyment cannot be abstracted to mean that enjoyment cannot be had. One way of enjoying being denied does not rid people of enjoyment. If enjoyment can only be had by destroying a place, then the Organic Act is simply nonsensical. There is no inherent right to the mode of enjoyment or for people to be able to make a living providing means that are destructive to the purpose of a place. The question isn't rights and what the people deserve, but what we should be doing. Anyhow, that aside helps me to think about things differently and may be a useful way to re-frame all our ethical quandaries.

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

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 10 weeks ago

    We have to understand that use of the courts should be merely seen as a tactic not a strategy in the overall fight and understand that there is something disingenuous about using the law as a means of protecting places that have no reason to be chained by any national or state law. I'm afraid that the success of the tactic of using the courts has convinced some of the ultimate good of it.

    It is a correct statement that use of the courts has become a strategy over a tactic, if not a mantra. Our litigation-happy society now sees this as the norm. "I don't like what you're doing, and you won't change it for me, so I'll sue to make it happen".

    This cannot long stand. A tipping point will eventually be reached, and the ability to sue so readily may be taken away. There is now enough national attention to these issues to bring about such change, but I would not look for anything substantial until after the election/New Year.

    It is also true that the parks are made to be used, by humans, for their own enjoyment, while ensuring that the indeginous wildlife is not harmed. While I advocate conservation alongside access, I find it totally unpalatable to think that many wish for the parks to become vast widlife refuges, with humankind completely excluded. That would be a travesty.

  • NPS Retirees Oppose Carrying Guns in National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Just a couple of questions for you Anti-Gun, Anti-Loaded Gun Types.

    1) What does a criminal look like?
    2) What does a rapist look like?
    3) What does a child molestor look like?
    4) What does a murderer look like?

    My point is, you can not tell the differance on looks alone. Criminals don't care about the law as it is, so why restrict the law abiding from protecting themselves against the lawless. Trouble never makes an appointment, it never scheduals a time when it will strike and make you the victim. Just because you have the tool doesn't mean your going to use it for illegal purposes like poaching or worse. Heck if I were a poacher in the park, I sure would not use a firearm, bowhunting is actually more quiet and bows are perfectly legal to carry in the parks as there is no law that I know of preventing it.

    When law abiding citizens carry concealed firearms, and the criminal element knows that they could run into an intended victim that just might be able to protect themselves, the crime is less likely to occure. It is far better to have and not need it, than to need it and not have it as I did one time out away from everyone, out in the country where I had a guy pull a knife on me. His mind was change abruptly, as he dropped his knife and headed off in the other direction. Had I not been armed with a LOADED FIREARM, the results would have turned out differantly.

    As an ex-cop with 20 yrs experience, I welcome more people legally licensed to carry and defend themselves.

    And oh yes, the reason I carry a concealed firearm, it's simple.... because a cop is just to large and heavy to carry around in my back pocket.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 10 weeks ago

    This thread is getting really good. Many points to ponder written here.

    Terrorism, attached to any cause, is never the answer. It will only breed hatred for the cause and the people associated with it. It is also immoral, as well as illegal. Reprisals from the opposition will surely ensue if this is allowed to escalate.

    I think it is rather elitist to say that you must visit these areas at a certain age. Sure, there are those folks out there who beat the odds and stay very fit past retirement age, but they are the exception rather than the rule. I also am not advocating the creation of new roads, etc. for any reason. However, I am against road removal and severe limitations to existing access unless there are sound scientific reasons supporting these actions. Soft science of the heart does not apply, in my opinion.

    Many of you have mentioned "Snow Coaches" as an alternative for access. A quick search on Google gave me my first look at these machines. Kind of a van-meets-snowcat arrangement. Quite impressive! Please help this East Coaster to understand the differences in use/access for the 2 types of machines in question here. Are the snowcoaches allowed on the same/similar terrain as snowmobiles? I would imagine simple size differences between the two would keep the coaches on wider trails and flatter terrain. Do they go high over passes and such?

    I would agree that these would be a completely viable alternative vs. snowmobiles for access for those not able to hike in. However, will these systems suffer the same fate as snowmobiles, and be banned in the future for the very same reasons? A similar situation is under way in CHNSRA, where Jet Skis were first banned in 1999, and the push to ban vehicles began in 2008. The gates have been opened, and the final outcome has yet to be determined. This may be the beginning of the same for Yellowstone.

  • Sierra Club Caught Standing Atop Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park   6 years 10 weeks ago

    why?? Humans have been out of the natural selection loop for quite a while now...lol

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Yes, it is dangerous to quote the law. What drives people nuts with snowmobiles is not the law but the incoherence of the policy and the process that brings it about. That leads groups to pursue various strategies to deal with the incoherence. One common strategy is to use the courts, and courts presumably base their decisions in law. Unfortunately, we often forget in these legal discussions that the impetus for our action is rarely a love for the law but rather a love for what makes sense to us. But, as those discussions are even more treacherous, people often stick with what's safest for them.

    I've tried to in my own thinking, writing, and advocacy go to the more dangerous places. In the case of national parks - particularly Yellowstone National Park - I have questioned the rationale for its own existence (see this series of essays), not because I don't believe that the national parks aren't places worth adoring but because we need to justify our beliefs on the firmest grounds possible. These places are too important for us to be lazy, for us not to pursue truth and justice with the utmost seriousness.

    While I am glad at a practical level if we are rid of snowmobiles - not only in the parks but in the forests as well and every place except where the poor depend upon them for survival - I am wary of the reliance on the strategy of legal parsing in order to achieve the ends of environmentalists. We have to understand that use of the courts should be merely seen as a tactic not a strategy in the overall fight and understand that there is something disingenuous about using the law as a means of protecting places that have no reason to be chained by any national or state law. I'm afraid that the success of the tactic of using the courts has convinced some of the ultimate good of it. But, when we look carefully at what gave rise to the law, what the law actually says, the incoherence and ambiguity in the law, and the worldview entailed by the law (in general, or in particular looking at the Organic Act or Yellowstone's Act of Dedication), I think we are left lacking. Our motivation has to come from somewhere else. It had better be for justice, truth, and love; that's why we fight. That's why we use the law; it's best that we not let the law use us.

    Ironically, that suggests I'm all for cherry picking so long as we are honest about why we are doing it. That may rip people of the motivation of cherry picking; if so, so be it. At least there are a lot of other ways to fight against injustice, but all of them are messy at some level (this is a dirty earth).

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

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 10 weeks ago

    A “thank you” to Anonymous for providing us with some real meat in the clarifying memo, and reinforcing how critical it is to follow the money if you want the real answers. Re the Baltimore collection, my point was not to study the origins, but to examine the evolution of the sites over the past 25 years. Granted, there are some obvious differences between them, but I’d like to know why the Baltimore museum – operations and management, whatever – made such a remarkable recovery. Re Reagan and Cumberland Island, the seashore was established in 1972 and operating before Carter was in office, so wilderness was the legacy issue. I can’t imagine Reagan liking any park legislation and I don’t know who drafted the letter for his signature, but they certainly understood the consequences. It may have been a noble effort in the ‘70s and early ‘80s to support a “wilderness” designation for Cumberland Island, but it certainly wasn’t realistic. Following the money and power will tell us why the NPS lost that one, too.

    Anonymous raises an interesting point with legacy parks. In a single term, Jimmy Carter was one of the lucky presidents to get two parks for his home state, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, and Martin Luther King National Historic Site, and much of Alaska for all of us. He has quite a legacy when it comes to preservation.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Good evening--

    I concur with the posts that say that snomos have no place in Yellowstone or Grand Teton. And, I really don't believe it is a question of access. You will remember that the original winter use plan called for a two-year phase out of snowmobiles to be replaced by snow coaches, a much more environmentally-friendly form of access. The two-year phase out was proposed to give the snowmobile dealers around the park some time to make the kind of business decisions they would need to make. Older people, families, people with disabilities, or those who don't have the time or energy to ski or snowshoe into the park can ride on these snowcoaches. They cause less pollution, make less noise, carry more people, and are, in my opinion, a viable option to the snowmobiles.

    No doubt the park will devise an emergency rule to get by this winter, but let's hope they pay more attention in the next round of rule-making to what their own scientists are saying to them and less to the political agendas that they appear to have followed for the last 7 years.

    Rick Smith

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 10 weeks ago

    The most commonly-cited clause from the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916 is:

    "... to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
    Less commonly cited passages include:
    "[The Secretary of the Interior] may also, upon terms and conditions to be fixed by him, sell or dispose of timber in those cases where in his judgment the cutting of such timber is required in order to control the attacks of insects or diseases or otherwise conserve the scenery or the natural or historic objects in any such park, monument, or reservation."
    Thus, the Organic Act provides for the logging of Parks, under certain conditions. As Sec. of Interior:
    "He may also provide in his discretion for the destruction of such animals and of such plant life as may be detrimental to the use of any of said parks, monuments, or reservations." (emph. added)
    Which suggests that Parks were intended to be used. And:
    "He may also grant privileges, leases, and permits for the use of land for the accommodation of visitors in the various parks...

    ... may, under such rules and regulations and on such terms as he may prescribe, grant the privilege to graze live stock within any national park [except Yellowstone]...

    ... may grant said privileges, leases, and permits and enter into contracts relating to the same with responsible persons, firms, or corporations without advertising and without securing competitive bids...

    The usual impression we receive of the Organic Act, that it conveys a single message, clearly, forcefully & unambiguously, is not well-supported by the rest of the document.

    If the remainder of the Act (beyond the popular quote used to support contemporary environmental positions) is still part of the law, then indeed the Parks have considerable legal latitude - under the Organic Act per se - to take a wide array of decisions which environmentalists will decry.

    Citing chapter & verse under the Organic Act 1916 looks risky, once it is actually read.

    To protest that all those 'stupid' things the Act says are just so much old-fashioned noise, and that the only part that really matters is the cherry-picked excerpt that happens to match our viewpoint, well ...