Recent comments

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    YES. Nothing short of complete separation from the political umbrella is satisfactory. As I've stated in previous discussions, the least painful manner of maintaining the system in its present form is the creation of a NPS business unit, with some painfully strict modifications from most "big business" operations. Some examples are:

    1) The "Director" post, or chairman, president, Big Kahuna, or whatever, is a single term position with duration of a maximum of 5 consecutive years. This position is supported by 5-7 "regional" managers with similar term limits, each charged with specific geographic responsibilities which are determined by an ability to actively render first-hand accounts of issues pertaining to a segment of the NPS. They are in-park managers, geographically dispersed such that they can physically be on-site at any unit in their territory within a matter of not more than a few short hours, particularly to function as liaison between the unit and the NPS offices during times of importance (e.g. weather-related events, wildlife issues, search and rescue, and other "major" issues including earthquake, volcanic or other "natural" disaster relief) to give credence to allocation of resources to ease conditions within the NPS unit in question. Additionally, the Director has the primary responsibility for private sector fundraising activities, acquisition of additional lands as required to maintain the overall health and long-term protection of the system as a whole, and to function as the public "face" or the organization.

    2) Speaking of fundraising and how it is planned and executed to maintain a system that is solvent, the following is to be implemented immediately:
    The NPS will collect a minimum flat $10 per person "tax" (precise final amount to be determined from actual current fiscal obligations) from every US citizen annually, NO EXCEPTIONS / EXCLUSIONS. EVERY citizen of the US pays, even those who choose to dwell "off shore". This will form the basis for the annual minimum operating budget of $3BB. Additionally, the parks are to be run as a "for profit" business, with SEVERE limitations on overall profitability. Quite obviously, all costs of doing business are to be inclusive in the fee structure charged for lodging, meals, entrance fees, permits, etc. and are to include ALL costs associated for staffing, personnel, equipment, REGLUAR required maintenance on structures, roads, trails, and grounds, and more than I care to include in this post. A detailed investigation of current annual operating expenses specific to current salaries, vehicle costs, building maintenance, road repair, grounds maintenance (e.g. snow removal, landscaping as required to maintain pedestrian and vehicular traffic, etc.) would be undertaken and modifications of entrance and associated fees would be implemented by the end of the first fiscal year of operation.

    3) To encourage "private ownership" and pride in our national treasures, the NPS will be allowed to sell stock in the NPS, a kind of personal stewardship in our land. A maximum, or cap on purchasing a designated overall percentage of available shares is too implemented such as to avert the possibility of one person, family, corporation, trust, etc. of gaining a "majority" in the overall Park Service Business. These shares do NOT include a voting right in the general operation of the business unit or the nomination of Board members, Director or Managers. In return for the purchase of stock, to encourage promotion and visitation, dividends will be issued BASED ON ANNUAL PROFITABILITY. The park service will be encouraged to maintain a "percentage over costs" of profit, with a finite dollar volume to be determined, and 100% of those profits are to be returned to the general operating fund. ANY profits over and above the "cap" as stated in the annual allowed budget will be returned as dividends to the shareholders. If profits do not reach their annual allowed cap, no dividend is to be issued.
    Example: fees collected from the "citizen tax" and each park unit, if budgeted properly, should allow at a minimum for the continuation of the service as a whole. An attendance rate of say 1-20% over projections makes the system more solvent. And at >21%, portions of the profits are returned to the stockholders, beginning with the first percent over 20.

    4) Salaries at the Manager, Board and Director levels are quite meager given the responsibilities with which they are charged, generally <$150K at the Director level. This is indeed more of the "true" public service opportunity. But upon leaving the NPS, WITHOUT the corporate "golden umbrella", your visibility to the private sector would be such that acquisition of the high-6+ figure remuneration position would be almost guaranteed, provided you've shown some level of competency. This differs from our current political system where you actually gain more by being incompetent, hitting the lecture circuit, teaching "How to Circumvent the Law" at universities, going on talk shows and writing a book about your experiences. Or you can go the way of Kenneth Lay and the rest of the Enron buttheads and rot in your country club prison, "not knowing how we're going to get by with just our one $12.5MM house".
    Unfortunately, on this thread I can only begin to articulate the overall business plan, but I have factored in more checks and balances to keep any one person from gaining total control and manipulating the system than you might imagine. No one person signs off on anything. An odd-number of regional managers report to an odd-number of general Board members. Each group initially functions within their own group prior to presenting issues to their superiors, such that those in the field know and understand the scope of the entire system just as well as do those up the food chain. The Board Members have the critical responsibility of trying to triage prior to presenting a short-list to the Director. The Director is similar to the current President of the Senate, who is called upon solely to determine issues when voting is hopelessly deadlocked. And even after balloting has been cast on issues, prior to funding being allocated, three signatures are required, one from each level of the management team, and who is chosen to represent the team BY the team, with no fewer than 1 dissenting vote on each level. It sounds more complicated than is it in practice, and at first glance it seems like total gridlock, but I've been involved in something similar in the past, and the tri-level committee functions quite well. What it prevents is any one person or group manipulating the direction of the overall team.

    There is much more to discuss along these lines. I know someone's first objection if going to be, "How in hell are we going to get anyone competent and diligent enough to undertake this responsibility for that kind of money?" My initial reply is that SO many of you are absolutely thrilled with your political representatives now, be you Dems or Reps, why would the fiscal concerns bother you? Do you have a clue what Representatives, Senators and the President are paid at the current point in time? How about your governor, state senators and representatives, mayors, etc? Another objection is bound to be,"Geez, this'll take FOREVER to set up." I estimate not more than 2 years, max, from inception, primary "billing" of the public tax thru collection of initial revenues to first issuance of stock certificates. Let's not argue the list of candidates at this juncture for Managers, Board and Director posts. But let's also no longer debate whether or not the general idea is feasible, or whether or not the time has finally come, due to political mismanagement and simply not caring enough to act to protect our public interests, and create the private trust that we, as Americans, deserve and are entitled to protect of heritage and safeguard our future.

    Reporting live, from La-La Land...........

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    There's nothing wrong with thinking bold, with truly thinking outside the box. Brainstorming produces dozens of ideas and possibilities, but not all will fit, and you don't enter into such a process expecting all to fit. You simply carry hopes someone will suggest something that does fit.

    I think a director in the form of the Fed chairman would be a great start, as long as she/he is the right person for the job and the supporting legislation that creates the role includes a political shield...as well as a system for ensuring this individual doesn't get too carried away.

    The NGO model raises concerns; look at what The Presidio Trust has become. Formed, in theory, to help the Presidio become self-sufficient, the trust has turned the Presidio into a business commons and threatens to dilute the history of the place. Imagine if that played out across the entire system.

    Beyond such a change in leadership, perhaps serious consideration needs to be given to breaking up the National Park System. I know that's blasphemy in some circles, but if you look at the existing 391+ units, you've got an untenable mix of national parks, of historic structures, of the arts, etc, etc.

    What would be the reaction if the National Park Service only oversaw "national parks," ie the 58 units that carry that distinction? What if some/most of the other 333 properties were spun off, some back to the states, some to NGOs, some to the National Trust for Historic Preservation? Give the NRAs and national preserves to the BLM; that's surely a better fit, and perhaps even the national seashores.

    Perhaps if these various scenarios and others not mentioned become part of a national discussion there will be a clamoring for better funding and a serious look at how the National Park Service conducts business. But to discard that idea or this idea for being too idealistic or doubting that the backbone exists for serious change benefits no one.

    The biggest danger to the parks, I fear, is to do nothing but let the current course play out.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    If you look to the Virginian-Pilot for "facts" then you'd do well to look to China for religious freedom...Phil G.,you don't know bird doo-doo about "facts",otherwise you would side with the truth.Piping plovers DO taste like chicken.That's why we like 'em!

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    The forces of wind, water, temperature and time are not to be denied. Erosion giveth, and eventually erosion taketh away. Mother Nature functions both as master sculptor and over time, when she decides she's seen enough and her work has served its purpose, she trades hats and becomes demolition crew. You go Girl!

    Just a gentle reminder that, as much as we like to see to the contrary and believe that things as we see them are the way that they are, were and will be, the planet is actually never quite the same at any two moments in time. The careful observer will AWAYS notice minute evolutionary modifications in the environment, from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour, as Nature's job description does not include the term "stagnant".

    For what it's worth, you can walk around, through and lean against most of the arches in Arches. Some fools I've seen have tried (a couple actually succeeded) in scrambling up to the zenith of Delicate and Double Arch. Be advised that if you are seen by or reported to the authorities, you are subject to arrest, fines and most unceremoniously escorted from the park. And no, refunds are not included. Revocation of passes is, though.
    As it should be.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    My thoughts exactly...I could see some misguided nuts wanting to put re-bar in all the arches so they don't move. This is nature at its finest.

  • Backcountry Volunteer Survives 100 Foot Fall While Canyoneering at Zion National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    What's up with park volunteers and employees going out and getting themselves hurt? I thought that was for us - the dumb park visitors!!!

    I sure hope Kaitlyn pulls through. When we last visited Zion two years ago, we encountered the gal from the backcountry desk out on the Horse Pasture Plateau with a friend. It was her day off and she was out enjoying the park. I guess that's the draw to work there. I wish I had a job like that!!!

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    So, is the answer to propose a Fed Chairman like position a la what Kurt talks about here, who is relatively independent but ultimately becomes accountable to almost nobody? Or, is the answer to have an NGO, or a corporate oligarchy, who is accountable only to their largest funders?

    Or, is the paradigm shift that we are talking about not radical enough? The only way that accountability for public lands happens if there is a radical decentralization of decision making in society - that is, a society made up of units small enough for individuals to have voice. However, that doesn't happen when you have big capital and big government, either or both. Right now, the choice is between corporate control or government control, but neither is free from corruption, both prove almost impossible to stop if either makes the wrong sorts of choices. Unless we are willing to take on anything that keeps us from having a voice, then there is no way that we can have reasonable discussion about what to do in our parks.

    In the short term, the only question is what is the biggest danger to the parks, but apart from a long term analysis of what we need to do, it's kind of silly. You don't remove politicization from decision making in the parts; all you can do is reduce the amplitude of it - make it smaller and more innocuous. However, what that typically has meant in our society is ceding government control for private control, which does nothing to reduce the amplitude when mega corporations control everything. We need to make them smaller and broken up as well. That starts, frankly, with community organizing - with building local community. And, in the meantime, just hoping and praying that the rest doesn't go completely to hell.

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

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Another culprit would have been Time - many millions of years of it...

  • Is It Time to Overhaul the National Park Service and the National Park System?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Kurt, as long as the federal government is at the helm you can expect these same types of problems to continue ad infinitum. The very nature of centrally planned bureaucratic management always works against efficiency, good sense and an orderly set of institutional priorities. All you have to do is look at public education, the military or transportation planning to see it writ bold: IT JUST DOESN'T WORK! You don't arrive at an $8 billion backlog in maintenance by paying attention to details and growing an organization wisely.

    In the NPS it starts with very simple things and quickly blossoms out from there. For example, just in the way that it hires seasonal and permanent employees is a boondoggle that has become more and more cumbersome with each passing year (nowadays even a seasonal naturalist must pass a background check from Homeland Security) with the result being that many potentially good hires walk away from the agency due to the aggravations of landing a fairly low paying entry position. Moving up the ladder is even more complex and harrowing. Only the persistent survive, not necessarily the most talented.

    Then try and get rid of a bad employee! Good luck if it takes you less than a year and hundreds of man hours in documentation and painstaking performance improvement plans (PIPs: a real acronym---no lie) and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    When you start delving into all of the waste on unneeded projects, politically motivated decision making and being slaves to the latest trend of the moment like podcasting and diversity enhancement initiatives it is little wonder that the parks are in as good a shape as they are in their currently shabby state of being.

    I think it is foolhardy to think ANY government has the ability to reform its inefficient and wasteful ways. We've known that military procurement has been a steaming cauldron of fraud and mismanagement at least since the Sixties and the postal service for even longer and I won't even go into Fannie and Freddie Mac and the trillions of dollars of losses it is about to rain down upon the heads of taxpayers for generations to come. Does anyone out there seriously believe that the NPS will be the lone exception in being able to overcome the curse of federal governance?

    If so, I think your optimism is misplaced and not supported by history or good sense. Let's try something else.

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Look here people: the 2nd Amendment is a cornerstone right guaranteed by the Constitution and along with private property rights is at the very core of our freedom as citizens of this formerly grand republic. I am allowed to carry a gun in the state parks and forests where I reside and it should be no different in a national park unit (which my state has aplenty). What is the big deal? If the NPS rangers are allowed to carry them, then so should I. End of discussion.

    Guns in the hands of law-biding citizens makes for a safer and freer society, whether they are carried in the heart of the city or along the shores of Yellowstone Lake.

    People having guns just don't scare me. The more the merrier. People driving while talking on a cellphone now that's SCARY.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    And don't forget the collapse of the Old man of the Mountain in New Hampshire

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Political Observer: I see that the letter was written on December 14, 2007 (sometime ago) and after counting the votes: it was 37 Republican Senators to 7 Democratic Senators. It looks like a party line vote to me. I'm sure it's political pull since it's an election year. I thank you for the information. However, this letter vote does not persuade me to think differently that hand guns should be implemented into the National Parks as policy...nor implemented into its political arena. This vote only tells me that the NRA has wicked clot in politics for profound marketing reasons which is for greed and power. Please don't tell me differently! Again, I appreciate the information.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    I'm glad I visited and walked this trail when I had a chance to back in 2001. This is the second great american landmark to become a mere memory that I have had the privilege to see firsthand. The first was Cinder Cone and its associated lava flow in Lassen Park California, which I visited for the first time in 1980. It had such spectacular features as the lava field, which up close looked like water waves frozen in mid crash. You couldn't walk on it or you'd be cut to ribbons. The cinder cone itself featured a perfectly 200' cylindrical hole in the middle that bottomed out in some similarly frozen lava. 20 years later the cinder cone had collapsed in on itself and the hole was a mere 20' feet deep. The lava field was a mere shadow of its former crystaline self with trees growing throughout; it was beginning to blend in with the background landscape. Since it had been there since the mid 1800's, I couldn't believe the amount of erosion that had taken place in the last 20 years, a sure sign of how "global warming" has accelerated the erosive forces for that hitherto slow-changing landscape. I presume that the change in level of rain and snowfall was the primary culprit.

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    There was a request for information on the 51 Senators who sent the letter.

    The link below will take to you the U.S. Department of the Interior website where a copy of the letter is posted. You will probably need to paste the link into your browser--not sure if the link will be active on the page.

    It is actually two letters--one with 47 Senators and then a follow-up with another letter with 4 Senators.

    You will see that it is not all Republicans and even if it were the point remains the same--you have a majority of the U.S. Senate telling Interior to change the rule. The matter was settled when the letters reached Interior.

    http://www.doi.gov/issues/response_to_senators.html

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Off the top of my head, I can't think of any arch in the park you can "walk over." Under and past, yes in many cases, but the NPS frowns on you walking over them.

    Landscape Arch you can't even stand under due in large part to its fragile nature. You can walk along fins, which are some of the building blocks of arches. In general, if a named arch can be found on a USGS topo map, park regulations prohibit you from climbing onto it.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Kurt: Are all the arches at Arches National Park open to visitors to walk over? Was the Wall Arch open to visitors before the collapse to hike over? The geology of this special place amazes me with all of its beautiful and unique features carved in eons.

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Political Observer: Out of the 51 Senators that signed the rule change (to carry concealed handguns) were they Republicans...and who were these Senators? Was this a strict party line vote and "not bipartisan"?

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    thank God there are people in charge out there, that know its a natural thing, and not some nut who wants to coat all the arches with super glue so that the park remains the same forever. We are constantly evolving.

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    While this discussion is entertaining I believe the matter of carrying concealed weapons in the National Parks has been settled in favor of those who want this right. Although there were 35,000+ public comments submitted (with about 95% of them in favor of adopting the new rule allowing concealed carry) I think the matter was really settled when a letter with the signatures of 51 U.S. Senators was sent to Secretary Kempthorne requesting the change.

    The groups which opposed this change were doing what they thought was correct, and what their membership would expect them to do, but if any of the members of the various groups really thought there opposition was going to change the outcome they were politically naïve.

    When you have a majority of the U.S. Senate signing a letter to a federal agency urging a change in policy the matters has been settled.

    The discussion about “spying” with some expressing notions that doing so was something bizarre I found sophomoric at best. What could any of the groups who opposed this new rule be doing that was really “secret”?

  • Park History: Wind Cave National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    first off i have been going to wind cave for 39yrs.,i do know a little bit about it..get rid of the prairie dogs as best you can,i was there last year,they have taken over custer park,and are eating their way to wind cave...less grazing for the elk and buffalo...duh....

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    I would be willing to pay for a permit but there should be no quota. To me, the quota is the sticking point. At the very least, an unlimited permit system would reduce the number of joy riders who show no respect for the resource. The income could be used for additional park staff and additional protection for wildlife.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    ANON, TRAM PROPOSAL...

    One good reason. The amount of "Wetlands" (you know those area the USEPA doesn't let anyone do anything on?) that would be required to be bulldozed over and paved to support the parking, tram turnarounds in various location along the shore area would do more damage than all the ORV have ever done. Logistically speaking the contracts to the Haliburtons of the world, the equipment the lot attendants, the notices let alone the waiting times just about put that idea out of reach. Would I ditch my SUV, which by the way is just as quite as you Prius, probably not. You see my Hatteras House is 140 miles Round Trip from the Home Depot, when you make that trip, you pretty much need something big to bring that shopping trip results back in one trip. You don't do it every week but when you do it's a major planning event. It also serves to haul the friends and neigbors around to the grocery store, resturants etc. Many of consider car pooling a necessity on the island. There are so many cars there during the peak summer months and limited parking you have no choice but to have 6-8 passenger vehicles. In the 20 plus years we've visited and owned property on the island, we've never witnessed ORV's with LOUD MUFFLERS, we have not seen anyone doing DONUTS, the Speeders and Dune walkers we have either spoken to directly or called the NPS to report these inconsiderate people. And you might want to know, none of these few incidents were commited by the FISHERMAN, they were young kids who would have done that on the beach, in the parking lot or anyplace else they thought they could show off to their friends.

    PHIL G. (thank you for not being anonymous, I like people who will admit to their opinions)
    The permitting system only sound good on paper. Let just look at the issuance of them to begin with. How many is an approrate limit? Do the homeowner get first choice? If the homeowners exceed the limit, do some homeowner get locked out? If the homeowners have the all the limited permits, how would a visitor on a weekly vacation, or weekend fishing trip get a permit. How long would that process take, where do you park all the applicants while the process is taking place. This isn't Cape Cod where there are no villages around the area that they issue permits. Everyone is a visitor to the beach there and the line up for days prior to the opening of the permit office. It's a one or two day deal, and you may well sit there and not get a permit. In NJ the IBSP permit used to be $50 a year, litterly from Jan 1 to Dec 31 you wouldn't have to leave the beach, now the permit is over $200 and your limited to certain hours and many other restrictions. Permits are just another money maker with no real conservation, wildlife protection or anything else. The only thing it does is create a bigger bureaocracy.

    The National RECREATION Area has done just fine for more than 50 years, The few birds that people are trying to entice to learn how to reproduce are not native birds, and those same people are not telling you about the large numbers of birds that are reproducing just outside the boundries of the actual park land.

    The only way to stop out of control protectionist is to pass S3113 and let the Professional Park Service staff regain control of their own park. That's what we pay them for. We shouldn't be paying the lawyers of special interest groups to run our parks.

  • Second Black Bear Euthanized In Yellowstone National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Ted,

    Thanks for the kudos, though without the depth and breadth of readers and their comments the site would be mono-dimensional.

    That said, re your thoughts on bears and hunting, the devil's advocate surely might ask why the brown bears in Katmai don't seem to associate hunters with dire consequences. No doubt they are desensitized a great deal by the photographers and anglers who surround them much of the viewing season, but after getting plunked by arrows and bullets, those that survive such encounters you'd think would learn to flee humans and pass on that message, no?

    In general, though, I agree that, more and more, national parks are turning into open-air zoos, ones quickly becoming genetically isolated as well.

  • Rainbow Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Wow! Waterfall! It's been so dry around here lately, I didn't realize there was anything other than a trickle! Thanks, Kurt.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Frank,

    The soap issue has come up in this park as well. Our Chief of Mantainence has said that it is because the bathouses are not public restrooms (unlike the VC restrooms) since you have to pay to use them, and thus, are not subject to the same rules/ideas/standards that public RRs are. The Super is looking into it, though.