Recent comments

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 9 weeks ago

    In general, parks are not multiple use areas; they are effectively outdoor museums created to preserve a particular value: scenery, history, etc. The issue with bicycles is not that they are non- motorized, it is that they are "mechanical" modes of transportation. Parks that have any "wilderness" should also prohibit mechanized transportation. The spirit and intent of the Wilderness Act should be applied whether or not the land is an officially designated Wilderness. Parks need to be managed more by science and law rather than some manager simply sitting in an office counting political marbles.

  • Secretary Salazar on Guns in Parks: He'll "Take A Look At It"   6 years 9 weeks ago

    OK, if you are too afraid of going on a hike in a National Park without a gun, please do not go. I enjoy my guns as much as the next guy and never once have I felt the need to have one with me while hiking. Now if there were people out there with them, then I might have something to be afraid of. I can't even understand why this is an issue. Keep the guns where they belong, in a hunting blind etc...

  • Secretary Salazar on Guns in Parks: He'll "Take A Look At It"   6 years 9 weeks ago

    I acknowledge that most people carrying licensed firearms are probably responsible people most of the time. And while I do worry about the potential dangers to LE Rangers, I do have some wildlife related concerns.

    Unless a gun-carrying park visitor is an active hunter of big game or avid wildlife watcher, they will likely incorrectly read many human/wildlife interactions. This can happen to detriment of wildlife and people. Most guns people would carry on a hike, or store in their glove box, for protection are not effective at protecting people from wildlife.... but most people don't realize that. And even if a bear is going to attack you (i.e., is charging with intent to kill you) you will only have seconds to react and even less time to properly aim. Even if you get a shot off unless you are lucky even a solid hit won't end a charging griz.

  • Secretary Salazar on Guns in Parks: He'll "Take A Look At It"   6 years 9 weeks ago

    I have been hiking all my life and literally all of the people I have encountered have been friendly. It appears that those who spend time in the outdoor spaces where hiking and such occur are for the vast majority civil people.

    I work with a woman who's husband is both an alcoholic as well as physically abusive. This same man owns several rifles and guns. During hunting season I don't even consider heading out into the woods which is regretful because fall is so beautiful. Frankly I don't want to be subject to the likes of him in our national parks with the possibility of guns in his posession. I go there to enjoy the beauty of the places and for peace.

    As far as protection form wild animals is concerned there are so many effective methods to deal with that firearms aren't necessary. At the same time if animal control is necessary I could support a hunting season in the parks as the park administration deems appropiate.

    You know it would be nice to see the civility I have encountered remain as well as furthered through a code of conduct that actually states firearms in certain places in this country are actually redundant.

  • Secretary Salazar on Guns in Parks: He'll "Take A Look At It"   6 years 9 weeks ago

    Obviously, supporters of the 2nd amendment (as it's interpreted) fail to look at statistics. Countries where firearms are illegal get a fraction of our gun related deaths. Firearms, except for shotguns, should be banned, especially in the parks where they have no use.

  • Aztec Ruins and the River of Lost Souls   6 years 9 weeks ago

    Barky -

    Thanks for the comment, and the perspective about the positive relationship between the park and the local community. It's been a few years since I visited Aztec, so it's nice to have a recent update.

  • This Park Can Lay Claim to "Tallest" and "First" – and It Was a Real Bargain to Boot   6 years 9 weeks ago

    Acadia was the highlight of a fall trip to Acadia National Park and New England States Fall 2006
    We plan to return soon.

  • Secretary Salazar on Guns in Parks: He'll "Take A Look At It"   6 years 9 weeks ago

    I am a Retired Viet Nam Marine Staff Sergeant. I was also a State Trooper for several years. I am now completely retired, live in Florida and Have a Concealed Weapons Permit. I am pro second amendment and believe that a person should have the right to own and carry a weapon if they are trained in it's use. I further believe that crime is detoured in areas where there are armed citizens. I have lived in areas where citizens are not allowed concealed carry and personal serious crime is double digit compared to areas where concealed carry is permitted.
    As a former police officer, I discovered that the people who carry weapons legally and were trained in their use, were more responsible and more safety consicous, as a rule, that the overall public. I am futher convenced that our nations law enforcement community need more hands on training than just once a year qualification. "Officer survival" is a key concern of mine and I read about too many acidential shootings amoung our under paid, under staffed and over worked law enforcement officers. I also agree that Park Law enforcement, Game Wardens, and recreational law enforcement officers are, as a rule, not appreciated nor respected as they should be.

  • National Park Quiz 38: African Americans   6 years 9 weeks ago

    CCC is a good topic. How about Mission 66? A quiz about special forms of interpretation in the parks? After the African Americans, has there been a quiz about Native Americans? BTW: This quiz on African Americans was my best so far too, 10 points out of the twelve. I got only numbers 3 and 11 wrong

  • Secretary Salazar on Guns in Parks: He'll "Take A Look At It"   6 years 9 weeks ago

    It's nice to see that someone in the new administration isn't bashing guns at their mere mention. Responsible gun owners are the backbone of America, no matter what slant the press is taking these days. Just ask the people in Australia what happens when the guns are taken away from them - the crime rate against citizens jumps.

  • National Park Quiz 38: African Americans   6 years 9 weeks ago

    That one is already in the queue, Barky. It's nice to know that at least one other person likes the theme.

  • National Park Quiz 38: African Americans   6 years 9 weeks ago

    Seeing as how we're in a depression and all ;-), how about a quiz dedicated to CCC construction projects in the parks??


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Interior Secretary Salazar Uses the "S" Word On Second Day at the Office   6 years 9 weeks ago

    Wow, what a fascinating discussion!

    It seems that what is needed is legislation fixing the "values" of the NPS into law. Perhaps it's there, perhaps it's not, I'm not well versed in NPS laws at all. Is the primary purpose preservation or recreation or raising revenue? Those seem to be the core of most NPS debates, whether snowmobiles or guns or construction or concessions.

    I am the first one to say you can't legislate values or morality in the people, but it seems to me you can legislate the values of a unit of the government itself and write rules to support them.

    This way, elected officials could (theoretically) debate the values of a department, then vote on the appropriate legislation, and that vote must be continued by all subsequent administrations unless and until elected officials re-visit the issue.

    Right now, it seems too easy for the Executive Branch to fiddle around with the NPS (and most other government functions) to suit their own constituencies, values be damned. Of course that speaks to Presidential power grabs over the decades, and all the Congresses that have allowed it to happen ...


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   6 years 9 weeks ago

    I understand the fears regarding restoration of historic sites. I've seen a lot of bad restorations and gift-shop add-ons that destroy the character of a historic building so badly it hurts. But I've also seen good ones.

    As long as they hire a qualified designer well-versed in period architecture, an architect who understands how to merge structures from different eras, and a builders who are contractually obligated to preserve the historic facades of the original buildings, it can work. You can add in modern conveniences (like well-padded chairs adequate for the expanded 21st-century American buttock) without degrading the character of the original, and trained, qualified professionals know how to do that.

    If they simply go with the lowest bidder regardless of qualifications or experience, then it's doomed.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Segways in the National Parks: Do We Really Need Them?   6 years 9 weeks ago

    I would venture to say that I have visited and hiked more of the National Parks and National Park Units than anyone else who has made comment here. I have been to 51 or the 58 actual designated "National Parks" plus I have been to over 200 other National Park Units. I have been to parks from the USS Arizona in Hawaii to the St. Croix Island National Historic area in Maine. I have been from Denali to the Dry Tortugas.

    If the question is do Segways have a place for use in the National Parks of America, the answer is ABSOLUTELY YES!. I have hiked as many or more miles of National Park trails as anyone, yet I still see the value in the alternative the Segway can provide. I am in my late 50s now and I foresee the fact that it is going to become more difficult for me...and many others of similar or older make those 8-10-12 mile hikes. Are you going to buzzing up to the peak of Half Dome or down the Bright Angel Trail on a Segway? Probably not. (though I am not sure that a Segway is any worse than a burro).
    But would a controlled, guided, trained tour or people over 60 along the Rim Trail be all that obnoxious?
    What about a Segway making its way down the Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park? They take up less space and go slower than a bicycle. If I were sharing that path I would rather be hit by someone going 12 mph on a Segway...which is designed to stop when it meets an obstruction...than I would by a teenager on a bike.
    There are many trails, paved or otherwise in our Battlefield parks that would be very amenable to Segway tours.
    For those of you who want to play the role of Battle of the Bulge policeman, I suggest that there is much more fodder for your concern in every corner of America other than our National Parks. As mentioned by many others, many of those cars that jam the roads of our National Parks are full of junk food junkies that don't get out and walk the trails of the park. I would rather get them out of their cars and onto a Segway.
    Certainly a Segway would be preferable, ecologically and serenity wise than a motorcycle or a snowmobile.
    Should they be banned? No. Should they be utilized on regulated tours...even Ranger conducted ones? Absolutely. Should anyone be allowed to use them anywhere on any trail in our parks? No. But just like bikes or skis or snowboards or any other kind of device, the use of a Segway could open up our parks to any number of people who otherwise wouldn't be able to enjoy them.
    Plus, think about an area like The Mall in Washington D.C. That area is itself a National Park unit, surrounded by many other National Park units. Have you ever had to pound the pavement seeing all those attractions? I have, and I have had the resulting blisters and infections from them to show for it. I believe they already have Segway tours around those parks. Expanding their use elsewhere would make sense. Plus, I have taken a number of tours in our parks in busses or vans operated by private companies....such as Xanterra or Aramark or whoever. Opening up this venue to other concessionaires shouldn't be objectionable to anyone.

  • Secretary Salazar Mulls Reopening Top of Statue of Liberty   6 years 9 weeks ago

    Amen, brother.

    One of my beefs about the post-9/11 world is the lockdown of the nation's historic treasures and government facilities. I understand the need for security, but like anything else it can be taken to extremes. Searches and x-ray machines at symbols of liberty and freedom send a [i]very[/] mixed message, and locking down public government facilities creates a wall between the government and the governed that should not exist in a democracy.

    I'm awaiting those who would bark out "terrorists are real and want to kill us all and blow up our national treasures." I can't disagree with you, but are we taking prudent, sensible courses of action to reduce that risk, or are we damaging our core values by taking security to the extreme?

    I'm with good old Ben Franklin: those who prefer security over liberty deserve neither.

    Now all we need to do is get the Liberty Bell out of her Philadelphia prison, and the NPS will be right where it should be.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 9 weeks ago

    For those interested in reading biased studies, including some completed by the bike biased NPS (j/k):

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 9 weeks ago

    Kurt, Ray,

    All good points. My take on it: we don't live in BC Greece and have a direct democracy where we get to vote on every decision our government makes. Furthermore, we are not talking about some kind of fundamental change in how parks are run. At any rate, there will be public input solicitation, which will end up being a forum for all the bike haters and supporters to yell and complain about each other (speaking from experience in my local parks). The current system is deliberately set up so that no change can happen, and this is exactly what's going on. We all understand this, cyclists and non cyclists alike. This is the exact reason why people opposed to cycling in our public parks are fundamentally opposed to the rule change. Again to be clear, the decision won't be up to the local park management to decide without getting public input, although to be quite fair (and again speaking from experience in my local park), if the local park management is opposed to bicycling, you can bet that trails will never be opened to bikes (see below).

    As an aside, I don't road bike as 1) it hurts my back too much and 2) I don't get the same kick out of it. :)

    Here is the IMBA take on it:
    A rule change will not diminish protections that ensure appropriate trail use. All regular NPS regulations, General Management Planning (GMP) processes, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) still applies. Absolutely no environmental processes will be shortchanged. The public will still have ample opportunity to comment both locally and nationally. The parks that have existing mountain biking have gone through the GMP and NEPA processes and the trails are signed, actively managed and documented in the superintendent's compendium.
    The proposed rule requires NEPA compliance through, at a minimum, an Environmental Assessment (EA), if not an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS).
    The current system is not working. Most NPS units are unwilling to undertake the time-consuming special regulations process, and thus bicycling opportunities are in this state of limbo and can't be fully embraced. Mountain biking needs to be managed better and the process to incorporate cycling needs to be clear.
    Mountain biking can and does succeed in national parks. Many parks have successfully managed mountain biking for more than a decade on roads and trails. Families and community members have successfully enjoyed these parks on their bikes for years and are not controversial.
    Changing 36 CFR 4.30(b) won't change Wilderness or Wilderness Study Area regulations in any way. Mountain bikes will continue to be banned from these areas.
    NPS units that are not interested in expanding opportunities for bicycling will not be affected. Changing the rule will not force mountain biking on any park unit, and superintendents that do not see opportunities for mountain biking in their parks will not be asked to adopt it.
    The use of special regulations is time-consuming, costly, and duplicative. Special regulations are largely directed at motorized users, such as personal watercraft; motorboats; snowmobiles; ORVs; seaplanes; amphibious aircraft; and commercial fishing, trucking, mining, and aircraft. Once everything is done at the park level it can take-years to emerge from the Washington-based regulatory process.
    In addition to the public hearings and comment involved in an EA or EIS, the rule requires another 30 comment period after it is published in the Federal Register. Before the trail is opened, one final posting is required in the Federal Register, with 30 days for public comment.
    The NPS policy stands in stark contrast with that of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, which allow all non-Wilderness trails to be managed as "open unless designated closed." Even with a rule change, NPS policy would remain "closed unless designated open" and would still be a deliberate, public, lengthy multi-year process to open a trail to bicycles.
    Independent scientific studies, including those conducted by the National Park Service, have shown the environmental impacts of mountain biking are similar to those of hiking and far less than other uses.
    Treating mountain bicyclists similarly to equestrians will streamline one rule, not amend all NPS rules.
    Special regulations would still apply if building new trails or opening existing trails is: 1) a significant alteration in the public use pattern of the park area, 2) adversely affects the park's natural, aesthetic, scenic or cultural values, 3) requires a long-term or significant modification in the resource management objectives of the unit, 4) or is of a highly controversial nature (36 CFR, Chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1.5).

  • Aztec Ruins and the River of Lost Souls   6 years 9 weeks ago

    I visited Aztec just this past year on my trek through New Mexico, and two things stood out:

    1) This is a big ruin. Not the biggest of the old native ruins in the U.S., but it is certainly large. Most N.M. ruins are big, I was a bit unprepared for the scale of them. It definitely tells us a lot about the inhabitants and the times in which they lived, even amateurs can appreciate that.

    2) The town seems to appreciate the place. They seem to consider it a blessing to have in their community. Not all park-bordering communities are like that, so it's extremely comforting when park neighbors appreciate the presence of a significant site in their midst, instead of seeing it as an obstacle to development or quick profit.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   6 years 9 weeks ago

    Well done, Jim. This article was an excellent read. Non-profits and NPS units have interesting relationships.

    Executive Director,
    Crater Lake Institute
    Robert Mutch Photography,

  • Interior Secretary Salazar Uses the "S" Word On Second Day at the Office   6 years 9 weeks ago

    Science is like statistics. If you want data to support a decision you can get it. Keep in mind that data on the other side is also readily available. I would hope that the new administration will be ethical and their decisions will be based on values that are at least somewhat in line with my own. Probably won't happen that way. So far I get the impression that decisions will be politically driven and that Obama is going to stand in front of the nation and tell them whatever they want to hear. His political career thus far has been one giant campaign, I hope he can find some time to govern as I worry the campaign for 2012 has already begun.

    Did anyone hear Salazars welcome speech to the Department? He made some interesting comments about guns. I also got the impression that the NPS will recieve the curse of mega project money from the new stimulus package. The NPS does not need more "new stuff". It needs the resources to take care of what is already there. We will soon have many hastily prepared "green projects" that the current system can't manage and no capability of maintaining these new green things. Facility Management is a "science"

  • Interior Secretary Salazar Uses the "S" Word On Second Day at the Office   6 years 9 weeks ago

    @ Frank:

    Maybe we are leaving the focus of this blog now, but the question of right and wrong, of values and rules is of course an old and fundamental one. Much of the history of philosophy is about this question and related ones.

    Are you familiar with John Ralws? He proposed a "Gedankenexperiment" to determine values and rules as universally acceptable. In his opinion values and rules should looked at as if they were negotiated between individuals before those individuals can know about their place in the society that will live by those rules. If you don't know whether you will be black or white, man or woman, rich or poor, from a family with established influence or born to recent immigrants, you will negotiate rules that can be considered fair to everyone.

    Of course it is just a Gedankenexperiment, but in his most influential book "A Theory of Justice" (1971 and revised by Rawls in 1999) he shows that the core of this idea can be transferred to reality.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 9 weeks ago

    Zebulon, I have nothing against bikers. Indeed, just the opposite. I am an avid cyclist and have biked through a number of national parks. Most of my riding is on a road bike I have also mountain biked, although not in a national park. I have a physical condition that makes it easier for me to ride a bike than it is to walk, so my position is not based on a desire to have the park trails to myself. Insofar as leaving it up to the individual park manager to make the decision as to whether or not to permit mountain bikes in back country areas, I consider that to be a bad idea. Major changes in park policy are best accomplished through the planning process which then are implemented by park management. I have seen the results of park management making informal decisions to permit otherwise prohibited park uses. When the uses prove to be destructive to park resources and values it becomes almost impossible to reverse the action, even when it is legitimately prohibited. It is not a question of park managers either loving or hating bikers.

  • Interior Secretary Salazar Uses the "S" Word On Second Day at the Office   6 years 9 weeks ago


    I want to spend more time on what you wrote, but I find I am unable to do so tonight. I found out that a friend of mine died tonight back in Washington, DC. This does have an important NPS connection, as he was the founder of an anti-nuclear war vigil in Lafayette Park outside the White House, and was a man under intermittent persecution by the Park Service. I wrote a prose ode to him that I wrote mostly for my friends here in Montana to know how his inspiration has been an influence on my work for buffalo here.

    However, the question of ethics, of course, is not a simple one, and I'd like to respond to your points line by line. Right now, I need to cop out and point you to essays I wrote regarding the way we approach ethics in Yellowstone. I wrote a long series of essays on John Locke, property rights, and Yellowstone National Park. Part 4 in particular begins to extrapolate my ethical views, but it's hard to read that as a stand alone. That is here: . That gets us further down the path than I would intend for this discussion. If I find time, I will get more specifically again to what you write here; tonight, my heart is somewhere else.

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

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 9 weeks ago


    Re Washington bureaucrats making decisions, that's not the point. Rather, why should the rest of the nation be shut out of commenting on a rule change to a "national" park? The current process allows for that national debate and discussion.

    Did you have a position on the Yellowstone snowmobiling matter? Would you be satisfied if you were locked out of commenting on the park's winter-use plan?

    As for the horses, I must admit I don't like the evidence that they've been around;-) Plus, if you've been to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and tried hiking down some of those trails, the way the steps have been cut to accommodate the mules wrecks havoc on a good hiking stride....