Recent comments

  • Congressman Accuses Sec. Kempthorne of Pandering to NRA on Gun Issue   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I've read the stories of the patients in the Los Angeles Drug Rehabilitation. Marijuana should be the least of our concerns. No one there has an addiction problem from smoking only pot.

  • Another Look at Those GPS Rangers in the National Parks   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Many people today are comfortable with this type of technology and would likely get out of the cars and follow some trails to use the device. Something that is not as likely to occur with a scheduled tour given peoples desire for independence and time management. We made an effort our most recent National Park trip to do 3 separate programs, but I must say that we might have done more if we could have done it on our own schedule.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    James R. Pepper et al,

    I gave some thought to the question how the brand-new ATV machines became 'customary & traditional' in the Alaska land-claims process. Speculatively, it would be reasonable that they were ultimately classified as just the most recent 'model' of Off-Road Vehicle, ORV. Ex-military jeeps were prevalent following World War II, and in the pre-war era tracked vehicles - often bulldozers - were the dominant vehicle in the backcountry. Many if not most 'trails' in Alaska were originally created by bulldozers driving cross-country and blading off a rough cat-road as they went. Jeeps and other smaller/lighter machines then followed, and kept the 'roadway' clear.

    I could imagine that the argument which prevailed could be, that it is spurious to reexamine each new version or model of a machine used for the same purpose & function. For example, are SUVs on Cape Hatteras any different than Model T Fords lined up on the sand in the 1920s? Or even the horse & buggy of the 1800s?

    Functionally, an ATV is just a jeep, etc., but smaller and with a much-lighter 'footprint' on the landscape. ATVs can also be tracked vehicles, corresponding to bulldozers.

    I will look for solid documentation of this possible treatment of the ATV tonight & over the weekend.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Yes of course. the more publicity the better it is

  • A Century of National Parks in Utah To be Celebrated Labor Day Weekend   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Ditto, Salt Sage236 recommended: "Glen Canyon should be restored and elevated to National Park status. Adjacent wildlands, such as Great Gulch, Little Rockies, Dirty Devil River, and Dark Canyon, should be added to this new park." How true this is.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    James R. Pepper,

    I admire & respect your participation in the great Land Claims Settlement era. It was more historic than many yet realize, and it still continues to unfold.

    The Senator who dismissed that well-off people (with airplanes) were appropriate participants in subsistence illustrates another public misconception, and a possible policy-shift in official handling of the subsistence community. An active effort by the State now seeks to dissuade that subsistence is a form of rural welfare. While plenty of individuals involved with subsistence are impoverished, others are quite well-off, and in particular households which may contain low-income persons, combine to provide high-function homes with better-than-typical resources (communications, health, income, transportation, nutrition, education, entertainment, etc).

    That is, subsistence is not about 'subsisting' on a meager or marginal plane, but rather is just another pattern of living, particularly well-suited to isolated rural & remote settings. It is in the State's interest, that the people in the hinterlands form competent communities which can take care of themselves, rather than 'subsist' as dysfunctional liabilities. It is now fairly common and certainly normal for reasonably successful rural subsistence participants to own airplanes (and, I think, always was).

    Yes, for sure, dog-teams maintained 'on the land' make a far greater impact on the habitat than machine-based transportation. I do not know the circumstances under which the status of ATVs transformed from recent introduction (as you accurately note, they were very new at the beginning of the ANILCA process) to officially 'customary & traditional', but speculatively the dog-argument could have played a role.

    I am aware that other fundamental shifts in the enactment of the ANILCA and ANCSA Acts have transpired, beginning at the beginning and proceeding at various points through the years.

    In the early years, I did not expect subsistence to survive. It looked like a ruse or ploy, which would fritter away into nothingness. For some time now, it has been evident that I was quite mistaken.

    ... Again, I believe that these exotic-seeming events & precedents unfolding in seemingly far away & irrelevant Alaska are very much material & meaningful, in the future of policies pertaining to Parks and other public assets throughout the Conterminous States.

  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago


    My crystal ball is as murky & cracked as all the others ... but the economic challenges we are experiencing now seem to be associated with basic 'structural' factors - domestic & global - that suggest we could be at the beginning of an historically difficult era. Going forward, the budget-conditions at NPS could even deteriorate.

    The timing for a massive expansion of the Nat'l Parks does not look auspicious.

    Many States are - like the NPS - on hard times and in budget-crisis. Notably, it tends to be resource-based regions that are relatively well-off. Those that have a prospect for resource-enterprises are moving concertedly to - among other things - protect those prospects from protection.

    That means "land". Land to drill, log, tunnel and otherwise extract resource from. Large swaths of Arizona and Utah are current in discussions here on the Traveler ... and actively under multi-pronged development-exploration.

    Suggestions to expand the Park system in a serious way will often collide with the plans of States where available lands might be reclassified ... from open to development to no longer open ... against their wishes. The Federal government is in some of these cases quite energetic partners with the State & corporate spheres, to promote the prospects of development.

    Public opinion is marching steadily higher in favor of robust action on the energy-front, and this could translate fairly directly into broad support for old-fashioned 'industriousness'.

    In 20 years things might be looking up for us again, and a little gravy might start showing up on these 'captive' budgets like the NPS. For now though, we seem to be stuck with various defensive strategies & postures. It looks more like a time for hanging on to what we got, than launching large-scale acquisition programs.

    Actually, Michael, I'm not seeing much likelihood for the off-loading of major Park assets. I know this can be a subjective call (what's a jewel and what's half-baked), but pawning off or shutting down anything that has wide-spread name-recognition with the general public carries serious risks.

    It's all fine 'n good to have a local dust-up like at Cape Hatteras, but when the general public starts to ventilate and the winds & thunderheads start to buffet Congress ... the GOP and the Democrats ... threatens the seat-distribution in the next ballot - well, that's something else entirely. I expect the occasional Park disposition to remain largely unknown (admittedly traumatic to some) and to generate no significant low-pressure cell over the nation.

    That means, to me, that the Nat'l Park System as we know it will remain not only intact, but essentially indistinguishable from what it is now.

    I doubt the Parks are going anywhere, and would harshly oppose any general 'sell-off' ... as would, I'd guess, about 60 million other voters. To waken the Sleeping Giant this way would be too much of a political debacle.

  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago

    "America's federal government is the closest thing to perpetuity that we will get. It is literally the oldest democracy, and one of the oldest continuous governments, on earth."

    First, America's government is not a democracy. It is a republic. We don't pledge allegiance to the flag, and to the democracy, for which it stands. At the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin told an inquisitive citizen that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention gave the people “a Republic, if you can keep it.” Perhaps we are now wallowing in a pure democracy, something the founders fought against, but the original intent of the Constitution was to establish a republic. John Adams was particularly concerned about the mob rule of democracy, and many founders vociferously expressed objections to the "tyranny of the majority" that is pure democracy.

    Secondly, calling 232 years "the closest to perpetuity that we will get" seems exaggerated. And as for continuous governments on earth, the USA can't compare to the UK. Other longer-lasting governments have come and gone. What makes ours a certainty to endure? Our empire is crumbling under the weight of a Byzantine bureaucracy and an unsustainable empire with military bases in 120 countries.

    How can the talk of getting rid of parks be early 20th century? There were only five or six national parks in 1904. Who was talking about getting rid of them? I do know that Joaquin Miller was critical of the government building houses, hotels, and roads of any sort next to Crater Lake in 1905.

    The last I checked, the Forest Service and Yakama Indian Reservation were doing a fine job keeping large-scale development away from Mt. Adams. No massive, inefficient, and arguably ugly visitor centers along the lines of the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at Rainier are planned. As far as threats to the other areas you mentioned: if they were not under federal jurisdiction and subject to the pernicious effects of lobbyists and sell-out politicians, the threats arguably wouldn't exist.

    How will the federal government pay for this tripling of national parks? How can it pay to maintain 1,000 national parks when it can barely pay for the 300 under its purview? The federal government can't even afford to pay for soap in the Mt. Rainier National Park campgrounds.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Access to inholding or private property is a Fifth Amendment right, and should not be confused with access for subsistence.

    Thank you, Ted Clayton, for your documentation on the current policy on subsistence access. I have been away from Alaska for quite a while, and believe me it was a settled issue then that ATV's were not "customary and traditional" access.

    I was also involved in the development of the original legislation, and although snowmachines were specifically referenced for subsistence and other access, ATVs and aircraft were not contemplated as subsistence access. My opinion is that if authorities or DOI solicitors have reconceived the legislation to permit ATVs, it is a misreading and abuse of the original purpose of the law. However, it appears from your well-documented examples that the authorities have folded to this.

    Again, in Gates of the Arctic, the ATVs were first introduced in the 1970's, becoming common only by 1978 or so, or within a year or so of the Gates being added to the NP System (Dec 1978). These were 8-wheeled vehicles. They opened up hunting areas and changed hunting seasons, even changing the mix of animals hunted. None of this was part of any "custom" or "tradition."

    I do remember discussions after the establishment of Wrangels about the use of tracked or 4-wheeled drive vehicles as customary and traditional, but it was firmly rejected at the time. Customary and traditional of course, was not meant to relate to mining access, sporting access or access to private property. "Prior use" of these vehicles for these purposes was not the same thing as "customary and traditional" as a cultural expression and part of traditional subsistence in Wrangels or any where else. But the idea that such prior use was customary and traditional was explicitly rejected at that time. I am talking about the mid-'80's.

    During the development of the Legislation, subsistence advocates argued that with the technology in common use at that time would not compromise the relatively pristine character of the Alaskan parks because the subsistence hunting would just be replicating the traditional practice with no new impacts. Snowmachines could be considered to have less impact in some respect than dog teams, because hunting was actually reduced because you did not need to feed the dogs. We did have some documented abuses with repeating rifles, but for the most part rifles also would not change the kind of hunting, meaning the species hunted, the normal season and the take. I remember a conversation when someone argued that aircraft should also be permitted for the same reason (that potential aircraft could have less physical impact than truly traditional means of access, and a key Senator finally erupted and would hear none of it. He said: "I know we are talking about culture here, and a mixed economy, which I accept, but no one who can afford to fly in to hunt is a subsistence hunter. That is commercial or sport hunting, period." the same was considered to be true for jeeps or tractors, the ATVs common in Alaska at the time.

    I stand corrected by Ted Clayton, although I am not impressed by the administration by park or central office managers for evading their responsibility in the way he has demonstrated. This was never the intent of the "customary and traditional" subsistence access language in the Alaska lands act.

  • A Century of National Parks in Utah To be Celebrated Labor Day Weekend   6 years 14 weeks ago


    I totally agree. I have been to all of Utah's national park areas (except Rainbow Bridge -- still need to get there). They are all extraordinary. But we also need to expand Utah's existing national parks and create several new national parks, to protect many other lands threatened by oil and gas drilling, mining, livestock grazing, off-road vehicles, and other abuses.

    Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion should be expanded to include adjacent BLM and national forest lands. Lake Powell reservoir should be allowed to fully drain and Glen Canyon should be restored and elevated to National Park status. Adjacent wildlands, such as Great Gulch, Little Rockies, Dirty Devil River, and Dark Canyon, should be added to this new park. Dinosaur National Monument should be doubled in size and upgraded to a national park. San Rafael Swell, West Taveputs Plateau, the High Uintas, Great Salt Lake, and other places should all be new national parks. And, of course, remaining roadless lands not included in new parks should be designated under the Red Rocks Wilderness Act.

    There is a lot of work left to do!

  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Ted, et al.,

    Nothing in the universe is totally permanent. But in the world of human institutions, America's federal government is the closest thing to perpetuity that we will get. It is literally the oldest democracy, and one of the oldest continuous governments, on earth.

    Certainly state governments are not as likely to keep areas protected for a century or more -- virtually none have to date. And there is no large-scale private holding that has been protected for anywhere near that amount of time. So the claim that special places would be as well off in state or private hands is based on ideology, not reality.

    Once you offload a national park area, it's done. It's virtually irreversible. I think it's very interesting that there is such a fervor today for decommissioning national parks. It is an artifact of the anti-federal/anti-public Reagan and post-Reagan era. And we have see how well that ideology has worked for America.

    I am totally willing to revisit old ideas. One example is the Mather/Albright concept that we should ration national park designations. That was an artifact of the days when much of America was undeveloped and it was almost unimaginable that the entire country could be developed. My guess is that they would have a very different take in light of today's realities. With the extinction crisis, global climate change, and the need to offer more open space near major populations, that approach makes absolutely no sense.

    Ironically, every Mather-opposed area listed in FrankC's quotation from anti-public land advocate Randall O'Toole is seriously threatened and should be designated as a national park area as soon as possible:

    Mather opposed many proposals for national parks--including parks at Lake Tahoe, Wasatch in Utah, Big Horn in Wyoming, Sawtooth in Idaho, and a Cascades park in Oregon and Washington that would cover Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and other Cascades peaks.

    So, yes, I agree that we need to constantly reassess. And when we do that today, there is an overwhelming argument that our current National Park System is woefully small. We need a dramatic expansion of the system, to protect dozens of imperiled natural areas, to ensure the protection all of the nation's more than 100 ecoregions, and to bring more parks to the people. The talk of getting rid of parks is so early 20th century. We need to double or triple the National Park System, the sooner the better.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    James R. Pepper,

    Thank you for the opportunity to give a more detailed treatment of subsistence practices in Alaska Parks, and other lands.

    The use of ATVs (and other motor-driven vehicles) in Alaska Parks by those who hold subsistence rights is widespread (and in some Parks, by recreational users as well), fully authorized ... but also carefully regulated. They are using the machines for specific purposes: they are not permitted everywhere, nor for 'whatever' may strike their fancy. Some places & contexts are off-limits. There are resources & habitats that can't withstand vehicle-usage, and are withdrawn, while in some settings, ATV-movement may be at the discretion of the user. Most commonly, though, ATVs are used on specific trails, and moving off the trail is avoided, to reduce impact.

    On the Wrangell-St. Elias Park's All Terrain Vehicles page, we see:

    "Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve was established under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in December 1980. In abidance with ANILCA, Wrangell-St. Elias provides reasonable and feasible access to inholders, subsistence, and recreational users in the park. The most common means of access is by ATV or all-terrain vehicle." (underscore added)

    Likewise in the Gates of the Arctic terrain around Anuktuvuk Pass, locals are not free to use ATVs for hill-climbing recreation on the scree-slopes, or other 'free-wheeling' indulgences, and some areas are closed to machines. They generally keep to established paths. Often there is a seasonal consideration: places that can be damaged in the summer, may be open in the winter.

    The matter of the responsibilities of ATV-users also raises related issues.

    Consistently, about 60% of the subsistence has been fish, in early times as today. In many areas, the main fish has been salmon, but in Alaska as elsewhere, salmon-runs have been down. If wildlife managers find that a run is dropping below safe usage levels, then that resource is withdrawn from subsistence until it rebounds. Similar controls apply to big-game and fur animals. Subsistence users are not permitted to harm the resource, just because they qualify under subsistence provisions.

    The main test in specifying subsistence activities, is that they have been "customary & traditional", and ATVs (as well as numerous other machines) are allowed on that basis.

    There has been some abuse, misuse, and controversy, but subsistence & access use of ATVs (and in some settings by Park visitors - tourists) is solidly established in Alaska Nat'l Parks.

  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Rick makes a good point about some state park systems not being able to take NPS units due to their own quagmires of funding and political issues. I hadn't fully considered that.

    I also think Chris is onto something with his notion that "the system would benefit if more parks were run as affiliated areas not run or funded by the federal government but governed by federal law, monitored by NPS, and have a title that comes the economic benefit that of gaining a 'national title'." This might provide a nice middle ground for those who call for complete severing of federal ties and those who cling to federal administration.

    Ted also makes a great point that past political decisions should be subject to review. Jefferson thought that the dead should not rule the living and that the nation should adopt a new constitution every 19 years (although some argue that Jefferson was referring to being saddled with debt by previous generations).

    At any rate, this is a fruitful discussion. I am happy to be a part of it.

  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago

    After taking many South Carolina history classes in middle and high school while I was growing up in Charleston, the significance of Castle Pinckney was certainly under the radar and was hardly mentioned. It's a shame Congress turned it back to local government when it could have been protected as part of Fort Sumter National Monument just like Fort Moultrie is today so that the public could learn of its significance.

    Now, as a resident of Colorado, I've learned that many people revere the Wheeler Geologic Area as one of the most unique, scenic and hard-to-get-to geological spectacles in the state. Perhaps it should have remained a unit of the NPS, just left undeveloped and relatively inaccessible so that it could be protected under NPS standards without having to endure the impacts visitation as high as surrounding parks. I never knew about Holy Cross. Interesting.

  • A Century of National Parks in Utah To be Celebrated Labor Day Weekend   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I consider Natural Bridges to be one of the greatest units of the national park system on the Colorado Plateau. In celebration of this anniversary, I hope the federal government will begin to respect the national treasures we have in Utah and not abuse or destroy them with oil, natural gas and oil shale development outside Utah parks' boundaries. Tar sands deposits exist not far from Natural Bridges and are identified in the Department of Energy's Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement as having development potential, though admittedly, northeast Utah is much more likely to see tar sands exploitation. That said, energy development is already encroaching on Arches National Park, where under a proposed final resource managagement plan, the BLM is allowing most public land adjacent to Arches' boundary to be open to energy development. Already, oil wells can be seen from within Arches. On some nights at the Windows section, you can see oil wells flaring if you look carefully. Indeed, in 2006, I visited a drilling rig five line-of-sight miles from Delicate Arch. Just as disturbing, drilling rigs could be seen a year ago from the entrance station to Canyonlands National Park's Island in the Sky District. That rig has since moved, but the BLM land immediately adjacent to Canyonlands' northern boundary isn't just open for polluting oil and natural gas development, the land is already leased and companies are actively exploring there.

    The threats to Utah national parks are numerous, with air quality problems stemming from regional coal-fired power plants and energy development to the encroachment of energy development itself, uranium mining and errant off-road vehicles. The federal government should take this opportunity to renounce its free-for-all resource extraction policies around Utah national parks and declare that these most special places shall be protected from such development forever. There should be no compromise on these parks' protection becuase there is no other place on earth like them.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Ted Clayton is explicitly WRONG about ATV's in Alaska.

    ATV's ARE NOT considered "customary and traditional" vehicles. The village of Anaktuvuk Pass tried to maintain that their '70's-era ATVs were "customary and traditional", but instead had to trade land with Gates of the Arctic National Park so that the park could protect undamaged tundra valleys and the Nunamiut people of the village could continue to use ATVs. The issue was only provoked because Sec. James Watt unwisely acquired the Native-owned land right around the village to add them to the Park as a cover to permit him to trade away Arctic Wildlife Refuge subsurface land to permit Watt and an oil company to permit a pro-oil development Native Corporation to be able get proprietary oil exploration info within the Refuge. It was a prelude to opening up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and Gates of the Arctic park and the people of Anaktuvuk Pass paid the price. The Natives immediately asserted they had "customary and traditional" rights to drive 8-wheeled vehicles on their former lands, as well as the rest of the park. You could clearly distinguish the recent damage from the ATVs from the undamaged areas. Clearly, there was nothing "customary" or "traditional" about it. However, the brilliant argument was uncorked that the Nunamiut people have always been adaptable and creative in the pursuit of the subsistence way of life, therefore, new technology is "customary and traditional."

    It did not work. ATV's are not and never were considered to be "customary and traditional" in the national park laws of Alaska.

  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Lepanto said:

    ... "Rick Smith is exactly right at the core of this."

    On the contrary, it is precisely at the core of it, that he sets fact & reason aside.

    On the periphery of it, Rick made several valuable statements, and I acknowledged that. His core assertion, however (that "generational equity", etc., precludes second guessing previous decisions), is not only fallacious, it's nonsense.

    Every action that our government has taken previously - including the National Parks - is subject to review by us. The Constitution itself is second guessed (as a national hobby, it seems!).

    We cannot stipulate that our personal-favorite enactments of the past are now beyond the reach of the citizens, not only because our better principles abrogate the proposition, but because the citizens will reach past us and act as they chose. We may even incite the action, by trying to stifle it!

    The way to protect our favorite decisions of the past is not to deny the citizen's access to them, but to work to increase the value of them in her mind, and heart. We cannot protect any decisions by fiat: trying will more likely lead to defamation, than reverence.

  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago


    Heritage Areas should not be considered as "substandard parks," or at least National Heritage Areas should not be.

    In many cases the resources should be as significant, or more, than any national park. Rather, they are places where the story cannot be properly told unless the resource is in multiple ownership, where living communities are part of the story, and an effective partnership strategy can allow the significant resource character to be sustained and protected. Often, this strategy can include appropriate economic development or land protection strategies.

    They are not just a category to dump some substandard resource. They are exemplars of distinctive living landscapes. The good ones are, in their way, equal to the best national parks. This won't last long if we think they are dumping grounds.

  • "Designing the Parks"   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I would have to agree with the statement provided by Frank C. on the on-line forum, submitted below.

    After having witnessed firsthand what can happen to a National Park Unit when sued by special interest groups, (Specifically the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area (CHNSRA)), I would agree that the need for a decentralized park service is painfully evident.

    Groups like the Audobon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife are simply nothing more than “Special Interest Groups” themselves, although they detest the moniker, and do their very best to distance themselves from such descriptions. However, the AS and DOW, through a partnership headed by the Southern Environmental Law Center, (SELC), was able to successfully sue the NPS for failure to implement a “Final” management plan that took into account both ORV beach access and species protection. The final outcome was a “Consent Decree”, (CD) issued by a single Federal Judge. The CD transformed the wishes of the AS/DOW/SELC into a legally binding document that is essentially running the entire CHNSRA. This decree was reached without public input as well, and although signed by local government officials, was more like a “gun to the head” of the localities. They were faced with total beach closures and certain financial ruin should they not sign.

    These parks belong to the citizens of this great county, but are slowly and systematically being taken away from their rightful users, the taxpayers, and their natural stewards, the NPS itself.

    Is it time for the DOI and the NPS to separate? Should the NPS be broken down into smaller areas, maybe even state-by-state? If the DOI/NPS has to cater to every single special interest group with a questionably relevant concern, we shall all soon find the park operators mired in constant lawsuits, and ourselves locked out of these national treasures that we merely wish to save for our children.

    Retired national park ranger
    written by Frank C., August 20, 2008
    “The bureaucracy that manages our national treasures is out of control. The government spends twice as much on regional offices and national administration than it does to operate the 58 national parks in the system.

    During the last decade, the NPS has been lobbied by 30-50 interest groups per year representing a plethora of interests. There’s an association of museums, mountain bike and ATV groups, “hospitality” groups, and even hiking groups (who lobbied for and got a million dollars for an outhouse in Glacier’s backcountry in the late 1980s).

    National parks are subject to political forces and pressured by interest groups. To cut political interest, it is necessary to depoliticize national parks, and to do that we need to remove national parks from a political system. The Organic Act (the founding charter of the Park Service), written almost 100 years ago, is anachronistic and was heavily altered by interest groups of the time (such as railroads, hotel owners, and the National Park Transportation Association, a government-sanctioned monopoly that promised no visitors to Yellowstone would be “subjected to the hazard and inconvenience of walking … through the park”).

    Special interests shaped the Organic Act by forcing rhetorical changes from the word “preserve” to “conserve” and by redefining “unimpaired”. We need new charters for the management of our national parks, charters that shun interest groups and mandate preservation and scientific management of our national parks.

    We ought to investigate decentralized management of our national parks, and non-profit conservation trusts offer an opportunity to free the national park system from its political shackles and the political tides that wash over Washington, DC.

    Conservation trusts are managed by a board comprised of local business members, university staff, scientists, and conservation organization members. Conservation trust boards, due to their diverse composition, are less likely to be influenced by corporations and political pressures.

    Funding could become more stable using conservation trusts. People could become members of individual parks or of all parks (similar to how people become members of zoological societies). Conservation trusts would eliminate government-granted concession monopolies in parks, which currently return a paltry (as little as 2-3%) franchise fee. Conservation trusts would receive the lion's share of revenue from camping fees, gift stores, restaurants, and lodging that currently goes to large, multinational, for-profit corporations and their shareholders.

    Only by removing national park management from the grip of the heavily lobbied and fickle federal government can we ensure the preservation of our national treasures.”

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Folks I messed up my grammer, so I edited it. It was originally posted earlier in the day before the posting above.




    Your quote:

    "As my time as a Senior volunteer at a National Park has taught me "Mitigation funding" is something you come to both love and hate, and thanks to the current adminstration the NPS's increasing reliance on it has become a serious problem."

    Can you please explain what you know about this situation? That's new terminology to me, and I would like to know how it might come into play in the CHNSRA issue. Thanks in advance!

    Mitigation funding is when a park get funding from a corporation to offset any environmently or any other damage they have done to a park because of their actions. For example, an oil company drills or drilled for oil near a National Park and to help Mitigate their past or future damage give the park MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Now just think how this how this can become a problem.

  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago


    Keweenaw National Historical Park is an interesting example. First of, the places with in the park were already designated a National Landmark before it became a National Historical Park, second, is economic development really such a bad thing, and third is where a park located really matter. However, I also agree with you on many levels and that the "park" should never had been created.

    My belief is that the Keweenaw National Historical Park should have been designated a National Heritage Area under the administration of the. This would have given the place the economic benefits the local congressmen wanted, as well all of the other untold benefits that come with a "national title". Nevertheless, it was probably pushed to be designated a "National Historical Park" for a couple of reasons: 1. to get "mitigation funding" to help pay for turning it into a park, and 2. thanks to our current environmental laws get more funding on top of the mitigation funding (which is a benefit of being a NPS unit) to pay for cleaning it up.

    Keweenaw National Historical Park also highlights another problem with the National Park System, its increasing reliance on "Mitigation Funding". This is becoming a serious problem because many NPS units have been manipulated to maximize this type of funding. Some parks are improperly designated. Other parks are too small and don't include areas they should. While even more are too large and include areas they shouldn't or NPS shouldn't deal with. However, it can get even more troubling when combinations of all three.

    The most recent, and quite obvious, example of this the Lower Taunton river being included in the legislation. This my friend is an example of a park being larger than it should to maximize "mitigation funding" using what I call a mitigation zone.

    And Frank,

    That site you talk about acts a research center doing both historical and archeological surveys, which is why it costs so much money to run. Moreover, I do agree with you that the NPS shouldn't protect everything and that the system would benefit if more parks were run as affiliated areas not run or funded by the federal government but governed by federal law, monitored by NPS, and have a title that comes the economic benefit that of gaining a "national title".

  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I do not believe in these kinds of exercises, but if we all sat around a table and listed the top ten NPS areas that we would prune, I suspect that our lists would be significantly different. And that's the rub. One person's pork barrel park is another person's crown jewel.

    There is one other potential flaw in the ideas that have been expressed in this thread. I'm not sure I know of one state or one NGO that would willingly accept the financial and supervisory responsibility involved in assuming the management of a national park area. In fact, as we know from history, it is much more likely that local and state jurisdictions try to pass their areas on to the NPS--Gateway and Golden Gate are two good examples.

    This has been a fun, stimulating discussion. I hope we can have more of them like this.

    Rick Smith

  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago

    The simplest answer is that "a national park is whatever Congress says is a national park." But many Park Service leaders, from Stephen Mather to James Ridenour, have been unwilling to accept this answer. Mather worried that "low-grade" parks would set a precedent for reducing the quality of existing parks. Creating a park that had a dam in it might justify damming the Grand Canyon. Creating a park that was heavily clearcut might justify clearcutting Yosemite. So early park advocates believed that parks should be limited to the most spectacular and pristine areas.

    On this basis, Mather opposed many proposals for national parks--including parks at Lake Tahoe, Wasatch in Utah, Big Horn in Wyoming, Sawtooth in Idaho, and a Cascades park in Oregon and Washington that would cover Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and other Cascades peaks. Mather also kept parks out of the system that were added after his death, including Grand Coulee, the North Dakota badlands, Washington's Lake Chelan, and the Indiana sand dunes.

    In proposing such parks, members of Congress often hoped that the magic words "national park" would help stimulate local economies. If nothing else, the placement of rangers and visitors facilities would bring federal funds into the areas. Mather saw the political benefits of spreading parks across the nation, but was unwilling to degrade the system with substandard parks. Instead, he promoted state park status for areas that deserved protection but were not nationally significant.

    More here

    There are many examples of parks that could be "pruned" from the system and turned over to state or non-profits, as Mather once suggested.

    Take Eugene O'Neill NHS: "This house is no more nationally significant than thousands of other buildings that were home, at one time or another, to various American writers and artists."

    Frederick Law Olmsted NHS: "Frederick Law Olmsted was a big spender when it came to parks, but even he might shudder at the thought of spending $1.3 million per year to maintain a house, one acre, and a collection of documents that together serve an average of less than twelve visitors per day" [in the early 1990s--currently closed to visitation].

    A smaller system means a more efficient system. The federal government simply cannot protect EVERYTHING worthy of protection, and an investigation should be undertaken to see which parks were established as pork barrel, and once decided, those parks should be turned over to other agencies. Pruning these units will only strengthen the entire system.

  • What's the Solution For Cape Hatteras National Seashore?   6 years 14 weeks ago


    The "Lip Rippers" moniker is my personal favorite too. Classic! I have seen it in print on other sites, believe it or not. This thread contained some similar sentiments, as I know you are aware.

    Your albiet distant view is quite accurate, I must say. I would also agree with your "simplistic" comment, but I think that the posts on this thread by those of us painfully close to the issue have helped to clarify the situation, and show just how hard an area this is to manage due simply to geography.

    Thanks for your sympathies for our cause. I believe as you do, that this battle is far from over. I do not wish to see it tied up in courts, but would rather see a more democratic process be allowed to settle this affair. We’ll just have to wait and see on that, while breathing normally. Good advice there!


    Thanks for the excellent description of “Mitigation Funding”. I’ve never heard of it coming into play in the NPS areas that I frequent. I can clearly see how that could indeed become a huge problem. Kind of sounds like an area could be “bought/hushed up”, for the right amount of money.

    In the CHNSRA, I’m afraid it’s all about “Litigation” funding these days….

    Thanks again to you all for your insights. I think we’ve all learned something from this thread. I know I certainly have.


  • Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I respectfully, disagree.

    I for one believe that the country can definitely do without a park commemorating our nation's "copper smelting heritage", most of which was a Super Fund cleanup site to begin with. The Keweenaw National Historical Park in Michigan is a prime example of something that would have never been developed locally or at the state level and was from the beginning a very upfront attempt to use federal money to create a tourist destination in an economically depressed part of the country. The local congressman who pushed it through admitted as much.

    Can we agree on at least one? There are others but let me take this momement to point to one very egregious example of abuse and say that it is very hard to deny that what we are looking at is obvious Congressional pork on display. This area is NOT nationally significant, nobody besides locals even knows where it is and it does not get very many curious tourists trekking into the U.P. to take in our rich heritage of copper smelting.

    Rick I'm more than willing to second-guess the motivations of a Congress that thinks nothing of funding an unjust war and bridges to nowhere. If anything second-guessing is the only natural response a sentient being should have concerning the works of these criminal clowns.

    Do you really think this obscure toxic wast dump of a park is up to the standards of "national significance"? I really have my doubts.

    As I said there are many more.