Recent comments

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Jim Macdonald,

    You raise several important cautions about the current crop of 'creative' income-generators Parks are working out with corporations.

    Conservatives like to say, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance". That's really true about a lot of things in life ... and in the National Parks. Rarely can we make a single-shot investment to create a certain arrangement, and expect our achievement to remain as-is without further effort ... without monitoring, reassessing, and generally remaining vigilant.

    Privatization of Parks is a worry many respond to. Funding can be arranged with the private corporate sector, though, without putting Parks under private control. We have to stay on our toes, sure - but that's something life demands of us anyway.

    When a girl reaches puberty, it's a wonderful thing. Sure, it could lead to teenage pregnancy. One day, her new-found sexuality could lead her into a relationship with a man who abuses her. She could end up having to drag her children through the trauma of divorce ... and it all started with puberty ... the gift of sexuality.

    Does that categorize puberty as something we shouldn't let get started? Does the chance that things could - and in some case will - go bad further down the road puberty set us upon, mean that we condemn it? Of course not.

    We do have to keep an eye on relationships between Parks and corporations. In addition to the good that can come of it, there are risks. Occasionally there may be improprieties ... it's unrealistic to expect there wouldn't be.

    Overall, though, sensibly-crafted agreements with corporations can be good thing. There is nothing in the deals with Toyota, Canon or Coca-Cola that locks us to a privatized outcome. There are risks in this general course, but they are manageable and we are alert to possible adverse outcomes. That's more than half the battle.

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

    I completely agree that beach driving and wildlife protection can co-exist, but it's not a question of the environmental groups' willingness to negotiate. The ORV groups at Cape Hatteras are a crass bunch that has insisted on 24/7 access to all portions of the seashore. They will not permit pedestrian only areas or wildlife areas as have been proposed in the negotiated rulemaking. And they chaffe at every single seasonal restriction that the Park Service tries to impose to protect nesting species. They want an ORV corridor through areas where there are chicks on the ground, significantly increasing the chance that native shorebirds and sea turtles can get run over.

    The environmental groups want about 12 miles of 67 closed during the breeding season from April 1 to around August 15 as scientists recommend. They will even allow an ORV corridor in these areas so long as the US Fish and WIldlife Service recommended buffers for nests allow room for one. When there are chicks running around, vehicle use should stop in those areas for the few weeks it takes chicks to fledge. The environmental groups want night driving restricted during turtle season -- a commonplace regulation at most every other seashore. That's it.

    So yeah, there can be balance. There can be ORV use on most of the seashore year round. But what will the ORV groups accept to protect wildlife during the breeding season? So far the answer is a big fat nothing.

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Toyota has been making fuel efficient cars that are as reliable as cars come for since the "green" movement was in its infant stages. American car companies could learn a lot from Toyota and it shows as sales of all American cars keep slipping and Toyotas and Hondas increase. I recently was in the market for a used car and was looking for an Accord or Camry. They were few and far between. The majority of what was for sale? American Gas Guzzlers.

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Thanks Kurt for raising the issue. I'm a little surprised by the comments - how much they've changed in the last year when the privatization of parks was a hot topic and almost anything that smacked of privatization was met with suspicion.

    It is a slippery slope to suggest that some Prius's - the car du jour - will open the floodgates toward privatization of parks. And, right now, I doubt people know that Coca-Cola has been donating money, that Canon has a protography project in the park (the live streaming webcam of Old Faithful being one example of their work), and I know I must be leaving out a half dozen other high profile corporate partners in Yellowstone. So, it seems relatively harmless.

    However, the worry of privatization remains. As foundations have to depend more and more for grants and funding on proposals to the philanthropy wing of a corporation, philanthropy arms that have specific strings attached to accepting any proposal, then those who control the funding, ultimately control the product. Non-profit after non-profit already has to contend with this - we can see for instance how the Gates Foundation is to the philanthropy world what Microsoft is to the corporate world (they have specific expectations, they are the main funder of so many non-profits, and so they ultimately figure out how to control the agenda - I speak in this case from firsthand experience). The more that funding is dependent on the desires of the corporations who give the money, then the more we have room for worry here.

    This gift is relatively meaningless as is; the question is in any gifts of this type whether it's considered the first step toward more. More sounds like a good thing, but it's not necessarily a good thing. We are probably a long way from "Toyota presents, 'Old Faithful,'" but we are increasingly seeing the welding of government power and corporate power in the parks, and that will make it all the harder to fight the abuses. When the bottom line comes from a large company instead of the public, then watch out. What happens with bioprospecting (an issue in Yellowstone that has been dormant the past year) agreements, for instance? Are we not to believe that this won't have some influence on policy?

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

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I see absolutely no problem with this. A eco-friendly vehicle in a National Park is fantastic ! Keep them coming.

    If large signs or banners were involved, I would feel differently but that is not the case here. The NP symbol and the mural totally overshadow any small Toyota acknowledgement. The only sad thing I see about this is that an American corporation has not seen fit to meet the eco-friendly needs of America. Thank you Toyota !

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

    The other important point to remember is that this photo was taken (by earlier posted info) on a Memorial Day Weekend. OF COURSE the beaches are more crowded on any holiday weekend. The first picture is MUCH more like my experiences over the past 25 years of visiting CHNSRA 4 or 5 times a year.

    Thank you also for presenting a fair and balanced account of the problem.

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Take the money and run? No, take the money, send out a press release, thank Toyota in public and invite the media for a handover envent with photo op. Toyota is doing it right. The amount doesn't hurt them and their cars will be very visible in the most spectacular park.

    The park gets the funds for his education program and the means to get from here to there.

    So what's wrong? The wrong thing is, that Congress does not fund the parks according to their needs - so they have to lean on outside partners. Because that creates dependencies. Not this one sponsorship, but in the long run.

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

    Ted, that is just the effect of a large telephoto lens. The second picture was made from a long distance away with a SLR camera and a long (300+, probably more) lens. Pictures with those lenses show a very narrow angle and that looks like it condenses space. But there is no doctoring, no deciet, just an optical law. If you look at the shadows you see that the beach was crowded and that the cars had not much more space between them than on the parking lot of a WalMart.

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

    A couple important points stand out about the lower image at the top of the post. One, there is a fence on the sand a short way back from the surf-line, and all the vehicles are on the water side of the fence. There are no vehicle tracks in the sand inland from the fence. 'Out of control'? It would appear the vehicles are actually firmly controlled.

    Second, the image is squashed sideways, to make the scene look more crowded than it actually was.

    Look at the width of the vehicles that are face-on to the camera, especially the car driving the fence-line: it's too tall & too skinny. Vehicles that are sideways to the camera are too short, the wheels too close together, and again, they're too tall.

    If this is Southern Environmental Law Center's picture, I think they have some explaining to do. This image has been modified to make it look like the vehicle-presence was denser than it actually was. This sort of distortion can be done with an exotic camera-lens, but today it is of course simple to alter images digitally.

    Kurt, do you have a larger version of this picture? It appears to be deceitful, and it may have been intentional. A larger version would make it easier to tell just how it was altered.

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    For a corporation to provide largess to a National Park isn't necessary green-washing, or "wonderful".

    For example, the 5 rigs that Toyota provided weren't Ford or another U.S. maker, they were Toyota, right? Of course. That's called "product placement".

    Corporations - automakers leading the pack - pay fancy money to have their product placed & used where it will be seen by large numbers of consumers known to have discretionary income. Park-visitors qualify as preferred advertising-targets. The money & cars provided to Yellowstone are consistent with other advertising-via-product-placement transactions.

    Don't just take the money and run: Butter Toyota all up one side & down the other. Flout it in Ford's face. Stay alert for other product-placement opportunities, and when one presents itself, approach the relevant industry and put it to them.

    Toyota isn't looking for something else out of Yellowstone. There is no compromise-gimmick that will make it's embarrassing appearance the morning after. Toyota already has what it came to Yellowstone for: It's most glamorous, green and fuel-efficient model (the Prius) prominently paraded in front of hordes of nice vacationers who are burning gasoline and driving cars in order to enjoy the environment in the premier American National Park.

    Toyota will write the whole thing off as part of the perfectly-normal advertising budget that it is.

  • Is the National Park Service Obligated to Better Promote Proposed Change in Gun Regulations?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    cwp holders should be allowed to carry any where,all you jurlnist think you speak for everyone but the ones that cause problems in parks don' usually use guns to kill you with,there knives,rock ,sticks, even cliff you going to keep all that out also get real . atleast we should have the right to protect ourselves

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Don't just take the money & run. Take the money in the spirit it seems to be offered. After all, the Prius HAS been a major step in the right direction. If any car company doesn't deserve to be marginalized by claims of 'Greenmail", it's Toyota. How about Dodge, what have they done for the park lately? I also don't see how this let's Congress off the hook either. Their job is to fund the Parks as they are supposed to. Why would it be ok to have a political governance that can't fulfill it's own mandates? They should be embarassed if anything. So, please, take the money & be thankful for the nice show of Corporate conscience, something that seems to be sadly lacking in so many of our homegrown capitalist entities.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker is on to something, and that is the removal of the government/corporate relationship that exists in national park lodging. How much money could parks retain for soap and clean toilets in campgrounds if more than 2% of your $550 a night went to the park instead of large multinational corporations that have been granted a monopoly by a taxpayer funded government agency?

  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I say take the money and run. This is really no different, at least in my mind, of when John Rockefeller made a contribution of $5 Million that helped fund the purchase of lands that eventually became Great Smoky Mountains N.P.

    Several of the early eastern parks were made possible by philanthropic donations.

    If Yellowstone was forced to put Toyota billboards next to Old Faithful, then yes, I definitely would have a problem with that arrangement. But I don't think we're losing anything by allowing corporations to make donations to public institutions.


  • Toyota's Donation to Yellowstone National Park: Corporate Greenwashing, or Good Partner?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    With the economy sinking as fast as it is with no bright light at the end of the tunnel: Take the money and run. That's my opinion. $800,000 can go a long way towards doing something fabulous.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Rangertoo is saying something we need to keep hearing over and over again: no fees !

    NPS right now feels it has no choice but to accept them or face either bankruptcy or wholesale abandonment of the Mission. But for very little money Parks could be supported without the fees. The whole fee idea is just one more way ideologues are trying to split parks from the people and make them dependent upon a commercial constituency.

    These guys who think this way are on automatic pilot, and they inflict their ideology on everyone in every situation. One of the ways the Iraq situation got so messed up is these guys went into Iraq to privatize the banks (the White House head of domestic staff was sent to Iraq to so redirect Iraqi banking), the oil companies, transportation etc. It was no surprise that they abandoned the protection of Iraqi antiquities or government offices.

    Also, Kurt, on your point on concessions, of course the United States should help underwrite the kind of concessions all Americans can afford. American's need to experience these places, and it should be national policy to help them experience the parks.

    I am not against them providing some high-end accomodations to help subsidize the rest, provided that the Elite receives no other special benefits of access to the park. Address overuse through reservations, not pricing policy.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    i have climbed up Half Dome and I am only 11 and also two of my other friends did it with me. We were told that if haven't done it before you should so we did. And the 3 of us were beginners and hiked 70 miles in 9 days and at the end of the trip we had the option to go up Half Dome and we did. It was that scary and it wasn't that hard but the view is worth it. The only kind of creepy part was when you go down the cables. But if you have the option to go up Half Dome and you haven't then you should and don't forget a camera.

  • Seventy-Five Years Ago, the Reorganization of 1933 Impacted the National Park System Like No Other Event Before or Since   6 years 14 weeks ago

    The 1933 Order also changed the name of the National Park Service to the Office of National Parks, Buildings and Reservations. A name the employees detested until it reverted to its former name in 1935.

  • Cedar Breaks National Monument About to Turn 75   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Thanks for posting about the birthday. I hadn't remembered that. Of, perhaps some minor historic interest: I was NPS manager of CEBR 1967-1970. For those who haven't visited there, it's much like Bryce canyon, just smaller and much higher in elevation. My residence there was,as I recall, 10,350' in elevation. Some of the most prolific and beautiful wildflowers anywhere. Lots of mule deer in the meadows alongside the road (6 miles). Contains bristlecone pines, some very old examples. Easy to visit on a loop incompasing N.Rim of grand canyon, Zion and Bryce. When I was there CEBR was one of 3 NPS units,administered under Zion. During my last year there, a reorganization placed Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Pipe Spring and Cedar Breaks under one "General Superintendent", stationed in Cedar City. (I continued my management role at CEBR and was asst. Gen. Supt.). Incidentally, I was the person who removed the Cedar Breaks Lodge and cabins. These had originally been built by the railroad co. (as in Grand Canyon, etc.) operated as a concession. By the late 60s they were obsolete, and due to the very short season, no longer economic. There was some minor controversy, and I do understand the nostalgic view of the 'old-timers', but I felt we couldn't justify the man-made intrusion. The season, by the way, IS very short, only about 3 months. The snow drifts get to be 40'deep and spring opening is quite a chore. I visited about 4 yrs ago and the beetles were attacking many of the beautiful big trees. (Engleman spruce, alpine fir, mostly) A great little park, though, and a wonderful training ground for an 'entry-level' park manager. Don't know if I can make the events, but I do highly recommend a park visit. Don

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker - the entire concept of entrance fees is unsupportable. The NPS gets less than $100 million from entrance fees from the 130 parks that charge them. This is wrong on so many levels: 1) parks that do not charge fees are at a budget disadvantage and are left to fight over the 20% leavings, 2) fees exclude some users, 3) the time and staff spent on collecting fees comes from the fee income itself, 4) it makes the NPS little more than an offshoot of the IRS, 5) some parks are now collecting more fees than they can spend since they are limited to spending them on building things. Imagine if Congress proposed to raise the NPS budget by, say, $250 million and as part of the deal eliminate all entrance fees! The public would love it and who would be against the Congressman who sponsored the bill? Grand Canyon was $2.00 a car in 1987 and $25 a car by 2007. That is more than a 12-fold increase in 20 years. What will it be in another 20 years- $300 a car? Entrance fees have never been a good idea.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 14 weeks ago

    About a year ago I looked into the issue of lodging (and even dining) rates in the national parks, as some certainly are eye-catching (and wallet-draining). There seem to be at least two factors that seem to be immutable:

    1. NPS compares/matches lodging rates to rates outside the parks. So in the case of Grand Teton, for instance, you've got tony Jackson and its high rates. Should the NPS cap rates in the park when compared to those in Jackson? Should it do that and then subsidize the concessionaires?

    2. Places like Yellowstone and Glacier not only are relatively remote (and so have higher building costs), but the seasons are shorter than in places such as Zion or Sequoia, and so concessionaires have a shorter period of time to make their revenues and yet still have year-round bills to pay.

    Yet another issue involves the bureaucracy that has evolved around restoration/renovation of lodgings in the parks. In the case of historic structures (ie. Many Glacier, Lake McDonald Lodge) there are costly requirements when it comes to renovating these places. Plus, I've been told the NPS is not the easiest agency to deal with when it comes to getting approval not just for renovations in general but also when it comes down to what color of paint is used.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker, it's unclear what you are suggesting. Obviously the rates are high, but also obviously they are not too hgh because these lodges are usually booked up. The room rates are subject to the immutable laws of supply and demand. I don't stay in the Ahwahnee because it is too expensive, but I wouldn't want it to be turned into some sort of dormitory, with bunk bed in the main hall or the elegant dining room turned into a mess hall, in the name of some sort of socialistic idea of fairness. No new lodges will likely be built within the national parks. The old historic lodges must be maintained as part of the park's living history.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I'm not shocked Yellowstones lodges are not listed... We stayed in the cabins at Lake Lodge and they are in desperate need of updating... $150 -200 a night for a full size bed that sags in the middle and 1970 furnishings are not what I call great. We did have beautiful room in Canyon Lodge at $200+ for the night but the cabins that surround that village looked like they needed much updating as well. I am positive that many of the other lodges in the Yellowstone park are quite lovely but Xanterra,who runs all of these sites, really need to take in consideration that the prices they charge are not in keeping with the shape some of their facilities are in. I would not have minded paying a reduced fee for the substandard room if I thought I was getting a bargin...We love to stay in Yellowstone because it is so close and beautiful but I think the next time we go, we will look at staying just outside the park.

  • Seventy-Five Years Ago, the Reorganization of 1933 Impacted the National Park System Like No Other Event Before or Since   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Interesting article, especially in light of the comments regarding the establishment of the new commission.

    I wonder whether the big Western wilderness parks still 'dominate' and in what ways (i.e. budget, staff, visitors, etc.)?

    These articles on history and legislation offer lots to think about.

  • Congressman Calls for Emergency Declaration to Protect Grand Canyon National Park from Mining   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I agree with Sabattis.

    It is a problem that people come to the Olympic National Park, stand atop high elevations (to which they usually drove in a car, on a paved highway), and decry that they can see evidence of logging - the patch-work of clearcuts and regenerating forestry-units - covering hills & ridges many miles away, far outside the Park boundary. "That's just awful. How can they get away with it?"

    National Forest lands are not Parks. They are open to mineral exploration, mining claims, and extraction. And if they are one of the Forests that have trees - logging! The lands outside Grand Canyon National Park are ... not Park. Demanding that they be treated as though they are, is irrational.

    There is a cost to this mind-set & behavior. The credibility of the environmentalist movement as a whole suffers. We live in an era of gradually increasing conservatism which may well be pulling steadily ahead of liberalism.

    For the Green ethos to display itself as grasping is to court dismissal in the perception of the general (voting) public.