Recent comments

  • Ribbon-Cutting Planned for $70,000 "Bio Toilet" at Mount Rainier National Park   6 years 18 weeks ago

    This is the first biotoilet installed in the United States, so it will be a good test case to see if the system works as well in our climate and environment as it does in Japan. If it performs as expected, it is likely that this model or something similar would be strongly considered for other locations where a light presence on the land is desired. We're especially eager to work with the designers of the toilet to convert it to solar power so that it could be used in backcountry locations, including at the high camps on Mount Rainier.

    At $70,000, it is a relatively expensive toilet. But it requires virtually no maintenance, produces no effluent at all, and even the term "composting" toilet is misleading because the human waste is "digested" completedly through aerobic processes. The biotoilets in use on Mount Fuji have operated for a decade without any maintenance beyond annual winterization and a few cedar chips added once in a while.

  • Violent Deaths in the National Parks   6 years 18 weeks ago

    A lot of the posters on this subject are members of the "Flat Earth Society" when it comes to guns.

    You don't have to wonder what will happen if civilians are allowed to carry guns in national parks. There is literally about 20 years of data in every part of the country to show what happens when civilians are allowed to carry guns in public.

    There are 48 states in the US that have some version of concealed carry laws. Currently only Illinois and Wisconsin have no version of concealed carry at all.

    Of those 48, around 32 or so are "shall issue" states, meaning that if you meet the minimum requirements for a permit, the state "shall" issue you a permit to carry, not might, not maybe, not perhaps, but shall.

    My own state of Arkansas has had concealed carry for 13 years. It's been a total and complete success. Concealed carry permit holders typically do not commit crimes or random acts of violence.

    A few years ago, an anti-gun group tried to create some buzz by showing how many Texas concealed carry permit holders had been arrested. Not convicted, but arrested....too many parking tickets will result in arrest.

    A week later, a Texas pro-gun group released its own press statement proving that Texas concealed carry permit holders were getting arrested at a rate less than half that at which Texas law enforcement officers were getting arrested.

    In Texas, concealed carry permit holders are more law-abiding than the cops.

    In most states, concealed carry permit holders are trained, finger-printed, background-checked, and pay all sorts of fees before they get their permits.

    They don't cause problems.

    They do have the chance to save their own lives, or the lives of those with them.

  • What's In Your National Park Reading Room?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    A good list. I'd add a few others as well.

    John Wesley Powell's The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons for a unique perspective on the Grand Canyon and tribs.

    Searching for Yellowstone by Paul Schullery looks at Yellowstone's resources and the outside forces that affect management.

    Frank Wheat's California Desert Miracle is a rather dry but interesting account of the fight to protect the California desert and established the Mojave National Preserve, upgraded Death Valley and Joshua Tree to National Park status, and created some new wilderness areas, among other things.

    Roderick Frazier Nash's Wilderness and the American Mind is a classic study of America's changing attitudes toward wilderness and protected public lands and key to really understanding virtually of the other books listed here.

    Finally, The Antiquities Act by Harmon, McManamon, and Pitcaithley is a conglomeration of articles that describes the history and influence of the 1906 Antiquities Act, the first legislation to protect cultural resources, and probably more importantly in terms of future impact, the act that provides the President with the unilateral ability to protect public lands as national monuments.

  • Bird Nests and Closures Spurring Civil Disobedience at Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 18 weeks ago

    You need to get a life,the birds have survived with the way things have been for years.Think how the local economy is affected by such a change.If the bird was really such a endanger species,all beaches in the United States would be closed.

  • What's In Your National Park Reading Room?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Kurt, nice selection of books for summertime reading. You might consider the: Challenge of the Big Trees by Lary M. Dilsaver & William C. Tweed. A synopsis of the resource history of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Excellent reading for conservation and resource majors and for all National Park buffs.

  • What's In Your National Park Reading Room?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I'd add "Into the Wild" by John Krakauer. Alaska and esp. Denali NP are portrayed as both life-changing inspiration, raw, rugged beauty and immense danger to the unprepared. Fascinating insight into the mind of someone who places himself at the mercy of the Alaska wilderness.

  • Exploring the "Other Half" of Our National Parks: Stargazing Under Protected Dark Skies   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Great article Mr. Hoffman.

    Another resource for beginners are the monthly star charts at:

    During the summer spotting satellites is fun.
    You can even get predictions at:
    When you register you can setup predictions for your exact location. For example, The Smoky Mountain Astronomical Society often visits Unicoi Crest in North Carolina

    Forrest Erickson

  • Commentary: Who Runs the National Park System?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    As a former Director of the National Park Service I can tell you that this ruckous over Sylvan Pass is not unusual. Usually, if you trace an issue like this back to it's source, you find a few. srtrident local people who stand to make money based on the decision. They usually don't care what the decision will cost the tax payer or whether or not it makes sense from a resource management point of view.

    They may be snow mobilers, off road vehicle users or a variety of other users. They are usually vocal and well connected politcally. Cody, Wyoming residents have had a strong voice in National Park Service policy for years but they are not the only ones.

    If they don't get what they want, their congressional representatives will threaten to punish NPS management in a number of ways including the blockage of funding. It is a way of life--like the tail wagging the dog. It appears to be especially true in western parks where local people seem to to lay the strongest claim on the management of federal lands. You don't usually see New Yorkers trying to run Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. You don't usually find Washington, D.C. trying to run the Washington monument.

    It is hard to explain, but that is the way it is and I doubt it will change soon.

  • Commentary: Who Runs the National Park System?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    The number of snowmobilers who want to enter Yellowstone thru Cody is and has always been small compared to the other entrances. YNP is not the only place where these few can ride during the winter. In my opinion, a huge expense and risk for just a few.

    On the quote "They can spend $ on wolves- why can't they spend it on us?", literally millions of dollars have been brought into the entire Greater Yellowstone area by people hoping to see and/or hear a wolf. Millions of dollars also made from wolf t-shirts, coffee cups, etc. Talk about money well spent !

  • Commentary: Who Runs the National Park System?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Yes, when looking at these things, it's important not to reduce this to Cody - you can rest assured that most of Cody wasn't involved with this, either (whatever the local attitudes were or weren't). State Sen. Colin Simpson, who was heavily involved with this, is the son of former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson.

    Who exactly was "Shut Out of Yellowstone", the group that sprung overnight to fight this?

    It's too simple to put this on a gateway community; who are the people involved? What interests do those who take action have at stake, and what are their interests with the levers of power?

    Interesting you fingered Cheney; a long series in the Washington Post a couple years back, Cheney got directly involved in the Yellowstone cutthroat issue, though no one would have guessed he'd have put himself into such a minute issue. You, of course, don't know if Cheney was involved here, but it's not out of the question. Someone higher than Suzanne Lewis was involved with the decision; she didn't suddenly see the light (as you said, it makes no sense).

    Small numbers of people are always the one that make change - this is one for the worse; but it's always true you won't find that many people behind any significant change. When society is as large as it is, that's both an empowering thought (for those of us who would like to bring change) and a scary thought (to think that we could have such consequences when we are playing with a fire this large has to be really daunting to anyone would would try). I don't begrudge small groups of people from being so effective; what's upsetting was that this was the kind of change that they made, that they are no doubt heavily connected with the levers of power, and the net result is the shelling of Yellowstone National Park with ordnance - some of which is still unexploded in Yellowstone.

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

  • Commentary: Who Runs the National Park System?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    If read lots of opinion on the issue, but I feel I miss some hard facts. If this about the city of Cody as such? With 53 miles the city seems a bit far off to be that interested.

    While searching for background information I came across the FAQ of an outfitter and snowmobile tour guide at They specifically mention Pahaska Tepee as being cut off from business with snowmobiling in the National Park. That lodge, the former hunting lodge of Buffalo Bill, now family owned by Bob and Angela Coe, with rooms from midscale to family oriented rates is located only two miles outside the park on the road to Cody. Their mailing address does not use the nearest ZIP code of Wapiti, WY (82450), but that of Cody, WY (82414). In former years they made 80-85% percent of their winter income with snowmobilers - In 2007 they had to close the lodge, lay off their staff and cancel all reservations because of 26 days at the beginning of the season, the pass was closed for 10 days - - Bob Coe is on the board of the National Forest Recreation Association - - and his issue with the pass and his snowmobiles goes back to at least 1996 - -, when he bought 40 snowmobiles and led protesters who complained about closures even then: "They can spend $ on wolves - why can’t they spend it on us?" - that were of course the closures due to federal budget struggles.

    That's it so far. You are closer to the issue then I am, pick up the lead and see, if it leads somewhere.

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 18 weeks ago

    My only curiosity is that the Supreme Court decision concerning the D.C. handgun ban will be released in the next two weeks. I can't help but imagine what kind of impact that decision will have. If the D.C. gun ban is upheld, why should the DOI secretary need to change the rules if he doesn't want to? On the other hand, if the D.C. gun ban is struck DOWN, I would think it's going to be "open season" on ANY questionable firearms regulations, including those currently in place in the National Parks. They would never survive the scrutiny until January. See what I mean?

    And I also liked it better when the NRA just needed to teach Hunter-Safety classes, instead of having to fight political battles.

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Hi Fred --

    My recollection is that when they announced their schedule, DOI was asked by a reporter when Dept. of Interior expected to be able to make the decision on the rulemaking/regulation, and answered "in January." Not Jan 1.

    However, I don't have a copy the report of story that carried this, and am relying on memory. I will try to scour around and see if any old news archives cover this exchange. Maybe someone else saw the same piece and can comment, but I will look.

    But that kind of timing can be made to appear plausible, assuming they can say they have the comment period close in a little less than a month, most likely they do not extend (as they sometimes do where there are a bunch of comments), then stop to review the decision, prepare an analysis, go through the review with their lawyers, put their finger up in the air to see where the politics is, and then publish their result.

    Either way they get the advantage of stirring people up, without having to go on the record one way or another before the election, but protract the whole thing to target the specific constituency. If this is right you should expect to hear a bunch more on this around september-october. At the least the Senators signing the petition and who are running get a bounce, and we will see if they can work it into the presidential campaign. If they can get Obama to say he disagrees is sept or oct, they can use that against him in states like Pennsylvania, that he needs, with strong NRA.

    This strategy will not work if Kempthorne announces his decision in sept or oct. Anyway, just watch the bouncing ball and see if you are right, that this is a 'principled' decision by Kempthorne, or if he waits and is just playing this for the political bounce of objectifying Obama and opponents of republican senators in swing states.

    Republicans must be desperate to hold on to all the seats they can.

    Imagine, they could be talking about habitat preservation instead !

    Personally, I prefer the old NRA that worried about sustaining wildlife and wildlife habitat.

  • How We View National Parks Today Matters For Tomorrow   6 years 18 weeks ago

    A National Park for the Upper Mississippi River was discussed as early as 1917. In 1932 the NPS sent the superintendend of Yellowstone NP, Roger Toll, on a five-day evaluation tour to southern Wisconsin and Iowa. He found the area not suited for a National Park, but recommended that the Effigy Mounds north of Marquette, Iowa should be protected in a National Monument. From then it took until 1949 until "Effigy Mounds National Monument" - - was created.

    Most probably Tolls conclusion still stands: If National Parks are supposed to be vast tracts of nature, unimpaired by men, then nowhere on the Mississippi River a National Park can be created. But if National Parks can be valuable nature, interspersed with remnants of historic use and modern day recreational needs of the Twin Cities, then the Upper Mississippi in the area that now is "Mississippi National River and Recreation Area" could become a National Park of that new kind.

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I guess a Bernard DeVoto of our times should stand up and say "Let's close the National Parks", if Congress does not fund them properly, as he did in 1953 in Harper's Magazine - in full at His outcry was influential in starting the Mission 66.

    "Therefore only one course seems possible. The national park system must be temporarily reduced to a size for which Congress is willing to pay. Let us, as a beginning, close Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and Grand Canyon National Parks—close and seal them, assign the Army to patrol them, and so hold them secure till they can be reopened."

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Here are a couple of ideas that would never fly, but since you asked:

    Since the majority of Americans are basically slothful couch potatoes, who's idea of "reality" is directly linked to such nonsense as what is purported to be classified as such by the brainless marketing and production staffs that are television executives, how about a "real" reality show about the status of the American landscape? We're SO good at throwing our hard-earned monies at sympathy causes all over the globe that maybe, for once; we as a nation might concentrate on some domestic issues within our own borders, generate some personal and national pride in restoring the images and landmarks that comprise our collective heritage and future.

    Another option is exposing the youth of America, the elementary, middle and high school aged children, to stories, images and the general history and current conditions that are the NPS. Play on their sympathies and jump-start their guilty consciences. Show what was, what currently is and what is projected to be if we continue with business as usual. The younger minds are most easily influenced (ok, pliable, malleable, preyed upon, whatever) and are the most likely to institute the movement required for the needed changes in attitude, funding and general advocacy to take place anytime in the near future. If you're waiting for political intervention you're a fool. Likewise with funding from the private sector in amounts that would truly be substantial enough to make a difference, in the short term at least. A "benevolent benefactor" with the available resources to ride in like the proverbial knight in shining armour doesn't exist in this world, mostly due to the fact that they wouldn't receive the "personal recognition / promotion" that those morons usually demand. This is a "for the good of all people" project, not some personal gratification /furthering of one's image and status program. So let's utilize those who are most likely to come under the spell of the Great Outdoors, those who have probably yet to live the experience, but who would at the same time be most likely to be forever influenced by such exposure.

    Reporting, as usual, from La-La Land............

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Good point, Kurt.

    However, advocacy begins from within, and you are not going to see the kind of advocacy that our Parks need until we once again have Directors, Regional Directors and Park Superintendents who will hold fast to the ideals as expressed in the Organic Act of 1916, even in the face of political pressure: until we once again have Directors, Regional Directors and Park Superintendents who are willing to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough! We cannot do more with less, and we will not put the resources with which we have been entrusted at risk, nor our people or our visitors, just to appease politicians’: or until we once again have Regional Directors and Park Superintendents who are willing to lay their careers on-the-line, and curtail or even shut down management-related activities that cannot be sustained without ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. Until a new generation of Managers the likes of Hartzog, Chapman, Anderson, Cone, Kowski, or Thompson take the reins and lead in accord with the ideals as expressed in the Organic Act of 1916, advocacy from within doesn’t stand a chance.

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    It was a Nikon, I believe my old N-70, which since has been replaced by a D80.

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Kurt, just one question. Your photo on this page, when was it taken? Nice composition and color...and what kind of camera used?

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    There is an additional challenge for increasing national parks advocacy besides the ones mentioned in Kurt's post and by other commenters. In the last few years, many environmental groups have responded to the threat of global climate change by focusing the lion's share of their resources on it.

    This has meant not only that there are fewer professional opportunties for people intersted in traditional public lands advocacy but also that young people coming into the environmental movement are being channeled mostly toward global climate change issues.

    It's hard to say how much of this is driven by the groups themselves. Foundation funding for more traditional conservation work is shrinking as funders increasingly move their money into slowing global climate change. Since many environmental nonprofits are dependent on foundation funding for a big part of their budgets, that shift changes what they can do.

    As a result, citizen advocacy is more important than ever. I know there are huge systematic issues that could really use more people paying attention, but I would settle for more people standing up for the parks they care about. My own experience is that you can indeed get many recreationists to become public-lands advocates, but it happens only when there is a huge threat to their personal playground. Once they start speaking out, however, they are some of the most ardent advocates around.

  • How We View National Parks Today Matters For Tomorrow   6 years 18 weeks ago

    One of the concerns with extending the "national park" designation to any type of NPS unit is whether that will cause the public to shrug their shoulders when development or other threats to natural values are proposed in a old-school, big and wild national park because they've become accustomed to development in other places that are called national parks.

    For instance, there is a push now to reclassify the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) as a national park. Some folks are already calling MNRRA a national park in advertising for events taking place on the Mississippi River. MNRRA doesn't have land or legal authority to manage what happens on the Mississippi, but renaming it as a national park would give the people of Minneapolis/St. Paul a national park that really is in their back yards. (The Mississippi River flows right through Minneaplis/St. Paul.)

    Whether associatiing "national park" with an urban area will change how Minnesotans respond to threats to other national parks that aren't urban remains to be seen. Or will it perhaps raise consciousness of national parks in general and make Twin Cities residents curious to see other their other national parks?

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Fred, for god's sake come up for air on this gun issue. Why are you so wildly honed and intense on this issue? Lepanto makes a damn good point!
    The Bush & Cheney ideology has infected and poisoned just about every governmental agency in this country with it's pure chain-ball stupidity and corrupt political chicanery. Now, this gun issue, such unbelievable waste of breath during election year when we have such horrendous internal problems and moral decay in this country...and you worry about packing a concealed weapon in the National Parks. Such a pity!!!

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Where is the information about the January 1st effective date? I was not aware of it. What is the Secretary using for justification? Why not an immediate change to the regulations after a review of the public comments? I realize that there's more than TEN THOUSAND comments, but they are almost all in SUPPORT of the rule change. Why not use SEPTEMBER 1st, or maybe even AUGUST?

    The DOI website says, "Once the public comment period has closed, all comments received will be evaluated and incorporated into the decision making process on a final rule. The number and substance of the comments received will determine the timeline for the final decision."

  • Mount Vernon, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument Proposed To Become World Heritage Sites   6 years 18 weeks ago

    We need to ensure that we do not allow "the World" to take over these locations. We manage them just fine ourselves. However, all things considered, the inclusion of a site on the list is significant.

    I believe that the State of Illinois is doing a fine job of preserving and interpreting Cahokia Mounds. The visitor center is fabulous and outclasses many visitor centers interpreting ancient sites preserved by the NPS.

  • Yellowstone's Latest Snowmobile Decision for Cody: Politically Motivated or Simply Neighborly?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    There may be things in life where that kind of money is worthwhile - I don't know - but I can't imagine it's worthwhile even if someone was giving the Park Service $8,470.76 per person to bombard Yellowstone National Park with munitions.

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