Recent comments

  • Wyoming Congressional Delegation Pushing Interior Secretary To Move on Yellowstone Snowmobile Plan   6 years 14 weeks ago


    Sorry, late getting back to the debate. Work gets in the way of fun once again!

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion, which I would defend in any forum on any topic. However, to mince alike words like "Need" and "Requirement" detract from my statement. I could have just as easily used an analogy with the body’s need for "Air" versus "Water", but I imagine you would have went on about how air is comprised of 21% Oxygen , 28% Nitrogen and 1% trace gases. That still does not nullify my point.

    Conversely, the national "need" for petroleum is by choice, not by any manner of requirement. The basis for our initial industrial development was the coal-fired and steam generation engines, not any sort of petroleum based product. Petrol is a convenience, not a necessity by any stretch of the imagination.

    Oh, really? What would you choose in place of it? Is it readily available? If there was an alternative available, would the world not embrace it? You mention plastics being made of biodegradable materials, yet most plastics used by you and I today are petroleum based. If you have a better solution, let's hear it.

    But alas, since the people of this nation are generally lazy, and believe the first thing they are told, no matter who the source may be, and are prone to complete gullibility in the doomsday scenario if we proceed with alternative energy development, we as a populace act the good little lemmings diving off the cliff simply because we though we saw someone else do it first, and God forbid we think and act independently and show some backbone and an initiative in taking control of our own future.

    That's a pretty broad brush you paint the American people with. To claim such is an insult to the populace. I suppose that you do not place yourself in that category, but yet you have no solution to offer either. Sure, many are lazy, but I don not believe they deserve such derision. We lead the world in technological advancements in so many fields that I cannot list them all.

    Please spare me the "you don't realize how long it would take to bring these notions to the masses" logic. That usually comes from a lame position of "we can't start a program due to we're lazy and generally content".

    Request for being spared denied. There’s that “Lazy” comment again! I am neither lazy nor content, and wish for alternatives just as passionately as you do. I do, however, have a 20+ year practical background in Mechanical Engineering and Machine Design, mostly in the pharmecutical and Packaging industries. Chances are you have used a product that has been touched by one of my machines. Imagine that!

    My point in that context is this: I've got a pretty darn good idea what it really requires to take a napkin sketch of an idea and bring it to reality. Even the most simplistic machine systems take months of R&D and design time to reach the manufacturing stage. Then a "Test & Debug" phase must be implemented to ensure that the design concept is sound. Revisions are always made, and T&D begins anew. In the case of human transportation devices, more attention to detail is required since peoples very lives depend on their safety and reliability.

    Case in Point: It took Toyota 4 years of development to take the “Prius” from concept phase to first production vehicle. (1993-1997). Are you going to go on record calling the Japanese lazy as well? American oil companies hold no sway over them either. It took another 10 years to get it to the American market. And guess what? It still uses fossil fuels, and in my opinion, is not the “Brass Ring” that we all hope for.

    Don’t you think that the every scientist in the field of transportation and beyond worldwide would love to find “The Ultimate Answer” to this problem? I smell Nobel prize for the person who arrives at the next best solution, as well as unfathomable wealth. How can we account for the fact the no one, American or otherwise, has yet found that solution?

    You make it sound far easier than it really is, and you need to realize that.

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   6 years 14 weeks ago

    "too many peoiple these days do not have any common sense and do not take responsibilty for their actions" is exactly why i or any responcible person would want to carry a concealed firearm in a remote area or where help may be far away and unable to prevent an incident

  • Trails I've Hiked: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I've done this hike three times, once in 1962 with my older cousin when I was a 17-year old high school middle distance runner, once alone as a Yosemite park ranger-naturalist in 1970, and once with my 17 year-old son in 1993.

    The first hike was insipired by stories of the hike from our older uncle who ascended the cables in the 1930's and bragged about the experience often. The second hike was done to take photos of the Valley floor by night for use in my evening naturalist programs. I recall using a new aluminum tripod just purchased from Ansel Adams at Best Studio. Once I completed the photo shoot, I decended to the Valley by night using the light of the full moon. No flashlight was needed.

    The last hike was by far the slowest of the three ascents, as a large backpack and the onset of middle age made a huge difference. My son and I overnighted at Little Yosemite Valley, and ascended the cables of Half Dome in the mid-morning. There were many more people taking this hike in 1993, than I remembered from years past. We lingered for about two hours on top and descended by mid-afternoon to Little Yosemite Valley, before continuing in the following days to Merced Lake and Tuolumne Meadows via Washburn, Bernice, Volglesang, Fletcher and Ireland Lakes.

    The most disappointing aspect of climbing to the top of Half Dome is that once on its summit, the sight of Half Dome is no longer part of the Yosemite viewshed. It's not nearly as slick and polished on top as you would expect. It's more like a high desert landscape with sandy soil, dwarfed pine trees, a small snow field, and a resident yellow-bellied marmot.

    My favorite views of Half Dome itself are from Glacier Point and Washburn Point, or perhaps midway up the old 1-mile Glacier Point Trail that traverses the Glacier Point apron above Curry Village (this trail has been officially closed for many decades, but it is now classified as a climbing route, requiring a permit). That trail exposes the best views of the Diving Board.

    Thank you Rick for your fine article and bringing back many fond memories.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   6 years 14 weeks ago

    People who would behave in the way you describe are poachers or some other type of criminal which is already prohibited from owning a firearm. Crminals already ignore prohibitions on firearms, and would prefer the rest of us unarmed. Concealed weapon permit holders have had training, been finger printed and have had backround checks. I would feel safer having these people around in a park.

  • Trails I've Hiked: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I was 48 and in moderately good condition when I did Half Dome in early July. I started at 6:30 am and summited at 2:30 pm (practically by myself up there) and got back at 8:30 pm, about an hour after dark. I did have a flashlight and I did take my time going up. I would suggest leaving no later than 6:30 am and 5:30 am wouldn't be a bad idea. You get to cover more ground with less traffic and before the place heats up. I chose to go up the switchbacks that connect with the Glacier Point trail so as to avoid the granite staircase next to Nevada Falls. I did descend down the staircase. A walking stick is a must on the descent, and 2 would be helpful descending through the misty area at Vernal Falls, especially if you are there after dark like I was. Also, there is no water between Little Yosemite Valley and the summit without detouring off the trail. Taking gloves for the ascent up and down the cables is essential if you value the skin on your hands. Climbing clips attached to a safety tether would have given me more peace of mind as I went up those cables, although it would have been hard to use them coming down because in areas it was kind of a controlled glide due to the effect of gravity. Also, when you get below Nevada Falls in the afternoon, be sure and look back to the falls. Depending upon the time of day and the time of year, there is an incredible 400 ft rainbow that cuts across the falls and is a picture of a lifetime.

  • Trails I've Hiked: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    @ Steve: Start at the trailhead around 6:30 a.m. Then you should be able to beat the crowds even if you take your time on the trail. If you are a slow hiker and think you need more than five hours one way, then start even earlier.

    I did the hike many years ago with a friend and we were both very experienced and fast hikers. We did the hike in about seven hours for the round trip (including maybe half an hour on the summit). So we were back in the valley shortly after noon, which was nice as we spent the rest of the day on the meadows of Merced River and later watched climbers bouldering near Camp 4, where we had our tent anyway.

  • Trails I've Hiked: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Kurt is a fast hker! 9+ hours is flying! Most folks will take about 10-12 hours to do the hike. First timers may take 13-14 hours. Hey, it's not a race - have fun! I usually stay about 45 mins at the summit but I start to get stiff and it's time to head back. I suggest doing a little stretching on top. there is no reason to hustle along - have fun and make stops at the Falls. I get going about 5:30 am. On weekends I want to be at the cables by 11 am or face a line. Getting up the cables is way easier at your own pace. People freeze up (there is no one "in charge" to get people moving). Average time up unimpeded is about 20 mins. Figure 45-60 mins on a jammed Summer day after noon.

    Good luck - the cables are up mid-May depending on the weather/snow conditions. Late may is a safe date for your reservations.

    Rick Deutsch

  • Trails I've Hiked: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago


    For many folks this can be a 9+ hour hike, especially when you factor in time on top gazing around. I think I started at 8 a.m. and was back in the valley by 5 or 5:30 p.m. But, of course, it all depends on how fast of a hiker you and any others in your group are as well as if there's a line of folks working their way up the cables.

  • Trails I've Hiked: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    This article says "early start of the day" - how early do you recommend we should start the hike?

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 14 weeks ago

    -- Congress almost never sets the specific fund level for the operations of a national park. There is no line-item for park operations.

    Congress will increase overall funding to parks, sometimes across the board but more commonly by an increase that is distributed down the priority list by the National Park Service for needed park increases. That list is identified and prioritized by the National Park Service. Operation funding almost never funded through line-item allocation by Congress. It is true that congressional staffers are trying to lean more dangerously in that direction, and that the NPS does provide its priority operations list of needs to the Congress, but that list is almost never changed by line-item adjustments by Congress.

    Out of the hundreds of parks, if congress ever changed two a year, it would be notable.

    -- Just like visitation does not ALWAYS drive funding increases, reduced visitation cannot always permit a budget cut. The example Rangertoo gives of Grant's Tomb is an example. After the events of September 11, the number of visits dropped, as I remember by an order of magnitude of around 30%, more or less. But the size of the site has a bare minimum number of staff to accomplish the functions, regardless of visitation. For example, although Grant's Tomb is roughly the size of the Lincoln Memorial (that has many more staff), Grant's Tomb has only one janitor/maintenance worker at the site. Again, with the large size of the building and grounds, it cannot function without this worker, and frankly I don't understand how that one worker can accomplishe as much as she does. Even if you were to shut down the building to visitors altogether, you would still have significant tasks taking care of the grounds because they could not be closed to visits. There are several other examples at Grants Tomb, and several other parks around the country with similar problems, that could not be cut back without significant, and far more expensive, loss to the park resource itself.

    -- Because all the parks are so different, in size and resource character and in the kind of costs for their needs, trying to put together a "one size fits all" central management system has been the fool's errant for those who seem constantly to attempt it.

    Parks are strongest when the management is closest to the ground, closest to the visitor, closest to the specific character of that individual park. I have seen the budget manager in Washington try to get into decisions about the appropriate level of funding in an individual park, and it is a pretty sorry site to watch. Rangertoo, I fear your proposed central budget management system IS NOT A GOOD IDEA.

    The better system is to build strong communication networks among park managers in geographic zones to identify the greatest needs, and place the ultimately priority setting responsibility in the Regional Office, in the hands of the same person who supervises and is accountable for the performance of each superintendent. That Regional Office knows that if it sends bloated or unsupportable priorities to Washington, its Region will lose out to the other Regions.

    -- It would be great to think that this system could also redistribute money from the "fat" parks to the broke ones, and that method was tried by Roger Kennedy and John Reynolds in the 1990's when they were Director and Deputy. Although it may be true that part of the problem is one park is simply not going to try to raid the treasury of another and no distributions happened, it is the higher reality that almost all parks have been cut so much over the years that there are no fat parks.

    -- Efforts to cut park budgets more by "finding fat," the idea that some are wasting money and need to be found out so funds can be redistributed, have been a disaster. They have cost far more than they have saved.

    But the worst thing about all the current "accounability" efforts has been that parks are distracted from managing the park, and are more and more managing the administrative system, in closed-loop communication with the Office of Management and Budget and Washington beancounters. If that effort were put back into the primary mission, managing the park and providing for visitor experience, parks would be better off. And taxpayers would get a bigger bang for the buck.

    These "accountability" systems are just a way of trying to blame the Victim -- the park and the public who wants to enjoy that park -- for the failure to fund the national parks at an operational level equal to the level provided in the '60's and the '70's (adjusted to today's dollars) Plus, often unfunded or incompletely funded are the new tasks required of the agency, such as the accountability systems, environmental compliance systems, safety and maintenance management systems, planning requirements, communications systems, contracting rules, etc etc etc.

    These REAL problems, the reduced (de facto) budgets and underfunded new obligations, so dwarf the "efficiencies" sought through new "accountability" systems and new "reorganizations" that it is silly to think these systems can possibly be the panacea.

    They are just ways to blame the victim, instead of forcing the President and the Congress to address the funding problems for parks. They are just devices for starving the National Park System out of existence, and blaming the parks and park people for the problem.

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Dear Frank C:

    Regarding your point on "an NPS business model," if you look early on in this thread, Rangertoo makes the point that Rep Ralph Regula made this park happen. Therefore, this was NEVER a concept within an original national park service plan, much less business plan.

    This park was established (my memory is it happened only around 8 years ago, not 28) at a time when the lead Republican staffer for the House Appropriations subcommittee for the Dept of the Interior, the NPS and other agencies, tyranized and micro-managed the NPS and terrified the not-very-distinguished group of NPS bureaucrats who ran the show in the washington office. They totally rolled over to Ralph Regula, and happily even drafted the bill in the way he wanted, and did not fight it. The appropriations committee would have eaten them for a snack if they had objected.

    Things like this, and like Steamtown, are pretty rare.

    The biggest thing wrong with the site is: there is no particular reason that this is the right place for it. Mrs. McKinley? Is she who you think about, is Canton the place you think about when you think of First Ladies (if you think about any other than Eleanor Roosevelt, that is).

    There have been several efforts to establish a National Park System Plan, or a blueprint, for establishing new parks or landmark theme studies. Under no circumstances would this site have been the place NPS planners would have thought about if they even thought a "first ladies" park was a good idea.

    PS: I was a little involved in the creation of Eleanor Roosevelt's historic site in Hyde Park. The overwhelming-stated attitude of the Republicans congressMEN at the time is that "First Ladies" should not have a site. Although, it frankly just sounded like a smoke-screen for the fact that they still hated Eleanor. Anyway, we needed to demonstrate that the accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt, as an historic figure in her own right, went way beyond her just being a first lady, just to get it established.

    But when a big dog like Regula, as a Republican, wants a new site in Ohio he gets it, and the point is driven home by the otherwise restrictive appropriations committee staff. It is events like this one and Steamtown that give the lie to the idea that Republican's restraint on the NPS is a budgetary matter. When they want to, they are happy to blow the money.

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I certainly agree with these true experts (in my opinion). Having a loaded gun handy will surely lead to problems. Too many people these days do not have any common sense and do not take responsibility for their actions. Guns in National Parks will lead to unnecessary wildlife deaths and unnecessary human conflicts.

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   6 years 14 weeks ago

    While I do not support allowing bikes into the backcountry, I do think the current regulations are a little too strict. The current regulations prohibit bicycles on anything other than roads unless a special regulation is written as described in the story. In the middle are multi-use trails built specifically for bicycles and pedestrians. These are usually 8 feet wide and hard-surfaced. Even though these are built to handle bikes, parks must actually go through the long and expensive process of writing a regulation to allow bikes on these trails. As a result, most parks with these trails have never written a regulation - they just allow them. Since the trail planning process usually has public comment and NEPA compliance, it would be benefitial to have a regulation that allows bikes on trails designed and built for that purpose as long as the trail planning had the proper public comment and compliance.

  • Threats to the Parks: Biscayne National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Understanding what has gone wrong and why is a vital step in the process of repairing damage. In the case of Biscayne National Park, the National Park Service has a very good grasp of the basic facts -- that is, the agency understands the nature and severity of the problems besetting the park. The major obstacle is inadequate resources. There just isn't enough money, staffing, and other essentials, including political capital. Sadly, Biscayne is being so heavily used (and abused) that managers will be hard pressed to keep the park's natural resources situation from markedly worsening. It's very frustrating for resource managers, at Biscayne or anywhere else, to know that they must run faster and faster just to stay in place.

    Traveler will continue to monitor and report on resource management issues and actions at Biscayne. As you've suggested, we'll try to find out more about individuals and organizations that are helping out so we can tell our readers about that too.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   6 years 14 weeks ago

    My daughter & I hiked Angel's Landing 3 years ago--September 2005. She was not quite 11 at the time (very tall for her age, long legs). We read up on it first, including pics & videos, wore appropriate footwear, and approached the hike with respect & foresight. We didn't have any trouble. We hike regularly, but nothing as exposed as AL. She still talks about it at least once a month--it is a memory & accomplishment she'll have for a lifetime. You have to know yourself & whoever you are with; your strengths & weaknesses & respect your instincts. The most important trail advice is above--don't rely on the chains solely--have secure footing without holding on to them. They can be very dangerous--especially when someone in back of you grabs hold & "springs" the chain, making it bounce & fly around--if you are not sure of your footing, you could easily lose it there. In making the choice to take my daughter at her age; the biggest factor was that I knew that first, if she was too scared or unsure to go on, she would tell me; and second, that I knew she'd follow directions immediately (like STOP!) without any attitude or hesitation. Several kids in her Scout troop want me to take them when we go camping in Zion--NO WAY!! Because of those two factors--not sure which ones I could trust to behave. Good luck to anyone trying the hike--it is truly an experience to last a lifetime.

  • Threats to the Parks: Biscayne National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    this was really helpful!! It makes people inspired to help out.! You should make a page about how people have helped out.

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Great thats just one more thing for hikers to think about; when some fool racing down a trail on his or her mountain bike runs you over comming around a corner; or over a rise. So much for a peaceful hike in the woods.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   6 years 14 weeks ago

    5 of us went on the AL trail several years ago. 1 stopped at the beginning of the "danger zone". 2 of us (including me) stopped at the next "landing" and 2 others did the entire trail. The key is common sense and knowing yourself. we laugh at each other now, but there was no "peer pressure" (age 29 then) from the others that day. Every person needs to decide for themselves. beautiful country from any viewpoint.

  • The Lost Arrow Spire Highline in Yosemite National Park is a Slackliner’s Dream and an Acrophobe’s Nightmare   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Interesting article, Bob, one that perhaps will raise a discussion about whether this a good practice/sport in the parks?

    The folks in Arches National Park have outlawed slacklining. I'm not exactly sure why off the top of my head, but it might have to do with protecting both an individual's safety as well as park resources.

    And while you note Dean Potter's slacklining in Yosemite, don't forget that he got in just a little bit of trouble for climbing Delicate Arch in Arches. He's not the best representative for the climbing industry.

  • Is Bush Administration Moving to Shuck Some Congressional Oversight on Public Lands Management?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Rick, just like the bailout of corporate criminals on Wall Street and the clowns from Homeland Security who grope me every time I try to fly to Pittsburgh, you've gotta realize by now that centrally controlled government is the worst way to run anything.

    I mean ANYTHING!

  • Is Bush Administration Moving to Shuck Some Congressional Oversight on Public Lands Management?   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I hope everyone sees the pattern that is developing in the waning days of this Administration. The Interior Department proposes: changing gun regs in the parks; establishing new mountain biking regs for the parks; fast tracking 6 new management plans for BLM lands in Utah that will increase off road vehicle use and resources development in these areas; eliminating the requirement for USF&WS consultation on proposals that may impact endangered species; and ignoring Congressional action on mining around Grand Canyon. The Administration also ordered wildlife agencies to ignore global warming as a potential impact on endangered species, saying that no single cause could be isolated as causing direct or indirect impacts. These agencies were also told to ignore the cumulative effects of climate change because they are of no relevance in determing whether the proposed action has an effect on a listed species or critical habitat.

    They are trying to accomplish through regulatory change that which they could not accomplish legislatively. It's not a pretty picture.

    Rick Smith

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 15 weeks ago

    This is a great discussion. I agree, that cost per visitor is not a valid measure of the value of a park or its costs. Somethings are worth protecting, not at any cost, but at a reasonable cost for effective preservation and management. I mention the cost of Isle Royale per visitor because it is a direct analogy to the original story of the cost of managing First Ladies. I would support taking the $1 million from First Ladies, de-authorizing, the site and giving the money to Isle Royale even if that did increase the cost per visitor there!

    The point is, the funding of the national parks make no sense at all. Current park budgets are a hodge podge history of add ons, boosts, and additions over time that only go up and never go down. Even with declining visitation at places like Carlsbad Cavers or Grant's Tomb, you will not see a park's budget decrease and the money allocated to a park with growing visitation, added lands, or new challenges. This is unique among all federal agencies: no other agency is funded by Congress from the bottom up. National Forests, wildlife refuges, even military bases, are not funded by line-item allocations from Congress. This means that inefficiencies and the ineffective expenditures of budgets will continue because the central office of the NPS has no ability to analyze needs across the national park system and allocate funding accordingly to meet those needs and emerging challenges. In my opinion, advocating for a change to the budget system is the single most powerful thing the Director and the Secretary of the Interior could do to improve the national parks. True, more money is needed, but we could be doing a lot more with the current budget put in the right places.

  • Yorktown Day – Our Country's "Other Birthday"   6 years 15 weeks ago


    Thanks for a great article about this event. I wish I could attend this year, but sadly have prior commitments.

    Yorktown and the "Historic Triangle" areas including Jamestown and Williamsburg are a must-see if your ever in that part of Virginia. The area is rife with Colonial history and period structures, as well as National Battlefields and parks from both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

    I've been on the Godspeed several times, as she makes fairly regular visits to assorted events in the area throughout the year. It's quite a sight to behold, and all the hands on deck actually sail her to and from the various locations. Said crew members are also more than glad to show you below decks, as well as answer any questions as to vessel design and operation. Built as part of the Jamestown 400th anniversary celebration, she sailed as far as Boston harbor on an East Coast tour beginning in 2006. May she continue to ply the seas for many years to come!

    Many of the Colonial-era reenactments can be seen during other times of the year at the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area, for
    those who cannot make the Yorktown event.

  • Musings from Yosemite National Park   6 years 15 weeks ago

    Mr. Repanshek provided a fair and unbiased account of Yosemite. The park is so huge and diverse (ranging from a few thousand feet in elevation to over 13,000 feet) that it would be difficult to mention in detail Hetch Hetchy, sequoia groves, wilderness, and the biological diversity in every article.

    Many thanks to Mr. Repanshek for this article.

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 15 weeks ago

    The point, thought, is to protect for American interest and education what is important to America, and not the money.

    Gosh, I wish that was reflected in my visit to Lewis and Clark NHS this weekend. I visited Fort Clatsop on Sunday, and my wife and I had some substantive questions (not just "Where's the bathroom?") that required an interpreter. Unfortunately, the uniformed ranger at the VC desk seemed more concerned about taking entrance fees than answering our questions (even though there were three volunteers at the desk who could have taken the fees at the register). She blew us off mid-answer to collect fees at the register. I know this is only one instance, but I've seen similar examples at other parks. (I won't go into the double taxation of the current fee structure here.)

    But coming back to my previous question. d-2: You mention that many parks have business plans. What about business models? If so, what model do they use? Can you describe a business plan in use? It might be a semantic difference, but a general management plan and a business plan/model seem two different things.

    There are units in the system for protection only.

    MRC, if this is true, then why are so many FTE employees needed for these protection-only units? Which units are for protection only (and not enjoyment by the people)? It seems to me that the Organic Act's dual mandate indicates otherwise. (However, I'd readily vote to alter the Organic Act to mandate only protection, in which case,it would not seem that the NPS would need so many maintenance workers, LE rangers, and most importantly, administrators.)