Recent comments

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

    This is great stuff, guys. Thanks so much for sharing. If I may, I'd like to recommend the Yellowstone Association website as a way to obtain these books and more, while also supporting our national treasures at the same time. The recent story concerning the financial plight of the Twain and Wharton homes should encourage us to do more, if possible.

  • National Park Quiz 6: Watchable Wildlife   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Wow - I had a perfect score of 12 out of 12 this week - a first for me... I loved question #6, BTW - very clever.

    One side note on question #9 - there are actually at least three free-roaming bison herds in the National Park System, at Yellowstone, Wind Cave, and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks (both the North and South Units.)

  • Forever on the Mountain   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I'm not so much worried about myself, but I am about the younger generations, even my own kids. I suppose the generations before me worried about the same things but I just can't imagine it getting any better.

  • National Park Service Open to Cutting Single-Track Bike Trails in the Parks   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Segways are a BAD idea. Horrible idea! Come to visit the National Mall in Washington D.C. for even part of a day and you will clearly see why. Mountain bikers, if they run smack into you, will also fall down and get hurt which is probably why they take care to NOT run into you. Segways, on the other hand, can plow right into you without even slowing down and no consequence to them! I lost count of how many times I have been nailed by a segway in D.C. I have seen them hit the elderly with walkers, knock over a baby stroller with a baby in it, and those Segway tour groups are a lawsuite waiting to happen. You have to have a bit of skill to use a mountain bike, not everyone can do it, especially on a trail. Segways, on the other hand, can be used by even the most reckless idiots on the planet. Segways can go remarkably fast [Ed. top speed about 12 mph], which makes impact with a pedestrian oh so much more painful. I could go on and on about why Segways in the Parks is a bad, bad idea. Instead, for anyone who thinks Segways are a good idea for the Park system, I challenge you to sit (at a safe distance) on the National Mall on a Wednesday afternoon and watch the Segways. I am on board for trails for the mountian bikers, but I would rally against the Segways and I am glad that they mentioned that just because they make a trail for the mountain bikers does not mean they would for the Segways.

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


    Over the nearly three years that I've been following the Yellowstone snowmobile saga on the Traveler I've cited and pointed to many reports that have addressed the pollution load of snowmobiles via snowcoaches and which have said the best way to reduce impacts to the park would be to phase out snowmobiles.

    You can find one such story here.

    Here is some of the pertinent information from that post:

    * "Since the current numbers (of snowmobiles) are below the allowed number of snowmobiles in the current Winter Use Plan, CO concentrations will go up if traffic increases. To maintain the currently allowed number of snowmobiles without degrading air quality further, further reductions in emissions will be needed." -- 2004-05 air quality report.

    * "The park should continue with plans for cleaner snow vehicles and limits on the number of snowmobiles." -- 2004-05 air quality report.

    * "A rough relationship between the number of daily snowmobiles at the West Entrance and the maximum CO concentrations accounts for 87 percent of the variability. This suggests that an increase in the average daily snowmobile traffic up to the allowed limit under the Winter Use Plan would result in greater carbon monoxide concentrations." -- 2004-05 air quality report.

    * "The winter CO mean concentration in February now is nearly equal to the mean CO in July, the busiest visitation month." -- 2004-05 air quality report.

    And if you look at page 20 of this report, you'll see where even the park's scientists themselves point out that politics often trumps science. Here's the pertinent snippet:

    However, science cannot resolve issues where policy is advocated due to values judgments and perceptions about what is appropriate in national parks (Sarewitz 2004). As Creel et al. (2002) discussed, various constituencies have strong values and beliefs about the primary purpose of the park (i.e., recreation vs. conservation) and acceptable levels of impact (i.e., behavioral vs. physiological vs. population).

    Also, I've pointed out in the past how park officials had to alter the parameters of what constitutes an impact in noise levels to justify their preferred alternative.

    Finally, I believe the park's "environmentally preferred" alternative (which you can find in Chapter 2 at this site) calls for phasing out snowmobiles in favor of snowcoaches. Indeed, the park's "no action" alternative calls for snowcoach only recreational travel, a decision based on the previous EISes.

  • Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Why has no one brought up the fact that bear "spray" is useless USELESS on a windey day!! And if the animal is coming down (with the wind) your spray will only go into your face or the face of your loved ones!! And the "sound" she keeps talking about will be UNHEARD by the bear! TRY THIS...take your hair spray out side on a windey day or a big fire retardant can...and spray it into the WIND!! IN YOUR FACE IT ALL you smell like yummy yummy PEPPER to the bear..when the burn wears off you are left with a food type yummy odor on you after you have been mauled!! So why would i carry something that the wind can render it USELESS or can attract a bear in the forst place and can be OLD and out of DATE!! You wanna carry bear spray...knock yourself out...but the gun carrying person will be the one to save your life!! And troubled bears that are rereleased back into the wilderness are often shot at with rubber if you shoot a bear or only wound will remember the pain and fear of the LOUD noises. It has no fear of the SPRAY can...and even less on a WINDY DAY!!

  • Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I can tell [that this woman] only hikes in small parks in CA only. What an idiot! You only have 6 can you get that damn clip off your "PEPPER ME FOR TASTE" can before the bear gets to you in 6 seconds. The shot of a bullet has always scared off every animal i have ever encountered. And when i bear hunt the first shot will drop him almost every time within minutes of him trying to RUN AWAY!! Pepper spray....the mear smell of the pepper in the spray can make a bear come around!! And if the bear spray is old it will be innafective on the bear! AND lets say you make your spraying sweeping motion with your "hair SPRAY pepper" and its really windy or rainy and it goes the wrong way..or if you were a hunter you would know a bear or any animal will turn and go with the wind to double back that means as the bear is charging you...and the bear is going 25 mph with a 15 mph wind your SPRAY will be in your FACE!! And let the MAULING BEGIN!! yeah i want to trust my life to something a mear strong wind will make it be gone or in my own face, i cant trust something like that!! Carry a gun! This lady has no idea of what to do. [Ed. This comment was edited to remove a concluding personal remark of an extremely offensive nature.]

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

    In terms of the broader proposal, I think that it would be best to avoid the "or" in your opening question. National Parks need to be run in some form of partnership with the gateway communities.

    At the end of the day, the biggest enforcement budget in the world won't be able to do as much to protect the Parks as gateway communities that are invested in the long-term health and well-being of the Parks. Moreover, I think that there are many Park Superintendents out there who can tell you that a gateway community at odds with the National Park Service can make life one giant headache for Park Rangers and managers.

    Secondly, the perception that Parks are damaging to the well-being of gateway communities is one of the primary factors that are working against the expansion of Parks and the establishment of new Parks. It doesn't help that many of the "hottest issues" in the Park System today are inherently cross-boundary issues like air pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, and viewscape preservation. There are many important resources out there that would do well to be preserved in the National Park System, but there is often staunch local resistance to Park establishment or expansion.

    Don't get me wrong, I think that Gatlinburg, TN is quite the abomination and I'm as baffled as anyone by the Sylvan Pass decision. Nevertheless, despite these mistakes, I think that it would be a bigger mistake to paint the National Park Service is being inherently at odds with gateway communities - wherever they may be...

  • National Park History: Big Bend National Park   6 years 18 weeks ago

    You're awful generous to Big Bend in the summer time. I once met a Park Ranger who worked here previously, and he described Big Bend in the summertime to me as simply "hell on earth." I haven't tested that statement - but I believe him!

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

    In several posts, you've implied that "science" has argued in favor of phasing out all recreational snowmobile use in the Park. However, the post you link to identifies the "preferred alternative" as being 540 snowmobiles a day - which doesn't seem like a phaseout to me....

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

    In two separate posts now you've implied that Vice President Dick Cheney may have been involved in this decision - albeit without any solid reporting to back it up. It seems to me, though, that this Sylvan Pass decision seems bad enough on its own, without having to resort to innuendo on this issue.....

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

    What? Where's Muir? How about "My first summer in the Sierra", or my favorite " Travels in Alaska". If Muir is a little dry for you, try "The Wild Muir". Released by The Yosemite Association, these are short stories about John Muir as others experienced him.

    Another I enjoyed recently was " Boundary Waters" by Paul Gruchow. Nice insights as to why wilderness is so important to our psyche, and also some thoughts on Thoreau.

    My favorite as of late has been Terry Tempest Williams, A desert rat at heart, she is a master at turning a phrase and has much to say. Try "Red, passion and patience in the desert." And perhaps most topical in the post 9-11 era of conservation, "The Open Space of Democracy", a little gem of a book everyone should read.

  • Segways in the National Parks: Do We Really Need Them?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    It's a motorized vehicle. NO. How is this different that a motorized scooter or bike? There's a reason bike paths don't allow motorized vehicles. It's to keep the speed down to make it safe for others. If you're handicapped, maybe, like in the case of a motorized wheelchair. Otherwise, get off your ass and walk or peddle. This is nuts. I liked the comment from whoever it was that said that they should have baskets to carry their candy bars and Big Macs. Bike trails is for health exercise, not electric motorized vehicles. Get a car and stay on the road if you want a powered vehicle. Yosemite has no place for motorized vehicles on bike paths.

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

    I can't believe I'm about to write this, but I am so excited by this potty! When you think of the amount of ground that is disturbed by plumbing systems in the parks, especially in campgrounds, by the amount of water used and the impact all this makes, one has to applaud this kind of smart solution to the waste issue. And how great is it that we can take advantage of a system already tried and found good in Japan?

    And how sad it is that America isn't leading the way on smart environmental innovation and the protection of our precious parks and reserves?

  • Congressman Accuses Sec. Kempthorne of Pandering to NRA on Gun Issue   6 years 18 weeks ago


    Several studies measuring the effect of concealed carry laws upon crime show that "shall carry" laws do not decrease crime. Even John Lott, the original proponent of this controversial theory, has stepped back somewhat from some of his assertions. A Texas study performed in 1995 (a "shall carry" state) found that concealed carry license holders were arrested for 5,314 crimes, and that between 1996-2000, concealed carry license holders were arrested 81% more often than non-licensed persons for crimes; Crimes include murder, rape, kidnapping, theft, and DUI. Furthermore, defensive use of firearms accounted for a mere 147 of the approximately 30,000 gun related deaths in 2005. Ayers and Donohue show that states having "shall carry" laws before the late 70's have a higher incidence of certain crimes (rape) than "no-carry" or late adopting "shall carry" states, and that their rates of other types of violent crime are not appreciably different. Ayers & Donohue, Shooting Down the "More Guns, Less Crime" Hypothesis, Stanford Law Review Apr. 2003.

    You ask for an incidence of a concealed carrier committing a crime [in] a National Park. I don't see how that is possible, since concealed carriers to date are required to "conceal" their inoperable weapons in the trunks of their cars. However, in 2007, a mere 12 murders and 380 assaults were recorded in all national parks; few, if any, of these crimes were gun related. One wonders why.... oh wait....

    Even many ardent gun-rights advocates recognize that the "law abiding" gun owners requiring little qualification to get a gun license in a "shall carry" state have the potential to use them irresponsibly. See Jeffrey P. Mayor, Debate on Carrying Guns Plays Out at Mount Rainier National Park, THE NEWS TRIBUNE (Tacoma) (Mar. 27, 2008) available at (last visited Jun. 11, 2008).

    There are a mountain of statistics showing that domestic squabbles (the vast majority of "crimes" committed national park lands) tend to escalate to lethal proportions when readily available guns are present. Rangers also routinely report that persons brandishing loaded firearms in National forests tend to opportunistically shoot at wildlife that appears near roads. One need only read the history of America's settlement of the great plains to recognize the potential for people to engage in such impulsive behavior.

    Just as anti-gun advocates argue that all gun-owners are impulsive and dangerous, pro-gun advocates labor under the fiction that "only the good guys" get gun licenses. Neither side is right, of course, but when we err on the side of the former, we end up with a handful of crimes committed by clear criminals. On the latter side, we don't necessarily make things harder for criminals, as having a gun doesn't necessarily render a victim safe from attack; we do, however, increase the potential for ugly situations to escalate to something lethal. As much as you try to argue the point, having a loaded gun in a national park doesn't make you safer; when you're in one of the safest places in the country, you have to wonder how common-sensical it is to increase the potential for every visitor in the park to visit lethal action upon other visitors, or upon wildlife so deserving of NPS or FWS protection.

  • 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