Recent comments

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 15 weeks ago

    Because there's a thousand years worth of oil-shale?

    Because folks see Saudi Arabia in the Rockies?

    The Olympic Peninsula clearcut logging plantation system maximizes the CO2 draw-down capacity of this highly productive ecosystem, so we get a 'bye'. ;-)

    Nah ... really it's hard to say for sure. It may well have more to do with how the eco-movement works, than anything actually at stake or in the offing.

    To have a 'movement', over a sustained time-frame, there has to be new and somewhat novel concerns coming along to keep interest up. If folks will bite on 'energy in the Rockies', then the chicken done got to the other side of the road.

  • This Park Combines Scenery and History on a Desert Island   6 years 15 weeks ago

    But going back to the original question, a "dry island' is one without a source of fresh water, and a "desert island" would be one without rainfall, I imagine. Thus, the right term would seem to be "deserted island!"

  • Interior Officials Release Rule Change to Allow National Park Visitors to Arm Themselves   6 years 15 weeks ago

    Maybe good people like you will never need someone to protect you from a criminal, if you do don't let them bring a gun to protect you.

  • Pruning the Parks: The $100 Million National Visitor Center Fiasco   6 years 15 weeks ago

    I couldn't help but notice in LBJ's remarks mention of the Capitol Visitor's Center. The final price tag on that fiasco? $621 million. Yet another lesson that it takes more than good intentions to ensure that public money is well spent.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 15 weeks ago

    Just to keep the thread drift going, any thoughts on why there's so much uproar over energy development near the Utah parks and not a peep about the clear-cutting that runs near, if not up to, the southern boundaries of Olympic?

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 15 weeks ago


    No problem with the late-night comments, but the explanation is appreciated - Thanks!

    Carsten with an "e" gets lots of good returns.

    Mr. Lein's account no doubt addresses the $64 question: Why did it take over 40 years to form Olympic National Park, after everyone knew that the Peninsula was an exceptional habitat?

    1.) Because the enormous trees in the lowlands were considered too valuable to have locked up in a Park. The State objected, industry objected, land-owners objected - and Conservation-oriented environmentalists objected.

    2.) Even more important than #1, the production of Olympic Peninsula managed timberlands is the heaviest and most valuable of any forestry in the U.S.A. Only a few locales on earth exceed the per-acre timber-wealth of this Peninsula.

    Therefore, when late-19th C. Preservation activism began lobbying to make a Park of the whole Peninsula, their goal 'mysteriously' eluded them ... for nearly another half a century ... until the first cut of the old-growth forests was nearly complete and the timberlands had been successfully converted to plantation.

    Paradoxically, it is a credit to the principles of Conservation by which the timberlands have been managed, that to this day Preservation-principles still rate these commercialized forests as worthy to be converted into Park. ;-)

  • This Park Combines Scenery and History on a Desert Island   6 years 15 weeks ago

    One of Nevada Barr's novels, Flashback, is set at Dry Tortugas NP. Most NPS employees whom I know who worked at the park always felt there was something strange about the Fort. I visited the park at least 4 times a year when I was stationed at Everglades. Besides being a marvelous combination on natural and cultural resources, it is a spooky place. I was reminded of that when I read Flashback. It is also one of the great diving and snorkeling sites in the System.

    Rick Smith

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   6 years 15 weeks ago

    I'll be smiling for days thinking of your very clever & amusing post, Ted. Thanks!

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   6 years 15 weeks ago

    Your observation, "...Hazard trees are those trees that, due to disease or structural failure, are at imminent risk of falling and striking stationary targets. The EA also identifies those "targets," such as public restrooms, that could suffer from the ill-timed collapse of a hazardous tree that was not properly felled in time," made me smile. When I was at Big Bend NP in Oct, several Port-A-Potties at the Cottonwood picnic area/campground had been washed off their mooring platforms by floods. If the comment section could accept images, I'd one or two.

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   6 years 15 weeks ago

    Well put, Anonymous, well put.

    We're not suggesting the NPS overlook or sidestep NEPA, the Organic Act, or the Management Policies -- indeed, there are many times when we wished the agency would closely adhere to them (see Yellowstone snowmobiles) -- but couldn't the agency in Glacier's case have simplified the process some way, some how, spared the EA authors some long days, and spent more time on getting to work on the problem rather than running up printing costs?

    You raise an interesting point when you cite another park that developed its own hazardous tree removal criteria. Why can't the NPS simply make copies and pass them out to the other 390 parks? Granted, there are differences from park to park (I wouldn't imagine there are too many hazardous trees in Arches), but the survey forms and rating criteria should be similar, no, as with soundscapes, air pollution, and museum impacts?

    As for my volunteering, judging from some of the language I've seen I'd have to insist on being paid;-)

    Beyond that, there are many, many fine writers in the Park Service. Amy Vanderbilt at Glacier is one, recently retired Bill Tweed another, and don't overlook Dick Sellers and his fine books on the NPS. Indeed, we'd love to see some ranger contributions here at the Traveler.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 15 weeks ago

    The impact on National Parks that mountain biking induces is much higher than hiking or climbing (currently accepted). The disruptions to wildlife and ecosystems testify of this, and should be scientifically assessed. Hiking and climbing are low noise, low energy sports , compared to high speed biking downhill.
    As a citizen , I request a thorough review of the proposal at the US Congress level, to assess if it violates the mandate of our National Parks. For instance, modifications of rules to favor mountain biking are likely to open the way for other high impact sports, including firearm sports and motor-engine sports in the wilderness of National Parks. Another high impact sport, BASE jumping is outlawed. Mountain biking has more environmental impact than BASE jumping. Nationals Parks were set up precisely to avoid this sort of human impact on the environment and the wilderness, therefore the assessment of the proposal should occur at the federal level.

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   6 years 15 weeks ago

    Amazingly enough there are a couple of reasons for going through a planning and NEPA process, even to cut down hazard trees.

    1. The National Environmental Policy Act, as well as the NPS Management Policies (remember that issue?) require the NPS to fully consider potential impacts on resources. This applies even when the NPS does some things as simple as removing hazard trees.

    2. Sometimes simple things, aren't that simple. A few years ago I worked with a National Park that had an energetic hazard tree removal program and an equally energetic hazard tree program manager. In talking with the manager of the program I asked what standards he used to evaluate whether the tree was hazardous and whether removal was called for. I expected to hear a detailed description of considerations of location, condition, visible damage, etc. Instead his reply was "I know them when I see them." In looking at the program he managed we found that his park removed more "hazard trees" than the adjacent National Forest removed through timber sales. Unfortunately the law that established the National Park he worked in called on the NPS to preserve and protect the same trees and habitat that he considered hazardous. (The trees were hazardous because they were "big and old" the same reason the park was established). The park was advised to reconsider their hazard tree removal program. It went through a planning process and came up with a set of standards to apply rather than gut feeling to act on.

    3. Over the last couple of years Glacier went through a planning process to address avalanche control issues related to the operation of the adjacent Burlington Northern train tracks. It was burdensome (just ask the BN people who employed a host of lawyers and lobbyists to plead their case). However, it needed to be done. (See #1 above). The BN folks complained that it was a burden and the issue was a simple one--snow removal and safety. But in examining the real issue, it was more complex than that. It also involved pesky things like wilderness, endangered species habitat, and core issues surrounding how National Parks should be managed. Should the NPS have given BN a pass to on their snow removal project?

    4. In the end, however, these plans and environmental documents should be written in English and not the language of bureaucrats. Maybe what's needed is not a wholesale planning pass on seemingly simple projects, but a crash course in clear writing. The Park could probably use a volunteer like Kurt to teach it.

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   6 years 15 weeks ago

    Kurt & all,

    Having some familiarity with bait & its use, I'll bite:

    a.) how well & meaningfully would you think the punky regulations and tottering structural-organization of the Parks-regime compare with the accumulation & hazards of deadwood in the forest-regime?

    b.) if chainsaws & dynamite are effective against forest-decrepitude, what tools might be similarly useful against the decay at Parks?

    Does a Stihl fit Sec. Salazar's hand, or is it more-suited to glad-handing?

    How does President-elect Obama feel about the drip-torch?

    We do have fundamental guidance for such issues & questions as these.

    For deadwood in the forest1.:

    "[The Secretary of the Interior] may also, upon terms and conditions to be fixed by him, sell or dispose of timber in those cases where in his judgment the cutting of such timber is required in order to control the attacks of insects or diseases or otherwise conserve the scenery or the natural or historic objects in any such park, monument, or reservation."

    Forget the Rangers: we have lots of skilled & underemployed loggers who don't fall under NPS asininity.

    And for deadwood in the office2.:

    "[The Secretary of the Interior] may also provide in his discretion for the destruction of such animals and of such plant life as may be detrimental to the use of any of said parks, monuments, or reservations."
    Well, at least it's certainly poetic. ;-)

    1, 2 Both from National Parks Organic Act, the basic law of our Parks, and short enough to read in a few minutes. Recovery from the shock & nausea may take longer.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 15 weeks ago


    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Good points about the mines and homesteads; I'd forgotten about those.
    Concerning your earlier comment about the NPS taking over, I guess it's not paranoia if they're really after you. I'd probably have a different perspective if I or my family were Peninsula natives. I'm sure the numerous Native Americans there have an even different perspective.

    I posted late at night after a grueling week clearing massive amounts of snow from roofs & helping friends
    evacuate portable possesions out the path of the coming floods here. That's no excuse, just an explanation, so
    apologies for my several unclear remarks. Since this thread is about mountain biking, I was trying not to hijack it too much more than we already have. I was focused on your comments about trails, where I have a bit of experience. I should have said that Olympic trails are less wild than they used to be, though apparently not as well-maintained. Even the (trail) development faction is probably not eager to expand bike use though. Maybe that was part of your point? Aren't they allowed, even encouraged, on Spruce RR trail? FWIW, I saw bootleg bike tracks deep in the backcountry on numerous occasions, so if that occurs in a place as rugged as Olympic, it's probably not uncommon in many other Parks.

    The book I tried to refer to is Carsten Lien (with an e, not an o), Olympic Battleground: The Power Politics of Timber Preservation. It's been years, maybe I should re-read it. It's an exhaustive history of the ebb & flow around the establishment and expansion of the Park. As I recall, the NPS resisted the idea of a Park initially, then had grandiose road-building plans as usual, even hotels. A fair amount of logging was also done within the boundaries by the NPS. Sorry I can't offer better examples, but I'm pretty sure the gist of it is that neither faction was consistently dominant in the early decades.

    The sewage spill was no accident, though I'm sure management used that excuse. Probably the details are in
    the PA newspaper archives. I should have said "into the Lillian drainage...".

    I'm glad we can at least agree that NPS management is a "closed & draw-bridged shop, and that as part of
    their insularity & defensiveness, they will react strongly (even 'overreact') to critics within their ranks". Well said!
    I don't find the abstract labels you mentioned particularly useful, but read all your posts, so blog on.

  • Accessibility in the National Park System   6 years 15 weeks ago

    My favorite park for accessible access is the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Coast Guard Beach located in Eastham on the Cape. During the summer months between June to Labor Day, the parkink lot is closed to all but the park staff and visitors who are disabled. All other access to this beach is by shuttle bus from the Little Creak Area. This beach area includes ample bathroom and shower facilities. A nice wood ramp down to the beach, with a side ramp to a viewing area. For those that are wheel chair dependent, the life gaurds can provide a specially designed wheelchair with flotation tires that you can use to get you over the sand reach the waters edge.

    Semper Fi

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 15 weeks ago


    I, and probably others too, would like to read a quick run-down of some of the specifics & generalities, a few paragraphs introducing us to the most important items & themes that you found notable in Carston Lien's Olympic Battleground.

    Searching Google, there is this single return for the term ' "Carston Lien" "Olympic Battleground" ', as, in the present case, part of someone's comment. The key passage is:

    "If you want to know the priorities of NPS management, “follow the money”, as Deep Throat said. The NPS’s parent Interior Dept has been mired in concession & conflict of interest scandals for years. Those interested in the sacred cow NPS's history of corruption, malfeasence, and retaliation against critics should not miss these authors:

    Micheal Frome, “Regreening the National Park Service”
    Carston Lien, “Olympic Battleground”
    Alston Chase, “Playing God in Yellowstone” "

    I don't know which sewage incident you refer to at Hurricane Ridge Lodge: few people are familiar with pumping out sewage vaults and tanker-trucking it away, and I imagine mishaps do happen. However, looking at the topo map shows that the Lodge is at 5,200' elevation near the crest of the Ridge, while the Lillian River below is at 1,100', and a bit over a mile and a half away, horizontally. There is no road nor trail from the Ridge down the slope toward the Lillian. Any spill that might occur, would be right at the top, and the Lillian is a long ways away.

    tahoma says:

    "Olympic is far less wild than it was before it became a National Park in 1938.
    That statement runs counter to a great deal of evidence otherwise. There were many homesteads in the Park valleys in the 1930s, now all nice meadows or grown up in young timber. On the high ridges & mountains there was fairly extensive mining in the Park - at Hurricane Ridge, on the Lillian River, the Tubal Cain deposits, and dozens of other claims & active commercial mines, large & small. History gives evidence that homesteaders, meat-hunters and cougar-guides were engage in setting fire to entire mountain-sides - "Get rid of some of this damn timber, get something growing on the ground, and build up the game animals! (or run free-range cattle)"

    There was active, big-time commercial logging in progress within the territory that became the Park. Heavy-duty on-going road-building accompanied the loggers.

    Today's popular "Spruce Grade Trail" was an operating railroad chugging back & forth around Lake Crescent.

    There were dams being built on the rivers, reservoirs being filled for power-generation, to serve as urban water-supplies, and to effect flood-control for low-lying valleys.

    The Forest Service and/or CCC was dynamiting a Grand Canyon-style small-gauge road-like trail network through the sheer cliff faces of the interior-core of the most remote and inaccessible Olympic massifs.

    No, tahoma & all: There was indeed far more vigorous human activity & affects on the terrain and watersheds, the flora and the fauna of the Olympics before and at the time the Park was established than at any time thereafter, and the Administrations since have consistently striven to suppress, remove, and revert all of that, ever since.

    That they continue to strive, of course means that not all of their objectives have been successful or fully achieved. Too, there are concessions to access & enjoyment by the public, but these are at the interface with commerce & society, and peripheral to the main body of natural habitat that is the most ecologically valuable aspect of Olympic National Park.

    I will agree with you, tahoma, that the Olympic Administration is a closed & draw-bridged shop, and that as part of their insularity & defensiveness, they will react strongly (even 'overreact') to critics within their ranks. An unfortunate situation, but well known in the Park System and other bureaucracies, and separate from & independent of whether a person or group is Liberal or Conservative, Preservationist or Conservationist.

  • How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?   6 years 15 weeks ago

    I looked back at my pictures from June 2003 and found a picture of the same tree and probably the same bird. I am sure that lots of pictures would be taken of this since it is right by the road.

  • Pruning the Parks: Delisted Over a Half-Century Ago, Fossil Cycad National Monument (1922-1956) is a Cautionary Tale   6 years 15 weeks ago

    Kudos to you for being able to reach back 45 years and pull out memories like that, and kudos to your old biology teacher for providing you with something worth remembering.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   6 years 15 weeks ago


    I would urge you to rethink your A-list and add the Gates. It is one of the most breath taking areas in the System. Other than the periodic airplane flying above, it hasn't changed that much since Bob Marshall went to visit there because it was the last blank spot on the topographic maps of the era. We did a combo 5-day hike and 8-day float trip in the park. The wildness was magnificent.

    Rick Smith

  • Pruning the Parks: Delisted Over a Half-Century Ago, Fossil Cycad National Monument (1922-1956) is a Cautionary Tale   6 years 15 weeks ago

    What a shame!! I grew up in Rapid City and the only reason that I ever knew about Fossil Cycad National Monument is that my high school biology teacher (1963) had worked summers for years as a ranger at Mount Rushmore, and he told us all about Fossil Cycad.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   6 years 16 weeks ago

    Jim, I had to smile at your tongue in cheek suggestion that I should put no stock in those visitor statistics. When you can make undercounting errors involving several orders of magnitude and still be dealing with negligible numbers, that's some mighty small visitation! Seriously, though, it's awfully unlikely that I'll ever see Gates of the Arctic. It's just too darn far, and like most other people, I'd rather use my limited time & money to visit places on my A-list here in the Lower 48.

  • Accessibility in the National Park System   6 years 16 weeks ago

    If you're interested in wheelchair accessible portions of the Appalachian Trail, be sure to read the Traveler posting on that topic. You'll find it at If you're interested in the National Accessibility Achievement Awards for access-related projects and programs in the parks, see our Traveler posting on that topic at

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 16 weeks ago


    Some serious thread drift here, so I'll try to be brief. I could go on for pages. It's true Olympic is one of
    the finest NPS wildernesses south of Canada, but that is more in spite of NPS management than because of it.
    Olympic is far less wild than it was before it became a National Park in 1938. If you've not read Carston Lien's Olympic Battleground, you need to.

    Consider the following facts. Park management has pushed for a new visitor center at Kalaloch for decades.
    Ten thousand gallons of human waste was drained from the Hurricane holding tanks into Lillian River to avoid
    the cost of trucking it away; the employee who blew the whistle lost his job. The mandated Wilderness
    Management Plan has been ready for over a decade, but yet to be approved because Park management wanted to continue it's non-conforming practices and keep backcountry development options open. I believe the Wilderness Society sued over the delay. The employee in charge of writing that plan has been largely shifted to non-wilderness duties and denied promotion.

    You wrote "Backcountry trails are often semi-abandoned...Close-in trails often show very long blow-down
    clearance-cycles." Here are the real reasons for that and they are not because of preservationists. A disproportionate share of the trail budget has historically gone into constant replacement of the unsustainable six-miles of boardwalk at Ozette and hundreds of trail bridges elsewhere in the Park. At least five in-house under-engineered major trail bridges quickly collapsed. New expensive high-standard frontcountry trails were constructed almost yearly at Quinault, Kalaloch, Mora, Soleduc, Lake Crescent, Elwha and Port Angeles HQ. Management has basically caved in to equestrian demands that more trails be opened to stock. They could even carry firearms and chainsaws.

    I'll close with an example from here at Rainier. Management was so obsessed with the recently completed 25 million dollar VC, that simple maintenance of existing facilites was ignored. The worst consequence of this was a series of disgraceful heating oil spills totaling many thousands of gallons from uninspected & unmaintained storage tanks.

    Fire back at this one all you want, but it's gonna be hard for me to see how anyone could seriously believe the 'pure preservationists' are in charge at these two Parks. BTW, I enjoy fat-tire biking immensely, but feel no need to do it inside any National Park, except perhaps on roads closed to vehicles.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 16 weeks ago

    Fascinating discussion; thanks.

    I hear that some trails in the more remote Wilderness areas also are abandoned or semiabandoned. Mountain biking access likely would keep them in better shape for all users intrepid enough to visit them. And the semiabandonment problem exists on parts of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. I tried riding north on the CDNST from Cumbres Pass in southern Colorado in 2007. There was blowdown everywhere and scant evidence of any human visitation on the trail. At one point I had hiked the bike over several hundred yards of blowdown dense enough that the trail was barely discernible. After four hours' arduous labor had gotten me only eight miles from the trailhead, I gave up and rode back down.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 16 weeks ago


    "Cornucopian development faction" in charge, at Olympic National Park?

    Because it represented most of a relatively complete, relatively unmodified ecosystem it was in the early decades of the 20th C. one of the fondest dreams of the Preservationist camp, that the entire Olympic Peninsula be set aside as a National Park. The purist-faction has over the years reiterate that the Olympic Peninsula, though damaged, nonetheless represents the finest opportunity in the conterminous United States for a relatively-intact habitat-preserve, and that we should hold as one of our more-worthy goals to progressively & incrementally secure the whole Peninsula.

    The Olympic Park idea first attracted high-quality & famous activists during the 1890s, and other purist-luminaries carried the torch for over 40 years before they got a cut-down version of what they wanted. However, though the implementation was imperfect & partial, a cadre of 'the whole Olympics' faction has quietly but expertly worked to expand the Olympic Park, and they have been and continue to succeed in acquiring ever-more land for the unit.

    Olympic National Park remains one of the least-penetrated, least-developed and least-modified assets of the Park System, in the lower-48 States. There is a single-locale penetration & modest development at Hurricane Ridge which bears the overwhelming share of human impact for the entire Park. This facility has remained virtually unchanged, since shortly after World War II. (The Park did offer to accede to further development-requests from resort booster-elements, but did so with the stipulation that increased user-demand for the expanded facilities be demonstrated in advance ... a demand which the Administration knew did not exist.)

    A secondary mainstream tourist-draw is the Hoh River rainforest facility. This 19 mile penetration is all on lowland river-bottom terrain, most of it formerly logged, and serves mainly to provide a short paved nature-loop, and a small sheltered interpretive structure. All the other penetrations & developments within Olympic are minor, little-known, and used mainly by modest numbers of locals and a few unusually well-informed visitors.

    Meanwhile, most of the small business operations have gradually withered under Park 'management', finally bought out by the Park, and usually razed. Private homeowners withstand steady pressure against them. We have watched this policy at work without letup, for more than 50 years.

    Backcountry trails are often semi-abandoned. Volunteers come in to reclaim some of them. Backcountry camping is progressively more restrictive, and restricted. Close-in trails often show very long blow-down clearance-cycles.

    I think it is rather clear, and indeed very much a matter of pride with the staff, that Olympic National is one of the most intensely-Preservationist and anti-Conservation Parks in the system.