Recent comments

  • Updated: Dueling Judges Push Yellowstone National Park Snowmobile Limit Back to 720 Per Day   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Lewis is not the only dictator in the ranks of NPS superintendents.

    It is high time that these unelected bureaucrats get brought back down to earth and stripped of their near despotic power over people's lives and the natural resources that are charged in their care. Lewis is just one of many and this case should open the eyes of all NPT readers and park supporters about the way these virtual Roman proconsuls wield vast powers while often ignoring the dictates of the public, courts and in this case their own park generated research.

    The time to reform this position is long past due as the groundswell of outrage, just seething beneath the surface, is about to explode.

  • Keeping History Honest When It Comes to Sight Lines In Civil War-era National Parks Is Not Without Controversy   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I think MRC brings up an interesting point? What IS the point of battlefield preservation? I was brought up near a number of them and as a child was told that they were set aside to honor the dead and fallen soldiers who gave their "last full measure" for an important cause.

    As an adult I know better and have the good sense to understand that wars have no honor, that dying for politicians is a fools game and that very rarely are wars fought to defend anything that remotely resembles a worthy or noble cause. I was indoctrinated in the glorious fable that the North slaughtered thousands, burned cities to the ground and ruthlessly destroyed millions of dollars worth of infrastructure for the grand and noble purpose of "preserving the Union". When I asked my teachers why that was so important they would just give me a quizzical look and trot out that old canard about strength in unity; and one teacher even admonished me to take a moment and remember the pledge I had taken earlier in the morning about how America was "under God and indivisible". Powerful propaganda for a 4th grade lad.

    Fortunately I'm over its spell.

    I say let the trees grow thick and dense. I agree with MRC. Who needs to learn about 19th century slaughter? We've got plenty of blood on our hands here in the 21st.

    I wonder if there will be a predator drone national park in the 22nd century?

  • Updated: Dueling Judges Push Yellowstone National Park Snowmobile Limit Back to 720 Per Day   6 years 18 weeks ago

    While not technically "overturning" Sullivan's ruling, this is clearly a slap in the face to that decision. I just can't see that Judge Sullivan would allow this to stand, though I guess it depends on whether the original plaintiffs want to press it. They certainly should. If zero snow vehicles are allowed in Yellowstone this winter it will not be the court's fault, nor will it be the fault of the "tree huggers" (of which group I proudly include myself); the fault will lie directly in the lap of the Park Service. Hopefully this nonsense will begin coming to an end on Jan. 20th. I hold my breath and keep my fingers crossed that Mr. Obama's promise of a "bi-partisan" administration DOES NOT include Interior. I would also like to see the Lewis dictatorship come to an end.

  • Backpacker's Most Dangerous Hikes: The National Parks are Well-Represented   6 years 18 weeks ago

    If you are using casualty rates as your barometer for what makes a trail the most dangerous, then Zion's Angel's Landing and the Death Valley dune fields wouldn't make the cut.

    From a historical perspective, the Chilkoot Trail, aka "the meanest 33 miles in history," has killed hundreds of people. (Klondike Gold Rush National Park in Alaska).

    The park's website posted Ranger Tim's top 10 list of how NOT to prepare for the Chilkoot Trail.

    My favorite was Number Two: Thinking "30,000 stampeders did it 100 years ago...It can't be that bad."

  • Keeping History Honest When It Comes to Sight Lines In Civil War-era National Parks Is Not Without Controversy   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I don't really get it. What is the purpose of preserving battlefields at all? And more specific, why should they be preserved in the state of the time of the slaughter? Do people visit those places to remember the victims of the carnage? Why would anyone then want to preserve the sight lines of the artillery that ripped all those bodies to pieces? Or do they visit to learn about tactic and strategy? To teach yourself and your kids how to kill efficiently with 19th century technology?

    If "War is merely a continuation of politics", then internal and external conflicts should be remembered as conflicts about issues and power. The different positions and interests matter, the methods tried to resolve them, the failure to resolve them peacefully. Then left flank, right flank or lines of sight are irrelevant and only arbitrary details.

  • Updated: Dueling Judges Push Yellowstone National Park Snowmobile Limit Back to 720 Per Day   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Bill Wade had this exactly right when he called the park's decision "unprincipled." It is hard to imagine that an agency charged with protecting and preserving the park areas of our nation would let such a decision by a superintendent stand, but I assume that is what will happen. As a former employee of Yellowstone, I am ashamed and outraged.

    Rick Smith

  • Updated: Dueling Judges Push Yellowstone National Park Snowmobile Limit Back to 720 Per Day   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I figured this is what NPS would do, though I am surprised they are arrogant enough not to continue to push for adoption of the new temporary rule. It's pretty clear that this new (old) rule will be thrown out by Sullivan, and they had every chance to get the rule for lower numbers through. But, now that they say that this will be the limit for the winter, I have to think that Sullivan will throw out 720, and then NPS will be left with nothing for this winter. It will serve them right.

    Perhaps, this is the last death throe of snowmobiling in Yellowstone. I guess the ball is in Sullivan's court to make a fairly quick ruling; it's almost impossible for him to imagine allowing this to stand when the rule that calls for fewer snowmobiles wasn't allowed to stand. If a winter then happens without snowmobiling in Yellowstone, will anyone be in a hurry to bring them back?

    However, if Sullivan takes his time on this, then who the heck knows?

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

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 18 weeks ago

    A few folks asked about climbing on arches above...

    There is certainly not a blanket law against climbing on all the arches in Arches NP. My family and I went canyoneering with a guide in the Fiery Furnace with full permission of the NPS and we climbed over and then rappelled off of an arch in there. Also, people (myself included) very routinely climb on top of Double O arch near the end of the Devil's Garden trail. I'm very conscientious about not walking on the cryptobiotic soil and obeying "stay on trail" signs and did not see any signs nor trample any sensitive areas when my son and I scrambled up onto Double O from the backside.

    That said, it is not permitted to climb Landscape or Delicate arches.

    Hey, folks - call and write today to stop the oil lease fire-sale outside Arches and Canyonlands! Call the BLM office in Moab at 435 259 2100. You have until 12/4 to express your outrage.

  • Updated: Bush Administration: "A Legacy of Failure for Our Public Lands," Claims Congressman Grijalva   6 years 18 weeks ago


    In rereading Kurt's post, I don't see anywhere that it says that Grijalva thinks bison are endangered. He does say that the killing of non-farmed bison in and around Yellowstone reached the point that concerned many, Evidently, Secretary Kempthorne agrees as he has appointed a high-level task force to relook at the bison issue in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Many believe that the current management plan is bad for bison.

    Rick Smith

  • Updated: Bush Administration: "A Legacy of Failure for Our Public Lands," Claims Congressman Grijalva   6 years 18 weeks ago

    This report appears to be such a biased partisan attack that it is difficult to believe much of what is written. The bison population is NOT endangered . The National Bison Range in Montana maintains a herd size that is compatible with the amount of acreage it has for the population and has for years. My family has raised bison for over 30 years and started at a time when few were in it. Our original bison were purchased from the NBR. Since then bison farming has grown to such numbers that there is no danger of the animal's extinction. Not even close. Google bison associations, nearly every state has a chapter now with numerous members. Though the author would I'm sure love to paint the entire Bush years as that of lawless cowboys running herds of bison off the Ulm Pishkun and leaving the carcasses to rot, it just isn't the case. He has done an irresponsible job of reporting.

  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   6 years 18 weeks ago
  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Another fascinating look at the early days of climbing is in a book edited by Valerie Mendenhall Cohen entitled Woman on the Rocks: The Mountaineering Letters of Ruth Dyar Mendenhall. Mendenhall was one of the earliest and best American climbers who also happended to be a woman. Her letters are often chronicles of climbs by Sierra Club members up some of the most famous peaks in the Sierras. The introduction is by Royal Robbins, an indication of the stature of Ruth among those who came a bit after her. This is what he says in the intro: "Ruth was a good climber--competent, experienced and canny--but not a great one in the sense of leaving her mark on posterity through her first ascccents. Nervertheless, besides her eloquence, as unquestionably as Half Dome rises about Yosemite Valley, she had the heart of a mountaineer. Only an eloquent lady with the heart of a mountaineer could leave us with memorable phrases as 'I don't know how people get along without climbing mountains'. I've never heard it put better."

    The editor of the collection, Valerie Cohen, is married to a first class climber and author, Michael Cohen. She was a seasonal ranger for years in Yosemite and the Tetons and is a significant artist. She is Ruth Dyar Mendenhall's daugter.

    Rick Smith

  • Keeping History Honest When It Comes to Sight Lines In Civil War-era National Parks Is Not Without Controversy   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Many sites in Virginia share the same quandry, as I believe others in the country must as well. After almost 150 years, the trees have returned with a vengeance!

    One in particular here in Richmond is the "Chickahominy Bluffs NBP" on the Mechanicsville Tnpk., (US Rt. 360), which was instrumental in the "Seven Days" battles, AKA the "Peninsula Campaign".

    This particular site gave the Confederates an excellent view of the Army of the Potomac troop movements on the far side of the Chickahominy River, which more closely resembles as massive swamp at this location. The hilltops this site is constructed on are along the lines of one hundred feet+ above the surface of the river.

    However, to stand at the site provided as a lookout by the NPS, one is presented with nothing more than a view into the trees, and a few sets of earthworks also covered with forest.

    The view could be restored via cutting a relatively narrow swath through the primarily Oak forest, and thinning other adjacent trees. The high topography of this site would require very little downslope trees to be cut.

    This site has seen years of neglect and only recently was repaved and had new signage added. Frankly, I know of state and even private parks in the area that are better maintained.

  • Mammoth Cave National Park Produces Its Master Trails Plan   6 years 18 weeks ago

    The increased cost is bound to be a concern for the park, but the best news I read into this story is the fact the park listened to the public, and ditched their preferred alternative and took a different approach after reviewing the public comments. That's a refreshing contrast to what what we've seen with some other agencies and at the Departmental level lately.

  • Keeping History Honest When It Comes to Sight Lines In Civil War-era National Parks Is Not Without Controversy   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I think some clearing is ok and that only some areas of the battlefields should be cleared of non-historic plants if the area has limited other non-historic improvements or removed as well.

    In addition, not all of the trees have to be removed.

  • Keeping History Honest When It Comes to Sight Lines In Civil War-era National Parks Is Not Without Controversy   6 years 18 weeks ago

    The battlefields have been preserved to educate us, the people who were not there. The park services try to make battlefields as authentic as they can. I can understand removing trees to accomplish the task. My family and I have gone to Gettysburg a few times, and I still get disoriented because I am not able to see the whole battlefield from every angle. I am not blaming the trees, just stating my experience. I guess that was why they had/have observation towers. They allowed me to oversee the battlefield, but that does not give the view the soldiers had during the battle.

    On the other hand. Some battlefields are known for their dense vegatation. I would not want that cleared to make the view better, but less authentic.

  • Keeping History Honest When It Comes to Sight Lines In Civil War-era National Parks Is Not Without Controversy   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Don, I'm afraid construction on a new visitor center isn't expected to begin before 2011. You can read more about Dinosaur in this post.

  • Keeping History Honest When It Comes to Sight Lines In Civil War-era National Parks Is Not Without Controversy   6 years 18 weeks ago

    In July of 2006 my wife and I were vacationing in Colorado and Utah.
    We went to visit Dinosaur National Monument and found the building that covers the quary had been closed 2 weeks before we arrived. We were not happy but understood why after seeing the huge cracks in the foundation. Has there been any progress on reparing or replacing this building?
    This was our first venture into that part of our great country and we would be disappointed if this is not addressed.
    We did tour what we could in the rest of this area and the scenery is no less than breath taking.

  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Claire: Thanks for putting us in touch with "Fun Climbs Around the World." It's a great website, and I very much enjoyed reading the posts you recommended. Older climbers fascinate me. How on earth have they managed to live that long?

  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   6 years 18 weeks ago

    My friend Sybille Hechtel, a "sandwich generation climber" (daughter of a Sierra climber and mother of an 18-year-old climber), has written about the El Cap reunion on Scroll down to her posts of Nov 7 thru Nov 13.

    Claire Walter,

  • End of a Curious Era at Mount Rainier National Park   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I'll give you odds that it won't be long before this weird but distinctive structure is mourned -- maintainenance headaches or no mainteinance headachces, energy efficient or not. An article in yesterday's NYTimes on Buffalo, NY's architectural treasures dating from its prosperity as a Great Lakes port at the end of the Erie Canal bemoans some of the distinctive buildings that have been lost (incl work by Frank Lloyd Wright). I wish the Park Service had just mothballed it until real thought could have been given of what might be done with it. Modernist design might be out of favor right now, but so, at one time, were Victorian hulks, Mission-style simplicity, Art Deco, etc. "Demolition is forever."

    Claire Walter,

  • Forever on the Mountain   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I have a particular interest in your review since I am George Hall's daughter - the man who was superintendent in 1967. I remember that time well. Tabor made many significant errors in presenting his story - I have outlined the errors with the back up for each correction and sent it along to the author and his publisher. They sent along a nice thank you letter.

    I think the additional information is critical to completing the true story. The Alaska Rescue Group - now the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group in particular was not given the credit they deserved for the support they provided and the experience they relied on. It was a horrific time for everyone involved.

    My siblings and I have set up a website with my response and scans of my supporting documentation. It needs a bit of work still. I apologize in advance for that...I was priveleged to get feedback from many people in preparing the response including Wayne Merry, Joe Wilcox, and the Babcock brothers .

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Please question the original intent all you want, but please consider the following:

    The Yellowstone and Yosemite Park Act both specifically called for the preservation of "all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders," ultimately retained "in their natural condition".

    Unfortunately, corruption within the early park system was not an unusual phenomenon. Acting as a "body of police, styled assistant superintendents" were just as inefficient as they were fraudulent. "Creatures of political favoritism," the
    House Committee, Letter from the Secretary of the Interior, superintendents, unused to the services required of them, often "made merchandise of the treasures which they were appointed to preserve."

    Pressure was exerted to change "preserve" to "conserve" in the Organic Act's text, and "unimpaired" was not further explained, although park administrators accepted "undeveloped" as unimpaired, but unfortunately, under pressure from railroad, hotel, and automobile groups, viewed land in the farthest reaches of the park as suitably undeveloped.

    I'm holding in my hands a draft NPS management policy handed to me by Zion officials that states that "conservation is to be predominant. . . . the Act is explicit that enjoyment of park resources and values is to be allowed only to the extent that can be done without impairing those resources and values."

    In the case of Zion, the construction and maintenance of roads clearly is an impairment on the resource and values of the park. (Consider, as one point, that Cottonwoods are not reproducing naturally due to channelization of the Virgin River. Also consider Zion's charter mandated the preservation of geological forces, and the maintenance of the road, most notably after a landslide naturally dammed the Virgin River, has interfered with that mandate.) Will not the repaving of this road, and its subsequent use, result in disruption to and destruction of threatened desert big horn sheep?

    Also consider the recklessness at Zion when it came to road construction:

    In the summer of 1958, after having made an inspection of the area [Kolob section], with attention given the prospect of a road into it, the western representative of the National Parks Association wrote a letter to the superintendent of the park, copies of which went to members of the Association's Board of Trustees. Referring to the proposed road [into the Kolob Canyons section], the representative said, "First it would destroy scenic qualities. Second, it would eliminate entirely the cloak of solitude that rests over the area now. Third, it would forever mar the sense of adventure one inevitably feels when he approaches the region. It would become just another 'accessible part of the park', and having been stripped of its greatest blessing, its wild character--a quality that sets it apart even from the masterpiece that is Zion Canyon--it would be reduced to comparative mediocrity. . . .I do not believe we should concern ourselves with making every vista, canyon, or natural feature accessible. We should work to make this mood of atmosphere available in its purest form. This atmosphere is the very essence of the national park idea."

    It is time to recognize the undo influence of past interest groups on building roads in park and the present undo influence of current interest groups of maintaining said roads in parks.

    It is time to start restoring national parks to that which they were intended. Arguments that funding will be cut if people can't access every nook and cranny are simply slippery slope arguments based on fear and propaganda.

    I am under no illusion that Mr. Witworth, Zion's superintendent, will be any more likely to respond to my concerns about road re-construction at Zion than he was to respond about my concerns about Zion's repository of hazardous chemicals and junk in Oak Creek Canyon.

  • End of a Curious Era at Mount Rainier National Park   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Ooohh, I hated that building. Long curving ramps from one floor to the next. No stairs, no elevator, so it was a minor hike just to get to the top. And the panoramic views? Nonsense, there were trees blocking the view of the mountain. Great view of the Tatoosh Range and Nisqually Valley, but that's hardly the point.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    To go back to the title of Kurt's story that started this discussion: "Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?" My answer is "yes," and it sounds like quite a few others share that view.

    It is encouraging to read the comments in favor of a combination of conservation and accelerated development of alternative energy sources. I agree that's the only long-term solution. And ... I concede that development of some domestic resources of oil and gas is both a political reality and probably needed to help bridge the gap until better alternative sources of energy come on-line - but ONLY if the location of such development is carefully considered.

    Here's an example of such development I can live with: The full extent of the Barnett Shale natural gas field is not yet fully known, but it's already the second largest producing on-shore domestic natural gas field in the United States. It's located beneath north Texas, and active development of that field is underway. The Dallas-Ft. Worth airport complex covers 18,000 acres, and much of that is open space buffer. The first of about 300 planned wells are already being drilled on airport property. There are similar sites across the area that are currently in marginal agricultural use that could also be developed. In my book, that makes a lot more sense than developing new fields near areas such as national parks.

    There are a lot of good ideas above, but I was especially intrigued by Bob's comment:

    I'd like to see us use our money and brains to create a dispersed collection of small- and medium scale systems utilizing a mix of alternative energy sources appropriate for each local situation.

    That approach might help reduce the problems related to lack of existing infrastructure to move electric power long distances, from the places where wind or solar are most viable, to places with large concentrations of power consumption.