Recent comments

  • Comment Period For Revised Gun Regulations for National Parks About to Close   6 years 23 weeks ago

    When 51 U.S. Senators sign a letter to change the rule on carrying firearms and 20,000+ comments are submitted (most favoring a change to allow concealed carry) the debate is essentially over.

    At the first level of a lawsuit someone might find a sympathetic judge but on appeal those grasping at this straw are going to lose.

    The Supreme Court ruling is going to be applied well beyond a person’s home and in the case of the National Parks where you are sleeping becomes your temporary domicile—this is a long standing common law interpretation.

    The fat lady has sung.

  • Should Yellowstone National Park's Elk Herds Be Culled to Fight Brucellosis?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    For years, buffalo advocates have been called paranoid for suggesting that the livestock industry would go after elk next. They have already started in Wyoming this past year with a test and slaughter program. Now, they are suggesting it for the entire region. Outfitters have been claiming - at least a number of them have been - that wolves have been decimating the elk herds. Are outfitters now going to speak out against the assault on wildlife (elk and buffalo) by the livestock industry?

    A few signs point to yes. Buffalo Allies of Bozeman held a forum the previous Monday on ways that people in the Gallatin Valley could advocate on behalf of Yellowstone buffalo. While the original intention of the meeting was to draw new people in who wanted to take action, what actually happened was that a wide spectrum of some of the same old people showed up instead. At the meeting were representatives from the state legislature, members from professional environmental groups like Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Defenders of Wildlife, grassroots groups like Gallatin Wildlife Association, Bear Creek Council, and Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo, as well as hunting interest groups - like the Safari Club. I would never have guessed the Safari Club would have sent a representative to a buffalo advocacy meeting, but it has happened. However, other groups representing outfitters and hunters have not gotten on board, yet. Will they now that the livestock industry first through a press release of the U.S. Cattlemen Association and now this are going after the precious elk industry both at a state and a federal level?

    As a wildlife advocate, I do not support the slaughter or testing of either wild elk or wild buffalo or any other species carrying brucellosis. However, one of the weaker arguments of our position is being called out by the livestock industry - namely, why aren't elk treated with an equal footing as buffalo? Now, there is a proposal by the livestock industry to treat them the same. The position, however, is the same. Brucellosis is not a reason to stop the movement of wildlife; it's not a reason to give preferential treatment to the livestock industry on public lands; it's not a reason to put the onus on prevention of brucellosis on wildlife control rather than on taking measure to protect cattle. Now that a broader cross section of wildlife is under attack, will there be an uncomfortable alliance between environmentalists and outfitters - groups who have warred so long over wolves?

    Although we should be frank about our differences, we should be willing to work together where our interests converge. Many wildlife advocates are also hunters. Can the two sides form enough of a coalition to stop what's being called for by this industry even as they continue to war on other issues? That is something that I am willing to work for so long as one group does not co-opt the positions of the other and remain frank about their differences. In fact, it could be an opportunity for a robust dialogue by groups that don't typically get along and perhaps can lead to greater understanding of what's at stake in Greater Yellowstone.

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

  • Will The Superintendent's Summit Chart The Path For The National Park Service's Next Chapter?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    We've been critical of this conference for several reasons - we think it tends to be largely politically driven; its cost-benefit (for two days, as the previous commenter points out) is questionable; and it comes at a very bad time of year for some parks/superintendents. But it's unfair, at least at this point in the process of putting on the summit, to take shots at the Chair of the Conference and the superintendents who are the discussion leaders. The Chair, while superintendent of a small NPS area, is a very competent public affairs professional with a lot of experience in these kinds of events - far more than most, if not all, the senior leaders of the NPS. And there is nothing to suggest that the discussion leaders won't be effective at facilitating dialog - sometimes senior/SES leaders don't do very well at all at facilitating, but do fine contributing. The real issue here is what becomes of the results of the dialog - especially this close to the end of the terms of the political leaders. If the results are worthwhile, the career leaders will make good use of it, regardless of what happens after the election. If it turns out to be nothing but window-dressing, it won't go anywhere, and shouldn't.

    Bill Wade
    Chair, Executive Council
    Coalition of National Park Service Retirees

  • National Park Service May Reopen the Statue’s Crown at Statue of Liberty National Monument   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Thanks for this great tip. I hope they do reopen it. I never even knew that the crown was accessible, I bet the view is grand.

  • Senators Willing to Legislate Clean Air Over National Parks if EPA Does Protect Airsheds   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Pigeon Forge, TN is all about money. Has nothing to do with the National Park, just a "tourist trap" with everything known to man to spend your money on. Tasteless but millions love it !!!
    Fewer and fewer of us care about our "natural world"......sad !

  • NPR on the National Parks   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Minnesota Public Radio added its own story about Voyageurs National Park to the National Public Radio broadcast. It included an interview with Mike Ward, the soon-to-be new Superintendent of Voyageurs. The MPR reporter also asked a board member from one of the Park's friends' groups (Voyageurs National Park Association) to talk about some of the challenges facing the Park. You can hear the program at http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/07/02/voyageurssuperintendent/.

  • What do People Take Home from a Visit to Gettysburg National Military Park?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Great article, Bob--thanks for an in-depth look at one of the best Civil War parks. I have to correct something though--the Confederacy actually did invade the North one more time--in 1864. Lee sent Gen. Jubal Early to "threaten or take" Washington, D.C. in order to divert some of Grant's troops from the siege at Petersburg. Early met Lew Wallace's Union forces at Monocacy in Maryland on July 9, 1864. The battle of Monocacy was also known as "the battle that saved Washington." Although a Union defeat, Wallace was able to delay Early's attack on the Capitol long enough for reinforcements to arrive to man the forts around the city.

    Here is the park site for more info: http://www.nps.gov/mono/

    I highly recommend visiting this little-known Civil War battlefield. The park opened a brand new visitor center there last year that has a really excellent interpretive program. The 144th anniversary observance is this weekend, with re-enactors and artillery demonstrations. Check it out if you are in the area!

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    re Kaths' "But we have to remember that many people will really suffer if oil goes any higher. Many people are already suffering from pollutants in our air and water. Having to stay inside for most of the summer because of air pollution is no fun ! And if you are worried about wind farms killing birds, how many do you think are killed each day by moving vehicles. I love birds and butterflies and all things natural but I would much rather see solar panels and wind farms than drilling rigs, blowoffs and potential spills. The Alaska pipeline is already past its expected lifespan. I just hope we don't suffer a disaster with it.
    In my opinion, American technology is way behind in the renewable energy area. We tend not to do things until our backs are against the wall.........I think our new president MUST throw down the gauntlet like Kennedy did with the space program. We can get it done in less than 10 years and in the mean time we must conserve and be very carefull as we extract the crude and coal that is available without destroying our precious saved wild places.

  • Comment Period for Proposed Gun Rule Change in National Parks Extended 30 Days   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Isn't it a shame when our own government gives its citizenry the impression that their involvement is important to the process, but then takes behind the scenes steps to suppress that involvement? Several NPS affiliated employee groups have been concerned about this in relation to the proposed gun rule. In a May 21st letter these groups wrote Director Bomar and in part said:

    "Our question to you is: What specific steps have you taken or will you take to ensure that National Park System visitors and National Park Service employees will be informed of this proposed change to a regulation that has been in place in some form for 88 years? Will you provide them with the opportunity to know that they have the ability to officially comment on this proposed change? In our opinion the current regulation has served park resources, park visitors, and park employees well over the decades.

    National Park Service employees were denied the ability to comment in their official capacities by Departmental directive earlier this year. Their professional expertise in managing parks should not be ignored in making this decision, nor should it be hidden from the public as they weigh their individual decision on whether to oppose or support the proposed change.

    The more than 280-million-plus visitors to the National Park System is the exact constituency that the Department and agency should be making every effort to involve in this decision making process. Notice of this proposed change and instructions on how to send in comments should be placed in park newspapers or leaflets inserted in park brochures, on park bulletin boards and visitor center desks, added to park web sites, and broadcast on park radio stations. Park visitors are the group that will be most affected by the proposed change, and they should be informed of the proposed change and challenged to think through how such a change may impact the quality of their future park visits from a park resources standpoint as well as considerations related to personal safety and an atmosphere of tranquility.

    In this decade where “civic engagement” has become an NPS buzzword and a mandatory process for all controversial NPS decision-making, surely the NPS intends to make every effort to “engage” its primary constituency before a final decision on this draft regulatory change is made. The members of the Association of National Park Rangers, the Coalition of National Park Retirees, and the US Rangers' Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police look forward to your timely response."

    There has been no reply from Director Bomar or the NPS.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    I wouldn't approve of drilling in the traditional national parks. But ANWR is huge and the oil drilling would be on a tiny percentage of the land. The 800 mile pipeline crosses Alaska and has had no significant problems. We have to remember that most of the national parks were not virgin territory. They were mined, logged and ranched. And now they're parks. In other words, drilling is not forever.

    It's easy for some to be elitist about this. It's as though some are doing a Marie Antoinette impression and saying "Let them walk or ride bikes". But we have to remember that many people will really suffer if oil goes any higher.

  • Comment Period for Proposed Gun Rule Change in National Parks Extended 30 Days   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Censorship directed from the top Mr. Longstreet? Ah, American lobbyists showing their truly gutless colors. Pity that those who this affects most are at the same time the least informed that changes are being considered. And Fred, "We the People" haven't been in existence since the American political system degenerated into the ridiculous bi-partisan system of stalemate, bickering and finger-pointing that is now the "Blue and Red" bastardization of the original Republic of American Colonies.

  • Comment Period for Proposed Gun Rule Change in National Parks Extended 30 Days   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Above, Bill R insists that even if it continues to be illegal to carry loaded, concealed weapons in our national parks, he'll be "packing" (a gun, I assume, and not a picnic basket) to protect himself from nudists and, apparently, Charles Manson. Of course, breaking this law would make Bill a criminal, not one of those "law abiding citizens" we hear so much about from the NRA. And if I'm not mistaken, criminals are not supposed to have guns at all. I'd suggest that someone who publicly expresses an eagerness to break the law might want to think things over a bit before calling non-gun advocates "idiots" for expressing a reasoned argument, based on facts and reality. In light of the miniscule number of non-accident related deaths in our national parks, there is no justification for visitors to be carrying loaded, concealed weapons in the parks, regardless of any danger posed by random naked people along the trail.

  • Comment Period for Proposed Gun Rule Change in National Parks Extended 30 Days   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Frank N --

    You're absolutely right. And park managers have been all but told not to bring it up locally.

    J Longstreet
    A National Park Superintendent

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Sounds to me Kath your afraid to give up your SUV or make alternative lifestyle changes just yet...just kidding! They just did news brief a couple weeks ago on the decline of the fishing industry in the Port of Valdez and how poorly it has recovered. Did you talk to the local fisherman in Valdez or physically inspect the beaches of Valdez to make your claim there's "no evidence" of the past spill? Looking from a boat while cruising through Prince William Sound isn't quite like making a thorough investigation to see if there's been a FULL RECOVERY of the past Valdez oil spill. I think your looking at the cosmetic factors that makes the boat cruise so enticing to visit Prince William Sound. Get out and talk to the local fisherman and visually check and see under the rocky beaches along the Port of Valdez and you will still see remenants of the past oil spill. Yeah sure, emerald green slick under the rocks if you look hard enough in the right places.

    Kath, give the oil companies an inch they will take a foot...and you say compromise with ANWR. No way! Look what they have mapped out in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah in our National Parks for gas and oil exploration...and you worry about influx of visitors in our National Parks. Shame on you!

  • Should Anything Be Done With Angel's Landing?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    There used to be a trail up to the summit of lady mountain in zion. In fact it was one of the first in Zion, it was similar to the angels landing trail with installed chains/railings to help people through the scary/difficult sections. However the numerous deaths that occurred from falling, prompted them to remove all the chains and official signage from the trail. You however can still "hike" lady mountain, you just need to be competent at exposed scrambling, and know how to use a rope for the few short technical climbing sections. The NPS will never "close" any trail, however they might remove all the hardware they installed on it. Angels landing can be ascended without the chains/railings by people who have adequate hiking experience. You wouldn't see out of shape parents with children trying to hike the route without the chains. If the hike is worth it, then one can gain the experience necessary to safely obtain the summit.

  • Critics: Changing Gun Laws in National Parks Would Open a "Pandora's Box" of Problems   6 years 23 weeks ago

    The Heller case just decided by the supreme court gives us the right of being able to keep and bear arms. In other words, it gives us the constitutional right to own a firearm as long as it is not unusual. It also was ruled that we have a right to use these firearms. As long as the use is for a law abiding act. It was also ruled that rules that totally ban us from having firearms, or laws that make our firearms useless are unconstitutional.

    Being able to carry a pistol on national parks is are given right. A pistol is not unusual and is one of the most popular firearms used for the law abiding act of self defense. A national park is not a sensitive place such as a school or court room or police office.

    We have a constitutional right. And I believe that the gun rules for national parks violate our right. They must be updated to give our rights back.

    There must be other ways to solve both sides to this problem then taking our constitutional right away!

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Also just returned from a cruise of Prince William Sound where the Exxon Valdez ran aground and spilled the oil. I saw no evidence of the oil spill, thankfully. It has been 19 years. Since then the Port of Valdez requires a harbor escort further out into the sound, which is dotted with islands and underwater rocks. Prince William Sound is as beautiful as any national park. Truly a blue and green gem with whales, salmon, puffins and seeing it I can really understand why the oil spill evoked such an emotional response. Oil is messy, but the 800 mile pipeline across Alaska hasn't had any major spills. Solar farms like the one in the Mojave desert is a really unsightly glaring blot on the land. Wind farms are not only unsightly but chew up migratory birds.

    In pointing out the footprint of visitor's services at Denali my point was this. We park fans are willing to degrade the parks somewhat for our comfort. The park service is willing to degrade the pristine nature of the parks to attract visitors. We are willing to have the wildlife subject to the noise of the Denali buses, the tramping of hikers across the tundra. The animals don't seem to mind.

    I think it is a bit hypocritical to say that the oil exploration in the ANWR, 2,000 acres only in a vast wilderness, just five miles across the refuge's borders, would destroy the ecosystem when we are willing to venture a hundred miles into Denali, bringing sewage systems, water systems, the diesel exhaust of the buses etc. With ANWR, compromises need to be made, and we all have to think about our own impacts on the national parks.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Kath, what would recover faster from environmental degradation, heavy tourism in Denali or a major oil spill in ANWR...remember the Alaskan oil spill at the Port of Valdez? How long did it take to recover after the major spill (plus the local fishing industry has not fully recovered yet)? According to local fisherman, the place still stinks with oil. What is more tragic and shocking, is that the oil companies had to pay a pittance in penalties and compensation to the citizens of Alaska. Cry foul...yes!
    I would rather see the landscape dotted with solar and wind power energy then a exploding oil rig (or pipeline) thats going take decades to clean up. I think the hypocrisy lies, is when you drive a hybrid car and park it in your driveway, next to your four bedroom home that burns enough electrical juice to light up a neighborhood in New Delhi. The classic example of a pig out without a conscientious in how much energy we burn to keep are toes warm. Again, Ed Begley's (Life Boat Foundation) books has an answer to all this sloppy living and careless waste.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Interesting reading all the comments that seem to be on both sides of the issue. Delay of exploration and further development of nuclear plants caused by environmental outcry 10-20 years ago is why we are in the situation that we are in. To delay another 10-20 years while we debate will not make it any better. We should use what we have, control the environmental issues the best we can while exploration takes place near these areas and continue to work on alternatives for the future. Kath's observations are very much right on point. We already have lots of impact from what we do today that is likely as bad or worse than what will be done during exploration activities. I guess one way to get rid of the clutter in our national parks is to do nothing, watch energy prices soar and then nobody but the locals or the rich will be able to get there. Then there will be less impact all around.

  • Will The Superintendent's Summit Chart The Path For The National Park Service's Next Chapter?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    This conference is a waste of time and money. Just look at the topics and speakers. Mostly led by superintendents who are selected friends and favorites of the Director. The Chair of the conference is a low level superintendent, not a senior superintendent of SES. And two days? As you rightly identify, big, hard issues about how to manage the workforce of the future and how to engage and win in a political climate are not on the agenda. The conference is mostly taking a few examples of park programs the Director happens to know about and having those superintendents lead a discussion of what good things are going on. No dissenting voices. No active search for shining examples that might not be well knows. No reward of risk.

  • Protest Against American Revolution Center at Valley Forge National Historical Park Planned for May 15   6 years 23 weeks ago

    There is already a welcome center for Valley Forge Park located near King of Prussia. Expand on that (underground preferably) to include the history of the Revolutionary War (which it already does), but don't ruin the beautiful landscape that is the lesser known part of Valley Forge. There is very little nature left in America untouched. Why should we ruin that (destroying the very habitats an alleged 'environmentalist' should care about preserving) to develop more infrastructure, edifices, and walking paths?

    As an environmentalist, you should know that even a so-called 'green' design will still destroy the environment in which it is constructed. Even the most 'environmentally friendly' building designs will have a major impact on the area. On the most basic level, increased human traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, will damage surrounding vegetation as parking lots/roads are paved and people trample in areas where they ought not to go. Gas emissions from cars/buses, other pollutants, and what will undoubtedly be carefully landscaped grounds of the ARC (and intended hotel) will only further eliminate the currently pristine [natural] greenery. The inevitable slovenliness of human beings will be of increased detriment to the areas with which they come in contact; littering and irresponsible outdoor practices of the common person will further the negative impact of such a project to Valley Forge.

    The area should be sold to the National Park Service/US government so that the Valley Forge George Washington knew in the winter of 1777-1778 may be preserved. I would consider a vision of the park as close to that which the soldiers experienced in the 18th century an essential part of the visitor's experience! A tourist's visit can be enhanced by improving the welcome center, including introductory video, that ALREADY exists. I've been there; I've experienced it. What you're looking for according to your post is already there, and if you have suggestions for its improvement, I suggest you go there--not ruin 78 acres of beautiful park land so we can progressively destroy every square inch of our planet. At this rate, there will be nothing left.

    For once, be a true environmentalist and don't let money guide your decisions.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 23 weeks ago

    I Just returned from two weeks in Alaska. There I learned that the proposed site for oil exploration in ANWR is five miles, just five miles over the boundary line for the refuge. If environmental controls were tight, the 2,000 acres that would be used out of the 3.5 million acres seems as though it would have a very small impact on the entirety of the refuge.

    I started to think about the comparative impact of the oil exploration in ANWR versus the impact of the tourist footprint in Denali. Which has the greatest impact on the land and the wildlife? Denali has a large visitor's center, restaurant, several satellite visitor's centers down the park road, the constant drone of buses on the park road, campgrounds for tents and RVs, the park headquarters, the sled dog kennels, a research center (being enlarged), the Alaska Railroad that goes along the park border, and the hundreds of people who fly in to climb the mountain. Then there's the wilderness lodge at Wonder Lake. Not to mention the string of hotels, an airstrip, and tacky souvenir stands just on the park boundary. All in all probably more than 2,000 acres devoted to tourism in Denali.

    Would any of us park nuts remove those facilities to keep Denali more pristine? It seems to me that there is an element of hypocrisy in the arguments of those who love the parks but who want the services when they get there. Yes, conservation. Yes, alternative energy (although solar farms and wind farms are more unsightly than an oil well in my opinion). The world price of oil right now is being driven by pure speculation There is no way that demand is rising so fast that the price is justified on demand or that supply is falling so much that price is market set by supply. This is a false bubble in oil prices. The mere serious threat to drill and explore more on the North Slope would drive down the speculative bubble.

  • Cascade Pass, North Cascades National Park   6 years 23 weeks ago

    I have hiked this trail several times. I consider it to be among the very best short hikes in the entire National Park System.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Comment Period for Proposed Gun Rule Change in National Parks Extended 30 Days   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Where I would like to see comments collected would be at the gates of our National Parks. My guess is that your AVERAGE, actual bona fide visitor has no idea that this is even being considered; while you can bet your bottom dollar that every single NRA member has received an e-mail or mailing instructing them to comment, whether they ever actually visit National Parks or not. What do you bet?

  • Comment Period for Proposed Gun Rule Change in National Parks Extended 30 Days   6 years 23 weeks ago

    In response to Fred Miller, who asks "why bother" to solicit comments if "they just do what they want anyway" ...

    First off, I think some decisions are pre-ordained politically, including this one on guns in the parks as well as snowmobiles in Yellowstone. It IS a sham when the NPS is forced to put the public through the guise of considering comments when we are unable to actually consider those comments. It's a waste of the public's time and it's a waste of huge amounts of agency (i.e. taxpayer) time and money that could be doing something more useful in the national parks.

    That said, most decisions (thankfully) don't reach this level of political interference. Having been the decision maker on a number of plans where we solicited comments, I will tell you that I have personally read every comment that came in. I've looked in each for some kernel of reasoning that we had not considered, or that made me reconsider something we had analyzed. It unquestionably is not a vote, and organizations that think that telling me 100 times what they want me to do will somehow be more effective than telling me once, but articulately and thoughtfully, simply do not understand the process. In fact, organized letter writing campaigns rarely work and probably shouldn't as they don't reflect a cross section of opinion, merely those that are best organized.

    I know that in one comment period we went through a single specific letter made a remarkable difference because it raised issues that were pertinent and nuanced in a way we (and the rest of the comments) had not considered, but should have. That one letter, from an ordinary citizen, was more influential than thousands of rote letters from interest groups.

    I also remember getting an "action alert" at home from one particular interest group that I belonged to and believed in. It advised that I write a letter -- to me, the park superintendent -- and gave me talking points in favor of the groups's views. I was appalled at how simplistic and inaccurate they were. This from a group I supported, and in favor of a position I agreed with! It's made me highly skeptical of "groupthink" responses.

    So the fact that the comments are highly in favor of relaxing the gun regulation in the national parks is pretty irrelevant, for two reasons. One, I don't think this administration cares what the public thinks since they have clearly indicated their preference and intend to ram it through before they leave office. And two, it is testimony to the (impressive) organizational skills of the NRA and other pro-gun organizations, little more.

    J Longstreet
    A National Park Superintendent