Recent comments

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 23 weeks ago

    More correctly, I should have said all revenue bills originate in the House of Representatives.

    HOWEVER: Appropriations bills must be enacted by Congress in the Constitution. Can you imagination if Congress NEVER interfered with appropriations proposals from Congress? Sen. McCain says he wants no congressional earmarks, BUT DO YOU REALLY WANT CONGRESS JUST TO RUBBER STAMP THE APPROPRIATION REQUESTS OF THE PRESIDENT, no matter who she/he is?? Ruling out any change by Congress to a President's budget cannot be a good idea.

    The point is: The idea of a congressional earmark itself is not the problem. The problem is either the MERIT of the individual earmark, and the TRANSPARENCY of the earmark. The additional problem with Steamtown, which had problems both with transparency and merit, was that there was no NPS STUDY, and no REVIEW AND APPROVAL BY THE AUTHORIZING COMMITTEE OF CONGRESS.

  • Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Kirby,

    I'm truly sorry to hear you've had such experiences with non-NPS campgrounds. I must say that in 30+ plus years of camping in mostly privately-owned campgrounds, I've had no more trouble than rowdies hooting and hollering late at night. I also have found that NPS units are virtually the same, with the exception that Park Rangers on the grounds generally keep the rowdies quiet due to their meer presence alone. I even recall doing some hooting of my own while in my 20's....

    I've generaly found the camping/RVing folks to be some of the nicest, friendliest and helpful people you would ever want to meet. I've fostered many new long-lasting friendships over the years through meetings in these parks.

    I have, however, seen the villainous types that you describe in my stays in hotels/motels, hence my gravitating to the campgrounds.

    As to the firearms issue, doesn't each state regulate when/where/how you can carry? I know in VA that a CC permit does not apply to neighboring states, and there are limitations as to where you can carry. (IE: Not allowed in bars, concert halls, etc., which I totally agree with).

    Does the NPS have the sovereign ability to deny residents of the same State that a park unit is in the right to carry? I ask this in all seriousness, as I have no idea, and cannot find the answer in the previous threads on a quick search.

  • Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush   6 years 24 weeks ago

    This has more to do with irresponsible drinking than with guns.

  • Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Not all campgrounds are created equal. I've stayed at a lot of campgrounds and I've found the vast majority of those inside the parks to be pretty quiet and civilized. On the other hand, I can only describe a significant percentage of grounds outside the parks as wretched hives of scum and villainy.

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

  • Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush   6 years 24 weeks ago

    No doubt, there are individuals & organization who will try to use incidents like this to argue against firearms, period. As noted, it's not directly germane to whether the firearms are being packed within the National Parks (though of course that won't stop some from trying to connect them).

    To have an armed citizenry is obviously not cost-free. There are risks & an ongoing price involved. Some people see & embrace the rational for providing a right to arms, and some deny it's valid.

    In the case of the ban on firearms in the National Parks, that was a mistake in the first place. There is no basis to exempt Parks from the right to bear arms, whether we approve of the right itself or not. The right is there, and the argument that guns "aren't needed" in Parks is what is legally known as "specious".

    The more meaningful & determinative question is, what happens in the Presidential and other ballots a few weeks from now? The election of McCain & Palin will generally solidify & promote firearms rights, while a victory for Obama & Biden would be less favorable for weapons.

    Personally, I expect the new Conceal Carry rule-change in the National Parks will gradually morph into an increasingly needed selective hunting system in the Parks.

  • Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Kurt, you didn't give us the whole story. The shooter "had five previous alcohol-related convictions." I don't know if this person would be able to get a concealed weapon permit under Oregon state law. Doubtful. At any rate, one does not need a concealed weapon permit for a rifle. This is not an argument for keeping law abiding citizens (those without multiple alcohol-related convictions) from legally carrying arms.

  • Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Kurt, you're going to take a lot of heat here for this one! I really don't see this being very apropos to the guns-in-parks debate, but I'll let the masses decide that.

    What this does reinforce for me, is how dangerous alcohol is. Guns, rattlesnakes, bison, vehicles, and cliffs aren't really all that threatening to a sober and sane human being. But all of the above turn deadly when mixed with alcohol - or other mind-altering substances. I'd be happy to see possession or consumption of alcohol banned in the parks before guns. A campsite full of guns doesn't scare me nearly as much as a campsite full of empty bottles.

    But I'm a vehement teetotaler, so take my opinion with a grain of salt - or a shot of tequila...your choice.

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Please get your facts straight: The United States didn't enter World War I before 1917.

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Anonymous,

    I will certainly grant you, that corporations & industries spare no effort or expense to drum-up & excite consumer interest in their wares, and that often enough this situation does seem to fly in the face of our better interests.

    But it's sure not a problem for which we can uniquely drag snowmobile manufacturers on the carpet. Look at how TV targets little kids. Look at food-advertising, turning nutrition into a circus of perversions.

    Yes, I see that Tesla corporation is involved with the power-trains for the new General Motors "Volt" hybrid-electric car, and this is indeed an exciting development. (Please note, that with hybrid-electric technology, we will be able to plug our house into our car ... and retire the PUD! I like independence! ;-)

    But. The horsepower-to-weight ratio of the average snowmobile is right around 1-to-5. In the average 3,000 pound automobile, that translates to a 600 horsepower engine. Top-end high-performance snowmobiles boast horsepower ratios of 1:3. That equates to an even 1,000 horsepower grocery-gitter.

    Track-mounted vehicles (snowmobiles) are inherently inefficient. Snowmobiles are doubly-so, because they are plowing through soft, high-drag material. They need a lot of power to do what they do. Without the power, it ain't gonna happen.

    For those of you who are especially keen on the prospect of electric snowmobiles, I recommend one or both of two lines of thinking. First, if you keep a snowmobile on firm, groomed surfaces, the necessary power to operate the machine is very drastically reduced. And, on a firm surface, you can load 500 pounds of golf-cart batteries under the seat, and the weight won't force you down into a hole in the snow. Of course, on a hard, groomed surface, you don't need a snowmobile anyway. ;-)

    Second, shift your attention away from track-mounted vehicles entirely. Think instead in terms of an ATV with exaggerated balloon-tires, and forget about going fast. Wheels are much more efficient than tracks, and slow takes much less power than fast. That approach will give you a 'real' machine ... your only problem then will be figuring out how to sell enough of them to make it worthwhile for some manufacturer to produce them.

    I do like & support electric transportation goals & technology ... but history has shown this is not a field for people who need results right away.

  • Pruning the Parks: Shoshone Cavern National Monument (1909-1954) Would Have Cost Too Much to Develop   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Some existing national parks probably should be delisted. I'll be writing more about this later.

  • Pruning the Parks: Shoshone Cavern National Monument (1909-1954) Would Have Cost Too Much to Develop   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Imagine all the "minor" national parks waiting to be decommissioned if the Nixon administration had gone through with its idea of creating a new national park for each of the 50 states during the Bicentennial. Some folks in South Dakota were recently reminiscining online about it: http://tinyurl.com/52enjz.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 24 weeks ago

    It may be, the first item in exploring a possible reform of the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916, is to ask what the context or 'provocation' of such a process might be.

    The Homeland Security Act of 2002, for example, took advantage of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to consolidate & reform the legislation & status of a number of Federal agencies & Acts, many of which had long been eye-balled as targets of redress or reform.

    The Organic Act of 1916 was approved in the midst of World War I, which is well-known for the unusual impact it had on the psyche of modern nations. Was this Act connected in some way to the events of the time, or was it more like 'left over business' just happened to percolate up the priority queue ... within the midst of the worst & most-shocking War of modern times?

    Our body of environmental law, of which the Organic Act 1916 is simply one component, is a mish-mash & hodge-podge of odds & ends, overlapping & ill-fitting jurisdictions & agencies the overall effect of which acquired it's current form & (mal)function basically in the same way that a junkyard acquires its form & function. As an on-going accident of circumstance, context, and usage.

    Legislators (who contrary of common evidence are capable of professional pride) could put a nice feather in their hat, by consolidating, rationalizing and updating the U.S. body of environmental law. They most likely, though, would need some context or 'provocation' to justify the investment of time, budget & political capital to do so.

    Unlike the relatively obscure & indifferent 'political reality' of the 'junkyard' of disparate resources that were rationalized under the Homeland Security Act, our environmental law is the object of intense professional & emotional attention by certain constituencies of the general public. Other constituencies might be somewhere between amusedly & smolderingly indifferent. Or available at the right price.

    Environmentalism-concerns watch Congress closely, to make sure nothing happens to 'their baby', without their approval. In other words, the status quo with respect to our environmental law is set & guarded by the presence & force of environmentalism, on the national stage. Not unlike the status of firearms law & regulation, which is monitored & hovered-over by well-known interest groups.

    Rhetorically, that appears to be why we have logging & grazing in the National Parks today: because environmentalism resists opening the body of environmental law to reform. They are safer striving to ignore the unfavorable clauses in the law, and appeal instead directly to the public to create & maintain de facto standards & practices. If they expose the body of environmental law to the full process of legislative reform, they lose control of the topic and many other interest groups can intervene with legislators.

    For something significant to happen with environmental law, something significant probably has to first happen with environmentalism. It is they who primarily create & keep the situation as it is and has long been.

    That could theoretically be either positive or negative. Events elevating the stature of environmentalism could lead them to become so secure & powerful, that they could open the can o' worms of environmental law with a high degree of confidence that the process could be controlled and the outcome aligned with their preferences.

    However, to wield this kind of power would make them challengers to the Federal Government itself. If NGOs become too powerful, it is expected that Congress etc will take steps to protect themselves from the upstart. Thus, in practice, any putative significant change in the status of environmentalism that would permit reform of environmental law, would more likely be negative.

    Eco-terrorism could do the trick. It would not take a very high level of destructive activism to alienate the public and broadly discredit environmentalism.

    Severe economic distress could so alter the priorities of many, that environmental issues could simply fall by the wayside. As the Organic Act of 1916 itself was enacted from within the depths of World War I, another crisis could simply sideline enviro-forces and open a window for Congress to 'clean house'.

    The phenomenal degree to which environmentalism has gambled its reputation & credility on climate change, and the putative human causes thereof, may have placed the movement in peril. They have talked themselves so far out onto the climate-limb, that for global climate trends to now unfold in any way different from their highly dramatic projections could pose a severe socio-political problem for them.

    Global warming peaked around 1998, flat-lined, started cooling, then dove dramatically last year. Next year could very well be even more dramatic - to the extent it begins to dominate 'mainstream media', which so far is abetting its environmentalism-ally by minimizing cooling-trend reports.

    We are now reading articles that "Arctic Icepack is the Second-Lowest Ever Recorded!". What really happened is, Arctic icepack rebounded dramatically this summer, due to pronounced global cooling last year, but it's being spun as though it's part of greenhouse warming. It's not.

    Loss of control of the climate-change narrative, and the attendant loss of public stature, could materially change the role of environmentalism on the national stage ... and could even facilitate environmental law reform in Congress.

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Ted (and others),

    I believe one thing that hasn't been emphasized in this discussion is that of increasing use of mechanical devices such as snowmobiles (and ATVs elsewhere). The popularity of these vehicles has exploded in recent decades and is now being seen by many as overwhelming. I believe that many beyond those typically categorized as subscribing to environmentalism would agree as to the increasing numbers (and impacts) that are plainly seen by their popularity and use.

    Don't forget the importance that a deep pocketed industry has in creating this situation. We are flooded with ads by snowmobile and ATV manufacturers telling us how much fun it would be to have one of these toys. These ad campaigns are paying off and sales of these machines are exploding.

    As a final note, you may want to catch up on the current state of electric vehicle technology. It has progressed quite a bit recently. Look up "Tesla" when you get a chance.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway Revising General Management Plan, Might Close Campground   6 years 24 weeks ago

    I believe the National Park Service and Roanoke need to think big regarding the Roanoke Mountain Campground. As they say, accentuate the positive. This campground is surrounded by miles of very nice trails. Open the Chestnut Ridge Loop to mountain bikers (yep, I’m one) and install showers. I believe that would fill the campground up on many weekends, especially since there is no camping at Carvins Cove (a very popular mountain biking destination). Add another 10 miles of new trails on Mill Mountain and another 15 at Carvins Cove and some more multi-use trails along the parkway (paved or not). With that, we will have one of the best trail systems in the country. Also, Roanoke city should make a connection from the Mill Mountain trails to the Roanoke River Greenway maybe near the 9th Street bridge so visitors could explore other parts of the city. Roanoke is great – let’s make it better.

  • Pruning the Parks: Shoshone Cavern National Monument (1909-1954) Would Have Cost Too Much to Develop   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Wyoming in particular has as part of the deal (see http://www.nps.gov/history/history/hisnps/npshistory/monuments.htm ) that added Jackson Hole to Grand Teton NP a rule that stops presidents from creating monuments in Wyoming without the consent of Congress (i.e., in essence, without making them national parks). This was because FDR with one fell swoop created Jackson Hole National Monument, protecting the area, despite years of congressional efforts to block the expansion of Grand Teton NP. So, the deal in the end was that Jackson Hole National Monument would be added to Grand Teton if this limit on presidential power was in place for Wyoming.

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

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 24 weeks ago

    > Those truly "crown jewels" should designated for maximum preservation. Yellostone, Yosemite, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Glacier, Grand Canyon, so on.

    Those parks, you dub crown jewels, are anything but. They are hot spots of the global tourism industry and accordingly managed that way. If you run Yosemite with the focus on protection, you would have to tear down each and any installation in the valley.

    The editors and the readership of the Traveller assume, that the National Parks are the most protected areas in the nation. They are not. Real protection is done in wilderness areas, of which some are inside National Parks but most are not.

    There are a number of National Wildlife Refuges (run by the Fish and Wildlife Service), that are simply closed to humans, in order to protect the wildlife. Huge tracts of Hanford Reach National Monument (FWS) in Washington State are closed to visitors because they are reserved for ecological research and visitors might disturb that. The recovery areas in the main blast zone of Mount St. Helens can be seen only from a handful of established foot trails, no visitor may leave those trails. And some sensitive parts simply have no trails running in their vicinity. Mount St. Helens is run by the Forest Service.

    The National Park System was invented for tourism ('as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people') and tourism is an important factor in management. If you want real protection, don't give the area to the NPS. On the other hand, this does not mean National Parks should be Disneyland. But the balance between protection and tourism is much more complicated than some here assume.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Kurt Repanashek wrote:

    But where would you start? Should each application of "conservation" be replaced with "preservation" in the Act? Should the sections Ted referred to earlier regarding livestock grazing and logging be struck? While it's already clear that the Organic Act places preservation of park resources above enjoyment of those resources, does that section need to be clarified or strengthened?

    How far would you go with a revision?

    All good questions with a broad spectrum of answers, depending largely on your political affiliation. And that's part of the problem. The modern Liberal sentiment might be status quo. No revision--maybe some patch work--and throw more money at the problems. The Neoconservative approach might increase corporate/governmental collusion "cooperation" and label it "reform" or "privatization". The classical liberal (or libertarian) approach would localize management of individual units under conservation trusts.

    At the very least, the National Park Service should be exempt from the whims of politicians, so we can avoid the situation as FrankN describes it: "It may have more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese, but depending on the political climate (the current one for example) you could make things a whole lot worse."

    So the first step in revising or rewriting the Organic Act is to remove the National Park Service from the Department of the Interior if not the federal government itself. If it is to remain under federal purview, it must be insulated from politics to the maximum extent possible. We must reign in Congress's pork barrel parks and increase the standards for what should be considered a national park. To further insulate parks from Congressional politics, a stable funding source must be found. Perhaps a one-time 10-year allocation of funds can get the new National Park Service going. We've had the discussion on another thread about making parks more self-sufficient and trimming the fat from the nearly 400-unit system.

    Then, when adopting a new charter for this streamlined National Park Service, the emphasis should be placed on decentralization. The NPS currently spends more on system-wide administration than the operating costs of the 58 National Parks in the system. The revised or completely replaced charter should be simple and to the point. Like the federal system of government the United States used to enjoy, it should be limited in scope. It should set the standard for all National Park Service units. Individual park units should also create new charters, and those charters must follow the basic guidelines of the national charter. From there, however, individual parks would be able to more finely craft their charters to the specific needs of that individual park and locality.

    The national charter should set the standards for national park status. It could mandate protection at different tier levels. Those truly "crown jewels" should designated for maximum preservation. Yellostone, Yosemite, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Glacier, Grand Canyon, so on. Another tier of park units, if these units are even to be retained, could either focus more on preservation or conservation, depending on the individual unit.

    I've heard it said that rethinking the National Park Service is like "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". But this is no baby. The Organic Act is a terminal patient. As Kurt mentioned, the Organic Act was written 92 years ago, before the auto took over, before rapid jet travel, before we sent people to the moon, before the establishment of modern scientific fields of wildlife biology, the theory of plate tectonics, massive extinctions, and on and on. The Organic Act is from a world that no longer exists, and it's not fair to bind the current generation to the outmoded, unscientific, and uninformed views of those who lived a century ago. The future preservation of our national parks cannot be found in a bygone era's relic. The future preservation of our national parks can only be found in the present.

  • Federal Government to Back Off on Wolf Delisting In Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem   6 years 24 weeks ago

    This is pretty big news. And, until Wyoming ever gets its act together, things won't change. Wyoming, through its draconian wolf management, has become the best friend of the wolf by keeping them under federal control, even though the population is very strong.

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

  • Mount Rainier National Park Proposing to Reroute Section of Wonderland Trail   6 years 24 weeks ago

    I will be very interested in what they decide to do. I am most interested in what those who hike that trail would want done out of all of the options. I've never had the chance to hike it, and although it is on my 'must do' list, whatever option they decide will be long in place before I get out that way again.

  • Greening the National Parks: Environmental Achievement Awards Highlight Sustainable Design, Energy-Efficiency, and Recycling   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Ted, Xanterra has the in-park concessions in several national parks. I have stayed in their Old Faithful SnowLodge and Mammoth cabins in Yellowstone and eaten at several of their restaurants & snack shops in that park. They do an exceptional job on recycling and low-energy use. They not only practice what they preach but also do educational work in the process.

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Ted,

    I agree with much of what you say here, though West Yellowstone is growing more and more culturally complicated, which adds to the angst that many of the old timers feel. Cody is still a bastion for the sort of person you are talking about; West Yellowstone is larger and more diverse.

    But, I'm vexed by everyone. I often find myself understanding quite well what drives a lot of the old timers nuts; there's plenty of intellectual dishonesty on all sides.

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

  • Is Climate Change Driving A New Forest Regimen in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Kelly,

    Thanks for your kind words. I am indeed planning more climate change pieces. I've several work-related projects tied to climate change, and you'll see the results on the Traveler at the appropriate time.

  • Mountain Pine Beetles Chewing into Grand Teton National Park Forests   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Anon,

    Having been gone for a week, I'm a bit late in responding to your questions. From my understanding, what's going on in Colorado is the same as what's transpiring in Wyoming and Montana. As I've been told, the lack of normal thinning does heighten the likelihood and impact of beetle attacks. Also, trees 8" and above in circumference are preferred by the beetles; apparently smaller trees don't pack the nutritional resources sufficient to maintain an infestation. That's been seen in whitebark pine infestations as well.

    Long story short, the experts are in agreement about what's going on.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Anonymous,

    to Chris BugsyShallFall, I would only observe that Oklahoma City should be no model of anything. The NPS has no real accountability over that site, because once again the money just comes from congressional initiative against any common sense or actual oversight. Again, unlike Steamtown and Cumberland Is, Oklahoma City has had all the money it needs for what it needed to do. Ditto, Cuyahoga.

    A better model is a heritage area in which the NPS should approve a plan based on what will be protected and interpreted and how it will be done (strategy), and should then fund the area based on performance. It should be part of a regional tourism strategy heavily leveraged by local governments, the private sector and the State.

    That is a much better Idea

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 24 weeks ago

    "There is created in the Department of the Interior a service to be called the National Park Service, which shall be under the charge of a director. The Secretary of the Interior shall appoint the director, and there shall also be in said service such subordinate officers, clerks, and employees as may be appropriated for by Congress. The service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified, except such as are under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Army, as provided by law, by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
    I'm not sure that you would want to mess with the Organic Act. It may have more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese, but depending on the political climate (the current one for example) you could make things a whole lot worse. Kind of like people who want to "rewrite" the ESA. Once you open a can of worms, no telling what might crawl out! Someone might decide that there is oil under the Grand Canyon, and fickle constituants, weary of four or five dollar a gallon gasoline, might well cry, "Drill, drill, drill!!"
    "Road building? Who's talking about road building? Well ... you, mainly." No one is talking about road building. It's called sarcasm. They are called rhetorical questions and remarks.
    "Snowmobiles don't need roads, remember?" THAT IS PART OF THE PROBLEM! That is why current snowmobilers in Yellowstone are required to have a licensed guide, because too many folks either did not know, or did not care, that YES, IN YELLOWSTONE, SNOWMOBILES DO REQUIRE A ROAD!! By law, snowmobiles may only be operated in Yellowstone on the road. And then only on certain roads. (BTW, even licensed guides occasionally wonder where they shouldn't.)
    I have personally witnessed snowmobilers run wildlife off the road into deep snow. I have seen them chase coyotes down the road until they (the coyotes) were exhausted and dropped in their tracks. I have had snowmobiles blow exhaust (and snow) in my face. I have heard snowmobiles while snow shoeing miles from the road, as if they were just on the other side of a hill.
    Mr. Macdonald, excellent points regarding the cost of visiting Yellowstone in the winter. Either way, snowmobiles or snow coaches, you better be prepared to plunk down a pretty piece of change. Another example of a place I would like to go but can't because of my financial disability (deep into the interior in the winter). Reasonably priced shuttles summer and winter would go a long way toward making Yellowstone more accessible to all, including the physically challenged.