Recent comments

  • Hunting Elk in Rocky Mountain   7 years 4 weeks ago
    Wolves would be nice, though the folks in Estes Park, Loveland, Longmont and even Boulder might not think so....;-)
  • Hunting Elk in Rocky Mountain   7 years 4 weeks ago
    Wolves. Rocky needs wolves.
  • Hunting Elk in Rocky Mountain   7 years 4 weeks ago
    The concern with transplanting elk is that the animals might be carriers of chronic wasting disease and so it's unfeasible at this point in time.
  • Hunting Elk in Rocky Mountain   7 years 4 weeks ago
    Has there been any discussion that you've heard or read about removing elk from the park and re-introducing them to places where they've been extirpated? Or have we re-filled the continent?
  • Natural Bridges is World's First Dark-Sky Park   7 years 4 weeks ago
    Excellent post, Jeremy. I'm glad the NPS is taking conscious efforts to protect the night sky. I love the idea of motion detection and shielded lights.
  • Big Cypress: ATVs or Panthers?   7 years 4 weeks ago
    This smells of a "big bidness" intrusion. You know, Florida is rapidly approaching New Jersey's status of nearing "build out." http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20070319_Editorial___Losing_Open_Land.html
  • God, Geology, and the Grand Canyon   7 years 4 weeks ago
    What is not disputed is that GCNP has been polluted by Catholic hate messages in the form of bronze plaques at various points along the south rim. I've seen them myself, and they still make me want to vomit. The obsessed nuns involved chose particulary disgusting phrases from their mythology, demanding that park attendees worship their god OR ELSE. If only I'd had a vial of etching acid with me...
  • The $1 Billion Question: Is the Private Sector Up to the Centennial Campaign?   7 years 4 weeks ago
    I'm leary of anything Bush does,especially when it comes to the environment. Does he want to turn the National Parks into some money making Disneyland(sky gondolas,train rides,and pictures with Smokey the bear)? Where are these private contributions coming from ? Are they from people who might have a stake in destroying the forests by building massive hotels and Wal Mart sized souvenior shops ? Let's not forget a few years ago Bush tried to prosecute Greenpeace activist under some obscure outdated pirating law. The activist hung a sign on the side of a ship that was carrying hardwood timbers illegally logged in the rain forest.
  • What's Going on at the Presidio?   7 years 4 weeks ago
    Couldn't it be argued that the Presidio has already been sold off to the nearest bidder? Certainly it now resembles less a national park than it does a business park. Having the Presidio managed as a for-profit unit of the NPS severely weakens the notion that parks are managed first for conservation, then for recreation. The self-sufficient management objective of the Presidio is a direct threat to the 389 other park units around the country. Instead of describing this as glass half-full, I'd describe this as glass shattered on the ground broken beyond repair.
  • What's Going on at the Presidio?   7 years 4 weeks ago
    The Presidio is sitting on that money because it has to become self sufficient, considering it would cost more than the entire National Park Service budget to run the place. How does everyone not get this? It's called a compromise- without commercial business in the Presidio, then it wouldn't be a national park and would be sold off to the nearest bidder. I work for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and live in the Presidio, and of course it's not as pristine as some of our national parks, but how many other national parks are surrounded by a major metropolitan city on some of the most prime real estate in the U.S.? Look at the glass as half-full people- and be thankful to those who worked so hard to get the Presidio to become part of our national parks in the first place.
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 4 weeks ago
    Ranger X, Doesn't those precious and poetic letters written of the Civil War part of the "big picture"?...the devastation and emotional pain of losing family members...the human carnage and choas of this war is deeply engrained in those scarlet sacred letters. I'm not a historian but I believe Walt Whitman expresses this in his writings. Read his poem on "Drum Taps"!
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 4 weeks ago
    I have a history degree also summa cum laude. I'd challenge you to name a respected Civil War historian who does not want to preserve Civil War battlefields. Many, many people want Civil War battlefields preserved, not just Civil War re-enactors.
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 4 weeks ago
    I'm entering the fray late, but would like to make a some points. I, like Jim, have a history degree. Historians generally shun antiquarianism, which is the study of the past just for the sake of the past with little emphasis on context or the greater significance of items or events. History focuses more on the big picture, the forest instead of the trees. Preserving each little battle field just for the sake of preserving the battlefield often seems antiquarian to me. Civil War buffs are often antiquarian, focusing on re-enactments and the trivia of battles rather than on the big picture of the Civil War. Also to address Jim's comment about the Oregon lighthouse: I learned in public history class that just because something is old, that does not necessarily mean it's historical. I learned how to research and nominate buildings and places for the National Register of Historic Places. There are very stringent guidelines for what makes something historical. A 150-year-old buidling isn't necessarily historical; it must have significance to be considered historical. I think the same can be true for battlefields. I think preserving these places as open space is sometimes more important than preserving them because a battle was fought there. On the other hand, some battlefields can yield valuable scientific data as forensic science improves. A recent study on the distribution of shell casings at the Battle of Little Bighorn comes to mind.
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 5 weeks ago
    Now, I hope we will meet together, work, and take action, Glenn. Of course, it's not likely to be with people we talk with online, but I wonder what we can do to facilitate people meeting together on these issues in a meaningful and constructive way. Not another meetup.com or anything like that, but perhaps something else... For those interested in this sort of project, please look me up. I'm in between locales right now, and this sort of work I think is important. It takes our dependence away from what Dirk and Mary decide and brings us back into the process. Thanks for what you've shared, Glenn. I don't think we entirely see eye-to-eye, but that's not really that important, as I think the discussion shows. Jim
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 5 weeks ago
    Your point, Jim, finally comes down to activism. If we wish to preserve these places because they have a value to the collective culture (which seems in part a good summary of the NPS mission statement), the only way to do that is for individuals to gather and fight for it. In a way, the parks gather value through the same sort of representative democracy through which our laws "gather value". It's true, historically, that many of these places were set aside outside a purely democratic process (railroad interests, tourism industry, and other lobbies were more involved at times). But to point to that as an absence of the collective value of these places is to criticize our representative democracy and its ability to be bought and sold - it is not a criticism of these places' intrinsic collective value. The only way for Americans to place value culturally on these places is to actively take a part in their preservation. This way, the voice of the majority determines what places maintain value to us historically and for future generations.
  • Centennial Listening: First Impressions   7 years 5 weeks ago
    Thank you, Owen, for this very interesting and detailed account of the Smokies "listening session." And thank you for standing up for government support of park operations and for raising a voice of caution against over-reliance upon private funding. This is crucial for Kempthorne, Bomar, Bush, and Congress to hear.
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 5 weeks ago
    I once had the distinct experience reading George Santayana one night, reading "Scepticism and Animal Faith" of finding myself for a moment feeling as though I was stripped of all my beliefs. Then, I woke up the next day and thought the better of it. I'm not sure that those who remember the past aren't also doomed to repeat it or to pretend that someone else's past is not applicable to our own present. But, that aside, I have not argued against the value of remembering; I have not argued against preserving harsh memories; what I asked for first is why we hold one use of land as more valuable than another use? What makes some things historical and not other things? What makes something more valuable? If it's not that we are honoring great warriors, ok (I don't buy it - one doesn't need a battlefield to look at the history of all the other things, but that's really beside the point), but what makes the memory worth preserving on a scale of values? I'm thankful for Glenn's input because he's suggested something novel, not that one value is necessarily greater than another, but that there is some collective benefit or collective desire that makes something better. We could fight development because who are they to destroy what's there for everyone? We could say the same of snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton; we could talk about mountain bikes in some parts of the national parks and oppose them on the same grounds. Just because someone values something doesn't make it better; I'm not sure a "collective" value always does, either, but at least a collective value already acknowledges a community of responsibility. The problem is that I really doubt that we have anything like collective values in our society, and the process of preservation has only been elite, rather than collective. What are our collective values? And, who is and has been our collective? Who and what has been left out? And, perhaps, that's why I'm nonchalant about battlefields; they seem to derive their existence from our assumed and arbitrary values and seem to imply an ownership over the purpose of a land (a land that actually involves a lot more than just what people did or didn't do there.) Of course, that's not to say that memories aren't valuable, or remembering battles and horrors aren't worthwhile. It is to say that I for one cannot see why anyone gets that excited about it for those reasons. But, in the fight against those who would take all our participation in the process away, privatization, development, big capital, then I can easily get excited because not only are our memories at risk, but also the entire community's stake (however broadly community is defined) in experiencing the land in its many forms (including our memories) is at risk. That's why I think we should be worried about our parks, even those parks branded "historical" parks, not because they simply meet any one of our arbitrary distinctions about what is important but because we won't even be able to participate with our numerous value judgments if these people get their way. I, for one, won't miss one of a zillion battlefield sites biting the dust for that sake, but I will miss the sense experience I have had. Others of you will feel differently and even more moved by other values (and many like Glenn for both reasons at the same time), but none of it will matter if others will arbitrate those values for us. And, that's why I'd also urge we be careful about falling into the same trap. There is a critical value at stake here; I hope we don't lose sight of it as we necessarily push other values close to our hearts. Jim
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 5 weeks ago
    Retreadranger, great input...something else, that might touch the heart and soul of most Americans...our architectural heritage! Some of those old and beautiful structures in are National Parks should always be preserved, and those gracious looking buildings in Yellowstone National Park, may they always be standing from one generation to the next.
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 5 weeks ago
    The eloquent George Santayana said it best: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." With that in mind, I would submit that preserving tangible remains of historic events is crucial to preserving their memory; there are things that cannot be taught in books or on a monitor screen. I have never had a better appreciation of the ultimate futility of war than when I visited the scene of the Battle of Verdun, one of the ghastliest episodes of World War I. I wrote about the visit on my own blog (link below) but even if I had the descriptive powers of a Hemingway, words would only provide the merest glimpse of the emotion the site evoked. As far as "valuing one set of lives over another," I don't buy that premise for a minute. The strongest thrust in the historical profession these days is seeking out the stories of those whose voices were ignored in the past: common soldiers instead of generals, factory workers instead of financiers, women, slaves, the poor and dispossessed, and so on. I'm glad that my colleagues in the battlefield parks are making sure those stories are never forgotten, just like I am now deeply involved in preserving the heritage of some small communities of pioneer farmers and fishers who struggled to make lives for themselves and their families on remote islands in the world's largest and most fearsome lake. These are all stories that should never be forgotten.
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 5 weeks ago
    I don't believe that you are correct that we preserve things for "our collective value"; I think we protect things based on the collective value of those in power, or the private value of those who have the money, which is exactly why we oppose development - because it's not a collective decision. What I'm suggesting is that the same goes for our parks and "public lands" as well, as uncomfortable a conclusion as that is. Maybe, the lighthouse in Oregon was at one point a collective decisions by a small group of residents going through hard times during the Depression, but that's hardly applicable now, and I would guess that a collective decision to tear it down wouldn't go very far. I think I have said that I like to go to battlefields in part because they are creepy and morbid - I am a pacifist myself. What I question is our entitlement to hold up those values as absolute. You have suggested that there is a collective value - I hope so, but I don't see it or know how in this society we could determine it. I think those collective values would be great if we actually had empowered collectives and collective values that shift as collectives shift. But, we don't. I am saying this not from an antagonistic standpoint. I think we have to understand why it is we cannot stop development; one reason we have trouble is that the developers really aren't practicing an ethics that's really that different than the process that preserved many of these places in the first place. There was no collective that set up the national park service for instance. There was no collective that set up the individual parks. The same non-collective process has been at work based on enforcing the same arbitrary values. If we want Gettysburg, want to remember dead, want memorials, what do we want them for? Who gets to decide, and by what process? I think these are critical questions. Yes, I feel some angst when I go to Gettysburg and see all the people dressed up in costumes (and though they tell me they don't get off on it; I have trouble believing it when I see it in action - I felt that way in the anti-war movement about all the grotesque mock torture displays), but that's not my larger point. Certainly, there are all kinds of aesthetic tastes (we see this in the hiker v. mountain biker controversy), but what is the collective process? I don't wager, but if I did, I would bet everything that that process does not actually exist when it comes to the parks (historical and otherwise), never existed, but had better start existing if we are going to stand against the forces of privatization and rampant development. I don't think we are going to get anywhere talking about the value of one use for Gettysburg over another. It won't stop the most powerful force from getting its way. We aren't really that far apart; all I'm doing is ask that we recognize what the value is here. What I hear you say is that the value is a "collective" one; I like that answer very much. I just don't agree with you that that is in fact what it is. But, if we work at it, maybe we can promote truly collective values tied to the experiences and voices of the beings who make up that collective. Jim
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 5 weeks ago
    What makes one thing worth preserving over another is our collective value of it. To those people on the Oregon coast, that lighthouse held a significance culturally to the group. To them, it is worth preserving. I believe that Americans hold these places to be culturally valuable as places of remembrance and reflection. If others find it more valuable as real estate, that's up to them (it's unfortunate, but I think the majority of Americans value these lands as sacred rather than as commercially valuable). I think your implication that preservationists value one set of lives (those lost in war) over others is simply untrue. There are historic sites of all kinds, not just battlefields, which we preserve to remember our American past (triumphs and mistakes, alike). You seem to be saying that battlefield preservationists value these places because they are sites of violence. This is also not true. Some of the most peace-loving people I know are those who value these lands and fight for their preservation. I am myself a peace activist and it is this reason that I value the battlefields of the Civil War, Indian Wars and other places we've preserved across the country... to remind us of where we've been. We who love the parks love these places (whether it's Yosemite or Gettysburg) because they are valuable to our collective culture. Everyone must find for themselves the reason they value them.
  • Road Warrior Sacked by the National Park Service   7 years 5 weeks ago
    Hi....I co-wrote that piece on Alaska and the Antiquities Act with Cecil Andrus. He also writes about it in his book. Thanks very much for the reference!

    John Freemuth
  • Centennial Listening: First Impressions   7 years 5 weeks ago
    Owen, thanks much for the detailed comments. I hope they allow more 2 minute statements at the remaining listening sessions. I can understand the need to prevent grandstanding on pet issues, but getting the chance to hear how others envision the Centennial Initiative is important. I am glad to read that both Bomar and Kempthorne were actively listening to their constituency.
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 5 weeks ago
    Well, I'm unconvinced or at least don't understand the principle. I am thankful, for instance, that someone has saved certain books from the past that might otherwise be lost. I am thankful for anything that can trigger my memory. And, memory does need something tangible, even if a scrap or a word. I just don't know what makes something more worth remembering than something else. Perhaps, it is artificial to split values apart, but I think I'm saying it's just as artificial to put them together in the first place (and the amnesia argument cuts both ways). Why did someone save a lighthouse that was never very useful? Why do we decide to throw some things out as trash and keep others as keepsakes, chop one tree down in the same of preserving something else? Why are roads built in one place and not others? Why are the lives some gave in war more worth remembering than others, or those who didn't die, and to what extent should we go to preserve memory? I have a natural aversion to war, which is in part why I like to go to battlefields...to remember why that's the case. But, if someone were to tell me that this was the greatest, most profound thing we could do, I wouldn't at all be sure. I'm not at all sure the best argument against development is that "history is more important" or in a less historical place "that the view is more important." I just know that "development" also isn't more important. I keep letters, I keep everything I can; so I understand the impulse to remember. What I think, though, is that we are perhaps too rigid about these values in ways that we cannot possibly defend. Again, when do we choose to throw something out, and why? All the memorials all around remembering ghastly battles don't really seem to be working, if our aim is memory. Perhaps, we should separate the value and see that maybe there's something else we are missing of great value in places like Harper's Ferry that the development would destroy.
  • Endangered Battlefields   7 years 5 weeks ago
    Thanks, Snowbird. Lincoln said it best: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot's grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet again swell the chorus of Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."