Recent comments

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Frank and I have disagreed on this before.

    But I still insist that the Organic Act has not failed. Yes, it is a paradox to conserve, promote the use of, and provide enjoyment for while leaving unimpaired. Yes, in order to fulfill such a mandate requires leaders possessing intellect, insight, and courage that the current NPS may not have or nuture. Yes, the NPS fails in small and not so small ways every day. But, all in all, the NPS has suceeded in its mandate by keeping the parks unimpaired enough to continue to provide for the enjoyment of billions of people over the last 150+ years.

    The Organic Act is not "antiquated, fundamentally flawed, and needs extensive revision" any more than the Constitution of the United States is "antiquated, fundamentally flawed, and needs extensive revision." Don't throw the act out with the bathwater.

    Hell, if anything's antiquated, it's evoking Edward Abbey.

  • Watching Wolves in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Merryland - you don't know how close you are to nailing the situation on the head! You can stop at any pullout, overlook or visitor center (my experience is in Rocky Mountain NP, Yellowstone NP, and Denali NP) and just stare off into space, and inevitably SOMEONE will ask what you see. I guess it's good that people are interested. That helps generate some form of support for the parks and their resources. But I just wonder if some people are willing to make an effort to go to places and look for animals or plants on their own.

    Always the cynic...

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I was not aware that any for-profit, trail building businesses existed.

    The fact that they exist says it all.

    This issue is nothing more than mountain bike creep.

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    While I can definitely see the arguments made against biking, in the Big Bend's case in particular I think that a well-planned, environmentally friendly, sustainable single track trail is feasible. As it is not slated for the Basin, and as it is not slated for an area that sees a lot of foot traffic, I don't have a problem with it if done properly.

    I also think it is highly possible to create a trail in this area that doesn't promote consistent down-hill thrill-seeking behaviour, but rather trails with lots of small ups and downs that prevent a rider from gaining too much speed without sacrificing enjoyment. The Texas Trail Docs (an IMBA supported group) and Talon Trail Systems (an Austin-based trail building business) are both experienced in creating such trails.

    Conversely, if a new trail is not the best solution, perhaps we should close some dirt roads to vehicles and make them mountain bike and equestrian trails only. Like hikers don't appreciate mountain bikers bearing down on them, nor do bikers appreciate being run over by automobiles.

    I think the case should be made for park specific regulations. The impact felt in the Big Bend region is not the same as the impact that would be felt elsewhere, and vice versa. Thus we should not judge all parks by one, or one by all, or all by three in the case of the 5 year MOA.

    Ultimately, I hope that human powered activities have a fair shot over lazy vehicle-centric pursuits, lest we give way to the "pave our way to greatness" mentality that has turned Yosemite into the world's most beautiful parking lot.

    Food for thought....

    Full disclosure: I am an occasional mountain biker. (I spend more time rock climbing than anything else, but also very much enjoy camping/backpacking) I am not a member of IMBA, nor do I race in the Texas' local TMBRA circuit. I have hundreds of hours of trail building/maintenance experience, much of those used by mountain bikers. I am right handed. My favourite beer is Guinness, although I'm fond of New Belgium's many offerings. You can't beat the price of a good Shiner Bock though.


  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 41 weeks ago

    The bigger they are, the harder they claw...

  • Rockefeller Family Turns Over More than 1,100 Acres to Grand Teton National Park   6 years 41 weeks ago

    It's about freaking time. After using a front company in the 1920s and 1930s to swindle local landowners out of land in order to give Jackson Hole to the NPS, the Rockefellers then kept this land privately for themselves.

    But, don't get me started on this subject --

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

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Here I disagree with you. I believe the mission is antiquated, fundamentally flawed, and needs extensive revision. Instead of keeping our eye on the mission, we should revise or rewrite the mission (please see my comment on Glenn Canyon NRA for background/details). Why is it that once the government does something, that initial thing is almost NEVER revised or scrapped for something new, something modern, something rational? Are we preserving wilderness or preserving legislation? I digress.

    As for "closed", are you talking about closed to vehicular traffic or completely closed to entry? I understand that sometimes managers close caves at Lava Beds to protect nursing bat colonies, or sometimes managers emphasize that areas are closed to hiking due to cryptobiotic soil. If you mean closed as in I can't get my RV, 4x4, ATV, or even Geo Metro in there, then I don't see that as closed. These areas are opened to walkers, and that's how it should be. I'm reminded of one of my favorite Abbey quotes: "A journey into the wilderness is the freest, cheapest, most nonprivileged of pleasures. Anyone with two legs and the price of a pair of army surplus combat boots may enter." I think the environmental "purists" you reference would agree with Abbey; I don't think they want to keep people out; they merely want to keep out their deathmachinepolluting contraptions that completely alter the wilderness and humans' experience in the wilderness.

    To come back to the topic, I'm with Kurt and others who believe that old dirt roads make excellent biking/multi-use trails. Like Abbey, I'd rather see bikers than drivers. But like Kurt, I don't want to get mowed down by enthusiastic mountain bikers catching air.

    Finally, there are 3,793,079 square miles in this country. Roughly 2-3% of that is wilderness and/or national parks leaving roughly 3,679,286 square miles for mountain bikers. Isn't that enough already?

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    We all sure can think of plenty of ways to spend monies the NPS doesn't have now, can't we? Blasting a convenience cruise crater in Lake Powell, planning mile after mile of new bike and hike paths, hundreds of millions for a museum to house the "colorized" version of the NPS. How about this sure to be unpopular new ammenities of ANY fashion until the system is dealing from a balanced budget with all existing billions in backlog maintenance completed. Then, we talk turkey. Or to the turkeys, whatever.

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I see you're up to date on the Native American lore Jon. Yup, hunting bears can be a dangerous undertaking. FYI- the would-be hunter lived to tell the tale.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I can't find the word preservation in the Organic Act. Though I do find words such as "conserve" and "promote the use of."

    That's because from the draft to the official act, the word "preserve" was changed to "conserve", a largely rhetorical change. The act also mandates leaving parks "unimpaired" without any details of what "unimpaired" looks like.

    The Organic Act has failed on many accounts; it was not based on science or research; it was bent to satisfy the demands of the railroad and burgeoning tourism industry.

    The problems of today's NPS result directly from its past. Preservation was the core reason for establishment, but it wasn't interpreted as environmental protection.

    It's time for a major revision or a new charter that mandates environmental protection, that uses the term "preservation" rather than "conservation", is based on scientific research, and provides environmental protection.

    National Recreation Areas need not apply for membership.

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Haunted Hiker, no need to convert, I love biking. Spent my vacation this summer doing it, as a matter of fact, and just returned from a 24-mile ride.

    In fact, I agree with you that there are plenty of good dirt roads across the park system that would make wonderful mountain biking trails. The White Rim in Canyonlands is one great example, and of course the carriage paths in Acadia are another.

    I also understand there are some pretty good single-track routes on non-Park Service public lands that make excellent multi-day treks. The Kokopelli Trail that winds 142 miles from Colorado into Utah is one great example.

    And, to be truthful, I'd probably enjoy riding my mountain bike through Yellowstone's backcountry on a multi-day trip. But I just don't believe there's a need for it or that it'd be appropriate. I like knowing there's some backcountry where I can head without having to worry about a mountain biker coming around the bend at me.

    As someone mentioned earlier, this isn't an access question. There's plenty of access already in the parks, including plenty of mountain biking opportunities, as you yourself noted. Is it so difficult to agree that the Park Service has a different mandate than the U.S. Forest Service and BLM, which are more multi-use oriented?

    Lastly, that photo you mentioned? It pictures two IMBA reps cruising at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park during a demo day. I used that shot to illustrate the story because IMBA is the most ardent proponent of more mountain biking in the parks and, as the picture shows, they like to rock.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 41 weeks ago

    The NPS "preservation slant" is only how some interpret the Organic Act. I could argue that the NPS should have a "provide for the enjoyment slant."

    In fact, I can't find the word preservation in the Organic Act. Though I do find words such as "conserve" and "promote the use of."

    Devil's advocacy aside, the NPS seems to have much more urgent problems than to spend precious funds "planning to plan" in order to open a channel up to boaters.

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Certainly not every park or every suggested route is appropriate for bicycle use, but "mountain biking in national parks" should not be demonized. Park managers/planners should be open to consider it as an appropriate use for dirt roads that are closed to motor vehicle traffic, an be open to the idea of allowing a small percentage of trails to be suggested mountain bike trails.

    Sycamore Canyon in Santa Monica Mountains NRA sets an example of how mountain biking can be allowed along with other recreational uses in a park area. I hike and bike in this area, and the terrain, which is riddled with old ranch roads and fire roads, is well-suited for mountain biking. Also, some excellent single-track provides a wonderful experience for mountain bikers of all skill levels. There is a volunteer mountain bike patrol force riding the trails on weekends. Trail runners, bikers, hikers, and equestrians appear to get along quite well. If there is a Santa Monica ranger reading this, I'd love to hear what he or she thinks. But, best I can tell as a user, Santa Monica managers have done a fantastic job of allowing a multitude of uses in their park.

    The photo chosen for this story shows two "gear appropriate" mountain bikers going downhill on a dirt road. This is why they may appear a bit aggro at first glance. If Kurt had chosen a photo of a family biking on a flat dirt road or paved path in a national park, it would have a much different impact on the viewer's perception of mountain biking.

    A vast majority of people who mountain bike are what I call "hikers on bikes." I know people from 7 to 70 who enjoy this activity. The NPS should keep the mountain biking card in their hat of recreation activities they consider when planning park use. I'm guessing there are some old mining roads in Rocky that might serve well as a mountain bike trail and still leave hundreds of miles of trail to hikers only.

    Disclosure: I am a former NPS ranger who is a hiker/backpacker first and foremost, yet I have riden over 2000 miles as a long-distance "thru-biker," carrying all my food, water, and equipment on my mountain bike. And I have written mountain biking guides, including one for a national park. Kurt, perhaps you should let me take you "bike-packing" one day? Maybe I can convert you.

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Why not regulate each trail according to its appropriateness for biking? Seems to work on the carriage trails in Acadia and the mosquito-infested old roads of the Everglades, but it sure as heck doesn't make sense on the steep, narrow trails in places like Yosemite or Bryce. Ya?

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    How many people do you know who can recite the NPS Mission? I certainly can't. " conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means..."

    An English teacher would have a field day editing the seemingly endless run-on sentence that describes the NPS Mission.

    Regardless, I've learned to overlook the Mission's rambling wording for the value of its meaning. It's about celebrating natural America, by allowing people to responsibly (emphasize "responsibly") visit, enjoy, and marvel at some of the most beautiful, wild and fascinating places around. One creative NPS employee I know compared the national park system to a can of your favorite soda. If you stick the sealed can on a shelf, you miss the experience of opening it up to savor its color, flavor, coolness, and effervescence.

    Nowadays many NPS employees are quick to close portions of national parks, whether they be facilities, trails, or vast tracts of land. "Resource protection," "budget shortfalls," and "safety" are the most frequently cited explanations. Sometimes legitimate reasons exist to close an area, but all-too-often I've seen closed areas remain that way because park staff are 1) too busy attending meetings, writing reports, and creating podcasts to notice the value of these areas to the public, and 2) many NPS employees are such environmental purists they don't believe the places should ever be touched by human feet (or bicycle tires).

    "Woops! You mean we haven't reopened that trail? Must have forgotten all about the silly Mission!"

    This indifference is well known to many park visitors, and it doesn't bode well for public relations. If you want a supportive public, insure that your park is available for public enjoyment.

    Simple Proposal #7: Keep Your Eye on the Mission

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Mark, you sound as if you know this topic quite well. Are you officially aligned with the mountain bike community?

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 41 weeks ago

    The photo of mountain bikers descending on a wide dirt road doesn't sound any alarms for me. It looks they're having fun, are riding in a safe situation, and are enjoying their visit. Aren't those things appropriate for a national park visit?

    I'm a fan of mountain biking in national parks. Today's park managers have a better understanding of trail designs that work for all kinds of shared-use traffic. They have responsible partners to work with in the mountain biking community, and they have the power to decide which trails should be open to bikes and which should not. As you point out, shared-use trails are employed in parks across the country already, with excellent results. Why not expand on those successes?

    Today's park managers also face declining budgets and lowered visitation. Integrating mountain biking in a responsible fashion can help new audiances gain an appreciation for national parks. Mountain biking holds a lot of appeal for the younger visitors that National Parks need to ensure the longterm health of the system.

    Lastily ... Segways and paved roads are just straw-men targets. (So is comparing mountain biking to motorized traffic. I can tell the differerence btween a bike and motorcycle, and so can the Park Service.) Let's focus on bringing involving more people in the NPS experience, not filtering out all the potential new fans of the parks just because one user group wants to define the experience for everyone else.

  • Rockefeller Family Turns Over More than 1,100 Acres to Grand Teton National Park   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Thanks Rockefellers!

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I heard that Devils Tower was created by a giant bear trying to claw its way up the side of the mountain... now who do I believe? Hmmm...

  • Park Service's Top Investigator Pleads Guilty To Theft   6 years 41 weeks ago

    This is a quote from a current NPS employee that was posted in the comments section below the Pat Buccello news article (which can be accessed by clicking the above link in Kurt's piece titled "according to reports"). It seems that it's not just FORMER employees that know that there is systemic rot in the NPS. More and more current employees are speaking up too.

    "If anyone is naive enough to think this even warrants a raised eyebrow, you're misinformed, misguided or don't get out much. The NPS is only one agency that is completely rife with nepotism, favoritism and the REGULAR promotion or transfer of the worst the American workforce has to offer. No one at any level wants to address this sort of thing and it is absolutely swept under the rug if at all possible, which it is most of the time. If you're in it to do an honest days wotk on a level playing field, you're in the wrong agency. For all the rhetoric about "most of us are doing a good job", it's past that. Truly, most of the people are trying to do a good job. The system itself is broken. The agency is corrupt and has been for at least my nearly 20 years with it. Sad fact that this is only one little corner of the government that is filled with this sort of thing."

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Jeez, you guys are sharp. Nick is absolutely right that Devil’s Tower consists of phonolite porphyry, not basalt. That’s a good catch, since the distinction is quite important. Differing chemical composition aside, the two rocks aren’t formed the same way and don’t look alike. Porphyritic phonolite is an intrusive igneous rock that is formed from magma that cools relatively slowly below the earth surface. It is lighter- colored, and when formed from magma that begins cooling slowly enough it will have distinctive mineral crystals (phenocrysts) imbedded in a groundmass matrix. Basalt, an extrusive igneous rock that cools quickly on the surface, is fine-grained and also much darker than phonolite. You don’t find big mineral crystals in basalt because the hurry-up cooling process that produces it doesn’t provide enough time for the various molecules in the melt to get together and line up at the leisurely pace needed to form big crystals. A quick glance at Devil’s Tower might lead you to think you’re looking at basalt because the phonolite exhibits columnar jointing similar to that of Devil’s Postpile and many other basalt landforms.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Kurt & MRC----these are the types of creative ideas and solutions that I've been in favor of for a long time now. Even though I am of the opinion that much more serious surgery needs to be done to the actual structure of the agency, it doesn't hurt to begin a process of stepping back and looking at ways of rearranging existing resources to better serve the public and the lands under administration.

    When I was a ranger this type of talk was generally taboo because any reduction in lands under the NPS was seen as a threat to the existing order. I remember a conversation I had with a supervisor (division chief) who had worked at Glen Canyon before coming to my park. When I asked him what he thought of working at a boat ramp park he said that although he personally thought it was probably not an appropriate national park it was not for any of us to judge or publicly comment on. He also said that it had provided him with a job and a chance for promotion and that it was not for rangers to question the validity of a given park but only to administer whatever Congress saw fit to put under our purview. Since he was my boss I never brought it up again.

    It would be nice if managers in the NPS would, from time to time, dare to be honest about their role as stewards and what is an appropriate parcel of territory to administer and what is not.

    I wonder if the rangers in the soon to be created historic waterfall park in Patterson, NJ will be able to tell the public that their agency didn't think that it was a suitable site for inclusion. After all it is a piece of history that pertains to the site. I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that it won't be mentioned in any museum display or park handout. As always, political expediency and career survival are the #1 goals of a life spent working for the NPS.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Not to mention how the presence of that much water in the middle of the desert has drastically changed the ecosystem. I agree this shouldn't be the Park Service's problem. Reservoir management and sport hunting management should be the responsibility of some organization other than NPS.

  • Olympic National Park Ready for Wolves?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    i am all for wolves...i think that hunting wolves should be illegal everywhere......healthy wolves have never attacked humans before.....i love friend told me about them....before i met her...i knew nothing.....she taught me everything i know....and now both me and my friend have tried so hard to make it illegal in michigan to hunt them.....i hope it stays illegal.........forever

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Some of my NPS coworkers and I never understood why National Wreck Areas are included in the system. Some, such as Whiskeytown and Lake Roosevelt, seem more suited to the USFS's multiple use mandate rather than the NPS's preservation slant.

    Additionally, NRAs cost the NPS about $110 million in 2007 just to operate. That's money that could go toward operating the "crown jewels" like Yosemite or Yellowstone or working on the "maintenance backlog". I'd like to see NRAs transferred to other agencies (I understand they might have similar funding problems, but the use and mandate would match at least) or have NRA users (the boaters, the jetskiers, bikers, etc.) pay the bulk of the operating costs in user fees.

    Oh, and restore Glen Canyon! Long live Abbey!