Recent comments

  • Bush Administration: Slash and Burn on The Way Out of Office?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Folks, just 57 odd day's left until this crazy lunatic leaves office. You can sure bet he will make Obama's administration cringe and crawl to clean up his environmental mess: From the polluted waters of America, to the mined and stripped field's of the Appalachian Mountains, and to the beautiful Canyonlands of Utah. Yap, more of Bush's in your face with rape, greed and pillage before he leaves his throne of sadistical power. Such a small man with a huge and cruel appetite for environmental destruction. All of his life, the good folks have been picking and cleaning up after his mess. This time, it will take years to undo his macabre anti-environmental regulations, and to fix and mend are tattered chewed up landscape. Meanwhile, while he retires to Crawford Texas in glee...Bush is laughing in his beer about all this.

  • From Job Creation to Everglades Czar, Green Groups Have Lengthy National Parks Wishlist   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Unfortunately, it looks like Obama's budget will provide less than Bush's for the NPS. There may even be some layoffs for permanent positions throughout the DOI.

  • Curious About What To Consider When Shopping for a New Camera?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    I've spent the last three years making photos for my project and I've had a chance to talk photography with a lot of park visitors. Here's what I recommend when people ask me which camera to buy:

    1) the ergonomics should fit your hands. Don't buy one without holding it if you can help it. The distance between buttons, the placement of the shutter, etc. can seem intuitive or annoying.

    2) shutter lag: the time between when you push the shutter and the camera makes the exposure. The DSLRs have fixed this problem, and some of the newer p&s cameras are getting better. It's the number 1 frustration people have with their vacation pictures.

    3) manual flash: your family photo in front of any park landmark will be vastly better if you can turn on your flash. In full daylight, the flash fills the shadows of the people standing close to the camera, but has no effect on the landmark, be it Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon. Too strong? Take a step back. The light falloff from the on-camera flashes can be controlled by making very small adjustments in distance to the subject. Read just this one section in the manual and know how to force the camera to flash when you want it.

    4) if you are starting out in the DSLR game, buy better lenses first. A good body is only as good as the lenses, and if you upgrade the body later with cheap lenses, the body won't perform, like putting bald tires on a sports car. I made one of my signature pictures with an entry level body: the new models are all better than what I had at the time. The cheaper lenses, on the other hand, can be no better than a coke bottle. Don't buy a kit, if you can help it.

    @ArizonaTraveler - you can buy a small circular polarizer and hold it up to the lens of a point and shoot camera. It does not need to be attached. In a pinch, sometimes even polarized sunglasses will work. The Canon G10 has a filter mount.

    @Brett 300 dpi is optimal, but I've seen fine images printed at 150 dpi from places like Costco. You are absolutely right about having room to crop.

  • Bush Administration: Slash and Burn on The Way Out of Office?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    This article shows that the greatest threat to preservation is not private industry; it's the federal government.

  • From Job Creation to Everglades Czar, Green Groups Have Lengthy National Parks Wishlist   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Good point, Craig.
    And veterans would certainly be more productive, mature and wear sharper uniforms than most of the young, unmotivated, undisciplined college kids I have seen working in our parks!! I am really tired of seeing the unkept, sloppy appearance (some uniforms look like they were pulled out of the hamper) of many rangers in visitor centers and on interpretive walks.

  • Curious About What To Consider When Shopping for a New Camera?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Thanks Brett, this is a great primer.

    When I bought my last point-and-shoot digital camera, I learned the hard way about the 'white balance' feature, particularly when photographing the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and just about any type of red rock scenery.

    Even with the white balance optimized, I find myself wishing I had a camera that would accept a polarizing filter. I'm told it makes colors more vibrant, reduces the haziness in some more expansive landscape shots and deepens the color of the sky. Sadly, most of the point-and-shoot variety of cameras don't accept filters, but I'd love to see a list of those that do.


  • National Park Service Chastized For Poor Cultural Resource Oversight   6 years 25 weeks ago

    In many parks, cultural resources such as backcountry shelters and the old lodges are under attack from "wilderness nazis" who think they don't belong (but hypocritically, privies are OK since they don't want TP blooms everywhere).

  • Bull Elk Poached in Glacier National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Why give it to the food bank? This kid is 16! Did he know where the boundary was? Wouldn't a warning suffice? I bet if the kid was a "native" they would have let him go...because he would be hunting as part of his "culture" dontcha know.

  • Where Are the Best Sunrises in the National Park System?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Cadillac Mountain sunrise was spectacular when I was there the week-end of Oct 25th 2008. The skies could not have been more passionate. I guess I was lucky.

  • BLM, NPS Modify Oil and Gas Lease Auction near National Parks in Utah   6 years 25 weeks ago

    You can assume that if Lynn Scarlett was involved, the issue was not "resolved" in the parks' favor. She is notoriously pro-industry. And Jim is right about the BLM professionals as opposed to their political leadership. Most of them are as disillusioned as are their counterparts in the NPS and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Rick Smith

  • National Park Quiz 30: Gathering   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Sorry, there's nothing in my parks course about gathering edibles in the parks. I might suggest that you get yourself a copy of Ewell Gibbons Stalking the Wild Asparagus -- if it's still in print, that is. BTW, Rick, I've seen the draft of that Survival quiz you've put together for Traveler readers, and its a dandy. Stay tuned, folks. It's the very next quiz in this series, and it's scheduled for release next Wednesday, December 3.

  • National Park Quiz 30: Gathering   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Good quiz, Bob, although I ended up with only a passable score. I may have to enroll in your distance education class after all. Do you have a section on harvesting in the parks?


    Rick Smith

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Me and my wife just got back from Zion a few days ago and did Angels Landing for the 2nd time (we go every year). And it never ceases to amaze me how many people do Angels Landing in just plain casual tennis shoes, one small bottle of water, no food. I think most accidents that happen of people falling off, sorry to say, is their own fault. There is a lot of people that just don't have any common sense. We have hiked to the saddle back point and then got some rain and we go no further than that because the rock gets too slippery. Yet I've seen people hike it in the rain when the signs tell you not to. I think some people who go there have no experience, lack of common sense and goof off too close to the edge and then get hurt or worse. My number one advice to people who are going to do this hike is to WEAR PROPER SHOES!

  • BLM, NPS Modify Oil and Gas Lease Auction near National Parks in Utah   6 years 25 weeks ago

    A November 17th report by the Idaho Statesman and some other media sources say Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne sent Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett to Utah to work out an agreement between NPS and BLM and officials, and she said the problem "was resolved."

    We'll likely never know what was discussed in that meeting, but "resolved" doesn't mean the NPS was happy with the outcome, so I'd be slow to criticize the NPS for dropping the ball in this case. When the top dogs make a decision, there's only so much agency personnel can do in these situations.

    Any changes from the initial BLM plan would be welcome, and time will tell what the eventual outcome will be.

    One last thought. Although I feel this has been handled badly by top BLM management, it's important to keep in mind that there are a lot of fine employees at BLM. They've been steamrollered by the current leadership too, and aren't happy with the current situation either.

  • From Job Creation to Everglades Czar, Green Groups Have Lengthy National Parks Wishlist   6 years 25 weeks ago

    I think your idea of a National Park Service Corps will run afoul of the same issues that has stopped the growth of AmeriCorps and similar "WPA-like" programs since the 1970s. Demographically in America today, it isn't the "young" who are having trouble finding work, it is the mature job force which are now both unemployed (as companies down size) and unmarketable (as "hard" manufacturing skill sets transition to technology driven ones). Over the last twenty or so years, the myth of "unemployable young" has been shattered by two realities - the young are more adaptable to changing work environments and younger labor costs less. As such, the face of the unemployment lines has become more mature.

    Now here's the twist I would offer. And one that I think would make much more sense in the times we live in. Make the proposed NPS Corps a DoD to DoI transition vessel. Make it primarily a program for service members leaving the military to transition to civilian service oriented professions. This would be a win-win scenario. Currently veterans as a demographic group suffer over twice (some say 2.5 times) the unemployment rate than the rest of America. Sadly those who served the country the most are often the last considered for jobs. Now I would respectfully decline to open a discussion of why that is, which would alter the scope of this discussion. But look at that element of the unemployed workforce from a logical standpoint. These are typically late 20 to early 30 year olds. They are familiar with work structures and standard processes. They typically thrive on object oriented tasks and projects.

    Majority have completed high school educations, and a substantial amount some college. The number one "goal" for those separating from the service is "more education" so something which augments their GI Bill benefits would be appreciated. And while mentioning the later, one of the hardest parts for a newly separated service member to tackle is attaining and holding down a paying, part time job, while pursuing higher education with the GI Bill benefits. A NPS Corps Veterans program would be a natural fit there. Might even reduce the overall cost of the program (provided the GI Bill gets the revamping it deserves).

    And one more plug, veterans tend to be a long term, loyal workforce, generally speaking. By introducing these veterans to the NPS early in their transition, it is likely these talented and service oriented individuals would stay within either the NPS or at least some of the other DoI agencies.

    In short if the NPS Corps is given a line on this DoD to DoI transition for individuals, the program would have ready "trained" workforce, with less cost and overhead, targeting a segment of our workforce which has been disproportionately affected by the economic down turn (and unfairly discriminated against in many cases).

  • A Florida Keys National Park? Good Conservation or Florida Bail-out?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    I am the James Mattson you refer to above, and I disagree with the notion that the state and local governments are trying to turn the Florida Keys into a National Park. Having lived in the Keys for the past 25 years, and practiced land use law the entire time, it is my opinion that we are experiencing the common problem of "homevoters" trying to prevent new arrivals in the community. It has nothing to do with deer, rats, mice, and bunnies. It is all about stopping growth, and has been that way since the 1992 adoption of a rate-of-development ordinance, adopted on a specious theory that the Keys could not evacuate in a timely manner when threatened with hurricane-force winds. The County Commission actually forced the Florida DOT to DROP a plan -- already funded -- that would have cured the imaginary "deficiency" by 2000. This they accomplished by incorporating a provision in the 1996 Comprehensive Plan that prohibited the widening of US-1, the only access/exit highway through the Keys. We are anxiously awaiting the completion of these road improvements, although last week the idiots on our County Commission adopted a resolution demanding that DOT halt its current program to build a third outbound traffic lane on Key Largo -- as recommended by DOT consultants in 2001 -- as one of the major components in reaching the imaginary 1992 clearance time objective.

    Only after the tyrannical, no-growth, majority realized that highways could be improved, did this "interest" in endangered species develop. Now, it's "save the animals" in public, but "save my property value" in reality. Monroe County is the only Florida County that has seen a drop in population over the past two decades. The reason is simple, rate-of-development restrictions that could not have been implemented in the more populous (or less property-rich) counties. Monroe County has the lowest property tax rate of all the counties in Florida, because it has the highest property tax assessments. We are "richer" (property-wise) than even Palm Beach or Collier Counties.

    The Keys are not the next Everglades National Park. The Keys are more like Cape Cod, the Colorado ski villages, and Santa Barbara, California, than Yosemite National Park. Our problem is simply one of an entrenched and vocal majority, that regularly elects a basket of compliant County Commissioners, all of whom would prefer that the bridges be blown up and nobody else be allowed to relocate to the Florida Keys. So far, these people have been successful in keeping the population down. But now they are facing very substantial increases in their property taxes to pay for the remaining vacant land. So, why not, they float the absurd notion of turning every other lot in the Florida Keys (not their homes, of course) into a National Park. Give me a break!

  • National Park Service Chastized For Poor Cultural Resource Oversight   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Certainly an issue that needs attention. My experience on the subject is limited to working at two parks that were heavy on cultural resources and 6 others that more heavily emphasized natural resources. To some extent, how well cultural resources fare as compared to other needs depends on the park management team and how they set priorities. There's rarely enough money or staff to deal with urgent needs, much less routine stuff, for resources of any kind, but it was my observation that some parks are certainly faring better than others on the cultural front.

    The NPS isn't the only agency that struggles with proper preservation of "old stuff." Several years ago I was in Philadelphia and visited the city archives in search of some family history information. One would think that city, with its storied history, would have a reasonably good program for handling historic documents. I eventually found the right room in the basement of a city building, and a helpful employee in due time produced a book full of original 18th century documents. One of those was the original will (c. 1780) of one of my ancestors. I was a bit surprised to be given unlimited access to the document - no request to put on a pair of clean gloves, etc. The folded papers were in poor condition, and rather than destroy them, I declined to handle them further. The "archivist" seemed unconcerned, and handed me a dispenser of ordinary scotch tape, to "put them back together." That was apparently S.O.P for their document "repair."

    The other end of the scale, at least during my two visits, is the National Archives, which seemed to do things well (as one would hope and expect.)

    I'd like to think that most families are as diligent as Frank C. in properly protecting their personal artifacts, but I suspect he's the exception.

  • National Park Service Prepares to Host Millions of Visitors for the Presidential Inauguration and Parade   6 years 26 weeks ago

    I don't think too many folks in this forum are going to be real happy soon...Obama has announced deep cuts in federal spending. His budgets for the Park Service look like they are going to be SMALLER than Bush's.

  • National Park Service Chastized For Poor Cultural Resource Oversight   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Kurt, thanks for the input. I'm now checking out the Park Services: Vanishing Treasures. Much appreciated!

  • National Park Service Chastized For Poor Cultural Resource Oversight   6 years 26 weeks ago

    I can't accurately answer that question off the top of my head, but I'd hazard a guess that there are more archaeological resources on BLM lands simply because there is so much more BLM land than park land.

    I'd also hazard a guess that while the Bush administration's policies are freshest in mind, past administrations also are at fault for not adequately funding programs such as the Park Service's Vanishing Treasures program.

  • National Park Service Chastized For Poor Cultural Resource Oversight   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Kurt, just one quick question: What jurisdiction does most of are ancient historical petroglyphics lie in the U.S...with the BLM or the National Parks? Although I'm not totally familiar in the apparatus in how protect these remarkable icons of are earliest settlers, but do know that vandalism and gross neglect has taken a terrible toll on these magnificent petroglyphics. Is this a subject from the lack of care, lack of money or the lack of not giving a damn by the Bush Administration. Wouldn't be surprised if it was the latter.

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Strict disagreements with the views of those that think funding for lifeguards should not be in budgets for national lakeshores and national seashores, in fact all parks with aquatic recreation should be adequately staffed. I know of places where there were traditionally lifeguards in the summer months and are replaced with interpretation displays of water safety. Despite the criticism that lifeguard teams can only effectively manage a couple miles of beach from superintendent Constantine Dillon, perhaps allocating communication and perhaps even mobilizing the lifeguards to respond to aquatic emergencies within the park would add to the efficiency of lifeguards. This method has worked in some NP’s, some state parks and other recreational areas where the real estate is expansive and not easy to cover. There is also the solution of hiring seasonally what we called “beach ambassadors” or aquatic safety information officers. Normally this person works during the seasons of high visitation, informs visitors of aquatic safety precautions, how and when to wear a lifejacket, and actions to survive a rip current and other such pertinent info. These persons have often worked walking the beach and speaking to visitors on a one on one basis. Normally staffed by an SCA internee, a summer college student earning experience, or the camp hosts, or VIP (volunteers in parks). This is an inexpensive way to ad to the proactive approach of aquatic safety within the NPS, and need not be a trained lifeguard. I have received many positive feedback from appreciative visitors regarding this type of information officer.
    I know that lifeguards spend a lot of time in preventative actions with park visitors. This activity of informing patrons is so important and does help save lives. Improving the visitor experience is what working for the NPS is really all about. “Knowing is half the battle!” is a motto for the action figure G.I. Joe and it is true that properly informing patrons of the hazards of the park is half the battle.
    Lifeguards should not be done away with and the response time for rangers to gear up to respond to aquatic emergencies is lengthy. Having L.E. rangers whom are trained in aquatic rescue is a good idea, yet specialization and diversification often are combined within NPS personnel staffing in order to “cover all the bases under financial constraint.” In situations where seconds matter, it is always efficient to have lifeguards on staff at all times in parks where there exists a danger of aquatic hazard. Is a L.E. Ranger or Interp Ranger effectively able to lock a gun in a vehicle, radio dispatch of possible rescue, gather rescue equipment, and entry into water within minutes in order to assist a struggling victim? With a nation that has all the resources to continue preserving the parks from the people and resources and willing people to protect those people from the park, it is eminent that “resourcefulness” be attained in creating a solution to the hazards in the park. Lifeguards are part of this resourcefulness. Expand the scope from which lifeguards can work within the parks and you just might find that you will have some very valuable employees.

  • National Park Service Chastized For Poor Cultural Resource Oversight   6 years 26 weeks ago

    When was the last time you went up into your attic? While you no doubt have stored away quite a few treasures there, it's likely they're covered in dust, and neglect probably has taken a toll as well, don't you think?

    Absolutely not.

    As the family historian, I am responsible for preserving my family's cultural resources which include a vintage Kodak camera, a Santa Fe Railroad clock, a California Gold Rush fractional gold coin, a Cherokee medicine pouch that traveled the Trail of Tears, a grinding stone from a Midwest tribe, a Civil War letter, and more.

    I have safely preserved these artifacts using mylar and other archival materials. Some are on display; others are locked away in a safe.

    You see, I have a personal vested interest in maintaining this collection. The problems detailed in this article arise when cultural resources are held collectively and personal ties to artifacts have been severed.

  • National Park Service Chastized For Poor Cultural Resource Oversight   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Is anyone really surprised? This is not the first time that this issue has come up and as long as the NPS is in charge of these resources it certainly won't be the last.

    Cultural resources are not the raw materials upon which a successful and splashy career in the NPS are built upon. No, instead the pathway is littered with large and ostentatious visitor centers, increased staffing levels so that ten people can now do the work of two and you'll definitely draw rave reviews for beefing up your law enforcement division with lethal and bombastic artillery, night vision goggles, giant SUV's and maybe some drug enforcement money thrown in from the Department of Homeland Security. Now yer talkin' baby!

    The nitty-gritty work of protecting artifacts, maintaining sewer systems and keeping trails cleared is often deferred to the next guy, who'll hopefully get these things done while also striving to make a name for themselves on their upward career track leading to a safe and secure government retirement.

    Expect to read about this problem again, oh probably sometime in the next five years or so, or less. Mark my words. Take it to the bank.

  • Bush Administration Poised to Sell Oil and Gas Leases Around Dinosaur National Monument, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks   6 years 26 weeks ago

    The American public must stand firm against Bush's rape, greed and pillage policies before leaving the White House. And it's NOW! We Americans must do everything within are power to stop this madness of exploiting and squandering our natural resources for a few precious drops of oil. Recent studies now have shown natural gas drilling is harming the drinking water table around the Arches & Canyonlands National Parks, and other areas adjunct to the parks. A report that the EPA has tried to stifle. A typical Bush tactic to keep the American people in the dark about about the true quality of are drinking water. From anyones living mind, why are we destroying these most precious and scenic resources called our National Parks with short term stupid and idiotic planning. Short term gain for what...more horrendous scaring (perhaps permanent) of this precious and scenic resource. STOP BUSH'S TRASHING OF THE NATIONAL PARKS!!!!