Recent comments

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I think Mr. Longstreet has confused cynicism and criticism. Cynicism implies a pessimistic outlook and little hope for change, while criticism implies a serious examination and judgment of something. Criticism aims to induce change ("constructive" criticism), while cynicism implies pessimism and little hope for change. I think most critics who comment at NPT are hopeful that change will occur and believe that the management of our public lands does not necessarily have to be political. I think most critics who comment at NPT have shared constructive and alternative ideas, something a cynic would not do. I think criticism is necessary in a free society, and it is essential to maintaining our freedom.

    By implying that criticism is the antithesis to "elevating the tone of comments", an attempt has been made to stifle critics who post at NPT. And by stating that the "topic of the thread is supposed to be jet skis", an attempt has been made to control the free discussion of ideas. (Incidentally, the first paragraph sets the topic: The directors of the DOI and NPS have been asked to let "science [not politics] guide management decisions". I'd say that all the comments are on topic, and if not, what's the harm? If a conversation thread is off topic, simply ignore it rather than trying to control the conversation.)

    The propensity of those in charge in the NPS to squelch dissent is a major concern. If we don't allow people to speak their minds, to be critics, then how will we solve the problems national parks face, such as the wanton impairment of our national treasures by snowmobiles and jet skis?


    it is also a government agency and ... subject to all the forces that affect every other government agency

    Then I guess the NPS has become "just another government bureaucracy" which is what was warned against when it was founded. If this is the case, perhaps we can come up with a new paradigm for managing the parks.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I have to comment on the photo displayed. This is exactly what a "ORV" trail looks like, but as an "ORV" user I've seen these trails many times at their worst and came back the following year and could hardly tell there was a trail there. The plants will and do reclaim the land and if you will stop and actully look at the ruts and in the water you will see numerous animal footprints, the wildlife use the trails probably more than the people do. And also as a hiker in Florida taking a trail be it made by an ATV or by bushhog is much better than trying to wade through the waist high prairie grass and hoping not to find a rattlesnake or cottonmouth. Hunters, backpackers and campers all use the roads and trails made by "ORV's" so in my opinion having some trails benefit everyone and everything.

  • Birds Songs From Around The World   6 years 41 weeks ago


    I SO want this book for Christmas!

    Thanks for telling us about it.

    Here's a link on the Au Train Bird Song Trail

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 41 weeks ago

    So what happens Mr. Longstreet when you go to manage a park like Glen Canyon or Lake Mead? It's quite easy to make a declaration such as yours if all you end up administering are battlefields and fossil quarries.

    A much more bold and courageous statement would be: "over my dead body will jet skis be allowed in any national park administered by the hallowed agency that issues my paycheck every two weeks". Just simply avoiding water parks during your career is not what I'd call a principled stand. In fact it is nothing more than self-aggrandizing pomposity.

    By the way, what park are you the superintendent of Mr. Longstreet?

  • Grand Canyon Officials Release EA on Bright Angel Trailhead Improvements   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I recently hiked The Bright Angel Trail out to Plateau Point... very proud of it since I hadn't done anything like that before! : ) Goodness was it beautiful! And I got fabulous photos too... although I don't know who wouldn't! It would be hard to get a bad one.

    Anyway, I remember hearing that "Death in the Grand Canyon" was one of the biggest book sellers at the park. I even bought it for my dad who says he can only read a bit at a time because it's rather shocking/morbid otherwise. So, I guess those who buy it either give it away (like me) or don't read if BEFORE they go hike... or stand to close to the edge... or whatever else. : (

  • How To Buy National Park-Related Gifts Without Leaving Home   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Another in a long tradition of gaffes by the marketing geniuses who run the program that is the NPS and our beloved federal government. Is it any wonder why these entities can't turn a profit without subsidies and taxation? There's not an insightful businessman anywhere to be found within these organizations.

    And I'll prove it. I'm putting together a site dedicated to serving the public with access to "bootleg" park-related materials. All we have to do is route it through the various Native tribes, bypass the sales taxes other "legalities" (e.g. threatened lawsuits for infrigement), copyright our materials, and nobody at the federal level could do a damn thing about it. Then, we divvy up the profits between a few notable charities to make the feds look REALLY petty for opposing the project, and we have an instant public relations home run. Unfortunately, it won't help getting the above mentioned keepsakes into the public's hands this holiday season. And since we're NOT a government agency, our marketing will allow for these items to be sold under the more traditional banner of Christmas ornaments, not some goofy generic "PC" holiday, like Sweetest Day, President's Day, Flag Day, Groundhog Day, Winter Solstice or the ever popular Take Your Kid to Work Day.

  • Birds Songs From Around The World   6 years 41 weeks ago

    When I was vacationing in the Upper Penninsula, Michigan, I learned of the AuTrain Bird Song Trail, a one-mile loop through the forest. At the AuTrain store, for a small deposit, I was given a bird book detailing the birds found in the AuTrain area with pictures, descriptions and information, binoculars, and a tape player with a tape corresponding to each bird in the book. As I walked through the forest and played the tape, some birds actually called back and through my inexperienced eyes, was able to spot a few. Except for the masses of deer fly bites I suffered (June has a heavy influx of deer flies) it was a wonderful experience and very informative.

  • Birds Songs From Around The World   6 years 41 weeks ago

    This is pure enjoyment to review and listen too. Brilliantly put together by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. A must for all lovers of the great outdoors. For added pleasure read Miyoko Cho's book, Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds. Delightful reading that helps reduce the stress levels of every day life.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I, for one, want to commend Bob Janiskee for elevating the tone of comments on this site. I have great respect for the work that Kurt and Jeremy have done to raise issues about the parks and the NPS, yet have grown increasingly frustrated with the negativity of some commenters. The National Park Service is a political institution, subject to all the same forces that affect every other government agency. While many of its employees are absolutely outstanding, it is also a government agency and its employees are therefore subject to all the forces that affect every other government agency. Let's not be shocked or blame all of the problems that the parks have on either the agency or its employees. Instead, let's insist that the agency and its employees meet the highest standards.

    And please, despite the cynicism that pervades so many posts, distinguish between the political appointees and the career civil servants, most of whom work hard for conservation and to fulfill the organic act ideals despite the "starve the beast" and "sell it out" mentality of our political masters.

    Yes, I work for the NPS, and have done so for many years. It, like me, has its flaws. But I am proud to work for the agency and proud to be doing my part to make it better, and proud to both protect parks and to do what I can to help people enjoy them.

    So thank you, Prof. Janiskee, for what you add to this blog.

    AND, since the topic of the thread is supposed to be jet skis, over my dead body will they be allowed in any national park unit I am responsible for.

    a national park superintendent

  • Park History: Petrified Forest National Park   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Among Arizonans (including myself), Petrified Forest is often overlooked. But, it really is one of the coolest places in a state with a long list of such places. The last time I visited - it's probably been 6-8 years now - we were shocked at the $50 fine for stealing petrified wood. A $50 fine for stealing a piece of petrified wood that would cost four times that just outside the park is ludicrously low and not at all a deterrent. I've been told that it's been increased, but unless it's on the order of $5000 or so, it's probably not enough. I hope the expansion acquisitions are realized in the near future - there are plenty of resources that still need protection.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Did you know that the National Marine Manufacturers Association is one of many "transportation" lobby groups (including the International Snowmobiles Manufacturers Assn.) to spend millions to lobby National Park Service? As long as the NPS is in a political system, it will be subject to pressure from interest groups.
    Read more at:

  • Park History: Petrified Forest National Park   6 years 41 weeks ago

    A beautiful park! The magnificent sweep of grand vistas and color splashed desert badlands blew me away. The rangers were some of the friendliest and most helpful I'd encountered in quite some time. They truly seemed to enjoy being in this unique preserve located on the edge of nowhere, bisected by the indifferent roar of I-40.

    The wood is really only one part of a much larger story at this park.

  • Park History: Petrified Forest National Park   6 years 41 weeks ago

    The NPCA reports that souvenir-collecting visitors haul away an estimated 12 tons of petrified wood every year in Petrified Forest National Park. I guess if you wait long enough, souvenir hunters, collectors, and thieves will haul away nearly everything of value or interest that isn’t firmly anchored in place and constantly guarded.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Maybe, if the name was changed to Big Cypress National ORV Park I would not feel so disgusted?

  • Ghost at Blevins Farmstead; Excerpt From 'Haunted Hikes'   6 years 41 weeks ago

    That's a neat story cause Oscar was my great uncle I just remember meeting him a few times.

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

    NPCA consistently lobbys for more funding for the NPS. While the Parks are underfunded, just giving the Park Service more money means that the top managers will only waste more money. Before the IG put a stop to it, Buccello was commuting back and forth to her Maine home at government expense, even though her official duty station was supposed to be DC. That wasted at least $60,000, money which could have been put to use hiring several seasonal rangers (remember what seasonal rangers were?).
    Appropriating more money to properly manage the National Parks is needed, but also some budget controls which are sorely lacking.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 41 weeks ago


    I think the editors have picked a particularly provocative photograph in this instance, as they, understandibly, have a tendency to do. (just as we writers are guilty of making the same choices with words)

    I agree with you. This impairment thing is a conundrum. And God love you for bringing up those elk trails! They can do some "damage" can't they?

    Unlike most animals, we humans use tools. Using tools is "natural" for us. Gortex and metal aren't natural by your definition. Should we hike barefoot and naked and use campfires instead of stoves? Any way you slice this cake, it's a messy one.

  • Is the Bear "Hunt" in Katmai National Preserve Sporting or Ethical?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Opponents of hunting bears near the McNeil River State Game Refuge and Sanctuary say it is unethical to kill bears habituated to humans. Proponents of hunting the bears say in several coastal areas, bears tolerate humans when there is a large source of salmon, and that the situation in Katmai is not unique. This is true, and as long as there is salmon in and around the McNeil River there will be bears. Opponents of letting hunters harvest these bears worry that there won’t be as many bears, and that it will ruin the relationship between the bears and humans. Weeks prior to the opening of the 2007 season, officials surveyed the bear population and recorded it as a “very high density, very healthy population” of bears in the area. This is one of Alaska’s foremost wildlife management success stories, yet we still people trying to ruin what is considered tradition to most Alaskans which is hunting. These people include anti hunters and whack jobs like the infamous “Grizzly Man” who was brutally mauled and killed along with his girlfriend by these same bears of Katmai. Maybe we could’ve asked him how “habituated” these bears are to humans if perhaps he was still alive. Opponents of hunting the bears should turn their focus to worrying about the local salmon runs rather than hunters harvesting these bears because that is what keeps the bears in the area and the population so high. Instead they would rather attack the hunting community and try to publicize this type of hunting as unethical and not under the terms of “fair chase hunting”. How they can prove that is still undetermined.
    Now I am not for eliminating the species or even anything close, but there is a solution to this problem that will benefit both hunters and viewers alike. The way to do it is select a manageable and healthy number of bears to be taken every year by those who put in for the registered special area permit. This is different from what they do now

    which is open season every other year to everyone and anyone who is willing to pay the price to get down there and hunt these bears. The number of bears chosen to be harvested depending to the years’ recent surveys and numbers will benefit not only the hunters and viewers, but also the area’s local bear population. This is because it will keep the bears at a healthy population for the area, and also prevent a future deterioration of the local population due to an excess saturation of the bears in a certain area. This idea saves face at both ends of the spectrum by allowing hunters to harvest these bears while at the same time limiting the number of hunters allowed to harvest bears in the area depending upon that year’s population outlook. This is ethically the right thing to do to properly manage the bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve and to keep it as one of Alaska’s foremost wildlife management success stories.
    Some other problems that this issue involves is that these bears are a problem for the state of Alaska, and the villages that are located near these high density areas where bears flourish and become a nuisance. These areas believe it or not have too many bears. Yes, it is neat to see, but perhaps it is not natural for the bears. Simply their high numbers raise the number of bears that can be harvested. It is getting harder to “live” with the bears, and if you lived in some of these villages around the state of Alaska that are close to these bear sanctuaries you would probably understand. Instead we have to deal with nonresidents from say California who think they are at peace with the bears because they can watch them at close distances while they devour salmon. If those salmon were not there you can bet it would be them. Then they see a few hunters making a clean legal kill on television and begin whining. They also do not consider the local villagers who have to deal with the bears year round, unlike those who view them, and have to send their children off to school with nine foot grizzlies with cubs roaming the streets like dogs. They are not the human-stalking animal I’m making them sound like, but until you corner one going to your shed or accidentally without knowing step between a sow and her cubs you’ll know what I’m talking about.
    The answer in my opinion is simple. Take action in the proposed plan, and if that still doesn’t work for those who are against hunting the bears, close it off to the viewers as well and ruin it for everybody. To make the bears “wild” they must not be exposed to humans on a daily basis. Close Katmai to bear viewing, let the bears return to the “wild” and establish normal hunting regulations. Bottom line, the open hunting area is twenty-five miles away from the bear sanctuary. Here it is legal to harvest bears every other year. What more do these people who oppose of the hunting want? Should we move the boundary to thirty miles, maybe fifty, or should we just cut off the whole Alaska Peninsula to hunting period?

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Any human use (hiking, birdwatching, camping, kayaking) of a park "impairs" it in some way.

    That depends on how you define impairment, and HH has put it in quotes, so perhaps we share the same thinking, but I'd disagree that "any human use" qualifies as impairment. Clearly, all types of human "use" have an impact, but I don't think hiking (footprints) even compare to the ATV tracks in the photo above. Therefore, I'd say footprints and hiking are an impact, but not an impairment because (generally) they don't damage. It would be hard to argue that the ATVs that created the tracks in the above photo haven't damaged the area.

    Also, consider whether a human on foot is part of the ecosystem or separate. I'd argue the former. At Crater Lake, I've followed elk paths up forested ridges. The elk really tore up the soil on their path. I mean, it was highly impacted and altered. But is that an impairment? The disturbance my feet cause in comparison to a herd of 30 rutting elk is miniscule. A human--no, hundreds--on an ATV going through the same terrain would have a higher impact than the elk herd and would therefore impair the area. The same can be said for camping. I've seen places where a herd has rested for the night, and it's pretty disturbed. Likewise, tents create a disturbance. Add RVs and oil leaks and pavement, and I think you've got damage (impairment)--not disturbance.

    My point is that humans are natural, a part of the environment, and should be allowed to be a part of that environment. Our vehicles and roads and technology are not and have no place in areas we've decided to keep unimpaired.

    Sorry if this is rambling; it's Friday. HH, thanks for your thoughts, and I appreciate your comments on the Everglades! :)

  • Park History: Everglades National Park   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Regardless of which specific words we might use to describe the net result of Everglades inundation, I think we can all agree that sea level rise would bring about some pretty dramatic changes in the true Everglades area of the park. The suburban ruins scenario is wonderfully thought-provoking. This is the sort of "what if" thinking that I spent a lot of time on in a futuristics course that I taught back in the 1970s and 1980s. The exercises really helped us identify and think about some "possible futures" that we might otherwise never have considered. The scenarios that my students found most engaging were the dystopian futures. Using techniques such as linear extrapolation, matrix analysis, Delphi studies, and computer modeling we even came up with some "possible futures" for our national park system that were very unacceptable. After fleshing out this or that possible future that we considered unacceptable ("jeez, we sure wouldn't want THAT future to happen!") , we'd ask: What can be done to prevent that particular future from happening? We could usually list broad-scale political, economic, social, technological, and institutional changes that could divert us from that "wrong" path. But as they say, the devil is in the details.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 41 weeks ago

    As a tax-paying citizen, I care about the effect jet skis, snowmobiles and other wildlife disturbing activities have on the environment. Wasn't the purpose of establishing these National Parks so that they could be kept in a natural and pristine order for the enjoyment of all, including future generations? If activities that disturb these conditions continue, what will be left? Certainly, there are other places to jet ski and snowmobile outside the NPS. I think ignorance plays a factor here and the only cure is getting more information out to the public. Who knows, maybe if Director Bomar and other key NPS people hear an outcry from the public, it may change their minds.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I reviewed the map of the Bear Island ORV Unit. It appears to be (approx) a 5 mile by 6 mile area just north of and alongside Interstate 75. Street legal 4x4s are also allowed on these "trails" which tells me these trails may be more like roads. According to the NPS website, the ORV plan intends to eliminate dispersed use and limit ORV use to designated trails only by 2010. Seems reasonable to me.

    Schwartz says less than 1% of Big Cypress visitors are ORVers. Of the 500,000 non-ORV visitors to Big Cypress, how many of them hiked or kayaked more than 1 mile from the road? Honestly, I'm afraid to know the answer to that question. If the Sierra Club is suggesting that we manage recreational use based on the percentage of visitors who participate in that activity, then the NPS better start paving some roads.

    Any human use (hiking, birdwatching, camping, kayaking) of a park "impairs" it in some way. Science will tell us that every time. It is the duty of the NPS to find ways to prevent and repair some of those impairments in ways other than closing off the area to human use.

    I'm not an ORVer. I'm a long distance hiker, mountain biker, and kayaker. I have run into ORVers several times during my travels. The vast majority that I met were people who appreciated the areas they visit 100 times more than the 500,000 tourists jumping out of their cars to take pictures at the overlooks.

    Without having been there, I hesitate to voice a strong opinion on whether ORV use is appropriate at Bear Island. But, I have seen many examples of "nonprofit" groups like the Sierra Club wasting time, money, and human energy filing lawsuits over issues that in the large scheme of things aren't huge problems.

  • Park History: Everglades National Park   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Frank, I'm with you on this "alter" vs "destroy" point. And I'm sure you are right that this ecosystem has seen many dramatic fluctuations in water levels in the last 4,000 to 2 million years. Correct me, but aren't mangroves opportunists that have adapted to endure in just this scenario? I see similarities to the fire/forest succession analogy regarding how the everglades will adapt to climate change. Will there not be some poetic justice when suburban ruins become the foundations for mangrove islands? Just as Calusa shell middens became keys.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 41 weeks ago

    So it's agreed that political considerations tend to dominate and often subvert the stated conservation mission of the NPS. This seems to be the general consensus among most contributors to this website, regardless of which end of the spectrum they find themselves on. From Merryland and Jim MacDonald to Frank and Lone Hiker to Fran Mainela and Ranger Melissa it is obvious that intrusive politics are the true bane of the national park system.

    Maybe it's time to forge a different path. I've stated my views on some of the alternatives in many previous posts so I'll refrain from a review of them at this particular juncture.

    I think that a cursory review of the articles and comments from this valuable website over the past year would amply highlight the problems, and most stem from partisan politics, whether it is Fran Mainela telling us she was urged, by her bosses upstairs, to ignore compelling science (which cost $10 million to obtain) in Yellowstone or caving in to pressure that sanctioned the wanton slaughter of bears in Alaska or forcing the NPS to accept a marginal park unit in New Jersey (that they deemed unworthy in their own assessment a few years back) simply because a Congressman wants to create some tourism pork in his district that the local government would never fund but will now use the coercive force of the federal leviathan to squeeze the taxpayers of Montana and Hawaii for a brand new park on the Passaic.

    Will this type of system remain viable over the long haul? Would we be better off with something else? Do most people even really care?

    These are the questions we need to seriously consider.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I just said that the misconception was a popular one, not that it should be ignored as a factor affecting public attitudes toward specific park management decisions. Remember that the Park Service didn't establish the "preserve it absolutely unimpaired, but let the public use it as a pleasuring ground" policy. Congress did. And if you are a bureaucrat, you do what you are told -- or at least you fake it to the best of your ability. BuRec didn't give a hoot about any of the values you mentioned when the agency built the Hoover and Hells Canyon Dams and impounded those reservoirs. The dams were built to provide irrigation water, generate electricity, reduce flooding below the dams (now THERE'S a joke on us all!), and enhance flatwater recreation opportunities. When the Park Service was eventually given administrative responsibility the National Recreation Areas focused on those impoundments, the scenic canyons, Indian artifacts, and all the rest had already been inundated for a good long while and the Park Service had exactly zero-zippo-nada to say about whether that was a good idea or a bad one ( I vote for bad). Would Stephen Mather understand this kind of park? That's a very interesting question. Mather was a pragmatist who labored long and hard, twisting plenty of arms, to improve access to the parks and get more and better recreation facilities and lodging built in and near the parks. Mather believed that boosting recreational use of the parks would curry public favor, get Congress to provide more money and staffing for parks, and generate lots of ancillary benefits. That said, I believe that Mather would see the mass recreation excesses at Lake Mead NRA and the Glen Canyon NRA (encompassing Lake Powell) as examples of the extrapolation-to-absurdity syndrome. As a wise man once observed, and as many of us have learned the hard way, "up to a certain point, the more, the better; beyond that point, the more, the worse." Incidentally, I meant no disrespect to Anon and I have nothing against tax paying citizens.