Recent comments

  • A Rocky Mountain Birthday   7 years 12 weeks ago
    I flew out to Estes Park in the late 90s for a rendezvous there of wildlands conservationists. And I couldn't escape the gut feeling that there was a community that should never have happened. I'd be interested in knowing just how many compromises, if any, were made when the park's boundaries were established. Watching tame elk wandering around out back of the Holiday Inn seemed tragic, in the Shakespearian sense.
  • Relevancy in the Parks Today   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Kath, hot spots such as the South Rim during the summer months, Old Faithful, the Yosemite Valley, etc, are always going to be crowded, even if visitation were halved. And places such as Tokopah Falls, while perhaps too crowded for your comfort, I think are valuable in how they can quickly expose park newcomers and young families to the beauty that lies within the parks. And, frankly, some folks fear the solitude found in true backcountry areas. There are plenty of incredible places to venture in the parks where you're not likely to encounter swarms, places like the Cataloochee Valley of Great Smoky, the Carbon River Entrance of Mount Rainier, the Queets Valley in Olympic, the Bechler region of Yellowstone and on and on. Too, go out earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon or visit on the shoulder season, either spring or fall, and you'll avoid the crowds. But I'm sure you know that. Somehow we must find a balance between having enough visitation to breed more park advocates and generate support for the parks and yet not too much that will overrun the parks.
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Ranger X, I agree with your concept of thinking here. However, there some whom graze the land far more than others and far more than their fair share...and needs. The question is how much is enough? I wish we all could (which I endorse) live like you in spartan simplicity...less of everything but the bare necessities for a reasonable comfortable living. I look and I see how the world reviews are overly bloated consumptious society, and were not well received in how we burn the carbon ratios in the air. Is it possible to have a society that can develope less of a appetite for the non essentials things in life that are meaningless and frivolous. I think if we let that play into are every day attitudes, just perhaps the National Parks won't such be a corporate junk yard issue.
  • Relevancy in the Parks Today   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Ranger X: So, your a Bill Tweed fan, I've met him several times through the Sequoia Natural History Association. Yes indeed, he's a good prolific writer. I read one of his masterpieces (in my view) "Challenge Of The Big Trees"...very well researched and written. In regards to Kurt's article, this man writes from the bottom of his soul here...I sense this man is on a real mission to bring back the true spirit what the National Parks should and meant to be...a place to contemplate the soul in a sacred place without frivolous intrusion from the outside world of corporate influence. Good work Kurt!
  • Relevancy in the Parks Today   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Good issue. But as National Parks become more crowded the experience there becomes more and more like a theme park. For instance, when I was there two years ago, the Grand Canyon had built a new visitor's center staging area for park visitors. From there you get on a tram to go the the rim. There are tram tours in Yosemite Valley. The whole thing reminds me of the Universal Studios backlot tour. "On your right is the famed Bridalveil Falls" and "if you look quickly to the left you'll spot one of our furry little creatures". Enough with the trams, the tours, the herding of large groups of people around. And Kurt, the times I've been on the Tokopah Falls trail, it's resembled the Hollywood Freeway. I don't feel too compelled to wring my hands over visitation numbers going down at the National Parks. To those who love a little solitude, it's something to celebrate.
  • Relevancy in the Parks Today   7 years 12 weeks ago
    "If we have to resort to games, gizmos and gasoline to make our national parks relevant, to get children interested in stepping into nature, to enjoy spotting a herd of elk in the soft evening light or giggle as the mud squishes between their toes when they step barefoot into a stream, then we surely will have made the national park concept irrelevant." Amen! This is so well written. On a side note, did you ever meet Tweed? I worked for him for three summers. He's such a great writer.
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    The "I'm better than you because..." attitude serves only to isolate the real issues. We are all to blame when it comes to environmental degradation, no matter what, or if, we drive. I used to feel better than others when I didn't own a car for four years. Then after returning from the Peace Corps, I took an NPS job that required a 4x4 to get to my duty station. So now I have a Jeep with off road tires. I get 16 in the city and 22 on the freeway. Once, a girl walking down the street called me an asshole as I drove past. But we're ALL to blame. Sure, I drive a Jeep, but I drive 5000 miles a year, three times less than the national average. If you have a car that gets twice my Jeep's gas mileage and drive 15,000 miles per year, you're putting more carbon into the air than I. Even if you don't drive, you eat food that was grown with fertilizer created with fossil fuels, harvested by fossil fuel burning equipment, and shipped and processed using, you guessed it, fossil fuels. (It takes a barrel of oil to grow one acre of corn. Cattle are fed corn. If you eat beef, you're eating oil energy.) If you use biodiesel, you're burning plant products that were grown with oil. Even if you don't drive, you probably throw away 5 pounds of trash a day. Your trash contributes to greenhouse gas generation in landfills. Even if you drive a hybrid, it still uses oil and it took massive amounts of energy and oil to manufacture. The manufacturer kept it light by using plastic, which is made from oil. Its tires will eventually add to the stockpile of billions of junk tires. Even if you get good gas mileage, do you use electricity that comes from a coal-fired plant, or are you using "green", renewable energy? Even if you use public transit, you're still using a system that depends on fossil fuels. I could go on, but hopefully you get the point: We're all to blame, and change can only come from inside the system. Change will come when we stop pointing fingers, accept our hypocrisy, and work TOGETHER to solve our collective environmental problems.
  • Relevancy in the Parks Today   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Quite right, there is a big difference in the way the term "relevant" is being applied to the park experience. ARC seems to be using it in a macro sense, willing to transform parks to match consumer expectations, while park traditionalist use it in a micro sense, applying the term on a per-person basis. The other day I noted "massive disinterest" as a top threat to the National Park Service. But I think I can clarify that a little today, I think a better way to express that is, in a broad sense, we are losing the sense of personal relevance that parks have represented for so many, for so long. ARC would claim that the loss of relevance is because I can't go 4-wheelin' through the wilderness, like I can elsewhere. But I would say the loss of relevance comes from somewhere else, and cannot be attributed to any single thing. As Rick Smith says in your article, people arrive at the park hoping to find park interpreters to reveal the deeper meaning of place, to find that which makes the park relevant to their lives. But those personal experiences are being replaced as the park budget shrinks. Unfortunately, the well connected and well funded group ARC has the loudest voice in this argument. They have had good success defining the issue of relevancy on their terms. And because we have lost personal relevancy, we will accept ARCs suggestions for change.
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Dear Carol, so beautifully put and eloquently expressed. I'm waiting for Kurt's profound wisdom on the subject and Jim McDonalds comments. Should be interesting! Carol, I agree whole heartedly with your comments pertaining to the selfish subject who drives the SUV. My closes buddy, his dear son is in Iraq (marine corp) so that she can drive her 10 gallon per mile SUV...with pig selfishness. Your point is well taken!!
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    About John Locke: it seems to me, if you read Locke in his entirety, you see his focus is on a belief that it is better for everything should be held in commons, not private property, that then CONCEDES that's impractical in the selfish culture in which he lived, so adopted more of a "if you can't stop this cultural path you can at least try to minimize its damages"--but still advocated that everyone's basic needs should be met first by the society as a whole, then things divided up into private property. That's what the parks do--help meet basic human needs in ways private property ownership never can, because part of the experience of the parks is that it is a SHARED experience--an experience of our natural and cultural history, a collective education--and ongoing discussion--of what it means to be American. In my interpretation of Locke, he'd most definitely would have been in favor of the national parks movement. Sadly, it's pretty clear that most humans are, for the most part, short-sighted, stupid and excessively selfish, especially those of us in capitalist cultures. A good example of how this is part of OUR culture, pershaps more than other cultures, is the fact that the Arabic language/culture has no word or concept for "privacy;" the nearest word means "anti-social." I think John Locke understood this anti-social/privacy relationship better than his modern interpreters reading him through entrenched capitalistic mores and culture. Mather is also too narrowly interpreted. Like Locke, he realized the need to make concessions to modern capitalistic thinking in order to accomplish his underlying goals. The parks were even more underfunded in his time than now. (For years he paid Albright out of his own pocket and used much of his own money to lobby for the formation of the Park Service.) He also got involved in some commercial schemes that would be seen as corrupt and anti-park by today's park supporters. But he also understood the need for publicity, visitation, and made deals with the devils--such as the biggest capitalists of his day, the railroads-- and others that would now be ridiculed by park purists but resulted in the end goals of a great deal of preservation. Yep, both Locke and Mather were concerned with the Greater Good-- a concept that barely makes on blip on modern capitalistic psyches. (In response to "I drive an SUV because I can, I imagine they might have reminded that person that thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens are dying so she can indulge herself so selfishly, with no concern for the Greater Good.) So, like Locke and Mather, we need to take this modern psyche--along with modern lifestyles, to include the prevalence of single parent families, modern technology, changes in the way people spend free time, etc, into the modern planning process for the protection and preservation of the parks. But one thing Mather knew and capitalized on like no other: get people INTO the parks--not just the overlooks and gift shops, but really into the parks--and the rest is relatively easy. To that end, I think someone should re-enact the Mather Mountain Party of 1915--bring the editor of the NY Times, Congress people, other movers and shakers on the same trek....see what happens...
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Kurt, looking forward to your follow up blog on Jim's critique pertaining to your article: Have National Parks Become Passe. Should be interesting!...and can you dear Mustang Sally, learn to finish a sentence without interjecting some kind of malicious hate towards someone who disagrees with you. Peace to you baby!!
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Uh...Snowbirdie...that's SIERRA not Sierra's...buy yourself a Harbrace!*snicker*
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Jim, good as always to hear from you. Thanks for the sneak peek of your thinking. Enjoy Miami and then get back to us. Be sure to read my next post on relevancy before you finish your response, though, as I'm sure it'll give you more fodder to respond to! Kurt
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Kurt, I think when it comes to Mather's vision, which is derived from the very foundational act of Yellowstone and the National Park Service, the reason I for one don't emphasize it is that I don't believe in it. I have a project I'm going to work on and write related to John Locke, the so called right to private property, and how that relates to Yellowstone specifically, but of course parks in general. As part of that work, I am going to be very critical of the thinking that went into the act that created Yellowstone National Park. Yes, I know I've argued quite cynically about the motives for creating the park, but there are quite intrinsic reasons in the legislation and the debate itself which lends itself to criticism. The park's foundational act is not some great testament to the intrinsic value of land, or some testament to the relationship of public enjoyment and land protection, it arises from some of the misguided and ill-conceived notions that were so dominant in American expansion and that relate directly to Locke's philosophy. Many have noted the tension between public enjoyment and preservation of resources, which is one reason why it's easy to lose track of Mather. You can't very easily walk that line without choosing a preference. But, I think actually the issue is more profound than that. Why a parks movement? Isn't that already a sad state of affairs? Are we so negative about our place in this universe that the best we can do is spare some places from absolute ruin? And, if so, why should we be so positive that we can do that AND understand issues related to access? It seems either we can do much better, or we can't hope to do even that well. I must admit that I'm not a parks enthusiast, though I am certainly enthusiastic about the places we call parks. I'm pretty sure that thought makes sense. If we find our inspiration in the Mathers and the Albrights and the George Graham Vests and the people like that, I won't be at all surprised that people are going to lose sight of the parks vision. It's not tenable for a whole host of reasons I hope we all can talk about. For what it's worth, I think declining visitation is only a barometer of other things, not much of an issue in itself. I would love to see very few people in the parks, but I don't want to see only the rich in those parks. I don't want that access controlled by means of a law enforcement management policy. All of those desires may right now be pretty impractical all at once, and so I would rather not focus on it but rather on some of the air pressure that gives us this barometer reading. I think we agree on that much. So, to Locke I go...after a trip to Miami...see you all next week. Wasting not enough space, Jim
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Rick, my lost soul brother. Yap! back in those day's Rick, I wore Jesus boots and had long hair while suantering through the mighty Sierra's. Damn, I miss those day's! Oh, yes Sally, and I wasn't on dope either...didn't have to be with all that clean mountain air.
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Hey Kurt-- It has been years since I have heard anti-hippie rhetoric like that coming from Sally. It makes you long for the good old days, doesn't it? Back then, everyone with longer hair was a nature-loving liberal. Sounds like Sally is tracking down the same path. By God, we ought to close those parks to people who hike, ride shuttle buses, and hug trees. Then real Americans could use our parks.
  • Top 3 Threats to the National Park Service   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Wow, four of my favorite online park prognosticators have weighed in on this issue. Thanks guys.

    Maybe visitation trends isn't the best bellwether for tracking interest in the parks. I can be just as interested in a visit to ANWR, even though I may never visit, as I would be disinterested in Yosemite having to hunt for a parking spot.

    I think I need to clarify my "massive disinterest" argument. As Kurt points out, it may have more to do with the sense that an attitude is changing, specifically the attitude that parks fulfill a special role in our country. Doesn't it feel as if that attitude is changing? It may be impossible to pin that change on any single thing, but as Scott points out, it may be an industry push to redefine what that park experience should be. As a nation, every time we see an ad on TV which illustrates an SUV or a dirtbike splashing through a stream or cruising under natural arches, our perceptions of typical outdoor experience change, and our expectations of the parks change as well.

    Unfortunately, it does role back around to money. The industries creating those ads are the industries which would like to spend money servicing park guests. And the parks are in desperate need of money, some would say, starved under pressure from the very industries hungry to 'help out'. But this new relationship will only serve to foster the changing perception of the purpose of parks.
  • Groups Fighting Road Building In Death Valley   7 years 12 weeks ago
    BGreen, First, "public oversight and exposure" can be done on foot. Second, if you're going to invent numbers, I'm not going to continue this conversation. 46,632,000 acres of wilderness in California? You'd have me believe that HALF the state is wilderness? Start giving me some sources or put down the crack pipe. Here are some facts/sources for you: Federal wilderness in California: 14,335,873 acres http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=stateView&state=ca_s State Wilderness: There are 467,925 acres of designated State Wilderness within the State Park System, making up 99.7% of the entire California Wilderness System. http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/23509/files/Natural%20Resources%20of%20California%20State%20Parks.pdf That adds up to almost 15 million, or about 14% of the state. That's NO WHERE NEAR your number. How much is enough? A recent study identified 7.4 million acres of unprotected wilderness on California's federal lands that qualify under the 1964 Wilderness Act. http://www.calwild.org/resources/pubs/CWI_report.pdf That plus what we've got will have to do. You can drive your death traps all over the remaining 80% of the state. Hope that's enough for you.
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Dear Mustang Sally: Not angry! I just have alot of fire in the belly and compassion to save a few precious things that your grandchildren can enjoy, like a National Park system that can fulfill it's responsibilties to it's visitors which has been mandated by Congress...not to be run on chicken feed. Sally, I really feel sorry for you. You know why? It's because, I believe your afraid that there's some beautiful hippies, or liberals out there that can teach you a few things, like loving the environment more and less your SUV. Talk about tolerance, look who's being a hypocrite! Trash talking about those who wish not to live inside a gasoline can. Really Sally, there's some very clean and decent, law abiding liberal hippies out there that are model citizens that can, and do tolerate ultra right wing whacko's like you. Peace to you baby!
  • Groups Fighting Road Building In Death Valley   7 years 12 weeks ago
    "Listen (by Ranger X). My main point is this: There are already 785 miles of developed roads in Death Valley. How much is enough?" The answer is enough roads to provide responsible public access to allow for public oversight and exposure to the historic and cultural values within the Death Valley National Park and surrounding BLM managed Area of Critical Environmental Concern. The answer is more than 785 miles of roads. Considering the total area of the DVNP, 785 miles of open public roads are not adequate to properly manage the protection of the land. Without these few existing county roads of contention and without the cooperation and oversight of the motorized public the Park Services ability to protect the National Park is abysmal. DVNP is the largest NP in the lower 48 states, nearly 3,396,192 acres, with nearly 95% on either side of these existing roads managed as Wilderness (over three million acres closed to public oversight and active cooperative management by the public). Less than 2% of public visits enter Wilderness in California, with the majority of this small percent of visits concentrated near Yosemite National Park (where the resulting density-impact damage is severe). We do not need to repeat this failed management policy that leads to density-impact damage within DVNP (what is already occurring around Furnace Creek). There will be more than enough solitude within DVNP, even after restoration of public access on these few existing historic roads, to satisfy all but the most selfish and unreasonable conservationist. I'll ask you, There are already 46,632,000 acres of State and Federal designated Wilderness in California (more than any other state outside of Alaska). How much untouchable and unmanageable Wilderness is enough?
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Hey Snowbird...what's an "OVR vehicle"??? Dontcha mean ORV...Off Road Vehicle?? Get your terms straight if you're gonna trash talk. ...and why are you so angry?? All your posts are so angry! Have some peace and tolerance!
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Hey Snowbird...I bet you eat your share of Big Macs!! LOL!!!
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    When folks are forced to ride shuttles and busses and sit next to and smell the awful body-odor stench of unbathed hippies/leftists, they will stay away. I have also talked to many people where I live who say that they wouldn't mind the parks sold to the highest bidder because they can't get into the park anymore because existing roads have been closed and turned to trails by treehuggers. We Americans are blessed to have the luxurious autos and SUVs of today and we prefer them (which also carry our day's needs)over a smelly bus full of smelly people. On a light note: When I am asked by a tree-huggin' liberal why I have that "big, gas-guzzling" SUV, I say slowly with emphasis: BECAUSE...I...CAN.....it really makes 'em angry *snicker*! LOL!
  • Groups Fighting Road Building In Death Valley   7 years 12 weeks ago
    ...and Edward Abbey was known to always be under the influence of some heavy drugs...not to mention the fact that he was jealous of those who succeeded in life...but aren't most liberals on drugs?? LOL!!
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    A nephew is never without the "10 Essentials" since reading "My Side of the Mountain" Another watches "Animal Planet" worrying about the Panda's habitat. Santa gave nephew number 3 a copy of "My Side of the Mountain." He is researching Alaska for an adventure. A niece is scrambling up rock walls following (and scaring) mom and dad. Give these kids today an inch and they think they’re rulers. I can see them now with they’re kids wandering away from the car, through a young forest that is taking over a decrepit “visitor’s center” towards the canyons edge… “ …adventure, without regard to prudence, profit, self – improvement, learning or any other serious thing.” -Aldo Leopold-