Recent comments

  • Coronado Memorial And Drug Runners   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Or maybe a shaming campaign directed at those who like to smoke a little weed in their backcountry tents. "This is your National Park on drugs".
  • Coronado Memorial And Drug Runners   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Ranger X, placing high taxes on 'legal' marijuana, while legalizing the product would only encourage the continued growing of cheaper 'untaxed' marijuana. As the ranger in the article said the vehicle barriers need to be extended. And the border fence needs to be built. And marijuana users rather than getting no penalty or a slap on the wrist, need to be fined heavily to pay for the damage to the parks that their drug usage has caused.
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Sorry, I meant Carol... I have been a bit disoriented -
  • Coronado Memorial And Drug Runners   7 years 12 weeks ago
    U.S. growers produce nearly $35 billion worth of marijuana annually, making the illegal drug the country's largest cash crop, bigger than corn and wheat combined. What if the government legalized marijuana and taxed it at 15%? We could use the money to fully fund the park service, and then maybe people would stop smuggling pot in through parks and stop growing it in parks like Sequoia, Redwood, and Point Reyes. What do you think?
  • Coronado Memorial And Drug Runners   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Kurt-- We can throw all the money and hordes of rangers, DEA agents, Homeland Security types and National Guard troops at this problem, but until we dry up this nation's insatiable appetite for drugs and take the profit out of smuggling, nothing is going to stop the flow of drugs across the border. I have deep admiration for the NPS staff that works at Organ Pipe, Coronado, Chiricahua, Big Bend, Chamizal,and Amistad. They are on the front lines of a battle over which they have little control and in which they are often outgunned, outfinanced, and outmanned. It's not a pretty picture.
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Ranger X, I agree with you that Locke would have agreed with the national parks movement; as I mentioned, I don't. I believe in the places; I believe in a love for and duty to those places. I don't believe in national parks. I also read Locke as saying something akin to your interpretation, but that actually is consistent with the problem. The commons of modern society arise out of the consortium of private properties; they are still rooted in the same thing. So, I don't really care whether the property rights nuts or the parks nuts are more Lockean; I think they both root in the same fundamental errors of his philosophy. But, that's for another time. Perhaps, this weekend...I need the time to write, which at the moment I don't have. Jim
  • Who Is the "Fringe Group" Behind the Yosemite Suit?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    And just who in the hell decides what constitutes a "fring" group?" The night shift copy editor? A guy in the composing room?
  • Top 3 Threats to the National Park Service   7 years 12 weeks ago
    Lots of good comments already! I certainly agree that you've identified 3 key threats. Some of the above discussion touches to one degree or another on the theme of the book, "Last Child in the Woods." During the years since my own NPS career started in 1971, I certainly saw a gradual change among many park visitors in attitudes about and understanding of the natural world. That problem also extends to appreciation of historic resources and our national culture.

    Here's one example: Last year my wife and I helped with a trip to Washington, D.C. by a group of 50 students in a college choir from Texas. The students had 5 days in the city, and in between various performances and the usual tours had several free afternoons to wander all of the sights around the National Mall or anywhere else in the vicinity of downtown Washington.
    Anyone who has been there knows you could spend a week just seeing the various Smithsonian facilities, not to mention other national landmarks.

    On their second day in town, I discovered one student had lugged his laptop computer with him into town, so he could spend his free time playing video games. His explanation was that there was "not anything to do" in Washington, D.C.

    I don't have the answer, but I fear that attitude sums up how much some (most?) of the current generation is out of touch with the values that our parks have represented in the past. Finding a way to deal with this cultural shift seems critical to the future of our national park system, if it's to continue to bear any resemblance to the system most of us have known.
  • Who Is the "Fringe Group" Behind the Yosemite Suit?   7 years 12 weeks ago
    In 1892, John Muir founded a "fringe" group movement with only 182 members. The group was called the Sierra Club and pushed for the creation of the National Park Service and establishment and preservation of many iconic parks. Real change often seems to come from the so-called fringe.
  • Relevancy in the Parks Today   7 years 12 weeks ago
    It is a dilemma isn't it. Because as parks become more and more overrun and transportation in the parks becomes more and more regimented, I'm less likely to go. It's the 'nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded' conundrum.
  • 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 13 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 13 weeks ago
    Uh...Snowbirdie...that's SIERRA not Sierra's...buy yourself a Harbrace!*snicker*
  • Have National Parks Become Passe?   7 years 13 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 13 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 13 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.