Recent comments

  • Hanna Forcing Evacuations, Closures at Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout National Seashores   6 years 29 weeks ago

    While you follow the progress of the relatively wimpy Hannah, you might want to keep your eye on the hurricane that's following it in the Atlantic. Here's what my unimpeachable source said about Hurricane Ike yesterday morning (September 4):

    Direct from the Scare the Pants off and Cry like Baby Department:
    Hurricane Ike exploded overnight into a 135 kt hurricane in the Central
    Atlantic. Ike should weaken from 100 car freight train status to 75 car
    freight train status over the next day or so. The long range models
    continue Ike westward into the southern Bahamas over the weekend and
    then an ominous, scary music here, turn to the north and along the east
    US coast as a 100-110 kt hurricane. Wunderbar. Charming.

    As you can see, my source (who has Ph.D.-enhanced weather-analytical skills) has a warped sense of humor. I won't tell you her name, but her initials are Madilyn Fletcher. Stay tuned.

    The ferocious-looking Hurricane Ike weakened to a Category 3 storm early today (September 5), but the National Hurricane Center still considers it dangerous.

  • Big Bend National Park: Is It Ready For A Mountain Bike Trail?   6 years 29 weeks ago

    I stumbled across this site while researching a trip to Texas for some mountain biking that we want to take in the fall. I appreciate the thoughtful approach the poster and commenters have taken to what is generally a contentious issue. My wife and I (mid-30's) are avid mountain bikers in the DC area. While I can't speak to anyone else's experience and thus don't want to extrapolate from anecdotes, mountain biking (which we picked up about 5 years ago) made me understand just how precious and important our parks are. Indeed, thanks to the parks we've visited for MTB-specific trips, I now give about 5% of my annual income to park systems, state and federal. Seems like the right thing to do in light of how much I enjoy just being in them.

    I know many people rightly condemn the damage (and occasional, but rare, rudeness) that thoughtless or careless riders can inflict on park systems. Moreover, one commenter noted correctly that there is a slippery slope angle to making exceptions to generate interest in the parks. We spent New Year's '08 XC skiing in backcountry Yellowstone and the snowmobiles -- though rare -- were unfortunate. That said, people who genuinely care about mountain biking and the parks (in my own experience, the vast majority) rigorously self-police, and everywhere we've gone it's been pretty effective. So, I'd love to see a responsible, respectful trail system set up in Big Bend. If it has to 5 ft wide, so be it (of course we'd prefer a foot and a half, but we'll take what we can get!). Looking forward to seeing Big Bend for the first time this October!

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 29 weeks ago

    Perhaps we oughta tear up the treaty and re-commission the Calvary. Then finish the job.

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 29 weeks ago

    The U.S. doesn't really have to give the Indians anything. This has been proven historically, to everyone's satisfaction. It does not have to accord them human rights, and it does not have to honor treaties it signed with them. It has violated both, and gotten away with it.

    However, the U.S. and it's citizens do have an epochal opportunity, to rise to a standard of behavior that is more in keeping with the self-image to which they would like to become accustomed. By doing something right in those situations where possibilities still offer themselves, we could do ourselves a huge favor. We could make a step in the direction of becoming what we like to think we are, but in fact are not.

    Don't think of it as an Indian-issue. Think about the better principles that form the foundations of your country. Think about the core values that guide your personal life.

    Looking at it that way makes it pretty simple, really; we will all be much better off, following through on what our principles & values tell us is right.

    Whatever it costs us will be repaid over & over, forever, in a coin that never depreciates.

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 29 weeks ago

    Damn right the Black Hills belong to the great Lakota Nation...without a doubt! Plus, Custer had it coming with those giant mosquito sticks. My dear white mother was born in the Dakota's in the early 1900's and testifies about the horrible brutality that the Lakota's suffered under. Slow cruel systematic genocide mark with grave indifference by many Americans during that period. The terrible winters were especially cruel and bitter which decimated much of the Lakota Nation. The sacred land of the Black Hills in part is the soul of the Lakota Nation and will always be. Long live AIM!

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 29 weeks ago

    I have been to the Black Hills a number of times, and I cherish it's beauty. We have it as a result of a grave injustice. That is the truth of it. Is there not some way to share administration / responsibility for that area to acknowledge the Lakotas spiritual heritage and hold that land in trust as the treasure that it is. Restrictions on some areas or holy times. Showing some respect to them.and their culture. The pages of history are written in blood, but maybe we can edit them with peace and honor.

    I read this site all the time. You do a good job of keeping people informed.

  • Interior Officials Want to Allow Concealed Carry in the National Parks   6 years 29 weeks ago

    People are already carrying concealed weapons, getting rid of this rediculous law just makes it legal. 2nd ammendment Duh!

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 29 weeks ago

    Recommended reading: Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown. Very moving and well written book.

    I recently visited Mount Rushmore, and it was moving in all the ways one would expect. However knowing its history and the history of American Indians, particularly in the Dakotas, it is hard to feel at peace with the atrocities our government has committed in order to obtain Paha Sapa- it amounts to nothing short of genocide.

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 29 weeks ago

    When are we going to finally come to terms with the reality of US history? This constant denial of the aggressive history inflicted on Native Americans, which includes early attempts at biological warfare, genocide, stealing, lying, cheating and rape of a once pristine land; impedes our progress and relations more than any other single factor, in my opinion. This country is stuck. Truth, acceptance of reality and amends is what a responsible, intelligent government practices; how long is the US going to look the other way (perhaps it continues to do so because many of the above horrors are still in practice by the US today.) Total amends may never be possible, alcoholism, the disease of greed and the complete disregard for nature is rampant now. However, an attempt to face the truth about the errors of the humans who arrived from Europe and began their outrageous Eminent Domain may at least heal some of the deep wounds that ALL the people of this land suffer whether they are conscious of this or not. I think the Mt. Rushmore Monument is a hideous reminder of the numerous crimes committed against the natural world and Native Americans. The US's huge adolescent ego must surrender to wisdom or our continued demise is almost certain.

  • Having Suffered Severe Storm Damage, a Witness Tree at Gettysburg National Military Park is Unlikely to Survive   6 years 29 weeks ago

    Are you sure is the right link? That's what pops up when I click on "this site" on your August 11 posting. [Ed. Sorry. I deleted the link to the "after" site because the relevant story about the damaged tree is no longer available at the site.]

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 29 weeks ago

    I recommend that we give the land back -- to whoever the Indians took it from.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 29 weeks ago

    I know everyone has probably seen the article by now. But those wo haven't....

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 29 weeks ago

    You'll be hard pressed to find one treaty that the US goverment has honored in the past 200 years with ANY Native American tribe, regardless of content and motivation. This country was "settled" by homesteaders in the name of Eminent Domain, with little or actually no regard for peoples already in place across the land. And ever since that expansion the rights, property and even some of the people themselves have been literally stolen by consent of those empowered in Washington. I guess being a thief never goes out of style, politically speaking.

    It's a bit after the fact, but what would the current reaction in the world community be to, say, our government backing away from signed agreements with the G8, UN, OPEC, and the like? Oh wait a minute, we haven't paid UN dues for decades, or supported their "peace keeping" efforts, beyond that is, our rhetoric. And we're on record as saying that OTHER nations should lead the movement to reduce fossil fuel emissions, on the grounds that we are currently lacking the internal mechanisms to do so "economically". And here I thought the world-wide disdain for our citizenry was unjustified. My bad.

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   6 years 29 weeks ago

    So lets leave our cameras behind while we are at it, down with flash lights and plastic cookware! and thermarest mattresses
    One thing that bugs me about the 'wilderness experience' is us ultralight hikers who are forced to shave weight and carry devices to aid us in our travels such as PLB's and GPS units are frowned upon by those who can afford to bring in big groups of horses with dutch ovens massive coolers chairs, thick heavy canvas tens, cots, lanterns, ect ect. What kind of 'wilderness' experience is that!?

    Frankly if I want to sit on a rock and use my ipod in the middle of the wilderness area I should be left alone! after all how much of a wilderness experience is it for me anyways to have to wade through all the horse sh** on my hike up there from all the horses trampling up the trail and making it a fly infested highway in the middle of a wilderness area.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 29 weeks ago


    It might work, but we'll have to do a blind taste-test for the invitees. I'll tell 'em its diet-lean ground round initially so nobody's the wiser. When everybody has their gullet filled and the truth comes out, clear the path to the vomitorium..........

  • Find Me, Spot. Staying Found in The National Parks   6 years 29 weeks ago

    the problem is not the existance of the device but rather the publics preception as to what a emergency is. This is a great tool and will save many lives. I plan on taking a 3 month road trip to alaska in the future with numerous long hikes and kayak trips along the way, being that I am traveling solo, I am planing on bringing this along to tell others where I am, and have a way to call for help if the situation should exceed my capability.

    Promise you, if you were in a hiking group with Ranger Boyers and the situation reached a point where he was faced with the choice of activating the beacon, or death, he would fire that peice of technology right up. Hes right though, these beacons should not be used for twisted ankles and minor broken bones, but there is a time and a place for them. Education is the key not disdain of the device.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 29 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker, if you're proposing a bison and elk roast, just name the date and location!

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 29 weeks ago

    Before anybody gets their shorts in a knot over this rare bacterial infection, consider the following:

    Reservoirs include cattle, swine, goats, sheep, dogs and various wildlife species infected with the organism. Wildlife species found infected include bison, feral hogs, elk, caribou,
    deer and coyotes. So maybe we should consider killing off all the sheep, goats, dogs and various other small mammals if we, as the article so eloquently states, intend to claim the continent as "disease free" within the coming 10 year period. Fat chance of either happening in our lifetime......

    Brucella occurs worldwide, especially in Mediterranean countries, the Middle East countries, India, Central Asia and Latin America. Over 100 cases are reported in the
    United States annually. From 1990-1996, five cases were confirmed in Ohio. Brucellosis infection in the United States is, for the most part, an occupational disease of stockyard,
    farm, and slaughterhouse workers, butchers and veterinarians. Which makes this about as common and dangerous as West Nile Virus and Asian Bird Flu. Which by the
    way are viral infections, and as such have no currently viable antidote, unlike the widely available and highly effective antibiotics for brucella.

    The infection is usually contracted by handling livestock fetuses and afterbirth or by contact with vaginal secretions, blood, urine and carcasses of infected animals. Infection
    can also be acquired by the ingestion of raw milk or unpasteurized cheese from infected cows, sheep and goats. Airborne spread of the bacteria has also been documented.
    Transmission has occurred in the laboratory environment. Persons such as veterinarians, farmers and their assistants may be inadvertently inoculated with the Brucella organism
    when using the brucellosis vaccine to vaccinate cattle. Person-to-person transmission has been reported but very rare. Anybody out there ever handled or even been near
    a livestock afterbirth, vaginal secretion, blood or urine? I thought not......the airborne transmitted option is indeed possible, but by current counts, less than .001%
    of human cases are thought to be traced to this vector.

    I've been made sport of in the past for suggesting the methane component of cattle exhaust is more of a problem with the ozone layer than you give it credit for, and that by far the healthiest red meat, in terms of highest protein per gram and lowest cholesterol and overall fat content is buffalo meat. Which tastes far better than cattle meat also, but that's a personal opinion. Both bison and elk are far better health choices than is cow, healthier than both turkey and chicken. But here I go again taking on another long-standing special interest group and their propaganda machine.

    EAT BUFFALO.....REAL MEAT FOR REAL PEOPLE. Never again ask, "Where's the beef?"

  • Big Bend National Park: Is It Ready For A Mountain Bike Trail?   6 years 29 weeks ago

    Good questions, Kurt.
    All NPs offer opportunities for some activities; that doesn't mean all/some NPs should accommodate all activities.
    I love Big Bend, for its open spaces, ruggedness, aloneness. I think it is big enough that a biking trail would not interfere with other uses -- horseback riding (my thing), hiking, etc. It goes without saying (or should) that the trail must be placed and constructed so it doesn't encourage erosion, must be maintained, and the users must take responsibility for their behavior (trash, staying on the trail, etc.).
    I say all this despite the fact that I don't especially like mountain bikers, particularly the really thoughtless, careless one that came jouncing around a blind curve on a horses-only trail in one of our state parks several years ago, spooking our horses and getting several of us hurt. But I know most aren't like that.
    In answer to your larger question, no, I don't think every other NP should drop every restriction or encourage every type of recreational activity. Each is its own situation -- size, locale, types of plants and wildlife, potential impact of the activity on the park and on current users -- all these and more. We must not turn our NPs into Disneylands with real trees! That doesn't mean we shouldn't be constantly looking at each individual park to see what activities might be added, or deleted for lack of interest.
    I'm a big fan of vast open spaces, and I generally dislike the sweaty masses with flip-flops and screaming kids. BUT, we do need them. First because they help pay the NP tab, both through use fees and through their taxes, and second, because some of them will inevitably connect somehow with the larger park experience. They'll "get it" and become our next generation of park lovers and supporters.

  • Big Bend National Park: Is It Ready For A Mountain Bike Trail?   6 years 29 weeks ago

    Mark raises an intriguing question (although it's one that's been touched on previously). It revolves around his statement that adding mountain biking trails "holds the promise of bringing many new NPS supporters into the fold."

    Are we to assume that mountain bikers could care less about national parks unless they can ride off-road -- and preferably on single-track trails -- through them?

    In the past at least one commenter has pointed out that the national parks need all the advocates they can muster, and that mountain bikers, being somewhat innocuous on the landscape (a point that can be debated), should be courted.

    So should a concession here and one there be allowed in the name of luring advocates for the parks?

    Should Yellowstone drop its prohibition to paddlers on the Firehole, Madison, Gibbon, Lamar and Yellowstone rivers to lure more advocates who like to paddle? Should prohibitions against mechanized travel in wilderness and recommended wilderness in parks be dropped to lure more ATV and snowmobile users in the name of building park advocates? What about prohibitions against personal watercraft?

    Is it so difficult to find advocates for the parks simply because of the qualities they preserve/conserve and showcase, and not because of what recreational add-ons folks can bring to them?

    Are there not already enough multi-use lands throughout the state parks, national forests, BLM lands, and even the National Park System, to meet the needs of all these varying interests, or must the National Park Service take on an across-the-board multi-use mission as well?

  • Park Police Arrest Men Who Brought a Loaded Submachine Gun to a Playground in National Capital Parks-East   6 years 29 weeks ago

    How come the NPS arrests people like this (which they should) and allows things like what goes on a Fire Island National Seashore (see below). Aren't these actions crimes? Should the NPS be looking the other way and letting this happen in view of visitors, including kids, in a national park?

    FINS Citations Spark Concern, Even Outrage
    Written by Michael K. Lavers
    Sunday, July 06, 2008

    With the height of the all too-short summer season less than a week away, the news of possible arrests inside the Meatrack, a strip of beach between Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines that has long been a popular cruising spot for gay men, sent shock waves through the two hamlets. The Fire Island National Seashore [FINS], which maintains jurisdiction over the Meatrack, also known as the Carrington Tract, was quick to point out its rangers made no arrests. It did confirm to the News, however, that they cited two people for disorderly conduct on June 15. Rangers restrained one of these men after he allegedly threw a substance into the weeds and attempted to run away. They cited him for possession of a controlled substance.

    Three additional people received citations for disorderly conduct on June 21 for allegedly engaging in sexual activity within view of the trail. FINS spokesperson Paula Valentine categorically denied that any raids or targeted policing of gay men inside the Meatrack motivated these citations. She said the rangers issued them while on what she described as routine patrols—although the first two were issued during an orientation tour for new FINS seasonal staffers.

    "They're there to protect resources and protect people," Valentine said. "If they come across people engaged in activities that are inappropriate for a public place, they are going to have to respond to them."

    She further noted FINS received additional funds from the National Parks Service to put more rangers on the beach this season. The seashore has also used this money to provide lifeguards on Barrett Beach, additional canoe and guided programs at both Watch Hill and the Sunken Forest and to resurface the boardwalk at Sailors Haven.

    FINS again defended its rangers' actions. "Park rangers check for litter and vandalism and impacts to wildlife," according to a statement released to journalists after a number of gay bloggers and Web sites began to report on what allegedly took place. "Park rangers are also there to provide first aid and emergency medical services. But when an illegal activity is encountered, they are obligated to do their jobs as federal law enforcement officers."

    The citations, which many in both the Pines and the Grove initially thought were arrests, sparked concern and even anger among a number of local residents. The Suffolk County Police Department arrested dozens of gay men during raids in the 1960s on sodomy, indecent exposure and other charges. Local activism eventually stopped these Meatrack incursions, but the recent citations brought the issue back to the forefront for some. "For 40 years, [things have] been running smoothly here," East End resident Philip Otten told the News on a recent Tuesday night at Island Breeze in the Grove. "People come here because of the freedom."

    Mid-week patrons at Low Tea and Sip n' Twirl in the Pines also discussed the citations—and resulting hubbub—as they enjoyed their beers and cocktails. "It's absolutely frustrating," one Pines resident, who identified himself as Andy, said. "This is an adult island. This is an island about non-censorship. People want to be free."

    FINS Acting Superintendent Sean McGuinness met with members of both the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association and the Cherry Grove Property Owners Association to address local concerns. CGPOA President Larry Lane said McGuinness stressed to him "the issue is resolved" and "we should not have any further problems."

    "I'm satisfied for the moment," Lane said. "We're hoping there will be no further problems."
    Valentine further stressed FINS will continue to work with both FIPPOA and CGPOA to respond to any further concerns. "The key thing is mutual respect on both sides, from every aspect," she said.

  • The Wilderness Act At Age 44   6 years 29 weeks ago

    Nice essay, Kurt. Can anyone imagine such a visionary piece of legislation being passed in today's political
    climate? Me memory's fadin', but I seem to recall from '60s Sierra Club Bulletins that top NPS brass lobbied
    against inclusion as the Wilderness Act was being passed? An "increasing population", with it's
    ever-increasing economic aspirations, may have to settle for whatever wild lands escape the frenzy,
    designated or not. The best definition of 'real wilderness' I ever heard was 'a place with a very high
    probability of your body never being found'.

    "For while there is quite a lot of national park landscape that arguably would qualify for wilderness
    designation, until that designation is bestowed by Congress these lands are open to development, to road
    building, and to off-road vehicle travel."

    Ed Abbey long ago characterized the NPS as divided into preservationist and development camps, varying in
    relative strength from unit to unit. I think this is still a fair generalization today and a factor in the slow pace of wilderness designation. Even in NPS designated wilderness, the development faction is sometimes still fighting rear-guard actions.

    A good example is Ted's beloved Olympic NP, where some major trails on the map were so seldom maintained by Park crews as to be functionally abandoned. At the same time, new high-standard frontcountry 'Nature Trails' were built almost every year for two decades. Olympic is arguably our finest 'real wilderness' south of Canada,
    but man's urge to tame and 'improve' it has resulted in a trail inventory totaling over 11,000 manmade
    structures, including several hundred bridges and at least eight miles of boardwalk. Five major trail bridges, costing almost a half million in the 1990's, were so poorly designed (in-house) that they were destroyed by snow within a very few years, while older bridges survived.

    The Peninsula chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen has for many years been allowed to carry chainsaws and
    firearms, for 'trail maintenance' and 'euthanasia of injured animals'. This management policy has resulted
    in the Park purchasing quite a few dead horses. The real cause of death in many cases was falling off way
    trails where horses had no business being. I guess ORV enthusiasts aren't the only ones who like to 'see what
    this baby can do'. This 'upgrading' is just another form of wilderness development.

    The local Park Association threatened to file suit over the replacement of damaged backcountry shelters with non-historic prefab designs. Olympic's Wilderness Management Plan has been written for over a decade, even copied, modified and approved by other NPS units, but has yet to be approved by Olympic Park management. I believe they were sued over the delay by The Wilderness Society, but they're still stalling.

    It's amazing how the NPS gets away with whining about the humongous 'maintenance backlog' when much of the
    list is actually desired development, and much of the real maintenance on it was deferred because the money
    and labor resources were transferred to past development. But then, few NPS managers ever got promoted to
    Hawaii or Virgin Islands for just taking care of what was already there at their current Park.

  • Big Bend National Park: Is It Ready For A Mountain Bike Trail?   6 years 29 weeks ago

    As an unabashed fan of adding more shared-use trails to national parks, I have to thank "Barky" for a well-considered message. Trail design and construction do more to determine the impacts of recreation than whether the traffic comes from foot travel, bicycles or equestrian use. Adding well-considered mountain biking trails to appropriate national parks -- as determined by on-the-ground field staff -- holds the promise of bringing many new NPS supporters into the fold.

    As for the Traveler's assertion that the Big Bend trail has to be five feet wide to accept bike traffic ... well there are plenty of mountain bikers who would much rather see the trail narrowed to the 18-inch tread size normally associated with singletrack mountain biking. But those design parameters are best left for the Big Bend trail-building staff to determine -- and that's exactly how things are proceeding in the park.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 29 weeks ago


    While writing an earlier response I considered including reference to "Cervid Wasting Disease", CWD. Looking at web-references about this, I saw mention of:

    • a Canadian national initiative to revive their formerly large deer etc wild game meat industry, and...
    • a reference to an eastern US State's imported deer meat & slaughter regulations, indicating the existence of a meaningful industry.

    It is probably that we could follow your suggestion on a substantial scale.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 29 weeks ago

    Lets do this in reverse; kill all of the cattle and raise buffalo and elk. I understand that their meat is better for us anyway. Ted Turner has been trying to convince us of this for years.