Recent comments

  • National Park Service Helps Expand Bison Range North of Yellowstone National Park   6 years 35 weeks ago

    A quick follow-up on what I wrote.

    By the way, I just received this regarding the number of buffalo. Here’s a bit more news. The slaughter apparently is over for the season on both boundaries. There will be hazing but no more slaughter.

    The NPS is now claiming the number is down to 2,300, not 1,436. However, here is the relevant part of the report. I am going to post it soon to my blog in pdf.

    “In the interior some mixed groups, totaling ~230, moving around Hayden Valley, the Lakeshore and in Pelican Valley. There are approximately 540 bison in the Geyser Basins. There are approximately 58 bison out of the park, west of Hwy 191 and on Hwy 191 itself. There are approximately 88 bison between 191 and Cougar Meadows inside the park. On the Northern Range bison are primarily utilizing Blacktail and Hellroaring slope with limited, but increasing use of Little America. There are now roughly 170 bison on Blacktail Deer Plateau. There has been some movement east from Gardiner to Blacktail with 3 radio collared bison, but movement has continued to the North, including two radio collared bison from Swan Lake. There are approximately 350 bison in the Gardiner basin, including ~135 in the Eagle Creek area.”

    ( 58 ) out of park

    So, how incompetent are they? How is 2,300 when their own report says 1,436? What’s the truth? And, how can anyone feel good about either number?!

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • National Park Service Helps Expand Bison Range North of Yellowstone National Park   6 years 35 weeks ago

    This is an absolutely atrocious deal, and there are a lot of other environmental groups not quoted here (Buffalo Field Campaign, Gallatin Wildlife Association) who think this is a rotten deal. (For instance, read the comments on Ralph Maughan's wildlife Web site).

    One, there already exist public access corridors. Paying off CUT was unnecessary; their few cattle would have been nothing that some fencing couldn't have fixed. This was plain and simple extortion.

    Two, the number of bison let out of the park is minimal, and those going out will still need to be tested, and the females fitted with a vaginal transmitter. Only 25 are being let out of the park. This is essentially not particularly better than what bison west of Yellowstone face at Horse Butte.

    Bison will still be slaughtered going north of Yellowstone, they will still be hazed, and the bison leaving the park will be a controlled population - not a wild one.

    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition and NPCA should be ashamed of themselves for selling the buffalo out. This is not a step; this is a political stunt. It divides support for the buffalo, gives the false impression that progress has been made, and further hurts buffalo. These organizations were very silent until recently; when they appeared, they ended up working as brokers of a deal that only lends credence to the IBMP. It's an atrocity, and I'm fuming at these organizations, as well as with NPS and the governor's office.

    Look, the number killed now is 1,601 (more than 1/3 of the herd). Bison heading north have continued to be killed. The winter has been very harsh, especially the past month and a half. I read something this afternoon that has me stunned (and am looking for a source). Buffalo Field Campaign is reporting that the NPS has released a report saying that there are now only 1,436 bison left in Yellowstone National Park. 1, 436?!!! That's more than 2/3 of all buffalo that existed in the fall. The buffalo are famished. Mothers are giving birth in the park with nowhere to go. They are dying. I have heard anecdotally that the plows are having trouble not just because of the snow but because there are so many dead buffalo and elk buried in the snow that they have to move. These animals would have had a better chance if they had been allowed the habitat to get forage.

    The lie is that this agreement actually provides that. It does not. It separates herds (see Bob Jackson's recent essays on this - I can provide links), makes them dysfunctional.

    They are dying, they are being destroyed - they may recover, but the whole thing will only happen again.

    It is disgusting.

    And, the sad thing is - this isn't really about brucellosis. But, we'll have to pick that up another time.

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • Cell Phones in Wilderness Areas   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Fred, how about panic attacks when things don't go right for you in the backwoods. Having a "signaling device" for protection in my estimation borders on a bit of irrational fear...then panic! Try some backpack trips alone for a while without the "signaling device" and see if the cold sweats subside. To each his own but I wish you luck!

  • Cell Phones in Wilderness Areas   6 years 35 weeks ago

    There is a huge difference between "paranoia" and "preparation". Just as you would never think of hiking without matches and other emergency equipment, I think of my pistol and my signaling device as "emergency equipment". I hope I never need to use them but would never travel without.

  • Cell Phones in Wilderness Areas   6 years 35 weeks ago

    You already know my answer. Even though I doubt if I would have "coverage" in the backcountry, I wouldn't think of hiking without my "silent-mode" cellphone any more than I would go hiking without my concealed pistol. It's common sense: alone and in need of assistance.

    Besides, it would be tragic to have ugly cellphone towers ruining our view in our beautiful parks.

  • Cell Phones in Wilderness Areas   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Fred, your not afraid of your shadow are you? If you are... stay out of the woods!

  • Cell Phones in Wilderness Areas   6 years 35 weeks ago

    going with the technology is incompatible, where do you draw the line? No GPS, compass, watch, etc. Seems to be going WAY overboard to mt thinking

  • Cell Phones in Wilderness Areas   6 years 35 weeks ago

    A true test of your outdoor skills comes with prudent, practical and rational thinking with experience. To hone down on these skills can even be better served and perfected when knowing you have less high tech garbage to haul with you in the back country. The cell phone is another example of crying and whining for help to mama when something go wrong. Ranger Sharsmith, Norman Clyde and Ansel Adams (and his huge camera tripod) did the back country woods with the primitive tools of camping but had the stout hardiest of a true backpacker. I can now hear them laughing about those cell phone cry babies when they get lost.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Valerie, you don't need a harness of any kind to hike Half Dome. The trail is a well trodden highway for hikers until you come to the very last slope, which is sheer rock. There you have the cables to hold on and the traverses to step on. Unless you are doing something extremely stupid, you will not be in the situation to need any technical equipment. Have decent boots, start very early to avoid the crowds as far as possible and do the last slope in your own pace, then you will be perfectly safe.

    But please don't expect too much. The view from half dome is not that much different to that from Sentinel Dome or even Glacier Point. But you can't see half dome from there. Thus making it essentially inferior than other vistas. Its the same in all places: getting on top of the most prominent landmark is nice but you can't see the very same landmark from there, so usually getting to the second or third prominent spot is better as you see the top spots from there.

  • Cell Phones in Wilderness Areas   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Having horse packed into wilderness areas for 35 years and survived numerous accidents including having a mule killed by lightning while I sat on her, I continue to cling to the concept that the root word of wilderness is wild. Venturing into a wilderness area carries certain risks which need to be accepted or one needs to hold closer to civilization. Much of the purpose of a wilderness area is to provide a connection with the past that is lost when modern technology is present. Certain skills need to be honed if one is to have a true wilderness experience and if we can't take the time to develop them we best go someplace those skills aren't needed.

  • Centennial Projects: Do They All Prepare the National Parks for the Next 100 Years?   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Just a couple thoughts after looking back at some of the above responses. This is my first, foolish attempt at participating in one of these newfangled blogs. I look forward to the installation of my chip within a few years, so I won't have to use an external device to merge with the universe.

    Planning is important to ensure that actions lead to the intended result. Sometimes planning documents are thick and you can stack them up in order to peer into the next cubicle. But sometimes they contain a wealth of thought, and examine the issues in depth, before working their way to a variety of solutions. In the Park Service, these possible solutions now include an environmentally preferred alternative.

    Sometimes, arriving at the planned solution takes a long time. Horace Albright visited Chickamauga battlefield in 1915 when it was under the jurisdiction of the War Department. He found it difficult to understand without the aid of a guide or some sort of interpretation. He decided then that the battlefields and historic sites would fit in the national park system better than where they were. It wasn't until 1933 that Franklin Roosevelt reorganized the agencies and brought many historic sites into the National Park Service. A ranger or superintendent who works in a park for five or ten years may not have the time to accomplish some kinds of tasks. The questions for each are: what do they want to accomplish? And, does what they want to accomplish further the long range preservation and interpretation of the park?

    Action without planning is easy. Sometimes it leads in the intended direction, but often it does not. Having been a field ranger, I can look back on my experience and some of the solutions that my coworkers and I suggested for problems without enough analysis. At my current park, visitors often ask where the restrooms are located. A common reaction is to suggest placing a sign that says "Restrooms" with an arrow pointing the way. That solution does help. But the solution that works when visitors don't see the sign is for our staff member to politely direct them to the restrooms.

    I remember a sign I saw at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park maybe 10 years ago that stated: "Visitors are responsible for knowing and obeying park regulations," or words to that effect. I recognize that sometimes federal magistrates have goofy ideas about the importance of signs to provide cover for enforcing regulations, but it's hard to imagine a more hostile greeting for someone entering a national park. On the other hand, it could be the perfect fundraising technique: require all visitors to buy copies of Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations and Titles 5, 16, and 18 of the United States Code and put the profits in the park donation box. And, when they get done reading them, they might know all of the laws they are supposed to obey. Well, except for the state laws. But that's another story. I bet that sign at Rocky Mountain was the product of a sign committee with a vocal ranger member who argued that it was necessary for the proper protection of the park. But it's a poor solution to the problem.

    Mission 66 was the result of meticulous planning led by a man who had been preparing his whole life for such a task. Conrad Wirth's father Theodore was a park manager in Hartford and Minneapolis, where Conrad grew up. Theodore's plan was to provide a park within a half mile of every citizen in Minneapolis and he pretty well realized that goal. Conrad started with the Park Service in the early 1930s, and in 1933 managed to mobilize several hundred thousand CC' boys on the state side of the agency within just a couple months. By 1955, he was ready to lead the entire National Park Service to find ways for people to enjoy parks. The planners of Mission 66 invented the visitor center, and Conrad Wirth came up with the name. The visitor center is really just a tool to provide entry to the park and a offers a translator to help visitors "learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche."

    I think we have yet to come up with a better tool than the visitor center or entrance station to get people into the parks. Money enables lots of things including trails, chain saws, pavement, velcro, goretex, light weight backpack gear, gps units, semiautomatic weapons, and ballistic vests. It also provides for planning and for visitor centers and interpretive media that help people learn about our national parks. We have to weigh the value of each and decide where our resources will go.

  • Bear #399, And Other Grizzlies, Are On the Prowl In Grand Teton National Park   6 years 35 weeks ago

    It's so exciting to see these bears out again. Watching them all summer last year, you sort of feel like you are seeing old Family again when you see them. Lets hope they have a safe and incident free season.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Do you have a photo of your Via Ferrata harness? I am currently looking to purchase one. I thought I saw somewhere on another blog, you or someone had posted a picture of this particular harness and I am having a difficult time trying to locate it.

    I am planning to hike Half Dome the end of June this year.

    I'd greatly appreciate your providing any websites, or photos of suggested harnesses you feel would be most appropriate to hike Half Dome.

    Thanks! V

  • Creature Feature: Hellbenders   6 years 35 weeks ago

    There has been much discussion about the overuse and abuse of the Spring River in and around Mammoth Spring.
    The decline of the Hellbender is taken very seriously by a lot of residents in the area.

    The start of the decline of the Hellbender seems to be caused (perhaps, maybe?) by the introduction of trout into the river.
    Check the dates of initial trout release and the studies of Hellbender population and you too can see a correlation.

    It has been suggested by myself that an area of one mile below dam three be designated as a Hellbender habitat, and that no trout be released, and no large scale canoeing launches from resorts be allowed in the area.

    The raising of Hellbenders for release into the wild cannot logically take place if the river is not wild.

    In the meantime release Hellbenders further down stream concurrently, simutaneouly and then you will have a real study, and a chance of reviving the species in the wild.

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 35 weeks ago

    $103 million? Yikes - are these private interests also providing sustainable funding for the operation and maintenance of this visitor center?

    Its one thing to build these grand facilities. Its another to maintain the funding necessary to keep them going over time and not become a burden to the park and people they are supposed to serve.

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Kurt, this is another example of our historical and natural heritage being short changed by are present administration that has it's priorities backwards (as usual). Scrounging around for private funding for the national parks is a horrendous effort by the most dedicated who care. We can do better and even much better once Bush & Chaney leave leaving the damn disastrous and reckless war in Iraq. May it come soon!

  • Groups Sue Cape Hatteras National Seashore Over ORV Traffic   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Exactly how many times have you been to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore? As a Dare County native, I find it amusing that people who do not live here or visit our beaches very seldom are so quick to judge. We have had many miles of our beaches closed and protected for nesting purposes annually over the past 10 years. People who are born and raised here have an extraordinary sense of environmental issues and how everything we do has some type of effect. The number of birds that are actually nesting here are very few (high teens – low twenties is high estimate). They are more than adequately protected by a professional competent national parks staff. As for the sea turtles, we have one of the best programs to protect them and their nesting sites on the east coast. Most of the people who drive on our beaches are respectful of our environment. The NCDOT has posted signs at every beach access ramp. These signs describe beach driving etiquette. Does everyone always take the time to read them or follow the rules? No. The national park service responds quickly to complaints. These complaints result in written citations to those who are in violation.

    How many of you use chemically engineered fertilizer for your lawn? We get your run off. Your run off lowers the amount of oxygen in our waters killing many species of fish in our estuaries. Many people here are commercial fisherman who rely on these species of fish and their governmentally regulated stocks to make a living. Do you enjoy eating seafood? People living inland in North Carolina have a direct effect on our fish stocks and other environmental issues here in Dare County. The county with the highest cancer rates in the entire state of North Carolina. We don’t tell you how to run your business, farm, or what ever it is you do, so do not tell the residents of Dare County what we should and should not do.

  • Bear #399, And Other Grizzlies, Are On the Prowl In Grand Teton National Park   6 years 35 weeks ago

    I just love this photo...just lumbering along after a deep sleep. Bring out the ankle bells and spray! Yellowstone slowly awakes! Let's just hope that old bear number 399 and her cubs survive another rambunctious tourist season. Bear canisters...please!

  • Who Visits Alaska's National Parks?   6 years 35 weeks ago

    I've made 2 trips to AK so far and will be going again this year. My first trip was a multi-sport/touring trip that covered from Anchorage to Seward, Lake Clark NP, Whittier, Mat-Su Valley, Denali, and various points in between. Last year I did a raft/hike trip in the Arctic Refuge (Kongakut River); going again this year for same (Hulahula River - Brooks range to Coastal Plain). I love AK and have plans for several more trips , hopefully of at least a month duration.

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 35 weeks ago

    In theory, that's what the Centennial Challenge is all about...We should get an idea of how successful that is in the not-too-distant future when Interior/NPS announces the first round of funded projects. The concern, of course, is that while there are numerous needs across the park system, how many donors will want to underwrite a sewer system or a restroom?

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 35 weeks ago

    So, if such private donations are so forthcoming for the construction of visitor's centers, perhaps there is a way to channel that money into other priorities?

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 35 weeks ago

    The Gettysburg VC largely was given birth by private donations, while the Blue Ridge center was the largess of former U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor, R-NC, who seemed to have his funding priorities upside down. Was a facility of that stature and expense -- nearly $10 million -- needed? At a park that has roughly 45 staff vacancies because it can't afford them?

    Private contributions helped fund the Grand Teton center, though I can't recall exactly how much. There's also a new visitor center being built at Old Faithful in Yellowstone. Some $15 million of the $27 million price tag was raised by the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

    I can say the old Grand Teton and Old Faithful visitor centers badly needed to be replaced. And if not for private funds, the new facilities would not be so, shall we say, grand.

    There indeed are myriad funding needs across the park system, and at times it seems only those that can find a friend in the private sector get the money they need.

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 35 weeks ago

    For all the talk of the National Park Service being so under-funded, it seems like there are an awful lot of Vistitor's Centers projects underway. There's a new one at Grand Teton, two new ones at Yellowstone, a new destination center on the Blue Ridge Parkway... it would be interesting to know just how many of them there have been. Now granted, the existing Visitors Center at Gettysburg was definitely becoming over-matched, as anyone who has visited on a summer weekend can attest. Nevertheless, should all these new Visitors Centers be the priority for the Park Service's scarce funding dollars?

  • Should Canyon de Chelly Be Given to the Navajo Nation?   6 years 35 weeks ago

    I'm interested in the comment from the National Park Service that "Canyon de Chelly is unique among National Park Service units, as it is comprised entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land." I'm curious as to why Navajo National Manument and Hubbel Trading Post NHS don't also meet the same criteria? Additionally, Hohokam Pima National Monument is also located entirely on the Gila River Indian Reservation.

    To me it seems that it would be a shame for Canyon de Chelly to lose the recognition of National Park Service. I can only hope that a suitable equitable arrangement is worked out between the National Park Service and the Navajo Nation to bother respect the rights and history of the Navajo Nation, as well embracing the significance of Canyon de Chelly that makes it part of the national patrimony for all Americans.

  • Should Canyon de Chelly Be Given to the Navajo Nation?   6 years 35 weeks ago

    The Canyon and its archaeological significance is interesting and significant for all Americans: not only Navajos. The NPS can do a better job of managing it for accessibility to all Americans than the tribe can. Although the tribe certainly has important ties to the area, it does not have the mission to make it's tribal land available to the public as much as the NPS has the mandate to make its units available. That said, the involvement of tribal members in giving tours and managing the area is definitely appropriate and valuable to everyone. I took a night-time tour of the area a few years back. The Navajo guide did a very good job of guiding and narrating the tour. However, his level of administration and efficiency was well below the standards that the NPS brings to its duties.