Recent comments

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

    Jim Macdonald et al;

    We will know that the buffalo have recovered and are safe, when they take their place beside other large herbivores in the State Hunting Regulations. As the animal spreads from its present restricted locations it will become a valued & sought-after big-game species.

    Indeed, experience in Yellowstone shows that it is important to thin & control buffalo, to forestall several problems. Their instinct to form into large, dense herds makes them extra-picturesque, but it also exacerbates a range of issues that naturally arise with large grazing animals. Heavy trampling-impact, over-grazing, disease-transmission, among other challenges ... most of which can be readily ameliorated by hunting.

    I realize that many who read The National Parks Traveler are not hunters, and some oppose hunting on philosophical grounds. However, to reach the goal we all share, of expanding the habitat available to maintain or restore especially the larger species which have been excessively reduced or extirpated, it is crucial to integrate multi-purpose lands into a broader & larger habitat-management perspective. It is unrealistic to expect that as a general case, such expanded management practices will entail any Park-like ban on hunting. Indeed, hunting remains under discussion even for some Park situations.

    There is an Alaska buffalo hunt. Their herd is maintained at 400-500 head. It was established in the 1920s, in the vicinity of Delta Junction. Later (1970s), an agricultural development of some 10s of thousands of acres was created in the same area (for much the same reasons it was selected for the buffalo herd). Conflicts between the herd and the barley farmers have lead to valuable experience with the challenge of maintaining such a commanding species in the presence of economic & infrastructure assets. The Delta herd also shows that a population of Plains Buffalo can be maintained within a designated area, and not spread elsewhere. These are important precedents, for those who would like to see buffalo more-widely reintroduced.

    It may be a significant side-thread of this topic, that Alaska is actively investigating the prospect of re-introducing Wood Buffalo (extirpated there). This species is still available in Canada. They differ from Plains Buffalo in lacking the strong herding instinct. They scatter on the land, and are better-adapted to use brushy & forested habitat ('the woods'). They are also significantly larger than the Plains variety.

    It is probably worth bearing in mind that in most of the potential habitat that we have available for bison, Wood Buffalo would be a better natural bet than the Plains type, and would probably pose less of a management challenge.

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

    Good research Jim! We must not let bona fide historians distort or de-sanitize the rich cultural history of the great Lakota Nation...even if means using the word "genocide" to it's most appropriate means.

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


    My pleasure. When I saw what had happened that day, I had to document it. What's going on down there right this minute from Hanna has to be as bad or worse.

    I hope these pictures do help others not familiar with the area to understand what so many of us have been trying to describe this summer.

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

    Sad but true: Nature bats last!

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

    On the issue of Washington and Jefferson, both make genocidal comments on indigenous tribes as well. Washington is often seen as less so because he chose to negotiate with tribes as sovereign nations rather than force war on them. However, for Washington, letters show this was a practical consideration more than anything bordering on respect for the tribes. Washington had promised all this land for the veterans of the Revolutionary War, but the problem was that this land was controlled by indigenous tribes. He had two choices - he could start another war or he could negotiate. He figured it would be far easier and less costly to negotiate, to take by treaty for far less blood than what could be taken by war.

    •“For I repeat it, again, and I am clear in my opinion, that policy and economy point very strongly to the expediency of being upon good terms with the Indians, and the propriety of purchasing their Lands in preference to attempting to drive them by force of arms out of their Country; which as we have already experienced is like driving the Wild Beasts of the Forest which will return as soon as the pursuit is at an end and fall perhaps on those that are left there; when the gradual extension of our Settlements will as certainly cause the Savage as the Wolf to retire; both being beasts of prey tho’they differ in shape. In a word there is nothing to be obtained by an Indian War but the Soil they live on and this can be had by purchase at less expense, and without that bloodshed, and those distresses which helpless Women and Children are made partakers of in all kinds of disputes with them.”–George Washington, Letter to James Duane, September 7, 1783,

    Jefferson was extremely hostile toward indigenous people and said outright that he would annihilate every single Native American if they attack the United States and not succumb to treaty making:

    •" ...if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe we will never lay it down tilthat tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the war they will kill some of us; But we will destroy all of -them. Adjuring them, therefore, if they wish to remain on the land which covers the bones of their fathers, to keep the peace with a people who ask their friendship without needing it, who wish to avoid war without fearing it. In war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.”–Thomas Jefferson, “To the Secretary at War [Henry Dearborn],”August 28, 1807,

    And, as has been noted, Lincoln and T. Roosevelt were not any better.

    It's not for any of us to say what the Lakota might do with Mt. Rushmore, but I cringe every time I have seen the monument. It must be the ultimate branding of the conquest of this country over the land that I can imagine. I guess it would be like putting a temple to James Polk in the Grand Canyon.

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

  • Yellowstone National Park Reporting Bullish Visitation   6 years 29 weeks ago

    I think we need to remember that while gas prices here are high, they're at least half of what the Europeans pay at home, so that alone is quite a savings for them. That, plus the weak dollar, has made American vacations -- and SUVs -- very affordable for them this year.

  • Yellowstone National Park Reporting Bullish Visitation   6 years 29 weeks ago

    To add to the anecdotal evidence, I spent two weeks this summer as a volunteer host at the Museum of the National Park Ranger at Norris in Yellowstone. I was stunned by the number of foreign visitors who came to the musuem. I regularly heard French and German, some Spanish, and several unknown languages, probably among them Dutch, spoken on almost every day. It reminded me of several stops at Mather Point in Grand Canyon during which I was sure that I was the only native English speaker at the overlook.

    Rick Smith

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

    Thanks for sharing the pictures, Dap. Helps put things in context.

  • Yellowstone National Park Reporting Bullish Visitation   6 years 29 weeks ago

    we were simply shocked last week by the huge, huge numbers of SUVs driving through Yellowstone, presumably a great number being rental cars.

    Same experience for us when we visited in early August. That's one of the reasons I can't get myself to accept the gas-price theories of visitation decline. In all of the National Parks we visited it was bumper-to-bumber RV's with a lot of SUV's thrown in. Compared to my last trip out west in the 90's, it seems the amount of RV's has exploded. I think a lot of people complain about gas, but I wonder how many actually change their habits.

    At Artists Point in Yellowstone, Anglophones were a minority - and a relatively small one at that! German definitely carried the day, with a hefty dose of French. My wife and I were playing a game of seeing how far we'd have to walk before hearing the next English words. Out of the many hundreds of people we encountered in our 15 minutes there, I'd say a liberal estimate would be 20% were English-speaking. Anecdotal, to be sure, but it's too universally noticed not to point to a trend.

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

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

    These are 2 turtle nest enclosures on Ramp 49 to the SW in Frisco, NC. Pictures were taken ~9:30AM on Labor Day Monday, just after high tide. Had to run along the toe of the dune as the beach was a salt river. The smaller in the foreground in not in its hatch window, while the larger one is. I don't know what this type of repeated flooding means to the eggs, but I've read recently that rain storms can drown them.

    Looks like Hannah's landfall coincided with low tide, so any damage will be minimalized somewhat. South beach should still see the worst of it, being a south facer.

    These pictures show just how volatile even such small weather event can be in this part of the world. Just imagine what such overwashes mean to bird nests. 2008 has actually been a pretty calm year, until just recently.

    Sorry if these pictures come in very large. This was my first try at link-uploading photos.

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

    Ted et al,

    I just don't know enough about the topography of the proposed trail sites to weigh in on the width issue. I know of a number of state parks that have narrow multi-use trails, including some trails in the GW National Forest in Maryland and Virginia (not a park, of course), and most of the state parks permit bikes on the trails provided there's been no rain in the previous 48 hours (a good rule). On such trails I worry more about horses than anything else. As someone noted earlier, the dangers are quite real.

    As for the fun of MTB being in the adrenaline high, I agree in part -- nothing like a screaming downhill. That said, some of the most fun I have biking comes from a nice rolling ride through the spectacular scenery just as the sun starts to drop or rise. Red Rocks in Vegas and Saguaro near Tuscon come to mind. And as I get older, it's likely that that kind of fun will be more and more in my future (sigh).

    I do think that there's merit to the slippery slope concern. I agree it's a logical fallacy in a vacuum, and I also agree that it is a big leap from a bicycle to a 4-stroke, but stranger things have happened. But the park systems rely in part on serious people who care about the parks (such as those represented here), and I feel safe in assuming that such persons would be vigilant for any such leaps.

    That's really the thrust of the issue for me: anytime you post rules in the parks you rely to a large extent on the goodwill and respect of the public to ensure compliance. My own experience in this regard has been quite good -- for every irresponsible or thoughtless person there is a dozen who are there to stop the damaging behavior or notify the rangers. And, not to be a polyanna, but part of me likes relying on that -- yet another reason why I love the parks.

    What a neat site -- if only the dialogue in DC were this civil and substantive ...

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

    Whether or not one chooses the word genocide to describe the actions of the European settlers, traders, politicians, Indian Agents, etc. is a moot point. The evidence contained in a multitude of historical records is fairly clear regarding the knowing behavior of certain groups who sought to gain an advantage in the American continent. Smallpox was not a "minor" cause, albeit the intentional trading in disease-laden blankets, robes, etc. may have been responsible for a fraction of the deaths to Native peoples. Just by virtue of interaction between Europeans and Natives, the former of which had developed a demonstrated resistance to the virus after many long decades of exposure, the latent virus was, inadvertently or not, transmitted from white immigrants to the indigenous peoples who previous had no record of infestation, and thereby were as vulnerable to a massive, highly contagious outbreak as the current population in this country would be today. Genocide, if you prefer to confine the definition to an intent to eliminate a specific group of people, was accomplished quite effectively, with some tribes experiencing a death rate as high as 90%, based on the best information available as recorded by the Native people during the 17th-19th centuries. The artwork of the time clearly indicates the deaths of numerous people inflicted with the tell-tale "body rash" attributable to one of three sources; smallpox, measles and plague. Any one of these vectors would have been sufficient to devastate a population with little or no genetic resistance. But again, if you confine the definition to "intent", then need you look beyond the Trail of Tears, the Navaho Death March, Sand Creek, Wounded Knee (although the initiation of hostilities in that instance is debatable, pending the source), and other instances in Minnesota, Arizona, California, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, etc. etc. etc. to distinguish a pronounced pattern of systematic hostility driven solely by the desire to acquire valuable lands for mineral and timber exploitation, agricultural "development" and the ever popular political gains to be derived from an expansion of settlement?

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


    You raise a very good point:

    "I'm wondering if trail co-existence is even possible in some areas, or if biking should only be pursued where there is adequate space to build two sets of trails. It's a very interesting point you make, but I still have to say that it deserves serious consideration in those parks [b]where space permits[/]." (emph. added)

    You're right - on moderate topography it is relatively practical to build wide tracks, without extensive "road-building". Big Bend might be such a place. Easy terrain also lets us use multiple routes, 'wherever', almost at will (perhaps allowing for separate walking & biking trails.

    But in rugged country, there is often only one route that can be used, and to make 60 inch track-bed on steep slopes would involve heavy engineering. Indeed, it is common to see evidence along Olympic Nat'l Park trails, that even the original 18 inch tread was excess for the conditions.

    (Mike - I think a possible/partial antidote to 5-foot tracks might be to make bike-trails one-way. Then bikes don't have to have 'clearance-width' when they meet.)

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

    After coming back a few days later to read the other comments and opinions posted, I find it so tiresome that there is an academic argument taking place about semantics, and although it is important to prove points, I think it is beneficial to stretch beyond academia (and I am an academic) in order to find a new way of thinking about an issue. I do appreciate that people are commenting- this is a discussion that is quite overdue. People cannot be expected to agree on the subtleties of language and its uses and abuses, but it seems perhaps that this is a distraction. The fact is, word it how you must, that the US government and the european peoples who settled here early on, made some serious and grave errors in judgment and action that have caused great harm to all concerned, including the settler's descendents! What can the US do in the present that will show respect and an attempt at amends to the Native Americans for this? I believe Ted mentioned ANSCA. I would like to hear what Native American organizations think would be helpful in amending the harm done.

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

    anyone who thinks American Indians didn't suffer from genocide is ignorant or lying

    Quite the opposite. The ones who have done the most research on the Native American history are the ones who don't subscribe to labeling 500 years of European/American/American Indian interaction simply as "genocide". Again, most historians do not use this term to describe the complex interactions that took place in North America.

    We ought to look at the subject dispassionately and consider the evidence. Barky, I respect your contributions to NPT, but your emotional response demonstrates why we ought to be careful when using morally loaded vocabulary.

    Jim, I'm glad to see we agree that the US government has no business in the Black Hills. This is the crux of the issue.

    Beamis, I couldn't agree with you more. I think giving the Black Hills back to the Sioux would accomplish the ends you described, and I think Washington and Jefferson, two of the humblest presidents we've had, would applaud them.

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

    Sorry for putting it so bluntly, but anyone who thinks American Indians didn't suffer from genocide is ignorant or lying. I can't even imaging that anyone in this day and age can believe such nonsense.

    That one poster has so infuriated me, I find myself incapable of reasonably discussing the topic at hand. I will have to return later to do so.


    My travels through the National Park System:

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

    I just left Frisco NC at 9:30 AM 9/5/08, with Hannah on my heels. She turned a 9 day vacation into a 7 day event. Conditions were rapidly deteriorating.

    Beach closures for storms, while apparently a new idea, is a good one. Periods over overwash at times of high tide can take the unexperienced by surprise, and can actually strand pedestrians and drivers both until the tide drops.

    I would seriously expect most, if not all of the unhatched turtle nests will be compromised or destroyed by this storm, no matter its intensity/category. Seas ran high on Labor Day Monday and again for 3 days afterward due to the passing of a cold frontal boundary. For a minimum of 3 days worth of high tide cycles, any nest not high on the dune was underwater. Sea/tide level had not yet reached normal status as of 9/4, my last day on the beach. 4-6' of storm surge is expected from Hanna, which may cause total dune overwash in many areas.

    Forecast is for up to major beach erosion, and my weather-eye would agree with that after witnessing the much above-normal high tides during the last week. Good luck to all still in that area, turtles included.


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

    I really think that Washington and Jefferson would cringe to know that their faces are carved in stone on a remote South Dakota mountain. As for the other two I wouldn't give one hoot if the sinister and insane megalomaniac Teddy Roosevelt and his dictatorial forbear in Constitutional abuse, "Honest" Abe, were both blasted from the face of this ridge in a solemn purging ceremony broadcast on national TV.

    The whole rotten edifice smells to high heaven of state worship which the founding fathers knew was a dangerous and slippery slope towards that evil plague of the Old World: idolatry. To hell with Mt. Rushmore, it was comic when it was built and is now nothing more than a tragic reminder of being ruled by seemingly larger than life masters in DC. With war looming and financial collapse creeping ever closer upon the national horizon it would be a fitting break with the past to pulverize this monstrosity into dust as a show of good will towards all those peoples that this nation has aggrieved and offended with its blustery arrogance and simple minded nationalism.

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

    Frank, we will have to agree to disagree for now - because I think there is plenty of evidence to suggest that everything that happened does meet the accepted definition(s) of the word. Ward Churchill may otherwise be unpopular, but the case he makes in the long essay in his work A Little Matter of Genocide is very convincing, and you'll find that for all of Churchill's needless hyperbole, he makes a very scholarly case connecting what happened throughout history to the accepted definitions of the term genocide.

    I don't give much credit to historians, who think by virtue of being historians, that they are therefore justified in making moral judgments about what actually happened for better or for worse. The same historians excuse slave owning founding fathers and say we need to make moral judgments based on the times and cut people some slack. We don't need to be historians to see the history and apply it to the definition; we certainly don't need to be historians to see what happened and to see that it was wrong on every level - whatever word we happen to give it. I would like to say on point 3 that it's pernicious to treat the Holocaust as the protype genocide of which nothing else could compare. There are some who would argue that the Holocaust is the only genocide that there was and has ever been, which would make the word "genocide" a completely useless word. Of course, there are horrors of the Holocaust that are unique in history and have never been repeated, but that's not what genocide means.

    As for the rest of what you said, genocide aside, I agree wholeheartedly that the United States has no business with the Black Hills, but as those who really know me know, I don't believe the United States has any business being anywhere. I guess that I haven't been thrown in prison for saying that - perhaps because I still pay my taxes - suggests that there is some measure of hope. But, if you read accounts of what happened in the Twin Cities and in Denver during the two conventions, you'll wonder how far we are removed from all dissent being squashed in this country. We all in some sense have no business being where we are; I guess the question is what we can do now. Even when it comes to the Lakota, it's complicated because there is a divide between the traditionalists and the tribal government. So, instead of working within the stark borders that people set up, we need to figure out instead how to build community from the ground up. Perhaps, that simple and seemingly harmless kind of radicalism that I advocate is one reason my harsher words about this country (and the holy NPS included) are allowed to be safely ignored. Without community, we have no power.

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

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


    Too big of a leap? See Yellowstone and snowmobiles, Pictured Rocks and Cape Lookout and PWCs, Big Cypress and off-road vehicles. I'm sure there are other examples, but that's a pretty good start.

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

    Jim, on this issue, I'll agree to disagree. But yours is the minority viewpoint among historians:

    While no mainstream historian denies that death and suffering were unjustly inflicted by a number of Europeans upon a great many American natives, most historians argue that genocide, which is a crime of intent, was not the intent of European colonization while in America. Historian Stafford Poole wrote: "There are other terms to describe what happened in the Western Hemisphere, but genocide is not one of them. It is a good propaganda term in an age where slogans and shouting have replaced reflection and learning, but to use it in this context is to cheapen both the word itself and the appalling experiences of the Jews and Armenians, to mention but two of the major victims of this century."

    Therefore, most mainstream scholars tend not to use the term "genocide" to describe the overall depopulation of American natives. However, a number of historians, rather than seeing the whole history of European colonization as one long act of genocide, do cite specific wars and campaigns which were arguably genocidal in intent and effect. Usually included among these are the Pequot War (1637) and campaigns waged against tribes in California starting in the 1850s.

    More on the genocide debate on Wikipedia. (Keep in mind that David Stannard was the loudest voice behind the genocide charge, and Stannard's Ph.D. is in American Studies, not history. Stannard is not considered to be a mainstream historian.)

    I recommend reading renown Native American historian James Axtell, who wrote Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial North America. On pages 261 to 263, Axtell details three major problems with using "genocide" to describe the interactions between American Indian tribes and Europeans:

    1. "...'genocide' is too loosely employed whenever an historical European kills or even contributes to the death of an Indian, in total disregard of the accepted definition of the word."

    2. ". . . it is historically inaccurate as a description of the vast majority of encounters between Europeans and Indians."

    3. "The final problem with 'genocide" as a description of, or even analogy to, the post-Columbian loss of Indian life is that the moral onus it tires to place on the European colonists, equating them with the Nazi S.S, is largely misdirected an inappropriate."

    I hope you get a chance to read this scholarly book; it will undoubtedly answer your call for evidence for the above three claims.

    In the meantime, what did you think of the other aspects of my comments (not including the "genocide" debate)?

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

    Good timing on this - there's an extremely thorough analysis of the brucellosis issue by Patrick Klemz in the Missoula Independent. Having not been a fan of Patrick's last effort on this earlier this year, I think this piece is a far more balanced view on the controversy and all the ins and outs of it from a wide variety of perspectives.

    See Bigger game: The state’s livestock industry wants to eradicate brucellosis from Yellowstone, but more than the bison stand in the way. How far will Montana ultimately go for healthy cows?, published on September 4, 2008. My friend Glenn is used extensively as a resource on the wildlife advocate side of things.

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

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

    First, to Kurt's comments:

    You are using the "slippery slope" argument in your post. That's fine, but it's also not logically tenable. It's making an assumption that people (in this case, NPS regulators) don't know where to stop. I consider it perfectly reasonable that regulators will know where to stop. It's a pretty big leap to say that allowing man-powered travel (like bikes, kayaks, canoes, etc.) will eventually lead to fuel-powered travel (like ATVs, snowmobiles, etc.). Simply prohibiting an activity simply because it may lead to other, worse activities is, in my opinion, not a reason to prohibit that initial activity. It may be valid in true cause-and-effect situations (such as increased biking leads to increased erosion, which is a valid argument to make) but it is not valid in conscious decision making decisions. If I chose to eat ice cream tonight, it is not true that it will lead to me gorging myself on ice cream until I did.

    Now to Ted's comment:

    I do hear you regarding overzealous mountain bikers, you make a fair point. I'm wondering if trail co-existence is even possible in some areas, or if biking should only be pursued where there is adequate space to build two sets of trails. It's a very interesting point you make, but I still have to say that it deserves serious consideration in those parks where space permits. It sounds like (again, I haven't been there) that Big Bend is a good candidate. It should still be less intrusive than motorized vehicles.

    My travels through the National Park System:

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

    I've been away on vacation camping in Grand Teton and Yellowstone; this is the first chance I've commented on this. As someone who is an activist on this issue, is allied with friends in Buffalo Field Campaign, and has started a group this year in Bozeman, I feel the need to weigh in on the issue. Obviously, the editorial itself is built on a fallacy so obvious I don't feel the need to comment, but I do feel the need to react to Ted's comments above and in a general way to some of the other comments below.

    First of all, to the general tenor of remarks about buffalo as a food source, I have to point out that what we in this area promote is the idea that buffalo are wildlife, i.e., not domestic. What Ted Turner does nearby does not fit the model of what most buffalo advocates here want because Turner's buffalo are raised like cattle and then marketed for consumption. The idea is that a restored bison population is one that is more than a restoration of numbers. It is a restoration of habitat, a restoration of respect for buffalo as wildlife, and that comes with a lot of consequences to the way that land is currently used in places like Montana. It's not an anti-hunting agenda; it is, however, against (there are individuals exceptions to this view amongst advocates) accepting what Ted Turner is doing as a viable alternative to a wild and free ranging buffalo population.

    Now, I want to turn to Ted.

    It's tricky to be sure what we are actually dealing with, and what the possible choices are with regard to Brucellosis in Yellowstone, because both sides in the debate are untrustworthy & devious on the topic.

    Ted, I'm not sure what you mean by this. At our tables, for instance, I try my best always to point people to the sources of information on brucellosis that don't come simply from groups like Buffalo Field Campaign. There is a wide ranging discussion on this and not consensus on every fine particular of the debate. As a whole, it is safe to say that buffalo advocates regard brucellosis as a red herring issue, that we believe that given bison management in practice, that brucellosis is not the reason for the persecution of buffalo (given that buffalo are killed in areas where there are no cattle, where the public in areas want the buffalo, that elk in fact are not controlled and kept from cattle in most areas, etc.) In as much as brucellosis is an issue for some ranchers, we believe that the onus is on them to protect their livestock and not on everyone else to control wildlife as though it is domesticated. In fact, many argue that this can be done at much lower cost than current management plans. Brucellosis is the cost of doing business. If it were such an egregious cost, you wouldn't still have so many ranchers. If it were such an egregious cost, then none of them would allow elk to feed with their cattle. Yet, they do. I could go on and on.

    Wikipedia's Brucellosis entry emphasizes that the disease transmits to humans and is serious. By inference, the more-fundamental threat to the cattle industry than the direct effects of the disease on cattle, is that infected herds would have to be destroyed, to forestall the threat of transmission to consumers.

    Well, this isn't accurate as it currently exists. The easiest counter-example I can draw from is from this year where cattle in the Paradise Valley got brucellosis. Livestock officials - not wildlife advocates - were quick to point out how safe the meat was, even meat that may have been infected with brucellosis. Here is a quote from an AP story: "Brucellosis persists in wild animals including bison and elk in the greater Yellowstone area. It can cause pregnant cows to abort their calves, but transmission to humans is rare. Consuming animals with the disease is not considered dangerous, state officials said." Schweitzer says the same thing in another article. The television news had a long story about how the meat was safe and that the only people at risk potentially were meat handlers. Here is another counter-example. Many bison sent to slaughter are never tested at all for brucellosis - they are not tested before or after the slaughter. However, the meat is given to Indian tribes as well as to food banks. No one requires a test for brucellosis for elk that are hunted in Montana. I haven't heard of a single case of undulant fever caused by brucellosis.

    Herds are destroyed en toto because of outdated APHIS rules, not because of any realistic threat.

    But, even if there were ... well, let's move on ...

    There is a large U.S. Centers for Disease Control Brucellosis FAQ, which shows that the situation with this disease is broader & more complex than the Yellowstone Park dispute.

    Will killing all elk & buffalo in Yellowstone free humanity (or even America) from the Brucella germ? No. It is a diverse problem, and global.

    There has been a long war against brucellosis; and yes, eradicating brucellosis in Yellowstone wouldn't end the problem.

    Are the herds of Yellowstone too large? By a large margin. "Ridiculous", if the mission is to preserve a 'natural habitat'. Instead, we have effectively the "Yellowstone Elk & Buffalo Ranch".

    I don't disagree with this; however, this is something that's in wide dispute outside and inside the buffalo advocacy community. For instance, consider this. The National Park Service has said repeatedly since the late 1960s that they didn't believe that Yellowstone was overgrazed by elk, bison, and everything else. They argued that if it were, you would see an irruption of the species followed by a steep decline. Since that never happened, then they argued that Yellowstone never reached its carrying capacity. I have been heavily influenced by an ecological scientist named Frederic Wagner, however, who argues that the northern range (the only part of Yellowstone where there has been significant study on this issue) has been overgrazed by elk - not by bison, because their numbers have never been allowed to get very high.

    Now, this is where this gets us nowhere in settling the argument. The Park Service isn't killing elk at all (unless one considers the reintroduction of wolves to be an elk reduction program, which is not what they say it was). They are killing lots of bison, but they don't do so because of range management considerations but because of brucellosis. Some buffalo advocates accept the NPS argument about range and suggest that as one less reason to be killing buffalo. The argument goes that buffalo are nearly extinct and reducing numbers makes no sense for an endangered herd on a range that could support more buffalo. However, I and others like me who are buffalo advocates think that Yellowstone is completely out of whack when it comes to the wildlife restricted to such a small area. The answer for me is to allow buffalo to increase into their historic range and to manage them (if "manage" is even the right word) as wildlife as we do any other species that wanders out of the park. Then, you can have hunts or whatever, but you stop treating them like people treat cattle. The lack of range, then, is an argument not to cull herds, but to allow herds to expand. So, no matter where you stand on the range issue, it doesn't make sense to kill Yellowstone buffalo.

    Would some like to see the ranching outside Yellowstone reduced or ended, so that overly-large populations of animals can be better-supported by having exclusive access to non-Park grazing lands? It does seem so.

    Yes, of course. This is an argument first and only about grass and who gets it. Domestic abuse of cows on range land as commodity for slaughter is no rationale to keep bison off the grass. And, the livestock industry, who has a completely different idea on the use of grass and its purpose, see bison as direct competitors. They also see elk that way, but they cannot get traction on that because people in Montana value having their wildlife - and no one will deny that elk are wildlife; they get confused by buffalo (in part because operations like Ted Turner's).

    Grass is the issue; ideology over the use of grass and who owns the grass ... it's not at all about brucellosis. But, it's a lot of smoke to clear up.

    Are the picturesque buffalo & elk herds being managed with a view firstly to tourism-values, and only secondarily in accordance with solid wildlife science? Sure. Many visitors report that their priority in coming to the Park, is to see the elk & buffalo. More normal population levels would be more-dispersed and much less visible. People see them readily, only because they are over-crowded.

    And, that's an improvement over the Albright years when buffalo were kept in a fence close to the road and fed hay so that people could see them. People complain on blogs every day if they see too many or too few buffalo -- if the buffalo in the road keeps them from getting somewhere else or if there aren't enough wildlife to capture with a picture. I read them every single day as I read dozens and dozens of blogs that people put out about their travels to Yellowstone.

    But, we have to note something that the philosopher Alston Chase noted years ago when he wrote Playing God in Yellowstone, namely that Yellowstone is not an intact ecosystem. And, even if it were, ecosystems themselves are not closed systems. We cannot pretend that Yellowstone National Park is intact; the boundaries are arbitrary. There is no reason to put up a border to stop and control their movements and their numbers.

    The dominant token on this game-board appears to be the hope that by having over-large populations of these major herbivores, the chronic feed-shortage will disperse them seasonally into more & larger areas surrounding the Park, maintaining an implied pressure to treat regions surround the Park as though they are extensions of the Park ... when actually, they're not.

    I actually hope they'll expand further and that they pose a never-ending challenge to our assumed land use ideology. However, if there is any place where areas outside the park are a lot like areas in the park, it's in Yellowstone because there are a lot of wilderness areas and areas that are nearly managed like wilderness areas. I have a friend in the Gallatin Wildlife Association named Glenn Hockett, who routinely travels with a map of the area. He knows the ranchers, he knows the allotments, and traveling with him is a treasure where I learn so much. Glenn makes a very convincing argument that there are some very natural boundaries of bison expansion in the area; he points out the natural "buffalo jump" in Tom Miner Basin, for instance. I think he's wrong, that buffalo would find ways beyond those boundaries, but he at least makes a case that in the interim that buffalo would be manageable wildlife with clear winter and summer ranges, that those of us who would rather deal in philosophical and ideological extremes might not need to do so. What's more, a lot of people in this area would like to see that.

    Then, perhaps, the park would begin to look more like what's outside of it and vice versa. I don't want the place I love the most to be simply a zoo of curiosities. I know that it's much more than that, and we are caging it up.

    This is an example of the 'halo' idea - that Parks need to be surrounded by an ever-widening 'halo'-zone which falls effectively under Park-management, even though they are not Park and may actually have long histories of other usage.

    There's no need for this halo to be under park management. Geez. That's the last thing that most of us would want, whether extremists like me, or more middle of the road types.

    The herds of Yellowstone ought to be a lot smaller than they are. That would greatly reduce the risk that diseased animals would travel far and thus expose domestic livestock to their disease. It would also take away a tourist-attraction (great masses of large animals in plain view), and disarm those who aim to use elk & bison to create an enlarged 'virtual' Yellowstone Park.

    I'm not sure what you are getting at here. But, the shift in your argument from brucellosis to range management, I hope I have shown, has more to it than it seems. And, no matter what, there is no reason to keep wild buffalo from being wild - whatever boundaries happen to be in the way.

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

  • Yellowstone National Park Reporting Bullish Visitation   6 years 29 weeks ago

    One possible explanation is the weak dollar and the high number of foreign tourists. That seems to be the most likely explanation. However, no matter who seems to be visiting, we were simply shocked last week by the huge, huge numbers of SUVs driving through Yellowstone, presumably a great number being rental cars.

    Yellowstone being a world famous park; it's going to draw people looking to visit the United States. It seemed that the largest number of tourists we saw were speaking German, though there were a large number of Asian tourists as well. But, that's anecdotal. Since we don't get demographic statistics, we'll probably never do much better than that.

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