Recent comments

  • Museum of the National Park Service Will be Built in West Virginia   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Plans revealed for museum near Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
    By DAVE McMILLION

    CHARLES TOWN, W.VA

    OK, so you have a four-part, $250 million museum you want to build on a high hill near Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Park officials, however, are aghast over how it will impact the historic area.

    What’s an architect to do?

    Rip off the top of the hill.

    “Our proposal is to take the four components, scrape the top of the hill off, build the components and then put the hill back over the building,” Douglas Carter of Davis Carter Scott Architecture told the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday.

    If that doesn’t impress you, maybe how the building’s designers plan to heat and cool it will.

    Given its hilltop location and breezy conditions, wind turbines will be used to generate power and a “wind chimney” at the top of the building will draw naturally cool air from “cooling wells” within the ground, Carter said.

    Rest of the article at: http://www.herald-mail.com/?module=displaystory&story_id=178203&format=html

  • Watching Wolves in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 46 weeks ago

    We saw our first wolves at Yellowstone this summer -- and if it wasn't for the gaggle of people with spotting scopes we never would have known to stop and look in the first place. That group was very happy to share with us "muggles" and all the rest that stopped to look over the next 20 minutes.

    I thought it would be funny to just pull over at some random (legal) spot in Yellowstone, get out the spotting scope or binoculars, and just stare off into the distance and see how many people would pull over and ask questions... Whattaya see? Whatcha lookin' at? And then make up some Latin genus/species name (Invisus Ungulatus) and see how many people hop out to look for themselves. Would make for a great Candid Camera episode...

  • Giving a Name to Yosemite Area Peak for Longtime Ranger Carl Sharsmith.   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Yes, the old ranger, the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service during his tenure. I knew him like an old pipe...I can still smell that half/half pipe tobacco coming from his rustic cabin at Tuolumne Meadows. God, this guy was a real trip to hear his fabulous stories what the real Yosemite was like, back in the days when nature was crisp and raw with adventure. No super lite equipment or special fitting clothes to combat the elements of nature. Old Carl was a champion of resourcefulness, never wasted much of anything, but gave us profound wisdom of the wilderness in his many wonderous nature hikes through the mighty Sierra's...and never forgetting Tuolumne walks. He was a master botanist with a keen eye for nature and a sharp wit to match. Naming a peak after old Carl wouldn't matter much, one way or another. For gods sake, this old ranger didn't want to be canonized into the mountain, just name it and be done with it...or just name it: Carls Peak and keep it simple...that's the way Carl would like it and with a bit of resourcefulness. Yes Carl, I know and can remember that flower, it's the Twin Flower, or the Linnaea borealis! Yap, great teacher at state!

  • Lyle Laverty Confirmed as Assistant Interior Secretary Over National Parks   6 years 46 weeks ago

    During my formative years of working for the NPS, I got the impression that the agency was a bastion of purity, not to be tampered with any way. You were expected to eat, drink, breathe, and bleed the Green & Gray, even during your private life. I once worked with a law enforcement ranger who took this concept to such extremes he had a little NPS uniform made for his four year old kid to wear while playing in the sandbox. Pity the cat that dug up that disturbing apparition!

    I was told that if you criticized the NPS, you were a big trouble-maker...and you could be in big trouble. If you sat in a bar on a day off, and a co-worker overheard you say anything negative about the agency, you could be reported. What collapsed totalitarian regimes does that culture of fear resemble?

    Fortunately, times have changed. Nowadays aligning yourself too closely with the agency will probably do you more harm than good. It's now common knowledge that the outfit is far from perfect; you'd be a fool if you didn't at least poke fun of the NPS once in a while. No point in being labelled guilty by association.

    But times haven't changed THAT much. Most NPS employees are still scared to death to openly criticize the agency, even though they're more disillusioned than ever. By the way, do you really think my name is "Bart"?

    Most NPS manager types live in a world of illusion. The good ol' boy (and girl) denial machine is alive and well, rather akin to Nero fiddling away, buzzed out of his gourd, while Rome went up in blazes.

    National Park managers need to take a very painful step...open your doors to the kind of internal criticism that will lead to legitimate change in how business is conducted.

    Simple Proposal #10: Invite Constructive Criticism...especially the kind that really hurts.

  • Watching Wolves in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 46 weeks ago

    If you don't have the cash to watch the wolves frolick in the Lamar with the privileged people, you can try it on your own if you have some mad skillz.

    Yellowstone has the crustiest hard core cadre of nature watchers and if you sweet talk them, say the right things, etc., they'll not only tell you what they are watching but also show you in their scopes. But it does take some conversational skill, rather than asking "any bears!?!" It took me about 15 minutes of banter with someone to get spotting scope privileges, but more importantly the knowledge of what they were looking at. Please note that I'm not advocating you spongeing their scopes, only gaining access to info.

    These crustiest of the crusty love wildlife more than people and follow their seasonal movements like NPT commenters follow reruns of that fantabulous show, the OC. Heh.

    Additionally, the wolf team of biologist types are super cool about answering questions when you ask. They are great story tellers who will answer almost any question you have as long as you aren't too intrusive. It is sweet PR for their programs, after all. Your tactic would be to drive the road, look for the government plates (not all the researchers have them) and then walk up the hill the the spot.

    Also, there are some super wolf nerds that maintain wolf sites online where you can find sitings, the status of the packs, etc. as well before you head out. Load that all into your ipod, your pda or laptop and who needs an interpreter! Throw some wireless networks out there and you could even check your email! Ha, I'm kidding all you crusty NPT commenters, relax.

  • Lyle Laverty Confirmed as Assistant Interior Secretary Over National Parks   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Looks likes to me another dog catcher confirmed to invoke more of the same (do nothing policies) and just ride the clock out with the nice perks! Sounds good Lone Hiker, a pure volunteer system with no strings attached, but that doesn't fit well for the average Joe Blow (like me) were we have to slave to make a living everyday...no real quality time off to do the real things that can make a big difference, except this piece meal stuff: like pulling up obnoxious weeds along park trails, cleaning up after the Lord's debri that trash out the parks on the long weekends ...etc.. Yeah, volunteerism works well for the rich guy who can spare the time and energy to be a free Dog Catcher for the parks, and a advocate to say the rich can only apply. I see this everyday where I live. Rich yuppies making tons of money for very, very selfish reasons and with this screw you "I got mine" attitude, and suddenly one bright day (he or she) wakes up and says, I really want to be a nice person for a change, and do good for the world today. But, you can look at his life style that stinks to ----. I mean this pathetic attitude of greed at best! Believe me, the garbage dump smells far better. I'm sure there's plenty of nice rich people (and I know a few very well) around who have given their hearts and wallets to bless the the parks with huge graceful endowments. Bless their souls! My point is, can it be possible to have a tri-mangement system to run this job. A cohensive team that encompasses of one candidate being a private citizen, one from government, and one from a non partisan environmental organization (if such)...and set up a sort of checks and balance system. The criteria for the job is to remember the "boyscout motto"...just kidding...a lost virtue! No! just a extensive criminal background check, and a deep keen interest to eradicate the internal cancer that's ruining the morale and structural apparatus of the National Park system. Beamis, Frank and Lone Hiker is there any hope that we can get rid of this political garbage that's rotting the core of this once great agency.

  • Lyle Laverty Confirmed as Assistant Interior Secretary Over National Parks   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Uncle Frank has a multitude of poignant sound bites to many of the issues on this board. Most often I wind up thinking along the lines of, "Look here brother, who you jivin' with that cosmic debris?".

    But your's is better for this article Beamis.

    Good man or not, and personally I'm not crazy about a number of things in his past, both ideas and actions, the path to the office is truly a basis for discussion. Politics are the reason the NPS is where it is today, and I'm not insinuating that's a good thing by any stretch. On the other hand, a publically elected official is just as worthless in this instance. So, do we try merit based? Based on what criterion and determined by who? By that method if you're not an NPS insider, what are your chances? Other-than-political type appointment? Then we're at the mercy of special interest groups, and ain't no way I backin' that horse. A rotation based series of managers? Stagnation by committee? Who determines the committee members?

    One way, and my personal favorite since it tends to eliminate so many of the pitfalls of higher office, is to comprise a short list based on volunteers. With no pay, no connections, and hopefully limited or no influential ties, the old paper resume and letter of intent, specific to general interest in the system and long-term game plan for the entire park network is a nice place to start. Then place the lucky winner (or loser, whatever) slightly above and beyond the scope of those whom he/she is to govern, so as not to be beholden to them either. And have defined term limits. And performance evlautations. And a regular office to park their asses in on a 40+ hour a week schedule. And take away the corporate (or Congressional) jets and helicopters and buy them a bus or an RV that runs on biodiesel. Or better yet hydrogen. Then see who REALLY want the job.

  • Will Bear Costume Get Presidential Candidates Talking About National Parks?   6 years 46 weeks ago

    disband the inefficient bureaucrasy

    I honestly don't believe that Ron can back this statement. Prove to me that there exist efficient bureaucrats. Certainly not in this political system. Not unless your idea of efficiency included efficiently bleeding the public financially dry for personal gain. Or efficiently avoiding issues of national concern and interest, akin to those issues that are bandied about as planks in a political platform that never again see the light of day in the post-election period. Strong talk, wussie attitude makes not an effective leadership. But gold star for attempting to eliminate the DOI. And still presently the least offensive option in the battle of "lesser of two (or three) evils".

    Now if he would be so bold as to add a few more acronyms to that list he'd really be on to something. Provided they were actually feasible to accomplish without Congressional interference.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Commissioners rescind support for national park around volcano
    By Barbara LaBoe
    Oct 31, 2007

    Link here: http://www.tdn.com/articles/2007/11/01/area_news/news10.txt

  • Lyle Laverty Confirmed as Assistant Interior Secretary Over National Parks   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Sounds like a good man to me...great innovative mind to a system that sorely needs it.

  • Ghost at Blevins Farmstead; Excerpt From 'Haunted Hikes'   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Update: My latest source says that Oscar Blevins never wore overalls. So, depending on your beliefs, the rangers are seeing an image that represents the image concocted by their own guilty conscience or it implies that someone other than Oscar is haunting the Blevins homested. Perhaps, it is Uncle Jake Blevins as seen is the photograph at www.hauntedhiker.com/favorite.htm?

    Things that make you go hmmmmm?

  • 4-Year-old Dies in Fall off South Rim of Grand Canyon   6 years 46 weeks ago

    My husband and I visited the Grand Canyon in September of this year - 2007. We rode the train up to the Village and walked along the sidewalks near the hotels and shops. Even though there was a rock wall, it didn't cover the entire area and it was only about two-to-three feet tall, maybe not even that tall. It had a rim/edge on top that you could sit on. Anyone could fall over if they were not careful. I would never let a child sit there for fear they might fall. There were even openings along the walkway that had no barriers at all. I made sure I stayed away from those areas and was always on the alert.

    Any child that is active and likes to run just for the fun of it, could easily run off the sidewalks and fall. Parents would have to be ever vigilent on this type of trip. But even a grownup could slip if they got too close.

    We noticed all along the east scenic drive that there were areas that you could stop to look and there were some railings but you could still see paths that others had worn to get to areas without a railing. Anyone could fall easily if they got too close to the edge, either by loose rocks or not paying attention. We even saw an older couple who had their picture taken and they were standing about two feet from the edge. I thought they were crazy and I was the one taking their picture. It was scary! No way would I get that close. I don't have a death wish.

  • Will Bear Costume Get Presidential Candidates Talking About National Parks?   6 years 46 weeks ago

    We won't hear presidential candidates talking about national parks because they simply aren't on the radar of the general voting public. A program on NPR today reported that just a little over half the country considers the environment as a major concern (with no specific mention of national parks). The most significant concerns are currently the war and the economy.

    Even if candidates talk about national parks, it'll be just that. Empty talk. Candidates treat national parks as little more than a poker chip in a bid for the White House. Don't you want to see the national parks removed from a political system that treats our national tresures so cavalierly? I do.

    There is one candidate who would actually work to accomplish that goal. Ron Paul. He was one of the few to vote against the pork spending bill that created New Jersey's newest national park (the that didn't meet the NPS's criteria for inclusion in the system). He would work to eliminate the DOI, disband the inefficient bureaucrasy, and return management of national parks to local communities. He would restore the Constitution.

  • Centennial Projects: Mountain Biking in Big Bend National Park   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Many national parks do allow mountain biking on narrow, single-track trails. One recent trial conducted in Kentucky concluded that shared-use trails for hikers and mountain bikers have few problems.

    Shared-use Big South Fork trail deemed a success

    By Morgan Simmons
    Knoxville News Sentinel
    October 7, 2007

    An experiment to permit mountain biking on a trail in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area previously designated as hiking-only has come to a close, and the result is good news for mountain bikers.

    For the past year, the National Park Service has used the Grand Gap Loop Trail to test a shared-use management strategy that allows mountain biking and hiking during the week, and only hiking on weekends.

    Big South Fork spokesman Steve Seven said the pilot project brought no negative comments from hikers, and that the only complaint from mountain bikers was that the trail was closed to them on weekends.

    "Based on the feedback we received from hikers and mountain bikers, we made the decision that the testing phase was over, and that the project was successful," Seven said.

    The Grand Gap Loop Trail, in the heart of the 125,000-acre park, is seven miles long and features numerous dramatic overlooks into the main river gorge. The trail is single-track, and rated moderately difficult for mountain biking. Some sections of the Grand Gap Look trail skirt the edge of the bluff line, while others pass through boulder gardens and rock shelters carved out of sandstone.

    While "user-sharing" trails are not new - the Tsali Trail system along North Carolina's Fontana Lake designates alternate days for mountain biking and horseback riding - this is the first time the Big South Fork has put the concept to the test.

    Now that Grand Gap Loop has passed the experimental phase, managers at Big South Fork can designate more trails as shared use between mountain bikers and hikers as directed in the park's new general management plan.

    One candidate for inclusion into the time-share system is an extension off the Grand Gap Loop that leads to Station Camp, along the Big South Fork River. When this trail opens, the seven-mile Grand Gap would expand into a 16-mile loop, with 13 miles of that being single-track.

    The park's general management plan also calls for portions of the John Muir Trail and the Rock Creek Trail to be opened to hiking and mountain biking on a time-share basis.

    Big South Fork is one of the few national park units that allow mountain biking. Congress authorized the park in 1974 to protect the Big South Fork and its tributaries and to provide a variety of recreation opportunities ranging from hunting and fishing to hiking and horseback riding.

    A key player in promoting mountain biking at Big South Fork is the Big South Fork Mountain Bike Club. In addition to building and maintaining mountain bike trails, the club patrols the park to aid and assist mountain bikers. The Big South Fork has about 400 miles of trail overall - 130 miles for hiking, and about 160 miles of multiple-use trails that allow horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking.

    In addition, the park has three dedicated mountain-biking trails (open to mountain bikers and hikers but not horseback riders) near the Bandy Creek Visitors Center. These are the Collier Ridge Trail, West Bandy Trail and the Duncan Hollow Loop.

    The park's new management plan calls for the mountain-biking trail system to expand from eight to 24 miles, with the potential for more trails in the future.

  • Kids Detached From Nature? Here's One Example   6 years 46 weeks ago

    It seems important in discussions like this to try and remember what it's like to be a kid. Trees are, to nearly all kids, really pretty boring. It's not until later in life that the subtle appeal of passively studying the natural world holds much appeal. But kids do love to explore, ride bikes, play in the woods when they're given opportunities. Recreation builds an affinity for natural places, which later in life translates into respect and interest in the subtlities of natural landscapes. Remember that most of the great naturalists of the 20th century -- Muir, Brower, etc. -- started out as climbers, hikers, explorers. The reason, in my view, kids are often turned off by national parks is that they're presented as cathedrals, and not as playgrounds.

  • Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?   6 years 46 weeks ago

    When an attack happens in a National Park it is guaranteed to make national headlines. Yet we only read about one or two every year. But as our example of Googling "deer attacks" illustrated, far more attacks happen outside of parks. Many of these attacks, as well as bear, elk, moose etc. happen to hunters. Your point about acreage is very valid, but my whole point is that whether or not a population is hunted has nothing to do with the frequency of attacks on human beings. Now, clearly, habituated animals are far more dangerous (inside or outside a park), this has been demonstrated over and over. The deer that you speak of in campgrounds in Zion (or CR) are obviously habituated. I don't know if anyone has been injured or not, but, if not, it is only a matter of time. The National Park Service (or Forest Service if occurring in Forest Service campgrounds...which a friend told me the other day he has seen as well....which shows that even this isn't exclusive to parks) have a responsibility to do something about it. They need to do averse training and they need to HEAVILY FINE individuals who are contributing to the problem by feeding them. They don't need to shoot these deer, though shooting AT them with cracker rounds etc. might be beneficial. BTW, compare these deer to the elk wondering around the Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone, which will move away as you approach them. I will repeat one last time: There is a difference between animals that are used to seeing people and those who are habituated. I spend thousands of hours in the Yellowstone back country and constantly see animals that I guarantee you are not habituated. (Most even run away as I approach, which should make you happy). Animals in campgrounds (both inside and outside National Parks) sometimes are; because people feed them, or leave food out for them.
    Regarding your point about man being part of the natural "processes", I have not addressed it because I agree with it. For 30,000 years or more man WAS a part of the natural process. When man started building cities, machines and modern weapons, and when he started playing God by setting arbitrary wildlife "population goals", and started deciding what species have a right to exist at all; then he removed himself from the "natural processes". In nature man is about on equal footing with the grizzly bear. Throughout those thousands of years, he spent as much time being hunted by the bear as hunting it. Strip naked and take a walk in the woods with only what God gave you, and see where man fits in the "natural processes". One of the great fallacies is that man is at the top of the food chain. He has artificially made himself the top predator, but he will never be at the top of the food chain (anyone who doesn't believe this should look up what a food chain is).
    It may be far from perfect....in fact I know that it is....but I submit that Yellowstone National Park is far closer to a "natural" ecosystem (intact and similar to what the area was like before the arrival of white men) than most anywhere else in the lower 48. And as such, as I said, is a tremendous educational tool. For many people, it is the only opportunity they will ever have to see many of these animals in the WILD. And yes! I'll say it! Dang gone it! We uneducated, naive, uninformed wimps think some of those critters are down right cute!!! (OK! Are ya happy....I said it!) What I don't think is that they are not still WILD, because folks who believe that ARE the ones who end up getting hurt.
    Thanks for the discussion.

  • Lyle Laverty Confirmed as Assistant Interior Secretary Over National Parks   6 years 46 weeks ago

    As long as the parks are administered by the Executive Branch of the federal government you should expect to see these types of political appointees slip in and out of power with the greatest of ease. That they bring their own agendas and legacies, that often have little to do with solving the current issues facing the parks, is the way that the system operates. In a few years Mr. Laverty will be gone and a new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will do the same thing all over again.

    A patronage based spoils system is no way to operate natural areas. What advantages are realized by this political revolving door when it comes to resource management?

    Or as Frank Zappa once asked "What is your conceptual continuity?"

    In the politically charged atmosphere of the Dept. of Interior it is practically zilch.

  • Letter from Congress Urges Director Bomar To Ban Snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park   6 years 47 weeks ago

    I'm not sure the U.S. Congress has any credibility when it comes to living up to commitments.

  • Letter from Congress Urges Director Bomar To Ban Snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park   6 years 47 weeks ago

    First, I've got to say that picture of Bomar's torso-less figure with snowmobiles underneath is downright creepy. Fits Halloween, though.

    Secondly, it's unfortunate that only 14% - 17% of congressional representatives signed the letter. That's a small minority. I like how the letter ends: "We expect you to live up to your commitment." I'd suggest adding: "And if you don't, we will hunt you down and shoot you like a bison or a Katmai grizzly!"

  • Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    why do FAR MORE ANIMAL ATTACKS HAPPEN OUTSIDE OF OUR PARKS THAN INSIDE

    What evidence do you have that this is an accurate statement? Has some kind of systematic comparative study been done on animal attacks in and out of parks?

    Should you be able to find a statistical study that demonstrates that the numbers of attacks are higher outside of parks, I'd hypothesize it could be related to the fact that NPS lands cover a very small minority of the total acreage of land in the United States; Forest Service, BLM, Fish and Wildlife, and private lands are far more vast, so I would expect to see a higher incident of attacks on those lands.

    And you have failed to address the issue that I've pointed out above:

    For 15000 to 30000 years in North America, humans WERE part of the natural predation that controlled animal populations. Human predation, along with other predation (fire, cougars, wolves, brown bears), has been removed from the equation, and a completely different system (which I'm arguing is not better than the former system) was born in the last century.

  • Is the Bear "Hunt" in Katmai National Preserve Sporting or Ethical?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Please look at this year's Katmai bear hunt photos at www.scottdickerson.com he's a photographer that took several still images of the bear hunt out on Katmai. I think it further drives home jsut how simple it was for these guys to walk up too or for the animals to walk up to them before being shot!!!

  • Katmai Bear Hunt: Outfitter Says It's No Walk in the Woods   6 years 47 weeks ago

    For anyone who would like a better visual of this year's bear hunt out on Katmai go to www.scottdickerson.com he's a photographer that took many still images of the bears milling around the hunters plane and camps. I think it further drives home just how simple it was for these guys to walk up to their animals and shoot!!

  • Alaska Regional Director Responds To Outrage Over Katmai Preserve Bear Hunt   6 years 47 weeks ago

    For anyone who would like to get a better visual of the bears milling around the lake and camps where the hunters are set-up go to www.scottdickerson.com he's a photographer that took many still images of the so-called bear hunt on Katmai. I think his images help to further drive home how simple it was for the hunters to walk up to the bears and shoot!!

  • Letter from Congress Urges Director Bomar To Ban Snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Director, Terry and Brenda just want to say hi and that we are proud of your work!

  • Museum of the National Park Service Will be Built in West Virginia   6 years 47 weeks ago

    You're dead on target Jon. Any reader of those captions would be hard pressed to find even one that didn't apply across the board to what we're discussing on most every issue. Kurt should feature a link......