Recent comments

  • National Park History: Renaming National Parks Can Show Respect for Native Cultures   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Gotta love that U.S. Board of Geographic Names. They do a great job of vetting place name changes. My favorite Board decision was the renaming of a western place called Whorehouse Flats, which is now called Naughty Lady Meadow. At least that's the story as it was told to me. I don't want to know the real story, whatever that may be. Can't let the truth get in the way of a perfectly good tale.

  • National Park History: Renaming National Parks Can Show Respect for Native Cultures   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Another mountain that has recently tried to have its name changed is Mt. Clay in NH. In 2003 the NH State Legislature passed a bill changing the name to Mt. Reagan; however, the USGS won't even consider any feature named after a person until they are dead for 5 years, and even then it is up to them to change it on their maps if they want to. The AMC has already stated they have no plans to change the name of Mt. Clay on any of their maps either.

    Talk about the bureaucracy of the American Government...

  • National Park History: Renaming National Parks Can Show Respect for Native Cultures   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Wikipedia claims that the Alaska Board of Geographic Names changed the name of the mountain with the park in 1980, only the U.S. Board of Geographic Names at the USGS kept McKinley on their maps. Congress is not involved in naming geographic features - at least not officially.

    And to give the Board of Geographic Names the due credit, they name a whole lot of alternative names in their database:

  • National Park History: Renaming National Parks Can Show Respect for Native Cultures   6 years 30 weeks ago

    You make an interesting point, MCR, but at the risk of blowing a fuse on the weaselspeak-o-meter I will point out that Denali is not celebrating a birthday this month like those two other parks are. ;-) Another thing, MCR. Can you tell me why Congress, in its infinite wisdom, managed to redesignate the park to honor the local natives while leaving an eminently forgettable President's name on the very mountain the locals have always called, do call now, and will forever call Denali? Lots of respect being shown there, fur shur.

  • National Park History: Renaming National Parks Can Show Respect for Native Cultures   6 years 30 weeks ago

    You should of course mention Denali National Park, which was called Mount McKinley until 1980. Denali means "the high one" in the Athabascan language, while McKinley remembers William McKinley, the 25th President.

  • Senators Willing to Legislate Clean Air Over National Parks if EPA Does Protect Airsheds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Pigeon Forge, TN, is a monument to bad taste. Please answer me this: If there is a God, why did He let Pigeon Forge happen?

  • Prescribed Fire in Grand Canyon National Park Now Out of Control   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Fire Management is and will be first and foremost a matter of trial and error. There is nothing wrong with a fire going beyond what was planned - if the safety zones were set according to prior experiences. Here it seems to work. A prescribed fire became to powerful, went beyond the targeted area and now gets suppressed.

    Of course it would be nice, if no fire "management" was necessary, but the fuel levels are way to high from previous (non-) management in some areas and should be burned down over time and under as much control as possible. But man can only control so much of the forces of nature. Fire is a largely unpredictable force.

  • Senators Willing to Legislate Clean Air Over National Parks if EPA Does Protect Airsheds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I travelled from the UK last month to journey down through Shenandoah, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains, and in two weeks I don't think we saw further than 10 miles. It was a great shame, as we had gorged on images taken in better conditions before we travelled. We still enjoyed our trip very much, but the view was very much hampered by haze.

    However, solving the problem seems a mammoth task.

    Oh, an by the way, what is Pigeon Forge, TN, all about? What a bizarre contrast.

  • Congressman Accuses Sec. Kempthorne of Pandering to NRA on Gun Issue   6 years 30 weeks ago


    In Oregon we can carry in Schools, Churches, museums and libraries but not courthouses, post offices, police departments and federal buildings. I honestly thing we should be able to carry in all places. The more places "off limits" to CHL holders, the more chance of one getting arreste for a firearms crime and the more statistics the gentlemen above have to banter about.

    A note on the the statistics these fine gentlemen are bantering about. Please keep in mind that a good majority of those that commit a gun crime are: 1. Not supposed to have a gun to begin with. 2. Supposed to be in jail but have been let out early. 3. Don't care what gun laws we have on the books.....they are going get what they want when they want.

    The sad truth is: the only thing intricate gun laws do is turn otherwise law abiding citizens into unknowning criminals.

  • National Park Quiz 9: The American Revolution   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Dear Rangertoo:

    There IS an 'authenticity of place' for its own sake, and not only with a battlefield, and it is more than just the original historic structure.

    Even though old Federal Hall is gone, it really does matter that the site on which Federal Hall National Memorial was built is the same site where the Northwest Ordinance was approved. It really does matter that it is the site where the slaves from the uprising in 1741 where the slaves were imprisoned before many of them were dragged to the African Burial Ground to be tortured and killed, leading to an effort to entrench slavery with such an overreaction of law that eventually New York could no longer tolerate slavery. It matters that this is the site the first Congress approved the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. Among many, many major events of US history.

    It is a MEMORIAL. The Federal Hall National Memorial. Like the Lincoln MEMORIAL. Or the Washington Monument, memorializing Washington. Memorials are not necessarily the site something happened, but are a place of commemoration. The difference in the case of the memorial to Federal Hall is that it is the real place. Not the original structure. It would have been great to have had the original building, but in this case the events that happened here are what is important, and memorialized. Not that the architecture of the former sub-treasury is not significant, and fitting. But neither the architecture of the Memorial or of the original Federal Hall is the essence of the history. The Place is not significant because the Memorial is here and old Federal Hall was there. The place is significant because of what happened there.

    It makes sense people fought to retain the sub-treasury building as a Memorial when it was threatened with distruction in order to be replaced by a high rise. Is there a tipping point where a site can be so altered it loses any meaning, despite what occurred there?

    Roger Kennedy once said " 'PLACE' is space, plus Memory." I think that nails it.

    But how much sense of the history of the landscape at Grand Central is necessary to have a sense of meaning when you see the sign across the street from Grand Central identifying it as the approximate site of his Nathan Hale's death?

    In the case of old Federal Hall, the location itself has a real sense of place, on top of a hill, just below Trinity Church, were roads converged, right at the edge of the old city. This is a place of ceremony, a ceremonial center, and it remains so today, whether or not the original Federal Hall still stands.

    In Homestead, PA the National Landmark survey for Labor History determined that the site of the Homestead Lockout, and the invasion by the Pinkerton's and the 'Battle' of Homestead lacks the integrity to be a National Historic Landmark because the banks of the river had been hardened with concrete. This was the turning point in American labor history, the place where the labor of a craftsman was rejected and replaced by labor of time, hitched to a machine. American labor, world labor, was never the same again. It seems to me it is a 'place' of authenticity, even though the banks of the river do not look the same. Part of the reason the riverbank has changed is because of the huge technological and social change that happened here. Although Homestead eludes NPS criteria, it is a significant place. Perhaps it would be easier to understand if it the site were more reminiscent of how it looked in the middle of the Lockout. But I definitely get a sense of the significance of that place when standing on that riverbank today. I think it is wrong to disregard the place because of that concrete: the river is still here. Homestead is here. The hills are here.

    Perhaps 'authenticity' cannot be measured by black and white standards, but by independent professional or human judgement?

  • National Park Quiz 9: The American Revolution   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Why, of course I can name them. And their spouses and children and pets, too. Don't want to spoil a good quiz item, though, so I'm not going to share that information here.

  • National Park Quiz 9: The American Revolution   6 years 30 weeks ago


    Now that you have dusted off Harry Yount's name in your previous quiz. can you name the only 5 recipients of the career Harry Yount award for service to the ranger profession? PS--they are all retired save one although he works for another agency.

    Rick Smith

  • NPR on the National Parks   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I'm just happy they are doing the reports at all. If it increases interest & visitation, then maybe these other problems will come to light.

    I am still hopeful, there's still a couple more days of their coverage coming. Maybe they have a wrap-up program covering these admin issues??


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Creature Feature: The American Marten   6 years 30 weeks ago

    saw one in the tahoe area recently, it looked at me for a good 30 seconds then took off. it kind of jumped away about 10 ft at a time

  • Former NPS Director George Hartzog Passes   6 years 30 weeks ago

    What an inspiring and charismatic leader! Director Hartzog inspired me to move from Grand Canyon to Washington, DC in 1969 to be part of a new urban initiative. This fateful move led to a most satisfying career, culminating in a lengthy assignment as Director of White House Liaison for the National Park Service. I continued to cherish the opportunity to work with George Hartzog as we served together on the Board of the White House Historical Assn. Just 3 weeks ago we worked together to resolve a policy issue with the White House Endowment Trust. He was engaged and active, brilliantly so, up to the very end. I and many others will truly miss his leadership, his inspiration, and his great stories! Our hearts go out to Helen and to George's family at this time. So long, good friend, and thank you...

  • Prescribed Fire in Grand Canyon National Park Now Out of Control   6 years 30 weeks ago

    With regards to GRCA having been in "high fire danger" when the prescribed fire was ignited ...when planning prescribed fires, in order to attain the desired flame length or heat/unit area that is needed so as to achieve the desired results, it is often necessary to implement the prescription when the fire danger is high. If, as "Lone Hiiker" suggests, "...they (should) only let (these) fire "experts" play with their matches from November to March.", very little in terms of fuels management could be done during winter conditions.

    NOTE: My comments are based on the knowledge/skills/abilities that I gained during more than 35 years of service with the NPS: the majority of those years having been spent in Wildland Fire Management.

  • Prescribed Fire in Grand Canyon National Park Now Out of Control   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Then there was the "Outlet Fire" that closed the Park for quite some time in about 2001. It eventually burned all the way from west of the Lodge to Point Imperial and onto Cape Royal and several hundred acres of National Forest lands in the Saddle Mountain area. The Bridger Fire was a lightning strike on the Park which burned about 50,000 ares of USFS lands. They go all the way back to 1960 and the Saddle Fire which began as a lightning strike near Point Imperial and burned 5,600 acres of National Forest. Most of these fires escape right around June 21st, but no one seems to be paying attention when they leave the office, torch in hand. There have been other "escapes" on the North Rim, many of which never burned all the way to the Forest Service. There have also been many on the South Rim that have threatened the housing area and Tusayan over the years. I doubt that there is aanother National Park with such a history of escaped prescribed fires and escaped lightning fires. Maybe November to March would be a pretty good start to keep them out of trouble. Although as a "Learning Organization" no one gets in trouble any more.

  • Yellowstone National Park Bison Unhappy With Photo Shoot Tosses Pennsylvania Boy   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Some of us have gotten way of topic here ! Another discussion whould be more appropriate for the "let the wildlife roam" topic, which by the way I do support !

    This discussion is about the stupidity and recklessness of some tourists. Why can't the superintendent of Yellowstone set fines for such behaviour ? These people should be fined AND pay for all the emergency services they required. Some people do not pay attention until the issue hits them in the checkbook. Can these kind of rules be made by the local NPS ?

  • Groups Sue Cape Hatteras National Seashore Over ORV Traffic   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I chased a plastic bag that had been picked up and carried by the wind about a half mile down the beach (the wind was quite fierce on the the shore that day) because I care so deeply about my favorite vacation spot. Chances are, I wouldn't put that much effort into it in my own apartment complex.

    My group of travelers and I were completely bummed out when we cruised down there this past weekend, with the intent of doing some fishing at The Point, only to find out that we couldn't get anywhere near it. We assumed that it had to do with wildlife preservation but never once thought that it would pertain to ORVers in particular. We always do a a good once-over before we head out onto the sand to make that everything is in proper running order (moreso because getting stranded in the sand, I imagine is not fun) so it can't be because of car fluids. Exhausts perhaps? No. If that was the case they'd have to shut down The Highway To Swell (NC 12) because that would be a contributor to greenhouse gasses as well. Erosion? Unline agricultural soil, ocean sand is in a constant state of regeneration. If the ocean shore is erroding, I would think it's because of rising tide lines and not because of 25 mph vehicles. Dune Erosion? I have yet to see an ORV attempt one (it's blatantly forboden) but have certainly seen pedestrians hurdle them with disregard for the flood-preventing hills.

    Of course all of these statements are open to criticism but I find it hard to believe that the well-meaning drivers on the beaches (who, by the way are probablly some of the most courteous, cautious drivers one could encounter) are responsible for the decline in bird and turtle nesting and the destruction of the beach.

    P.S. Things change. Nothing stays the same and that includes wildlife habitats and their numbers in population.

  • National Park Quiz 9: The American Revolution   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Rangertoo, your comments highlight at least two quite troubling issues. One is the need to quit perpetuating historic myth. Here at Traveler we want to avoid passing along bad information, so we really appreciate it when you help us sort fact from myth. I really mean that. Another problem is the need to somehow deal with the temporal ambiguity inherent in the concept of site. I'm not sure you can provide us with a hard and fast rule to follow. Site can mean a place where something is located or was located. Hell, it can even mean where something is scheduled to be located ("the future site of...") or should be located ("that would be a great site for ....") In historic context, the site where something happened can mean the precise spot or the general setting. So, just exactly what is it that a national park preserves when it preserves the SITE of something important? I'm getting a headache, so I'm going to stop for now.

  • National Park Quiz 9: The American Revolution   6 years 30 weeks ago

    BTW Bob, love the quizzes. Also, the Freedom Trail from the Bunker Hill Monument to the Common is an easier walk -- all downhill.

    [Ed.: There is a nice map of the Freedom Trail at this site. You can zoom to 50% for greater clarity and and still see the entire trail.]

  • National Park Quiz 9: The American Revolution   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Bob - I was not criticizing, just clarifying. You do a great job with this site and great service to the public in promoting national park issues.

    I do have a hard time with the site/place issue, though. I have been to and worked in Federal Hall and I think the NPS doth protest too much in its effort to justify preserving this former Customs House. I once heard a guide at Williamsburg describe Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death speech” as having occurred in the room she was in, except it was a recreated building not more than 20 years old at the time. I then got a description of “historic airspace!”

    I think that in the case of Federal Hall, there is nothing there that remains from the original building and that building did not look like the current building. In terms of public understanding, to say the “place” where something happened is to imply the building or edifice in question. I think that one could really only justify place as a synonym for site when it is unbuilt upon land like a battlefield. It would seem odd to visit Grand Central Terminal in New York and say this is the place where Nathan Hale was hanged. It was the site of the farm where he was hanged, but not the place in my mind.
    My point with the signing of the Declaration is just that people misunderstand what “signing the Declaration” means. We celebrate July 4 as the date of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. We do not celebrate its signing. As I noted, it was signed over the course of years. Many signers were not members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776 and did not vote for the Declaration (although they obviously supported it and risks their lives just as much by signing it).

    This country has a rich and exciting history. Unfortunately, the public too often confuses history with myth or are just plain wrong about events of the past. In the words of historian Richard Shenkman, “"Not only have (Americans) forgotten what they should remember, but they have remembered what they should have forgotten."

  • Yellowstone National Park Bison Unhappy With Photo Shoot Tosses Pennsylvania Boy   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Well, Ann & Jim, just an example of how the NPS is being politically undermined in this process, in case you did not know it:

    During the Clinton Administration (YES, the CLINTON ADMINISTRATION) the Congress went Republican. That meant Republicans got control of the NPS budget through the Appropriations Committee. The situation got so coercive that the Republican congressional staff member who controlled the NPS budget in the House of Representative tuned the Clinton's own Assistant Secretary for Budget and Administration into a total wimp, to do her bidding, because she could control ALL the money going into all the Department of the Interior agencies, including paying for this guy's office, and his boss' office.

    NPS still had some discretion over its budget in those days. When the brucellosis thing hit, NPS used funds taken from its construction budget to do the scientific analysis for the "EIS," without which NPS would have had no basis to fight the Cattlemen or the States. Here is how that Republican congressional staffer shut the NPS freedom of action down:

    Using the guise of using the "outhouse" cost overrun scandal [ a new-age experimental design of an outhouse that took no maintenance, and was to be a "green" building, and like a lot of experiments went several times over budget to end up costing almost $1 M, a PR disaster but actually a much smaller issue than what it was deliberately made into ], this congressional staffer forced a reorganization of the access to the funding for all projects in all parks. Any discretionary spending was eliminated, and all projects when through this tyrant's hands. Congress set up a commission to recommend how the reorganization should happen, and designated up to half the membership by NPS people. Well, the wimp Asst. Secretary was so intimidated by the congressional staff tyrant that he prevented the NPS from having ANY seats on the commission about how the money would be spent.

    Needless to say, this staffer from Scranton with very little knowledge or park experience micro managed the NPS. No more discretionary funding from project money was availabe to the NPS. That means, when NPS needs to turn on a dime to deal with attacks and challenges, it first had to go through the committee and wait over a year to spend the funding. Even funds raised through fees came through her control, and fee projects took months to approve. The next thing she did was to even get control of FINANCIAL GIFTS TO THE NPS, by insisting that projects funded by donations over a certain amount first needed her permission to go forward. In other words, the Appropriations Committee -- which means this one staffer -- even had control over funds that did not come from tax-payers dollars, and were not appropriated. She had the flimsiest justification that anything NPS takes on may become financially overwhelming and ultimately require bailing out by the appropriations, so she should approve all in advance. And since bureaucrats in Washington who opposed her got investigated and ones who supported her got promoted [example: mary bomar & sue masica] the result is NPS has no real discretionary control any more.

    So, that is what happened to the discretionary source of funding used imaginatively by NPS leaders to take on the brucellosis challenge.

    Have you noticed what happens to Yellowstone superintendents who fight back? Do you not think Senator Thomas and others made Mike Finley learn he was unwelcome? Finley is still young enough to be superintendent, but he is long out of the NPS. How many superintendents have there been at Yellowstone since the '90's?

    Even during the Clinton administration, they couldn't handle the pressure. When the outcry against Babbitt as secretary, who was taking on intrenched interests in the West, got so much that Clinton couldn't handle it (after all, Clinton was on the defensive through most of his Presidency) he even tried to get rid of Babbitt by MOVING HIM TO THE SUPREME COURT ! But they say Babbitt had antagonized so many in the Senate that Clinton learned he could not push Babbitt out that way. But the bottom line is, with the Republicans in conrol of the money, there was little Babbitt could do, and the NPS had virtually no discretion in use of its funding. This kind of micro-management is a new phenom, and it really changes things.

    Or does all this just escape you, that NPS is losing the political power it once had?

    I think NPS would love to fight the Cattlemen head on, and without the environmental supporters, the park would have no leverage at all.

  • National Park Quiz 9: The American Revolution   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Rangertoo: I’m not sure I understand your first point. Guess I’m feeling a little dense today. (Maybe I’ve caught the National Geographic best list disease?) I thought I had my bases covered when I said “…signed in 1776” without specifying day and month. Or were you referring to something else?

    Your comment about Federal Hall National Monument also leaves me a bit frustrated. In my vocabulary, “where” means “site”. If you replace the original building once or twice or a hundred times, that site retains the property of “where."

    Note that the Park Service agrees that "where means site means where." Here is the first sentence of the lead paragraph on the Federal Hall National Monument home page:

    Here on Wall Street, George Washington took the oath of office as our first President, and this site was home to the first Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch offices.

    As you can see, the Park Service charges right in there with a site-specific declaration that doesn't mention the building or buildings -- whether still there or long gone -- in which the events of interest took place.

    OK; enough of the weaselspeak. .” I did tinker a bit with the question stem, and I hope you can live with the new version.

  • Yellowstone National Park Bison Unhappy With Photo Shoot Tosses Pennsylvania Boy   6 years 30 weeks ago

    One other point on this d-2, don't be too quick to put this only on Bush; this process started in earnest under Clinton. In terms of Montana's involvement, it's happened under both Republican and Democratic regimes. This is less about who rules the political machinery and a lot more about who controls the levers of that machinery. In Montana, the livestock industry has disproportionate political leverage based on their numbers and their value to the economy; in the IBMP, they control APHIS. As long as NPS as an agency - regardless of president - does not take a stronger stand against the industry, it's fair to say of it that it's a pawn. It's not a piece exercising it's own power; it's being exercised by someone else. In this case, facts show that livestock interests are controlling the politics and the pawns on the board.

    But, the question remains - what is the relationship of policy that hurts animals and herd units in the winter with what they do in the summer. It still strikes me as hypocritical - not that hypocrites shouldn't speak - to call for tourists to stay away from wildlife when the agencies involved don't do the same and in fact bother them in much more profound ways. Of course, tourists should stay away from bison whether a hypocrite tells you or someone else; however, it does bring to light what else is wrong.

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