Recent comments

  • Kids Detached From Nature? Here's One Example   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Welcome back Merryland to the real world of a hyper-ventilating society with tantrums to throw in with the spoil kids. It seems the general poplace in Europe do a much better job in educating there children to "tread softly and leave no rock unturned" than we do...I wonder why! I know that European outdoor flavor very well. Welcome back and skoal!

  • Is New Jersey Delegation Unduly Forcing Great Falls of Paterson Park on NPS?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    If local communities want to hang the NPS shield on less than nationally significant sites maybe they should be required to pony up a substantial amount of the operating funds. They get the arrowhead, the agency gets much needed funding from locally derived sources.

    In St. George, Utah the Feds helped pay for private land that a local developer had cleared for a subdivision and then subsequently discovered a huge layer of rock strata that was full of dinosaur footprints, trackways and long tail drags. The local U.S. Representative got the Congress to appropriate the needed funds for the initial purchase of the land and then had it transferred to the local government for development into a park. No one that I know of has lamented the lack of an arrowhead on the exit ramps of I-15.

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

    Bob and Mack,
    I would love to volunteer,
    I would love to get so much more information on this,,
    And I would definitely love to talk to Marcia myself.
    At this point I am just so relieved the "hunt" is over.
    But I want it stopped and NEVER to happen again. EVER!
    I would leave my email address for you to directly reach me,,
    But if so many butcherers are reading these comments,
    I'd be afraid to give them access to me.
    Please let me know what I can do.
    Just because it's past the 21rst,, doesn't mean this is over by ANY means.
    I will speak for the bears who were slaughtered.
    They will not be killed in vain, and will not be forgotten.
    I PROMISE.

  • Leadership Summit: Some Afterthoughts   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Here's how I see it:

    1. The National Park Service (and the government in general) established a legacy of mismanaging funds, which ticked a lot of people off (remember the outhouses which cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands?).

    2. The taxpayers finally got savvy to the fact that the NPS really isn't a bunch of altruistic Dudley Do-Rights.

    3. For this and other reasons, money was taken from the NPS, thereby enabling the corporations to make more.

    4. Now that the NPS can't take care of itself (lack of adequate funding coupled with continued mismanagement), the agency has to go begging to the corporations for its money back.

    5. This has made the problem worse, because begging for money takes even more time and costs even more money... and is therefore even more inefficient.

    6. Plus, once we get the money, there will be strings attached!

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

    katmai lover, at this point my issue is not about the size or health of the brown bear population nor is it about hunting brown bears in general - I am not well enough informed to discuss those issues, but soon will be.

    My issue is with what is clearly and unquestionably evidenced in the video: non-fair chase shootings of brown bears.

    I am 100% opposed to non-fair chase shoots. I will no longer call them "hunts" as there is no hunting involved.

    Marcia Blasak informs me that fair chase or non-fair chase is a *cultural* issue. And this is true.

    If these bears are so habituated to humans that a shooter can easily approach and shoot with difficulty, then this practice should be prohibited, in my opinion. And apparently many agree.

  • Kids Detached From Nature? Here's One Example   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Merryland:

    Where were you?

    I worked at a national park in Bulgaria as a Peace Corps volunteer and experienced the same situation as you. None of the Bulgarian national parks had paved roads; they built visitor centers OUTSIDE the park. That's not to say that the parks there didn't have problems or issues, just that they were generally more peaceful and natural.

  • Is New Jersey Delegation Unduly Forcing Great Falls of Paterson Park on NPS?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Good on you guys for continuing to ask the hard questions about dealing with corruption at the higher levels.

    My apologies in advance for comments which may appear irrelevant to the initial postings, by submitting "Simple Proposals" at the park level. However, problems I'm attempting to address are microcosms of a much higher level of corruption, and every bit as vile. If we can't get our acts together within the boundaries of our own parks, how can we ever fix the mess that is Washington, DC? Therefore, I continue to post "Simple Proposals"... and ask for your indulgence.

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    Today, a significant amount of NPS work revolves around implementing a constant barrage of initiatives. Some initiatives come and go, while others linger, like the bad smell of fish in your kitchen. Occasionally an initiative will start out small, then grow, resembling some horrible, radioactive mass from a bad 1950's movie...to eventually engulf everything and everyone in its path...

    Most NPS employees, from the lowest paid "essential" staff to the highest paid "non-essential" levels, hate initiatives. Well, at least that's what they say in private.

    Regardless, many staff have learned to embrace, cultivate, and even promote intitiatives, not because they agree with them, but because initiatives are their ticket to career "success." Spend a lot of time and tax dollars implementing the latest initiative, even if it doesn't make any sense, and you can slather it--and its acronym--across your resume.

    Who knows, to assuage any guilt, maybe you'll even come to believe that the initiative is brilliant!

    Yes, some will argue that we have no choice; initiatives are mandates from much higher levels. Fine. But pay the initiative what bare minimum attention it deserves...then get back to the important business of caring for your public and your park.

    Simple Proposal #3: Please Don't Feed the Initiatives!

  • Is New Jersey Delegation Unduly Forcing Great Falls of Paterson Park on NPS?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    There's a place up for consideration in Waco, Texas as well... a site of many mammoths found back in 1978, all buried from a single mudslide event (as far as they can tell at the moment). Baylor University is currently overseeing it, but there's definite excitement locally about getting the NPS shield put up on the interstate to have people stop, look, and spend their money. And face it, the NPS logo has much better stopping power than any state park sign ever would.

    Here's the story I read when I was out in New Mexico a coupla weeks ago:
    http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2007-10-17-waco-mammoth-site_N.htm

    Can't say I blame 'em for trying though.

  • Kids Detached From Nature? Here's One Example   6 years 47 weeks ago

    I was in a national park in Europe this past weekend. And only 15 miles from a major city with a million residents I was able to experience total silence, save the occasional warbling warbler or pecking woodpecker, or my own footsteps. As the day warmed up, families started appearing here and there on the trails and not a single one of them annoyed me in that special way only ugly Americans can seem to annoy. No screaming at the top of their lungs, no throwing rocks at the wildlife, no swinging from the tree branches -- just a bunch of families out enjoying the outdoors together, singing songs, roasting things over the fire, poking sticks in the mud, tossing pebbles in the lake. What's happened to us?

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

    Here's the latest dodge from the NPS that I'm sure many of you also received...

    I'm not sure why Alaska manages the land if it's truly a NATIONAL Preserve. And the games we play with words to hide what's really going on are silly. Preserve? Harvest? Sounds more like they're picking berries to make jam.

    The National Park Service should have no business monitoring, managing, or mismanaging land where bears are annually slaughtered for fun. Hand it over to USFS or BLM where harvesting is actually something that's done.

    <><><><><>

    IN REPLY REFER TO:

    N1623(AKRO-ARDC)

    October 22, 2007

    Dear National Park Friend:

    Yours was one of many e-mails we received since television, internet and
    print coverage of the recent bear hunt in Katmai National Preserve was seen
    by people in Alaska and around the world. While I do not expect to change
    your views on this matter, in the next few paragraphs I do hope to explain
    the position of the National Park Service, including some of the research
    which guides us, and the limits to federal action.

    Katmai National Preserve was established in 1980 by the Alaska National
    Interest Lands Conservation Act. It mandated, in Section 202, that this
    area be managed for “high concentrations of brown/grizzly bears.” Section
    203 provides that sport hunting in national preserves shall be permitted.
    Sport hunting is regulated by the state of Alaska.

    Research by state and federal biologists show that the density of bears in
    the preserve is high. This August, three survey flights over the preserve
    produced an average count of 279 bears, with a high of 329 in one instance.
    Because you never see every bear, this translates into an estimated
    population of about 580 bears in the preserve, or more than one bear for
    every square mile. A similar count in August 2006 showed an estimated
    preserve population of 331 bears and an average count during three flights
    of 159 bears. Researchers have also seen a high proportion of single bears,
    another fact reflective of a healthy, high-density population.

    Hunting takes place the fall of odd-numbered years and in the spring of
    even-numbered years. During the last open fall-spring hunt, 35 bears were
    taken. This translates to an annual harvest rate of no more than 5 percent,
    considered by biologists to be a conservative harvest.

    The bear population in the preserve (and in the neighboring national park
    and state lands) is mobile and individual bears move from areas where
    hunting is legal to areas where hunting is prohibited. Food supply is among
    the factors in this movement. As a result of this movement over many miles
    and often among jurisdictions, they may also move from where they are
    relatively easily seen by bear-viewing visitors or biologists to areas
    where they are less likely to be seen. This means counts will necessarily
    be approximations, and that observations at different times of the year and
    in different locations will result in varying data. Our management and that
    of the state Department of Fish and Game takes mobility, variations in food
    supply and counting techniques into account by looking at population
    numbers over a large area and over time, and not at the numbers of bears in
    a particular location.

    The seasons, harvest limits and other regulations regarding the hunt are
    established by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Board
    of Game, a group appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Alaska
    Legislature. These regulations define “ethical” in a regulatory sense, and
    it is those rules which we and the state of Alaska enforce.

    Alaskans and others may talk to their elected and appointed officials about
    the hunting rules they want to see on public land. When Congress last spoke
    on the issue, it mandated that sport hunting was legal in Alaska’s national
    preserves and that, absent extraordinary circumstances, hunting would be
    managed by the state of Alaska.

    Some letter writers also described their views that bears in the preserve
    are used to seeing people through the summer, including fishermen and bear
    viewers. It is true that bear viewing has grown as an activity over the
    last several years. Bears have also been the targets of hunters on the
    Alaska Peninsula for decades, including the period since the establishment
    of the national preserve in 1980. Our experience with bears indicates that
    there is significant variation in the tolerance level which bears have of
    humans, regardless of the activity in which people are engaged.

    The National Park Service will continue to closely monitor the population
    of bears in Katmai, as well as scrutinize harvest levels and other visitor
    activities. We appreciate your concern for the park and its resources and
    welcome your continued participation in the public process.

    Sincerely,
    Marcia Blaszak
    Regional Director

  • Is New Jersey Delegation Unduly Forcing Great Falls of Paterson Park on NPS?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    I think that this is going to be an uphill battle because all of the other Congressman have their own chips to throw into the ante of that expensive game called pork barrel poker. How much will my Congressman realistically care about the creation of a park in faraway NJ, especially since he might need Pascrell's support in the future for something he wants to lavish on his own district? Why should he risk alienating Pascrell over a lousy waterfall and some dingy buildings on the Passaic River? Mencken's adage that elections are nothing more than an advance auction on stolen goods seems especially apt at this moment as I contemplate the way Congress recklessly wastes its ill gotten wealth like sailors on shore leave.

    The ultimate answer should revolve around a reform movement to change the way parks get created in the first place. If Steamtown and Keweenaw NHP (much of which was a Superfund cleanup site) were easily voted in, I don't see this park getting rejected by the bandits on Capitol Hill.

    If they have already blatantly ignored the findings of the very people that they will soon charge with the responsibility of maintaining this new park, what difference will our cards and letters make?

    It's simply time for this corrupt system to end. There is no practical way to reform it that I can see.

  • Director Bomar: Let Science, Not Politics, Decide the Yellowstone Snowmobile Issue   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Regarding science and emotions: Science can predict how much impact will be produced by "x" number of snowmobiles or snowcoaches. Science can not always tell us how much impact we should allow.

    The beauty of the 2006 Park Management Policies is that they do not set an arbitrary limit to the amount of pollution (for example) or other impacts that will be allowed. Instead, these Policies state, “The NPS managers must always seek ways to avoid, or to minimize the greatest degree practicable, adversely impacting park resources and values.”

    Further, for individual resources these Management Policies elegantly set resource protection measures that allow each Park to be protected to the maximum practical level for that Park. Therefore, the wildlife and soundscape protection measures at the Washington Monument are set differently than they would be in Yellowstone. The Policies require that both sites be protected to the "greatest degree practicable" given the unique attributes of that site.

    Here's a sampling of some resource-specific protection measures afforded by the NPS Managment Policies:

    Air Quality: NPS shall “seek to perpetuate the best possible air quality in the parks.”
    Natural Soundscapes: "preserve to the greatest extent possible the natural soundscapes of the Parks.”
    Use of Motorized Equipment: use “the least impacting equipment, vehicles and transportation systems”

    While science may not be able to tell us how much impact is acceptable, it can answer the question, "Which alternative will result in the least impact to resources while allowing the public to access and enjoy their National Parks." With respect to Yellowstone winter use, the wealth of scientific study on this topic provides a clear, scientifically defensible answer, as the hosts of this site have already pointed out.

  • Kids Detached From Nature? Here's One Example   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Who to blame? Their parents, of course. Children who are introduced to the wonders of nature at an early age like going to National Parks. Children who are plunked down in front of a video game grow up liking video games.
    The other contenders aren't factors. Fear of nature? Only kids who've never been out in nature, fear nature. That's not a reason but an outcome. Urbanization has been going on for decades. Higher park entrance fees? For kids who have $300 video games? No.

    Sending your kids out into nature requires more parenting than just setting them in front of the TV. You have to go with them and get exercise yourself. Kids age 9-12 can't just be sent outside to play anymore (except in the backyard) by themselves. We've cranked up the fear level so high over pedophiles, kidnappers, and missing children that any parent who did that would be viewed as negligent. Then parents have to make sure their kids are sunscreened every few hours. You can't just send the kid outside to get burned and risk skin cancers as they grow up. They have to be in cell phone contact with the parents if they're out by themselves or again, you'd be looked at as a bad parent.

    To be a good parent today requires that you be more protective of your kid. In the 'olden day's good parents sent their kids outside to play all day, no phone, no sunscreen, nothing and didn't worry so long as they came back by dark. Not today.

  • Kids Detached From Nature? Here's One Example   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Kurt, I saw this news article in the San Francisco Chronicle (10/22/07) and I thought of sending it you. But, I figured you probably had the article on your front desk before the day would be over. I guess I was right, there's nothing more distressing then seeing are young children more detached and oblivious to nature every day. I see the kids in my very neighbor that have that blankty-blank look of what's nature and so what, or show me the nearest mall and I'm one happy camper. Geez, all I can say, we have a long, long ways to go with these kids. Iv'e seen what nature can really do to heal these children from that numb spaced out look. I give you much credit Kurt for bringing this issue to the public light. When we are wasting billions of dollars on a sicking war that should of never happened, we are in the mean time wasting children away from a lack of good quality health and dental care, decent housing, clean air, and child brutality...you name it! The bottomless war chest (for Bushs corporate buddies) goes un-checked while are kids are starving for holistic conscientious care and simple basic needs. Who do we blame?

  • Is New Jersey Delegation Unduly Forcing Great Falls of Paterson Park on NPS?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Frank,

    The short answer in this instance is to contact your senators and urge them not to pass this legislation in the Senate. The longer answer probably is a mix between getting groups such as the National Parks Conservation Association to lobby against such park pork and getting an organized email blast system to protest directly to congress-folk.

    Of course, as Jim MacDonald has pointed out several times (and long ago), the effort needs to be both concerted, continual, and personal -- tracking down your congress-folk and staffers when they come to town and telling them point-blank your position.

  • Is New Jersey Delegation Unduly Forcing Great Falls of Paterson Park on NPS?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Kurt, Thanks for bringing this to our attention. This seems not to be a problem of the NPS' creation (the NPS recommended it NOT be included in the system) but a problem of Congress' creation. Congress keeps adding sites without adjusting funding.

    My qustion for the editors and readers is this:

    Now that we're aware of this problem, what, if anything, can be done to stop this practice or to repair this system?

  • Is New Jersey Delegation Unduly Forcing Great Falls of Paterson Park on NPS?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Well said Kurt and I agree with everything you wrote. Your inclusion of the NPS analysis of the site as being deemed unsuitable for inclusion points directly at the futility of continuing to pretend that political management of the parks can ever be done in a way that is anything but self-serving and corrupt.

    The creation of a new national park should be more significant that just another rider on an appropriations bill, sandwiched next to sugar subsidies and money for a new highway in South Carolina. It really goes against all that the national parks should supposedly stand for and why they were created in the first place.

    I wonder how much the owners in NJ are "selling" it for?

    What's next? Brooklyn Bridge National Monument? I shouldn't be giving them any ideas!

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

    Mack, I would agree that bears feeding on salmon runs are very tolerant of humans, as evidenced in KNP as well as other places like the McNeil River. They are also tolerant of humans when they run out of salmon, and are happy to utilize them as a food source as Treadwell unfortunately found out.

    There are currently as many as 2500 bears in Katmai National Park, with the population steadily increasing for many years. KNP's website has a newsletter, "The Novarupta", that you can download and on p. 10, there is information on the bear population. Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game also has some information. There is some good information about bears in the ADFG "Wildlife Notebook" series on brown bears. I was interested to learn that brown bear cubs stay with their mother longer when food is scarce. This summer in KNP, I saw several mothers with cubs that were probably 3 to 5 years old. Normally, cubs leave their mothers at 2 to 3 years of age. I was on American Creek this summer, and food didn't seem scarce, as the water was literally choked with sockeyes. However, choice fishing locations may be getting scarce as bear numbers increase.

    I hope the video being displayed doesn't deter people from hunting bears, but I do hope it encourages people to be better managers of bears. KNP covers about 5700 square miles, which means there is a grizzly bear for every 2.3 square miles. Compare that with Yellowston NP, whose grizzlies just came off the threatened list in March of 2007. There are now over 500 grizzlies in YNP, which covers about 3400 square miles, for a ratio of 6.8 square miles per bear. Comparing YNP with KNP, KNP has triple the bear density of Yellowstone. All that to say, I think a little hunting in the Katmai Preserve is a good thing, and we should be rejoicing that we are doing so well at managing wildlife.

  • Director Bomar: Let Science, Not Politics, Decide the Yellowstone Snowmobile Issue   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Dr. Jim

    Frank is probably lamenting the fact that we both might consider enlisting the help of an editorial staff!

    From my information, the Marshall Institute is and has been for quite some time the procuators of bad science as I attempted to define it above. Not objective, agenda-based garbage research techniques, precisely as you recollected. Who they choose or chose as bedfellows comes as less of a surprise to me than you might believe. Even the folks at NASA, the most respected group of scientists in government, as subjected to the inane directives of Congress, to whom they are beholden. While individual projects are generally well conceived and executed culminating in what would be deemed "reliable" data, the direction of the overall program is NOT, by any means, a legitimate independent scientific arm of the government. That little nuance disturbes me greatly. But where else is an organization such as NASA going to go begging for funding? For a number of years there has been an accountability issue within the organization, but when your funding comes with strings attached, who are the ones TRUELY accountable?

    It would indeed be absurd for me to submit that scientists have no values. But I don't think I inferred that science is the determinate factor in the Yellowstone issue. Quite the contrary, I believe that my position was to utilize science as one and only one of the tools in the process. I am also a supporter of the position that even "good" science is not without fault; that is, there are multiple examples of good data being manipulated to support unsound reasoning, or hidden agenda, or for corporate gain, or.......well, you can fill in the blanks with your own list of abuses. But personal values aside, without objectivity, the design and execution, which are the only things that are of any scientific value and the legitimizing variables between compromised viewpoints whether its a Nielsen poll or a stem cell differentiation program. If one experiences difficulty separating their personal beliefs and values from the program, one has the duty to remove themself from the program so as not to compromise the integrity of the project. Similar to a judge voluntarily setpping down from a case in which they cannot remain impartial, such that the integrity of the trial will not be compromised, pure science demands the same impartiality or the whole program is worthless. The best science HAS to be done without becoming subservient to an agenda. Once an agenda is mandated the rest is meaningless. It is my belief based on my industry experience that the fallacy lies within the practice of science being conducted as a determinent factor, which is against everything I stand for, was taught and have taught. I guess that's the biggest reason I didn't follow E&E and instead went into chemotherapeutic research. Way much politics involved in ecological and environmental issues, as we have seen. That an I didn't want to spend eternity as a glorified statistician. But after being jaded by the Big Pharma experience, and the up-close and personal look at politics driving research, I decided pure research held a much more attractive future, albeit less profitable. But again, I digress.

    In response to Beamis, I don't believe Director Bomar has enough arrows in her quiver to make a sound, informed determination on this issue. The power she indeed possesses, most unfortunately for the rest of us, and she's not afraid to wield her mystical sword as she sees fit. However, I highly question her ability to see clearly based on her previous comments.

  • Leadership Summit: Some Afterthoughts   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Given that the President has just asked for billions more for the war, and the total cost of the Iraq war is something like $700 billion, and given the total cost will likely top a trillion, and given that this money is being borrowed and will have to be repaid by future generations, I don't think Congress or the next president will place the needs of the NPS high on the priority list. NPS advocates are merely one interest group out of thousands begging Congress for a share of the pie; there are so many other organizations which get federal money that are "underfunded", and there are only so many tax dollars go to around. This is why I advocate depoliticizing national parks. I like your suggestions for different employee assessments and assessing the 391-unit system, but I don't think it'll be enough.

    Many parks are already branded. They're branded with Ford's logo and Xanterra's name.

    Thanks for bringing your conversations with corporate donors to light. It's fascinating reading!

  • Director Bomar: Let Science, Not Politics, Decide the Yellowstone Snowmobile Issue   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Wow Jim! you certainly can write a provocative blog that cuts the sinew to the bone. I'm glad to see that your a local on this website, I tend to follow your blogs with sharp concentration and focus. I know where your coming from on this issue, my father was a gifted research scientist at a very prominent university were similiar tactics were used to distort and discredit valuable and meaningful research. Much as he enjoyed his work, he also sold his values to the evils of unjust men...called compromsing with the devil! The booze finally killed him!! Anyway, thanks for sharing your indepth work experience at G.C. Marshall Insititute.

  • 60 Minutes : The Age of Megafires   6 years 47 weeks ago

    I think your beliefs regarding the burial ceremonies are pretty secure. Thanks for the added info. But these communities who are against periodic smoke inhalation have no high ground, moral or otherwise. It reminds me of people who purchase homes near airports then complain about the noise, or those who choose to live in disaster prone regions then expect federal bail-outs when flooding or the like occurs. In terms of those in the fire regions, my advice to them would be to pick the intelligent lesser of two evils. Smoke every few years, or losing your precious belongings in a devastating inferno. Sounds like a no-brainer to me, but what do I know?

  • Director Bomar: Let Science, Not Politics, Decide the Yellowstone Snowmobile Issue   6 years 47 weeks ago

    So getting back to the question at hand, is Mary Bomar making the correct decision? Is there a definable set of standards and criteria to guide her in this matter? Does she have the political power to completely ignore overwhelming evidence that indicates that her decision could adversely affect the environment of Yellowstone? I say of course she does. Career survival and advancement in the NPS is always way more important than the fate of a mere park any day of the week, even majestic and venerable Yellowstone. That's why the only people in the agency that publicly speak out are safely retired and receiving their monthly checks.

    This should be a critical turning point in how the NPS is judged in conducting its job of resource stewardship. We are all watching this in slow motion and it shouldn't be too hard to discern whether or not valid science is being ignored by the director.

    I have my opinion, what about the rest of you?

  • Director Bomar: Let Science, Not Politics, Decide the Yellowstone Snowmobile Issue   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker,

    I have a lot of experience with the politicization of science. I don't disagree that it's heinous to take something that's value neutral, use it to support a certain set of values, use money to support only those people with the credentials to regurgitate your own point of view, and then use resources to amplify the point of view "as scientific." I think my point of view is that the response to that heinousness can be dangerous because people can go on to conclude fallaciously that science supported by an agenda is therefore no good (which assumes that science can be done simply by scientists who have no values, which is absurd). It can also lead people to the fallacious conclusion that un-politicized science will determine the question of what to do about snowmobiles in Yellowstone, which it doesn't. Science, not politics; science, not emotions is not a mantra that does as much as people sometimes believe. So, I had two points; objectivity is not what's void of emotion, or value; it's what is true regardless of emotion or value. Secondly, de-politicizing the science won't actually answer the policy questions involved; it will only help on a very narrow scale. It's also not clear how well that can happen in a world where science and policy also meet (which wasn't one of my two points, but something else besides).

    Now, I do have experience with this. When I was working on my Ph.D. in philosophy at Catholic University, I was fairly poor, trying to support the cost of living in Washington, DC, while I studied. So, work was a necessary addition to me, even though I received free tuition. I finally landed a job at a place that I very quickly discovered after accepting the job was a very right wing think tank called the George C. Marshall Institute. They claim that they are a non-partisan organization interested in the de-politicization of science. In fact, their two main issues that they use supposedly to highlight this mission are the issues of climate change and the issue of a missile defense system. In their case, they argued that there is no evidence that humans actually are causing global warming, and they argue that we need a missile defense system now and that the science supports putting up some system immediately. They received sums of money from right wing foundations like Scaife, and they were also funded by the oil industry. My job was simply as a kind of receptionist, lowest level admin, for this very small ineffectual organization - just one among a number of satellite organizations funded by the same people to serve as skeptics on climate change. I hated it, but I wanted to see firsthand how this works, and for awhile, I contented myself as a kind of Robin Hood, who got paid too much to do as little as possible, while learning all kinds of ridiculous things about the way right wing organizations work through think tanks. Our organization was thoroughly incompetent and far too small to matter, but we continued to do enough to justify to our funders that we were relevant.

    Anyhow, one of the most egregious things that I witnessed at Marshall was when we were putting together a directory of climatologists as a guide to media and others researching climate change. It was simply a directory of addresses, contact information, and specialty. As far as climatologists, we put both skeptics and non-skeptics to the list; however, a lot of other non-climatologists were being added to the list. All of these people were skeptics. When a couple of us sought to balance this, knowing that our credibility would be shot as a non-partisan, non-ideological organization if we weren't consistent in our criteria, the President of the organization (a former head of the American Petroleum Institute) shot it down. When we argued that it would look better for us, especially on something as innocuous as a directory, if we were consistent, his response was something I'll never forget. He said, "Why should we give aid and comfort to our enemies?" He had just put all his cards on the table and proven that he had no interest in anything but promoting the skeptics' agenda on climate change. (This was only one small example; we used to have press releases ready on missile defense tests ready to release as soon as the test was successful but nothing at all sometimes if a test turned out to be a failure).

    Once, this President came up to me and told me he expected a call from the Vice President's office (yes, Cheney) based on a conversation they had had during one of his vacations to Jackson Hole. Just by coincidence, this guy was taking his vacations to Jackson Hole the same time Cheney was. I always suspected that this had to do with the secret meetings Cheney was alleged to have been having with the oil industry. Here he confirmed to me that he was meeting with Cheney and not just on vacation. The info was so sensitive that he didn't even want the Executive Director to know that he was expecting this call. Here I now had firsthand evidence of what Cheney was then keeping a guarded secret, that he was meeting with oil people to talk and strategize over climate change.

    This same guy was also still a registered lobbyist with the oil industry. One Executive Director resigned after challenging him on that. The President held strongly that his two hats were separate. Umm, no, they were never separate. He wasn't even a scientist, but the scientists at the organization were not any better. Some really believed; however, all used dubious assertions and claims if it kept their funding sources happy. You had astrophysicists making plugs for clean coal, in one case that comes to mind.

    So, I know firsthand about this and have seen inside an organization that was using the de-politicization of science as a smokescreen to further politicize science. It was disgusting, and finally getting fired for slacking off was about the best thing that happened to me. I was already an activist; I had seen enough of this world.

    And, yet, having seen all that, I am perhaps more convinced of my initial two points, perhaps because all that time in the office around this issue forced me to think about the intersection of values and science. When reading our reports, I needed to know how I could separate the chaff from the wheat. There were a lot of ufair criticisms of the Marshall Institute as well, often based on various ad hominem arguments. Being in that position, you realize more and more that science has been overblown in our society as an arbiter, and that everyone wants a piece of it. Yet, perhaps there are other reasons behind what we should do on issues like climate change and missile defense that don't depend on what the science says or doesn't say is possible, answers that are accessible to everyone. I was and am certain that there are.

    And, as for who these wicked people are, I've said more than enough that just a little research will tell you, or I'll gladly share offline. This was years ago, but many of the same people are still in the same game, and some are actually true believers - you can't simply look at their funding sources; they really believe in the science they have done. That was always refreshing, even if you still thought the whole enterprise sickening.

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

  • 60 Minutes : The Age of Megafires   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Re: Smokey
    From: My forthcoming (someday?) book

    In a way, I am very resentful of Smokey. Growing up, whenever I saw a blackened forest, I remembered those cartoon commercials where a group of talking animals gathered in an idyllic forest setting to celebrate Smokey’s birthday or just to hang out. It was a peaceful world where black bears and bunny rabbits co-existed in harmony and happy little birds sang beautiful melodies. And then a human forgot to put out a campfire, and all the animals scattered with looks of terror painted on their anthropomorphic faces as the forest erupted into a blazing inferno around them. Cut to devastation. As far as you could see, it looked as though someone had dropped an A-bomb; only charred skeletal trees remained; animals that weren’t burned to a crisp were now “homeless” and morosely surveyed the holocaust landscape as tears streamed down their faces. Then Smokey turned the camera and begged us to be careful with fire. It made me feel horrible. When I saw real blackened landscapes, all I could think about were all the sweet, innocent animals destroyed by the fire.

    During my tenure as a ranger, I stumbled across a slide of a poster–probably from the 1940s or 1950s–that further illustrated how the Forest Service anthropomorphized animals to indoctrinate young children. The poster shows the usual scene of devastation in the background, and Smokey’s in the foreground, his shadily acquired NPS flat hat held respectfully across his chest. At his feet are two small mounds of earth marked with crosses; two young gophers kneel in prayer beside the graves, their small hands folded, their tiny heads bowed. In bold letters at the top of the poster:
    PLEASE . . .

    Please, indeed.

    Fire, I’ve learned, has many effects on animals. But I’m relatively sure it doesn’t induce them to have Christian burials for their fallen brethren.

    Smokey is one of the reasons why prescribed fire is such a hard sale; the public still holds major misconceptions about fire's necessity in the ecosystem. Thanks Smokey!

    Rx fire produces smoke, and some local communities fight management ignitions 'cause people don't want to breathe smoke. However, the land will eventually burn, and with Rx fire, smoke impacts are far easier to mitigate than wildfire smoke. I could go on and on about crowning in different fuel and vegetation types, risk management, and modern fuel loads, which is the real culprit (it's easier and sexier to blame EVERYTHING on global warming), but I'll save it for another time.