Recent comments

  • Park History: Olympic National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    We are retired and do some travel in our RV. The summer of 2005, we did volunteer campground hosting at Sol Duc. Being from south Texas, we were truly amazed and fell in love with Olympic National Park. While there, we visited the Hoh Rain Forest, Lake Quinault, Hurricane Ridge, and other areas including, the coastline with its seastacks. One side trip we made more than once was to Cape Flattery and Neah Bay. We try to return to Olympic National Park, as often as we can. It is truly a beautiful and remarkable place.

  • “10 Best National Parks”? National Geographic, You Have Got to be Kidding!   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Sabattis, thanks for the reminder about Santa Fe National Historic Trail. My weaselspeak excuse is that I was lulled by the fact that the trail has a code (SAFE) like a regular national park does. Thank goodness you were not similarly stupefied. If you will look at the article again, you'll note that I went back in and revised it to take care of that little problem with the trail. You'll also note that I gave you credit. As for that quick-and-easy gambit, my guess is that an NG higher up would direct one of the organization's spokesweasels to tell us that the list in the book is not an "official" NG list, and that we should aim our criticism at the book's authors. But, just for the record, I don't intend to play whack-a-mole with National Geographic. Your DENA comment is interesting. Counting national parks (or dealing with their names/designations) is like falling into quicksand; the harder you struggle, the deeper you sink and the more hopeless you feel.

  • Oglala Sioux Just Might Reclaim Southern Half of Badlands National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Phil, with all due respect, yours is one of the most ridiculous statements that was ever posted on this site that wasn't attributed to me. The protection of the parks is in the capable hands of the NPS? The protection of the parks, sir, is directly related to whatever economic and graft-related engine drives the cesspool that resides in the houses of Congress. Period. The NPS can do little that they are not told, and NOTHING that is not funded by our ignorant politicians, who's goals are NOT preservation, but perpetration of individualistic agenda centered around which of their constituents requires some form of pay-off or pay-back, which are virtually the same thing. Additionally, how can you in one breath state that the park histories should be preserved as intended while at the same time completely ignoring those who have contributed more to those histories than has any other segment of civilization over the course of the past thousand or so years? The ONLY part of your statement that is mildly, and I'm certain quite inadvertently correct, is that Native Americans, throughout their history, never did actually claim "title" to their ancestral lands, as the concept of actual ownership of land was quite foreign, until the European land grab of the 17th century began eating up chunks of the eastern seaboard faster than rabbits can breed. The stewardship of the land was implied across ALL Native nations, never questioned, and was more of a duty to Mother Earth than a responsibility tied to "ownership". But by all means, if ANY group has the proper pedigree to claim ancient, ancestral ownership, is would most definitively be the various Native tribal cultures, who have ties to the lands that comprise this nation that precede the Anglo invasion by centuries. It can hardly be asserted that some Johnny-come-lately decided to stake a claim to something that was never theirs, as by the way, was so successfully accomplished by the Homesteaders approximately one hundred years ago, and by various other government sponsored land-grabs dating back to the early part of the 18th century. What you and most other ignorant Europeans conveniently forget, or choose to ignore, is that hundreds of years before the actual savages invaded these shores, this continent was indeed settled, with the population thriving in a much more civil manner than was ever exhibited by white men. The native inhabitants organized functional governmental bodies, established travel and trade routes, agriculture, constructed water management canals for irrigation in desert regions, answered to regional authorities, bartered in an inter-coastal and interNATIONAL trade system, practiced organized religion, were a model of population control, had a well-defined legal structure, and collectively spoke almost 500 dialects (which proved to be the biggest sole source of their undoing, militarily speaking), to name but a few accomplishments of the "savages". How DARE you be so pompous as to decide from your high and mighty perch that people have no right to do as they see best with their "property"?

  • Park Advocates Rallying Around Theodore Roosevelt National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I'll chime in as well that Theodore Roosevelt perhaps takes the prize as the "hidden jewel" of the National Park System. All in one place you can experience the bison of Yellowstone, the Badlands of South Dakota, a petrified forest and meandering rivers in a beautiful, empty, landscape...

  • Celebrating Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I'm interested to see (and quite pleased as well) the NPT Blog have this laudatory and interesting post on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. I wonder though - is it possible to imagine any place or any circumstances were a similar "top National Park experience" should be constructed today?

  • “10 Best National Parks”? National Geographic, You Have Got to be Kidding!   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Great post, Bob. Once upon a time, the National Geographic Society had a missions "to increase and diffuse geographical knowledge." Unfortunately, as almost any editor these days can tell you - making a "list" or a "rankings" is a quick-and-easy way to generate copy. And it looks like National Geographic has decided to go the quick-and-easy-route. Alagnak Wild River????? I am not even sure that Alagnak Wild River is one of the "10 Best National Parks in *Alaska*", let alone in the United States.

    And of course, I can't help but chuckle and note that they really did end up with 10 National Parks on their list. As you point out, they included both Sequoia and Kings Canyon, which are two Parks, but also the Santa Fe National Historic Trail (which is not.)

    So I'll close with one thought to ponder. If National Geographic had included Denali National Park & Preserve on their list of "10 Best Parks" - should National Geographic have been dinged for actually having 11 Parks? After all, the National Park Service inexplicably counts a remote corner of Denali National Park & Preserve as somehow being a separate Unit of the System.....

  • Comment Period For Revised Gun Regulations for National Parks About to Close   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Let's see what Justice Scalia actually said in the Supreme Court opinion ( that's relevant to regulation of guns in national parks.

    Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings ...

    Specifically, the Court ruled that absolute prohibition of handguns in the home violates the Second Amendment:

    [T]he enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.

    It did not say that the Federal government can not regulate hand guns outside the home. So all the arguments heard on this blog and elsewhere that the existing 1983 regulation on gun possession in national parks (which is not an outright prohibition) violates the Second Amendment are rhetorical excesses.

    There's nothing in the recent Court decision which gives support to the idea that concealed gun regulations are illegal, or that the federal government can not restrict the carrying of guns in some locations.

    What remains to be seen is whether or not the national parks can legitimately be considered sensitive places or not. But until that is litigated, this is a policy choice, not a constitutional one. Whether you support concealed carry in national parks or not, however, what the logic of having 50 different state rules applying in the national system of parks is beyond me. If this was truly about concealed carry (as opposed to states rights or the gun lobby asserting its power) then this proposed rule would at least make more sense if it authorized concealed carry consistently across the national park system. But that still wouldn't make it a good policy choice.

    J Longstreet
    A National Park Superintendent

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

    These parents have moved into first place for the dumb moron award of the year.

    Running a strong second, however, is the comment by Jim MacDonald above. Jim, the bison did have a hard winter, that tends to happen in Yellowstone now and then. Bison calf recruitment has been superb this year, the herd is feasting and reveling in the forage this cool, wet spring, and numbers have not been depressed near to the levels your organization claims.

    I'm a full time park ranger, back country in the season, and I'd suggest you get your facts straight. I've read through your blog and your other sites; frankly we don't need another carpet bagger moving to the West and telling everyone how the cow ate the cabbage. Working in the park for five summers grants you some insights others don't have, but it's obvious that there's a great deal about the park you're quite wrong on.

    As tempting as it is to anthromoporphize human emotions onto the bison, this child wasn't bumped because the bison are frustrated and they were traumatized this past winter. He was thrown because he was violated the animals sense of protective space and persisted there.

    Your credibility has gone to zero with the park staff, and there will be more factual counterpoints to your misdirected commentary in the future. Please exercise your freedom of speech, we'll simply do the same so that people who love Yellowstone and all it offers won't be thrown off track.

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

    RE: Bill Brown and George Hartzog:

    Kurt, thank you for your thoughts about Director Hartzog. I thought you would want to see the email exchange with Bill Brown, now of Gustavus AK, which I will paste, below.

    -- FYI: Several of us first heard about the death of George Hartzog from Bill Brown, a former acolyte of George's. Bill, author most recently of "Gaunt Beauty, Tenacious Life; a History of the Central Brooks Range," but most famously of "Islands Of Hope," was close enough to Hartzog that both supported each other and could confront each other. Although, I suppose Mr. Hartzog could confront anybody; fewer confronted him. You can see from the first message, Bill got the word from Bob Utley, historian of the Southwest, and former associate to the Director in the National Park Service:

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: bill
    Date: June 27, 2008 5:26:52 PM AKDT
    Subject: George B. Hartzog has just died

    Bob Utley just phoned me with this expected yet devastating news: George died within the hour of this message in the hospital.

    Only 3 days ago I called George and talked with Helen and Him, and he was energetically working on a draft position paper that would define the mission of the George B. Hartzog Institute at Clemson University. This Institute would center its efforts on the adaptations of the human species to the inexorable demands of Energy, Global Warming, and the Restoration of a Livable Environment for humanity and our fellow citizens on this unique, living Blue Earth. In turn, he centered the means of accomplishing this great aim on the National Parks and equivalent preserves in this country, and, by our example, around the world. These protected reservoirs of biodiversity and remaining functioning ecosystems are the seedbeds and the nurseries that will allow us, if we can understand and accept George's science-based wisdom, to repair and restore our lonely Earth, if we can learn to abide by its limits. E.O. Wilson calls these saved places Nature's Last Stands.

    This was the gist of our last conversation, one of many founded on the transformative role of National Parks and similar preserves in perpetuating our experiment in intelligent life on this friendly, sheltering EarthU in this vast universe.

    With love and affection to George and Helen

    Bill Brown

    On Jun 28, 2008, at 9:20 AM, JIM PEPPER wrote:

    Thank you, Bill, for your message and your feelings and thoughts.

    Just trying to think about the scope of George's work -- set aside for now the greater ambitions -- demonstrates the capacity of national parks and, for that matter, of government.

    I began by thinking of your "Islands of Hope" and the environmental education programs George started, that also were the way I met you. And then, the urban park programs, summer in the parks, "Web of Life" and "Man in the Biosphere," cultural parks, national seashores, aggressive legislative policy and wilderness office, pursuing Alaskan Parks and monuments, annual goals statement via Stewart Udall, national recreation areas. 2nd World Conference. In essence, parks as vital to the American People. George did tend to devour people whole, but also ate Assistant Secretaries for breakfast, as someone once said, and the building shook when he walked through the corridors.

    He inspired people. Those people inspired people in turn. The credits keep rolling through my brain. This roll of human energy demonstrates our capacity when we release our will and confidence, and believe in the things that are the best of this country.


    ----- Original Message -----
    Sent: Saturday, June 28, 2008 3:06 PM
    Subject: Re: George B. Hartzog has just died

    Of course, all you listed, plus more. What a privilege to work with [him] . .. I see Dwight Pitcaithley tackling the relevance question again in a recent speech. . . .. GBH was all about relevance. We don't have to ask what's relevance? It's getting out front and putting the NPS/S in the lead on all the issues you said and that George was working on when he keeled over. The social utility of the NPSystem is beyond quantification. And GBH broke into that realm at just the right time, and the idea still lives at an even more critical time. Best to you. . ., Bill

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

    People who are totally irresponsible should be punished. A hefty fine is in order ! Even if you don't have any common sense, there are warnings everywhere. People cannot be protected from their stupidity but they sure as heck can pay for it !!! Wildlife are wild and should not have to pay the ultimate price for stupid humans.

  • National Park History: Big Bend National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Great Write Up...

    Visit for a wealth of information on Big Bend and the entire West Texas Trans Pecos Big Bend Region...

  • “10 Best National Parks”? National Geographic, You Have Got to be Kidding!   6 years 30 weeks ago

    How come Rocky Mountain National Park never gets the credit it deserves? I'm a guide at Grand Canyon but I'd take RMNP any day over GCNP. I realize I'm in the minority here, but still...

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

    Thanks for this write-up Kurt. In addition to the PDF document of G. Hartzog's oral history interview you link to above, we have his oral history in HTML/web page format, as well.

    rob mutch
    Executive Director,
    Crater Lake Institute

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

    The parents are complete idiots and should be arrested and prosecuted for child endangerment. They should also be sent to reading remediation so they can understand all the posted signs warning against getting too close to the WILD animals.

  • “10 Best National Parks”? National Geographic, You Have Got to be Kidding!   6 years 30 weeks ago


    1) you are right about the "Alagnak Wild River," but I regret to say that the National Park Service is partly responsible for perpetuating this problem.

    Some rivers are designated Wild in one place, and Scenic or Recreational, in another. This confuses the poor dears, too. But the main thing is the people who run this program don't really know much about national parks. These guys are into recreation, not park management.

    The NPS program is called the "National Wild & Scenic Rivers Program" and for administrative purposes those people like to name ALL the rivers -- which are actually designed "Wild" or "Scenic" or "Recreational" rivers by the law -- in the same catch-all "wild & scenic" name. NPS is also making the same mistake with some of the parks and preserves in Alaska. For example, they call it "Wrangel-St. Elias National Park & Preserve" when IN FACT congress designed the "National Preserve" separately from the "National Park." Each is a separate unit. They are more enchanted with the manager who administers the combined areas. Right now, there is an effort underway to name the collection of separate national park system areas in San Francisco "Golden Gate National ParkS" to enhance the prestige of the superintendent.

    2. I've been on the Alagnak, and it's a nice river. But if you want to go to Alaska and see one national wild river, try the "Noatak National Wild River."

    I think I'd put the Noatak on the top of my list among Alaskan rivers, but I don't know anyone who has canoed or kayaked them all. Maybe Pat Pourchot. It is hard to fathom why anyone would put the Alagnak at the top, not to speak ill of a great resource.

  • “10 Best National Parks”? National Geographic, You Have Got to be Kidding!   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I haven't seen the article myself, but if what you say is true, and they made a Top Ten list without any published criteria, then shame on them.

    People look for different things in the parks. Some look for convenience with majesty, others look for remoteness & untouched nature. I'm a day hiker and casual nature enthusiast, my criteria for a Top Ten list would differ greatly from a wilderness camper/fly fisher. I have a fondness for history, and Harper's Ferry is one of my own favorite NPS sites. Someone who isn't in to such things, it would assuredly be on the bottom of the list.

    It might be interesting for us to post our own Top Tens, with criteria. I'm sure you'd get a dozen different lists.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • “10 Best National Parks”? National Geographic, You Have Got to be Kidding!   6 years 30 weeks ago


  • “10 Best National Parks”? National Geographic, You Have Got to be Kidding!   6 years 30 weeks ago

    That's the ticket. Take on the institution. Stick it to the "man". I have been reading your articles for some time now and have always found them informative and educational. I will take the word of a 44 year pro as to where I should visit. It feels wonderful to vent doesn't it?

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

    The bison have had a very rough time of it; they were upset in the winter. Don't be surprised if we see more of this; it's been a very traumatic time between the slaughter and the hard winter.

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

  • National Park Quiz 8: Firsts   6 years 30 weeks ago

    They have all those funny designations so they can justify hunting, harvesting, drilling, and mining in many of them.

    What bugs me is "Historical Park" as opposed to "Historic Site".

  • Park Advocates Rallying Around Theodore Roosevelt National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I'd have to agree with you Barky... probably my favorite too. I rode my bike around the loop road within the park and have never seen so much wildlife (in numbers and variety) in my 45 years. Going back in early August this summer and bringing along my son this time. There's nothing like the sound of bison breath outside your tent in the early morning... coyotes howling as the sun sets... and you're right -- not many people at all.

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

    The moron parade through our treasured National Parks continues. These parents should be put on a month of volunteer duty, wearing a sandwich board and walking up and down the park roads warning of the dangers of getting too close to wildlife (and the dangers of bad parenting).

    Wasn't there an even bigger dumbbell several years back who tried to place his toddler ON the big fluffy buffalo?

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

    Why can't people use their heads? I'm glad this child wasn't more seriously injured.

    This is the kind of irresponsibility that eventually ruins a visit to the Parks for the rest of us. How long before someone decides that we have to stay 100 yards away from bison too, not just from bears?

  • Park Advocates Rallying Around Theodore Roosevelt National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I've been to over 100 NPS sites, and I have to say, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is my favorite. I put it over Denali and Yosemite which, although incredible beautiful and wonderful places in their own right, have crowding and access issues that make them trying at times. TRNP, on the other hand, is beautiful and wonderful, but it's also off the beaten path. When I visited a couple of years ago, I hiked for miles and miles and only saw a handful of other intrepid soles in the fields, forests & hills. Plenty of wildlife, clean & fresh air, absolutely loved it. Living in the crowded Northeast, I found it a perfect place to "get away from it all".

    The banner picture on my blog [shameless plug] is of TR Park for that very reason.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Comment Period For Revised Gun Regulations for National Parks About to Close   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Currently I am employed in the Philippines. I love the United States and miss it terribly. It's odd to me that going through a country that has complete gun restrictions like the Philippines, I get frisked at any entry to malls, movies, Starbucks, or virtually anywhere. I saw a school yard that had a HUGE sign that said "no gun zone". That sure is a strange thing to see in a place where there aren't suppose to be any guns. I wonder why they would go through such trouble to put those checkpoints up. I wonder why they feel they have to tell people who don't have guns to not bring them in the school yard. I wonder why gunman after gunman chooses their rampage site based on gun-free zones.

    I guess the thing I wonder most is why Americans (Incredible as we are) don't realize that all the freedoms awarded in the constitution protect our way of life. We have virtually no fear of our own government. I personally own more than a dozen guns, many are for hunting. When I think about how fragile governments are throughout world history I feel urgency for independence. I feel as though I cannot rely on the government for any of my needs. While performing civic work in Southern California years ago I watched a drive-by shooting. I took cover in my apartment and waiting as the police took over an hour to show up. With no exaggeration I can tell you that just for witnessing the event our apartment was shot full of holes. How in the world can we look at the modern incidents like the Riots in LA and the looting after Katrina and feel like government can take care of us? It's not governments fault. It's not anyone’s fault. Have we forgotten that this is a world of chance? Have we forgotten that we are responsible for our own livelihood, loss, gain, and prosperity? Hardship is part of life. Bad things happen to good people. Who are we to judge when another person can protect their own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness? Does someone really have a place to go in the world if they don’t like the setup of society? Precautionary laws always limit freedoms. Why would we not rather have laws that penalize people for harming others? Isn’t that the only way to guarantee sovereignty and order? Choice is impossible to remove from the equation.