Recent comments

  • Bear Mauls Woman in Gates of the Arctic National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I completely agree with the NPS, NFS, and others who stress LNT principles in the back country. I was not aware of them modifying food safety recommendations when in bear country. I spoke with a couple of friends who go hunting each fall in Alaska and they both said that when they are at their base camp set up they do their best to triangulate sleeping, eating and storing sites. Both have been doing the Alaska hunting trip for many years and as such have had some "wisdom" experiences concerning bears.

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Yesterday, my friend, who worked as a back country ranger with me, and I hiked to Devil's Rest via Wahkeena in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. He's preparing for a 4 to 5 day hike through Olympic National Park, and he mentioned that some of his buddies were bringing iPods, and suggested that he buy one to bring along.

    "Why would you want to do that to your wilderness experience?" he asked me. "Why would you want to take yourself out of the wilderness experience? You wouldn't be able to hear the breeze through the trees or hear those birds we heard along the trail. I don't understand why people would want to listen to music in the wilderness."

    He wasn't opposed to his friends taking and using them, though. "I won't be able to hear it, so it doesn't bother me."

    Today, I took him to the store to get his battery replaced on his watch, and I asked why he needed a watch in the wilderness. "It makes it easier to split up and meet again at a certain place at a certain time. That way, you can say, 'If I'm not at the pass by 5 pm, come looking for me.'"

    Ted is right: where do you draw the line on technology? Hiking boots, ski poles, altimeters, maps, GPS, polypropylene clothes, tents, ultra light burners, dehydrated food. It's all technology. It's an individual choice as to how much of it you want to haul into the wilderness, and thusly, the "wilderness experience" is highly individualized.

    The thing that CAN impact wilderness experience of others the most is not electronic technology; it's human speech, reproduced in ear-shattering, high-decibel shouting, shrieking, screaming, and blabbering.

    Oh, and coming across a campsite--complete with abandoned, unscathed chicken egg and Deschutes brewery bottle caps--after hiking 2500 up to Devil's Rest and discovering a Forest-Service-only access road only 100 yards from the trail. Kinda ruined our feeling of isolation more than GPS, iPods, or other tech devices would.

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Anti-technology sentiment is a game-token that will prove to be 'off the board'. It isn't in play, never was, and those who devise a plan that relies upon using it will lose points.

    Technology & humanity are two sides of the same coin. They are one entity. There is no daylight.

    Our body, our brain & mind - our most fundamental form & function is the expression & consequence of technology.

    We are what we are, because technology made us that way. Technology that we made. The two made each other.

    Already, families in deep-remote Alaska live fully plug-in to the cutting edge of society ... the Matrix.

    Isolation in the woods is strictly an optional exercise ... like doing curls with barbells, or running a few miles every couple days. It's good for you. But like calisthenics & aerobics, some will make the investment, and some won't.

    To ask whether 'tis right or wrong, good or bad, to have technology in the wilderness, is ask whether we should be male & female. It's just the way we are.

    I like the experience of isolation, myself. In a fantasy world, I would pay money to be dropped buck naked onto a primal, wild planet. But I also know the difference between fantasy & reality.

    [Off to bury an old friend. See ya'll later.]

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Aron Ralston; (n) 1) a foolish child; 2) an accident waiting to happen. An egotistical, ill-prepared adventurer, who over-estimated his ability and, without thorough and proper preparation or simple notification to friends or authorities, embarked on a wilderness trek alone, without adequate supply or sufficient local knowledge, miscalculated a relatively simple and common descending technique and became a human wedgie in a narrow crevasse, pinned literally between a rock and a hard place due to the loose and shifting nature of the local rock formations. Due to the above set of absolutely avoidable circumstances, was forced to choose between partial amputation of an appendage or hanging around indefinitely in hopes that the circling condors and vultures would sufficiently service as a distress signal to parties unknown. Choosing the former, a portion of the lower arm would be left as a marker to the exact point of foolishness, later to be retrieved for medical personnel who would later make a failed attempt to reattach the missing section of arm.

    The above mentioned character has to his credit, or resume, a long list of similar silliness in various NPS units, in a thinly veiled attempt to prove his machismo to anyone dumb enough to give a damn. People of this nature wouldn't avail themselves of the technological advances that might prove "handy", as it would be less than "manly" to call for aid and admit defeat. He is a poor example to all and I believe, not quite the reference for this article.

    There is NO substitution for proper preparation prior to a wilderness expedition. Technology, if it gets to the point where it becomes required in a life-or-death circumstance, probably won't be utilized until the damage is done, by which time the beacon serves as little more that a set of coordinates from which to extract the body, either in a state of dire medical need such as heat stroke, hypothermia, or dehydration, or in the other extreme, a place to deposit the body bag. How about if we make life easier for ALL parties concerned and take proper precautions instead of microelectronics on our next adventure?

  • Glacier National Park Officials Plan to Scale Down Search for Missing Hiker   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I'm praying for your safe return Yi-Jien Hwa.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 30 weeks ago

    And this is an exemplary point of why the entire NPS system should be removed from federal "management". If each individual unit is to function as a self-supporting entity, requiring each to be fiscally responsible (solvent) and able to independently support the activities, personnel and facilities within their boundaries, fees are not only mandatory, they are going to skyrocket with the ebb and flow of the fickle tourism industry, particularly across the spectrum of those more remote and lesser-traversed units. A sound financial management plan has yet to be enacted realizing and accounting for the depth and breadth of the system as a whole, as it appears that that these updating, historical restoration or historically "significant" projects always manage to catch the service by surprise, while the coffers have been prematurely emptied on other more immediate concerns.

    I support your sentiments, in general, Kurt. However you choose to view it though, some manner of "commercialism" is going to the be most immediate and certain salvation of the parks as a whole, and a naive belief in the political system riding in on a white horse at the 11th hour is not a practical approach. A quick review of the recent history of Washington's voting record, which is all that really matters, shows a critical lack of bi-partisan support with the pen, only with the mouth. This current administration, hell, the past 50 years of administrations have all had more than ample opportunity to salvage the network, but when push came to shove they ALL showed their true lobbyist-backed colors and refused to support the wishes of their constituents. Hence the situation as it exists today, which cannot be allowed to continue into the future without a definitive endpoint. Supporting the independent operation of the entire service as a for-profit entity with strict limitations (or caps if you prefer) on overall margins, monies that are guaranteed to be returned to the operating budget of the overall system, supported equally be ALL Americans such that none would bear an unreasonable financial burden is the most sensible way to attack the issues as they are currently constructed. As it stands today, there is too much variability in annual allocation of funds from the "me first" mind-set that is our federal government. I, for one, am tired of waiting for the moment when we can "afford" to spend monies internally. I cannot accept that we are unable to allocate the proper level of funding for our own benefit when we are perfectly willing to pee away billions of dollars in the international communities of people who could care less if we live or die. I'm quite aware, as many of you should be, that thousands of my countrymen died in SE Asia, fighting to "maintain our national security and preserve democracy" in a conflict that cost this country more money that will be allocated to the NPS over the next 100 years, and for what? Over 50,000 dead, ten times as many mentally scarred for life, billions and billions of US dollars frittered away, to what end? The country fell, "democracy" was laid to waste, the "evil Red empire" took over, and my national security to date hasn't been diminished ONE IOTA. The identical BS is currently being shoved down the public's throats in an attempt to mask Georgie-boys "gotta maintain the family honor" war, and people are still dumb enough to believe the rhetoric and pandering that is directed at them from their alleged representation in Washington? How much faith in this flawed political system and how much patience is it going to take before people see the system for what it is.......a self-serving, elitist group concerned with the business of personal next-feathering, power mongering and maintaining the separation of classes within the citizens of our nation. You express a fear of the NPS becoming a country club but I submit to you sir, the group in control of the salvation which you seek is currently structured as just such the organization you fear the parks will become. I submit that the sooner we take control of programs that the incompetents in Washington have demonstrated an unwillingness and inability to manage, the better off we'll all be, including the geography that encompasses the area "from sea to shining sea".

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 30 weeks ago

    You pay to ride the buses in Denali, which is the only way to access the park after the 15 mile mark. You pay to access the Channel Islands by boat, or Kenai Fjords by boat, again the only access to most parts of the park. You pay for the tours at Mesa Verde to see most of the cliff dwellings, no tour, no access. We can't pretend that this Gettysburg thing is something new.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I agree with Ted that park service facilities are part and parcel of the tourist trap cycle whether or not the agency would deign to accept that description. I worked at a very busy visitor center for a lot of years and my fellow rangers and I were all keenly aware that our role was mostly to keep the masses moving by pointing out where the rest rooms were, how far it was to the next popular "attraction", where to find motel rooms and whether decent food could be obtained at moderate prices.

    We had a piece of paper on a clipboard that was used to record actual inquiries about "natural history". It was a rare occurrence and we were always excited when someone would approach the desk and inquire about geology or local fauna & flora.

    Our managers were oblivious to the true functions our visitor center served and did not bother to train us in the actual questions that we routinely answered. When I suggested that we devote some time in seasonal training to all of the tourism related questions we daily received I was bluntly told that we "were not Disney employees" and this was not in the "official" scope of knowledge or skills required for the job. Their distance from the on the ground reality of what we did and how the VC actually functioned was truly amazing.

    Proclaiming that you're NOT in the tourist business seems to be a standard operating procedure of most NPS managers. They're much more comfortable with lofty agency-speak concerning "engaging people in building enduring connections with America’s special places" or becoming the nation's environmental educator without ever asking the public if that is what it expects or even wants.

    I remember one day a lady approached the desk to pay for some books and we pointed her towards the natural history association cashier across the room. She took a good long look at our uniforms and said, "oh I see, you're just rangers". Indeed.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Point made, Barky. But don't you run the risk of alienating more potential park advocates by constantly raising the fees to this truly American attraction?

    The parks I don't think should be equated with a commercial business (and that's what seems to be happening at Gettysburg and elsewhere in the system). Once that's done, they head down the elitist highway.

    I'd like to think national parks exist to enrich every one of us through the nature, history, and culture they conserve/preserve and explain. We the people should have the desire and feel the obligation to support the National Park System for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay for a tour or simply to drive through the entrance gate. And that needs to be impressed on Congress and the next administration.

    Now, I realize that's a very idealistic view that likely will be criticized in some sectors. But I think the day the national parks become off-limits to anyone who wishes to enter them will be a sad day indeed.

    If these are to be self-supporting concerns, then turn them over to the highest bidder now. If they're not, if they truly are to be conserved for the enjoyment of future generations, then I'd suggest superintendents start shutting down facilities they can't afford. That'd drive a message to Congress.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Generically, I am actually in favor of fees at National Parks.

    Nothing in life is truly free. Someone has to pay. It's either us, the national park enthusiasts and occasional tourists, who pay through fees, or it's the generic taxpayers.

    If you believe the general public is becoming disinterested in the parks, it will soon become true (if it has not already become true) that Congress and the Executive Branch has become disinterested in the parks.

    If the parks are to survive, which I absolutely hope will be the case, we are going to have to suck it up and pay the fees.

    Let's do some comparative mathematics: I recently paid $40 to rent a kayak and paddle around Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. It lasted about three hours, and I have to admit, I loved it. This particular commercial enterprise did have attractive family pricing, I believe the family of four paid about $75 for the same trip. It included some rudimentary instruction (which I didn't need) and the use of their equipment (which I did), plus a guide (which, never having been there before, I felt I wanted).

    So, compare that to the $35 for a four-hour ranger-led tour at Big Bend. Roughly equivalent, I would say, although I've never taken that particular tour.

    Now, if you want to discuss specifics, I don't know if a $12 entry fee to the Springfield Armory is a good deal or not, because I've never been there. So, undoubtedly, some fees are way off-market (i.e. unfairly priced for the value you receive), but generically, fees are reasonable (and necessary, based on lack of government support for the parks).

    Everybody seems to want a free ride. But the free ride is a myth.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Bob Janiskee,

    I greatly respect your academic credentials, and your literary contributions.

    It is not the object to gratuitously demean Gettysburg's facilities, but the term I used to describe does clarify effectively that they function indistinguishably from, and rely upon the same transactional premises as any cheap and private tourist-trap.

    The real & principle differences being that the Gettysburg operation is expensive & government-run.

    ... And my real point is, it would behoove the authorities at Gettysburg and enhance their prospect of success in their endeavor, if they evaluated their efforts & projects as part of the tourist industry. They are: and if they looked at it that way they could save themselves at lot of trouble, and us a lot of money.

    Once they set up the museum etc., to recover investment and provide upkeep-costs, they're shooting for a business-model. A tourist-based business-model. Up & down the road, such enterprises are known as tourist-traps.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Gettysburg's new museum and visitor center may be a lot of things, but "roadside tourist trap" is certainly not one of them.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 30 weeks ago

    It's darn tricky & risky to invest money in a tourist-facility, without losing your shirt. Even if you know what you're doing, and are good at it.

    This interpretive center at Gettysburg is a roadside tourist-trap, an idea & concept simple as dirt and almost as old. The realities of this sort of enterprise are thoroughly familiar to generations of American families who have tried to run businesses based on slowing the migratory tourist herd enough that some of their money stays behind.

    It's tough & fickle, even for those who've been at it for a lifetime. Several lifetimes.

    Obviously, the Gettysburg center will be affected by fuel-costs, just like any other tourism venue. In some cases, the fuel issue will play your way - it does, here on the Olympic Peninsula, where the nearby greater-Seattle urban region is extra-far from everywhere else, and extra-close to us. Meanwhile, other destinations are struggling.

    The National Park System would do itself a big favor to view these historic-interest sites they're developing as part of the normal boom 'n bust, generally unreliable tourist-business. That's what they are, and doctoring it up to be loftier than that is a recipe for embarrassment.

    I improve my chances of making sense of the issues, by not confusing national historic battlefields with ecological preserves. Thinking of both classes of assets as 'parks' is too much like self-abuse.

  • Crews Remove Garbage From Marijuana Farms in Sequoia National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    While you are right about prohibition of marijuana causing the dilemma of individuals going to extreme lengths to grow and cultivate marijuana the issue here has nothing to do with prohibition. The reason it's illegal to grow marijuana in the national forest is because it is a national forest. No one can grow anything in the national forest be it corn, tomatoes, etc. While it is true that many are moving away from growing on farm land because of a fear of the DEA or other law enforcement agency coming in and seizing their land it is still an issue of violating someone else's property. I agree fully that by legalizing marijuana the black market side would be taken completely out of the loop and hikers would not have to worry about some illegal farmer hiding in the bushes with a gun protecting his crop. Those who protect the national forest would no longer have to worry about accidentally stumbling across one of these fields and haven't their life threatened for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Prohibition has always produced more criminals than it has done away with. I also agree with your comment about the plastics, cottons, and timber industries not having to compete with hemp. Same goes for the oil and car companies as well. For the time being though, prohibition is still in effect and those growing in the national forest are not only breaking a law about growing an illegal crop they are also growing an illegal crop on national property.

    Narconon Vista Bay

  • Bear Mauls Woman in Gates of the Arctic National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Did someone read a different article than I did? Did anyone read about the victim badmouthing "big oil"? I have had many non-threatening encounters with Grizzlies where I live in Alaska, but do respect their wildness. Besides the fact that the woman was not killed and many efforts were made on her behalf the other part of the story that pleases me is that in this era of exploitation and demanding population there are still places on this planet that are so remote and wild they are seldom visited. May there continue to be such places. I agree with HDT that "In wildness is the preservation of the world."

  • Bear Mauls Woman in Gates of the Arctic National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago


    I do not have direct experience with Gate of the Arctic Nat'l Park, but within the last couple years I did see an announcement & report out of the Park that may apply to the questions you raise.

    A particular camp site had been close to further use, because it was becoming somewhat flattened & smooth. The article explained that the Park hoped to prevent camp-locations showing enough wear that they look any different from untouched landscape.

    Under this policy, it may be that the Park requires users to restrict their tents to small, defined spots, and discourages 'proliferation' of tent-sites.

    Also, in rugged country (such as the Olympic Nat'l Park with which I am familiar), rougher terrain often offers only the occasional camp-location, and there is no opportunity to isolate the functions of the camp into multiple tents separated in the fashion you describe. This factor could apply in some parts of Gates of the Arctic, too.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Ummm, the bear was in people territory. Bears are not landowners.

  • Presidential Politics and the National Parks   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, now also the Vice Presidential nominee for the Republican Party, is opposed by organizations like the League of Conservation Voters and spokes-figures like Gene Karpinski primarily because she (in order of importance):

    • is Republican, conservative, and therefore 'the enemy'.
    • Opposes abortion - gave birth to a Downs Syndrome baby.
    • Supports a Creationism option in classrooms.
    • holds a lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association.
    • Promotes 2nd Amendment Rights.
    Therefore, she is attacked as an environmental horror-story ... and no doubt, desecrater of National Parks. More accurately, though, objections to her on environmental grounds and out of concern for the Alaska Nat'l Parks, is something of a Trojan Horse.

    Actually, it's simply partisan politics as usual, both the League & Karpinski and their abundant company, functioning in the practical sense as informal but important Political Action Committees for the Democratic Party.

    Some may think that I am overstating or whining. Consider then, please, that exactly the same dynamic & relationship applies to Womens' Groups, who are also liberal, left-wind surrogates for the Democrats. Conservative women are treated as traitors by women's group.

    The real reason for attacking Sarah Palin on the basis of National Interest Lands, Polar Bears, ANWR, etc., is much more realistically that she is a strong, conservative, attractive Republican who has the potential to threaten the Democratic candidate in the Presidential election.

    Sarah Palin will motivate many people who would otherwise just go hunting & fishing, riding ATVs & snowmobiles, eating venison stew (and dreaming of moose stew), cleaning their firearms, etc., to instead overcome their desultory view of John McCain, and go to the polls for him come November.

    Obviously, the Liberal-Left is very concerned about the way Palin affects the political balance.

    The actual situation in Alaska with respect to the Federal Gov'mt and the Parks, is that the Alaska Constitution and the ANILCA Alaska National Land Claims Act of Congress are in direct conflict, and Alaska has for many years found it in their interest to maintain that conflict. Several years ago, the Fed took the unprecedented step of assuming broad Federal jurisdiction over Alaska's fish & wildlife resources, primarily to enact the Subsistence Provision of ANILCA.

    Alaska is now handled in part as a Territory, rather than a State.

    Although Subsistence proceeds only partly in & around Parks, this portion of the issue disproportionally influences National Parks management in Alaska.

    Sarah Palin is of course not really out to pave the wilderness and exterminate the bears - on the contrary, Alaska seeks to expand & protect these assets because they know perfectly well that in the long run tourism is worth a lot more to them than the oil & gas.

    Remember, Alaska's formulas & policies actually work: The place is overrun with bears, wolves, moose, caribou, and Wilderness. Large carnivores and massive ungulates not only occupy the entire sub-continent, but infest the streets & backyards of Alaska's cities & towns!

    Palin the enviro-monster? That's what some would like you to think ...

  • Presidential Politics and the National Parks   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Christy, I'm afraid that you're barking up the wrong tree here. There is no evidence that proximity to national parks breeds park advocacy. On the other hand, we have tons of evidence that the opposite may be true -- mostly because having parks in the vicinity crimps many kinds of economic development and forces locals (including inholders) to deal with complex issues such as dealing with federally protected species that are harbored by parks.

    To add some depth to this discussion about whether Gov. Palin might be good for the National Park System, consider this statement by the League of Conservation Voters (as quoted by the New York Times). There's obviously a lot of room here for arguing both sides of this case.

    Energy and environment issues also moved front-and-center with Governor Palin’s selection. While she boasted that she had confronted the “Big Oil” companies today over profits and revenues, the governor remains a cheerleader for offshore drilling in the Artic and elsewhere. (With gasoline prices straining household budgets, recent polls indicate that the majority of the American public supports drilling as well.) But just hours after the announcement today, the League of Conservation Voters, which favors Mr. Obama’s positions, issued this statement by its president, Gene Karpinski, listing the group’s opposition to her stances on several matters:

    “Unfortunately, with her support for drilling in the Arctic Refuge and off our coasts, Governor Palin will simply continue the failed policies of the Bush-Cheney Administration and their Big Oil friends – policies that could make us even more dependent on foreign oil. Governor Palin characterizes McCain’s flip-flop on drilling offshore as a positive step in his transformation from maverick to Big Oil’s best friend. She has implored McCain to change his position against drilling in the Arctic – something she will have plenty of opportunities to pursue as his running mate.

    In addition to supporting backward-looking energy policies, Governor Palin has also opposed a crucial clean water initiative, sued the federal government for listing polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and opposed other important wildlife protection measures.

  • Presidential Politics and the National Parks   6 years 30 weeks ago

    If anyone even THINKS that Obama/Biden (with only 1 national park between them in their home states) will be better for our parks than McCain(19 park units)/Palin(17 park units) they need to have their heads examined!
    McCain and Palin will be the best ticket to ensure our parks are fully funded!

  • Bear Mauls Woman in Gates of the Arctic National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Alyeska flew her she won't ever bad-mouth "big oil" again.

  • First Piping Plovers, Now Sea Turtles Descend on Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 30 weeks ago

    And you would be in error.

    Check the references at the end of the recovery plans......

  • First Piping Plovers, Now Sea Turtles Descend on Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Corrected willingly. It should say non peer reviewed science based management policies at work.


  • Video: Birds and Bike Paths in Grand Teton National Park   6 years 30 weeks ago


    I drove through Grand Teton on the way to Yellowstone this summer. I was absolutely appalled by the amount of ground disturbance that was being caused by the construction of this bike trail. I cannot believe that NPCA was the principal supporter of this project since it is an organization that is supposed to protect parks, not develop them. I don't get it.

    Rick Smith

  • First Piping Plovers, Now Sea Turtles Descend on Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 30 weeks ago

    There's no such animal as "peer-reviewed" management. You can have peer-reviewed science upon which management decisions are made, which does exist. I'm not sure what good it would do for managers at the Tetons, or Yellowstone to review the management policies at Hatteras anyway.