Recent comments

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    I'd only point out that Superintendent Longstreet was also loudly lamenting the negative politics of an uncaring Congress saddling the NPS with inappropriate parks. He seems to agree with me on at least a few things.

    Kurt and Jeremy are free to ask me to stop contributing if they feel my postings are a poisonous cancer on this website and I will respectfully comply. The truth of the matter is that many folks, including a lot of current rangers, do see the NPS as a politically compromised organization in decline and I can tell you this with some degree of knowledge garnered from a wide variety of personal contacts among active rangers in the field. The Pat Buccello scandal is not an isolated incident nor is the political arm twisting that Fran Mainela recently spoke out about concerning snowmobiles in Yellowstone. (As usual she waited until she was a former employee before coming out with the truth). If you think the majority of my postings are simply the bitter ravings of a disgruntled former employee I respectfully declare you to be wearing blinders, which a successful career in the agency often requires.

    This is NOT about having an ax to grind but calling it like I see it. I care about the future of the parks and for the most part see the long-term solution to their continued viability as something other than the current business model of a military-style civil service bureaucracy headquartered in Washington, DC.

    As for any lingering bitterness you think I may possess I have none, as I am quite happy in my current life and pursuits and left the ranks of the green & gray on good terms, highly evaluated and amply awarded. If my somewhat dim view of the bureaucratic machinations inherent in the operations of the NPS is perceived as blatant negativity I challenge you to engage me in a spirited defense of your beloved agency or to politely ignore it. If I'm a crank at least I strive to be an articulate and reasoned one.

    By the way my recent post on the Petrified Forest was laudatory of both the rangers and the park. Did you get a chance to read that one?

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Good evening--

    Longstreet has quite a few things right, Anonymous. And one of them that is most right is that Beamis and Frank have hijacked the NPT site by constantly bitching about the incompetence of the NPS and its employees. As Longstreet observed, this will eventually drive current employees and retirees like myself from Kurt and Jeremy's very welcome NPS discussion forum. I know I don't read it as often as I used to, primarily because of the steady stream of negativity coming from them. It really doesn't matter what the topic is; the refrain is always the same: "NPS supervisors and managers are at best imcompetent, at worst corrupt. Very few of these managers have the courage to do the right things. The incompetent ones climb the GS ladder; the competent ones leave. The NPS is hostage to political influences. Pork barrel parks are everywhere....."

    I am sorry that Frank and Beamis didn't find the NPS a good agency for which to work. I'm sorry that felt they had to leave. I am not sure, however, that I would have wanted their toxic points of view in any park in which I worked. I welcomed creative tension. I despised constant negativity.

    I allso assume that Longstreet has more reason to cloak his identity than do Frank and Beamis.

    Rick Smith

  • Rocky Mountain National Park Officials Select "Lethal Reduction" To Help Reduce Elk Herd--Updated   6 years 45 weeks ago

    There's no escaping it. Whether practiced on elk, bison, feral hogs, or white-tailed deer, the use of firearms for the "lethal reduction" of wildlife populations in or near our parks is a bloody business. Some animals meet a violent end, and even if it is for the greater good, that is certainly a very sad thing. Small wonder that so many wildlife lovers reject hunting as a form of lethal reduction. They want park managers to rely on natural controls. In the case of the elk at Rocky Mountain, that means starvation and disease (there being too few predators to matter much). Think about that for a minute. Have you seen how starvation and sickness (they go hand-in-hand) ravage an animal's body? Being northern Michigan born and bred, I've seen a good bit of that myself. (It happens to over-abundant white-tailed deer in the northern cedar swamps, and the really ironic thing is that it peaks in late winter and early spring just before the landscape greens up and there's forage galore.) Starving to death is one of the most miserable of all ways to die, and I wouldn't wish it on any of God's creatures. Better a quick end from a well-placed bullet or arrow. It is one of the most merciful deaths that an animal could hope to have. If you don't believe that hunters or government-paid shooters should be the pruners of last resort, then let's work to bring back the predators. All of them.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Or maybe the creative tension would create something dynamic and worthwhile. It's always a big mistake to think success comes from marching in lockstep to a rigid set of management plans and top-down policy initiatives. In fact if you look around at many of the world's truly successful organizations they all tend to thrive on the give and take of diverse approaches and opinions. This is certainly true of such entities as Google, Apple, Toyota and FedEx. It certainly does not characterize government enterprise which many of you will soon experience on your next visit to the post office or local DMV.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Geez, I hate to see these four guys working in the same park: Longstreet, Beamis, Frank and Merryland! Could be utter chaos! With each quoting something from Muir to Bernard Shaw, all trying to out do each other rhetorically, if not poetically or politically in words or deeds. Amazing bunch! Long Live The Parks!
    P.S. I think Longstreet is on to something positive.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Superintendent Longstreet in response to your statement: "I suggest you sharpen your arrows for the Congress, which inserted them into the National Park System, rather than at the employees of those parks, who you seem to want to fall on their swords, time and time again", I'd like to say that if you have been a regular reader of this website you'd see this is exactly what I've done. In fact, in this very thread, I wrote about how the Congress was "forcing the NPS to accept a marginal park unit in New Jersey (that they deemed unworthy in their own assessment a few years back) simply because a Congressman wants to create some tourism pork in his district that the local government would never fund but will now use the coercive force of the federal leviathan to squeeze the taxpayers of Montana and Hawaii for a brand new park on the Passaic."

    Could I have made my view more plain about the chicanery that is inherent in the U.S. Congress saddling the NPS with "park barrel" units? For once I'd like to hear a currently employed manager of the NPS stand up and be heard on this subject and not wait until they are safely retired and getting their monthly checks before they'll speak up about issues of great importance to the well being of the parks. The fact that you yourself wish to remain anonymous speaks volumes about the institutional culture you're on the lookout to protect your career from.

    All I have been saying is there are other ways to skin a cat when it comes to protecting park lands besides the 100 year-old model we are currently employing to the exclusion of other, possibly better, models and systems. That this notion would threaten career level managers and seem to be cynical to those with a great stake in the current paradigm does not surprise me in the least.

    Is it merely cynical negativity to suggest that a top-down military style bureaucracy, slow to change and mired in thick layers of intractable politics should be broken up or actually abolished and replaced with a variety of other models of resource protection? I say it is not. This process is not only necessary it is actually what is going to happen.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: The Latest Battleground Over ORVs in the Parks   6 years 45 weeks ago

    It is the Big Cypress NATIONAL Preserve! Not the "Handfull Of People Who Want To Lock It Up And Bar Everyone Preserve"! I am a Moderate Thinker! I try to always see BOTH sides of an argument. I believe a balance can always be struck. While I'm not for destroying the land, I am for USING the land!
    If everyone STAYS ON THE TRAILS, I don't see a problem. The problem comes in, when people think they can just take their ORV'S ANYWHERE they want, WHENEVER they want! That's when you give fuel to the minority of people, who want to lock up OUR Public Lands forever!
    And they should not be able to do that! Again, it's the Big Cypress NATIONAL Preserve! It belongs to ALL of us!

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Let's respect other opinions.

    This reminds me of a passage in Jonathan Rauch's Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. Rauch related a conversation where someone demanded: "The least you can do is respect my opinion." The other participant replied, "No — respect isn't the least I can give your opinion; it is the most."

    Respect for an opinion can't be given. It must be earned. I'll agree to respect the individual, but opinions are to be challenged; opinions are fodder for discussion and should be subject to intense scrutiny.

    I and others have shared our observations that there are hard working employees in the DOI and NPS. I have the pleasure to work under several articulate, responsible, responsive, intelligent, and competent supervisors. I can say the same about some co-workers. But for every one supervisor or co-worker cut from this mold, I can cite one or two examples of co-workers who were inarticuluate, irresponsible, unresponsive, doltish, and incompetent. And many of those shining examples have been actively driven from the service or have hit a ceiling while the anti-models have been promoted and have climbed the GS scale. Yes, "the idots are everywhere" as my mentor told me. But in the civil service, they are supported by tax payers and extremely difficult to remove. That's something that Beamis, Lone Hiker, and I have observed and commented on in other locations.

    National parks are not a lost cause, but I believe the NPS has become an unresponsive, calcified bureaucrasy and think our national parks deserve better. I doubt this statement has enough power to drive away others who believe otherwise. I hope that it will drive them to the lifeboats or at least wake them to the fact that the ship is sinking in a political quagmire.

  • Birds Songs From Around The World   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Haunted - thanks for the AuTrain link. I could spend an entire day going through all the information. As an aside to Kurt, where it says "Listen Here", there is nothing to listen to.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    So while we're wandering way off topic I'd like to offer this gem: "A cynic is just a well informed optimist".

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Merryland: You're off topic! :p But here's a fun quote:

    The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
    George Bernard Shaw

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    And yet, every once in a while, criticism and cynicism are inextricably linked...

  • Entrance Fee Repeal Legislation Would Have Little Impact on National Parks   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Totally agree with the bill. I'm don't think Americans should be taxed twice for enjoying the great outdoors. Some of the heavily visited parks ... yes. Yosemite has to have it's own jail because the traffic is so heavy!

    BLM land in San Benito County, California which is administered as if everyone is trespassing and by installing fees, I suppose they hope to discourage visitors. It's public land and fencing most of it off limits the public. Just doesn't make sense unless you want to cut down on personell work load. I know there are some very sensitive issues involving flora & fauna, but these were covered many years ago. They're down to just closing the area altogether now. Too bad because it's a geological gold mine.

    I just turned 62 and noticed that I should be able to sign up for a lifetime pass. We'll see how that goes. Got that off the Nat'l Park Service web site. Try to visit Big Bend Nat'l Park every chance my wife and I get. One of the gems in the park chain that few know about. Been there more than Yosemite, but we are 4X4 campers.

  • Rocky Mountain National Park Officials Select "Lethal Reduction" To Help Reduce Elk Herd--Updated   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Kudos to Superintendent Vaughn Baker and the Rocky Mountain NP staff for the courage to use the science to make a difficult decision in favor of the resource. Supt. Baker also did that last year on air quality issues. While no one wants to see elk killed, what is more at stake is the vegetation and ecological community structure that too many elk destroy. NPS law and management policies have always allowed for wildlife management and it is welcome that more and more park managers recognize that it is needed in many circumstances.

    Rather than blame them for past mistakes (->Frank), I think it's great that we're seeing parks and park managers take risks to solve problems.

    a national park superintendent (and not from Rocky!)

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    I have spent a good portion of my career in water parks, Beamis, but I am not going to tell you which one I work in right now. All I will say is that I'm proud of what has happened under my tenure and the resource has come out consistently first in my decisions. I've also managed to get public support for most of those decisions because I understand that the parks are in a political context and success comes from building coalitions. My park has shown up periodically in NPT and, I think, looked pretty good in the process.

    I choose not to work in places like Lake Mead or Glen Canyon, however. But however any of you may dislike those parks and their compromises, I suggest you sharpen your arrows for the Congress, which inserted them into the National Park System, rather than at the employees of those parks, who you seem to want to fall on their swords, time and time again. It's more valuable to fight the injustices of the recent Yellowstone and Big Cypress decisions, where big things are at stake and the superintendents there gave away far too much.

    Some of us rail quite regularly at the inefficiencies of the system and work our damnedest to make things better. I'm proud of that and proud of my staff. In fact, I reflect quite often, Frank, about Horace Albright's admonition, and do whatever I can to fight the bureaucracy; but I choose my fights carefully so I can be effective and make actual changes, not simply rant for the sake of ranting. The Service has sunk to become a bureaucracy, I regret, but you confuse defense of the many fine employees with denial of the problem. We have lots of problems in this organization -- but you two seem to believe that every one of those problems is either the fault of the political system (and many are, I agree) or spineless employees or corrupt or overbearing supervisors. Are the only noble employees the ones that left, in your minds?

    I was once a seasonal GS-3, a GS-4, a GS-5, etc. and never would have believed that someone who bucks the system as often as I have would succeed in the NPS. But I did, and there are more of us than you might believe. What I have learned, though, is that what seems like constructive criticism is often ineffective or based (and I speak from my own experience) on what we wish the NPS was under a law that doesn't exist, rather than what it is under the laws that do exist. In my park, I encourage discussion and ask my entire staff for critique; but the most valuable critique is from those who understand the legal and political context of the decision that needs to be made and recognize that to be considered, the input needs to be timely and focused on the issues, not simply ideals. I now understand that some of the dumb decisions I thought I saw superintendents make weren't so dumb; but of course, some were. Perspective comes from experience.

    So: bottom line. Let's have a discussion. Let's respect other opinions. You're certainly free to rail against the NPS and its employees all you want, but if you continue to do so you'll drive away the few remaining insiders or retirees who believe -- as I hope you do -- that the parks, and the National Park Service, are not a lost cause. I participate in NPT because I choose to and I have no ability to stifle your comments. But I may give it up because I spend all day at my park trying to focus on the things that make a positive difference and I can only spend so much of my evening arguing with you over the things that don't.


  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Well put Frank.

    Superintendent Longstreet's comments take me back to my days as a mid-level supervisory ranger working in a major national park. I learned very quickly that any form of criticism or dissent that deviated from the top down chain-of-command group-think that would often pass as open and frank discussion in the NPS would generally be received as a form of disloyalty, or even worse yet, cynicism about "the mission". Oh heaven forbid!

    The most important thing was to consistently strive to be a "team player" and to always go along to get along. You couldn't afford to get more than one evaluation stating that "Johnny doesn't play well with the other kids" before seeing your career prospects taking a noticeable free fall. As I've said in past posts risk takers and paradigm shifters are not to be found in large numbers in the NPS. It has NEVER been the path to a comfortable retirement.

    In my own business I must have the frankest and most direct feedback I can get from my employees and customers in order to stay attuned and sharp as a relevant player in the marketplace. Without totally open and sometimes acidic feedback I would be lost and probably soon out of business. Results and customer satisfaction are all that matter and to be a success you're going to get your ego stomped on more than once.

    Criticism is not cynicism Superintendent Longstreet.

  • Rocky Mountain National Park Officials Select "Lethal Reduction" To Help Reduce Elk Herd--Updated   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Though the National Park Service long has prided itself on letting "natural processes" govern the ecosystems contained within the national park system, those days are fading away...

    Interesting statement. Especially inlight of Karl Hess's findings in Rocky Times in Rocky Mountain National Park: An Unnatural History. From a summary: "Hess asserts that management of the Park has amounted to an experiment in natural regulation. Hess examines the problematic nature of the elk herd since the mid-twenties, at which time the elk herd became so large that it posed a threat to the ecosystem. From 1944 until the late sixties, the Park Service attempted to keep the numbers to what was believed to be the carrying capacity by shooting elk. In 1968, this practice was stopped and, it was asserted, '... the elk herd is ... being allowed to fluctuate naturally with an eventual equilibrium with the forage supply expected'."

    So, I guess it's been about the last 40 years that the NPS has supposedly let "'natural processes' govern the ecosystmes contained within the national park system." This after a half century of fire suppression, predator suppression, and all kinds of unnatural tinkering.

    For more, please see:
    Hess, Karl, Jr. Rocky Times in Rocky Mountain National Park: An Unnatural History. Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado, 1993. 167 p.--Attributes loss of biological diversity at Rocky Mountain to NPS "mismanagement and bureaucratic ineptitude" demonstrated by "a laissez-faire approach to elk population control and a long history of fire suppression."

    The feds created the problem in the first place, and I don't know if the feds can realistically solve the problem. Fire crackers? Visitors can't use fireworks, why should NPS management? This seems pretty rediculous. Fences? That will only continue to fragment biological diversity. It's swallowing the spider to catch the fly...

    Killing elk seems a more practical and cost-effective approach. I like that the meat will be given to "eligible recipients".

  • Rocky Mountain National Park Officials Select "Lethal Reduction" To Help Reduce Elk Herd--Updated   6 years 45 weeks ago

    I think the first line of your report speaks volumes - Incroaching civilation and lack of predators. I know something needs to be done, but if you are spending that much money, why not just move the elk to other areas, such as MO., KS., or Minnesota, that has the grasslands to support them. Just don't kill them cause man needs more room. These are God's creatures, too.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    I think Mr. Longstreet has confused cynicism and criticism. Cynicism implies a pessimistic outlook and little hope for change, while criticism implies a serious examination and judgment of something. Criticism aims to induce change ("constructive" criticism), while cynicism implies pessimism and little hope for change. I think most critics who comment at NPT are hopeful that change will occur and believe that the management of our public lands does not necessarily have to be political. I think most critics who comment at NPT have shared constructive and alternative ideas, something a cynic would not do. I think criticism is necessary in a free society, and it is essential to maintaining our freedom.

    By implying that criticism is the antithesis to "elevating the tone of comments", an attempt has been made to stifle critics who post at NPT. And by stating that the "topic of the thread is supposed to be jet skis", an attempt has been made to control the free discussion of ideas. (Incidentally, the first paragraph sets the topic: The directors of the DOI and NPS have been asked to let "science [not politics] guide management decisions". I'd say that all the comments are on topic, and if not, what's the harm? If a conversation thread is off topic, simply ignore it rather than trying to control the conversation.)

    The propensity of those in charge in the NPS to squelch dissent is a major concern. If we don't allow people to speak their minds, to be critics, then how will we solve the problems national parks face, such as the wanton impairment of our national treasures by snowmobiles and jet skis?


    it is also a government agency and ... subject to all the forces that affect every other government agency

    Then I guess the NPS has become "just another government bureaucracy" which is what was warned against when it was founded. If this is the case, perhaps we can come up with a new paradigm for managing the parks.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 45 weeks ago

    I have to comment on the photo displayed. This is exactly what a "ORV" trail looks like, but as an "ORV" user I've seen these trails many times at their worst and came back the following year and could hardly tell there was a trail there. The plants will and do reclaim the land and if you will stop and actully look at the ruts and in the water you will see numerous animal footprints, the wildlife use the trails probably more than the people do. And also as a hiker in Florida taking a trail be it made by an ATV or by bushhog is much better than trying to wade through the waist high prairie grass and hoping not to find a rattlesnake or cottonmouth. Hunters, backpackers and campers all use the roads and trails made by "ORV's" so in my opinion having some trails benefit everyone and everything.

  • Birds Songs From Around The World   6 years 45 weeks ago


    I SO want this book for Christmas!

    Thanks for telling us about it.

    Here's a link on the Au Train Bird Song Trail

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 45 weeks ago

    So what happens Mr. Longstreet when you go to manage a park like Glen Canyon or Lake Mead? It's quite easy to make a declaration such as yours if all you end up administering are battlefields and fossil quarries.

    A much more bold and courageous statement would be: "over my dead body will jet skis be allowed in any national park administered by the hallowed agency that issues my paycheck every two weeks". Just simply avoiding water parks during your career is not what I'd call a principled stand. In fact it is nothing more than self-aggrandizing pomposity.

    By the way, what park are you the superintendent of Mr. Longstreet?

  • Grand Canyon Officials Release EA on Bright Angel Trailhead Improvements   6 years 45 weeks ago

    I recently hiked The Bright Angel Trail out to Plateau Point... very proud of it since I hadn't done anything like that before! : ) Goodness was it beautiful! And I got fabulous photos too... although I don't know who wouldn't! It would be hard to get a bad one.

    Anyway, I remember hearing that "Death in the Grand Canyon" was one of the biggest book sellers at the park. I even bought it for my dad who says he can only read a bit at a time because it's rather shocking/morbid otherwise. So, I guess those who buy it either give it away (like me) or don't read if BEFORE they go hike... or stand to close to the edge... or whatever else. : (

  • How To Buy National Park-Related Gifts Without Leaving Home   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Another in a long tradition of gaffes by the marketing geniuses who run the program that is the NPS and our beloved federal government. Is it any wonder why these entities can't turn a profit without subsidies and taxation? There's not an insightful businessman anywhere to be found within these organizations.

    And I'll prove it. I'm putting together a site dedicated to serving the public with access to "bootleg" park-related materials. All we have to do is route it through the various Native tribes, bypass the sales taxes other "legalities" (e.g. threatened lawsuits for infrigement), copyright our materials, and nobody at the federal level could do a damn thing about it. Then, we divvy up the profits between a few notable charities to make the feds look REALLY petty for opposing the project, and we have an instant public relations home run. Unfortunately, it won't help getting the above mentioned keepsakes into the public's hands this holiday season. And since we're NOT a government agency, our marketing will allow for these items to be sold under the more traditional banner of Christmas ornaments, not some goofy generic "PC" holiday, like Sweetest Day, President's Day, Flag Day, Groundhog Day, Winter Solstice or the ever popular Take Your Kid to Work Day.

  • Birds Songs From Around The World   6 years 45 weeks ago

    When I was vacationing in the Upper Penninsula, Michigan, I learned of the AuTrain Bird Song Trail, a one-mile loop through the forest. At the AuTrain store, for a small deposit, I was given a bird book detailing the birds found in the AuTrain area with pictures, descriptions and information, binoculars, and a tape player with a tape corresponding to each bird in the book. As I walked through the forest and played the tape, some birds actually called back and through my inexperienced eyes, was able to spot a few. Except for the masses of deer fly bites I suffered (June has a heavy influx of deer flies) it was a wonderful experience and very informative.