Recent comments

  • Pot Farmers Tilling Ground in Yosemite   6 years 47 weeks ago

    From the NPS website, 31 August:

    Whiskeytown National Recreation Area (CA)
    Grower Arrested In Marijuana Plantation Raid

    Acting on information received from a California National Guard drug interdiction helicopter pilot returning from a reconnaissance flight in an adjoining county, an NPS special agent and deputies from the Shasta County Sheriffs Office marijuana eradication team conducted a ground reconnaissance of a suspected cultivation site complex operated by Mexican nationals near the west boundary of the park on Willow Creek. Agents located and entered a 6,428-plant cultivation site and apprehended Francisco Huato Sanchez of Michoacan, Mexico, when he exited a living structure where he was cooking breakfast. Sanchez was contacted from a distance of less than six feet and immediately surrendered. He was armed with a loaded .45 caliber Llama Model 1911 semiautomatic pistol. A .22 caliber revolver, a pellet gun and two 12 gauge shotgun rounds were also located at the site, but no shotgun was found. It’s possible that a second grower fled the scene during the arrest of Sanchez. Prosecution is pending in federal court in the Eastern District of California. A significant portion of Whiskeytown NRA remains closed for visitor safety due to the possibility that a second grower armed with a shotgun is at large. [Submitted by Alan Foster, Special Agent]

  • Centennial Projects: Do They All Prepare the National Parks for the Next 100 Years?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    This is just another in a long list of mostly forgotten initiatives that are always touted as "cornerstones of a new century for the National Park Service and a new era of partnership with the American people". The balderdash is always the same and you can be certain that it will be delivered with all of the self-righteous zeal of an evangelist. I sat through many a meeting as a park ranger listening to the same bloated hyperbole about the Vail Agenda, Ranger Futures, Mission Renewal, VERP and many other soon to be discarded and completely forgotten "bold new blueprints for the future". The NPS churns this stuff out like sausage. Will anyone really remember what was said or proposed in 2007 in the year 2010? Much less in 2016? Not likely. Will anyone even remember Mary Bomar and Dirk Kempthorne? Even less likely.

    I always caused sweat and consternation when I would earnestly ask my supervisors how these past initiatives were now propelling us forward towards our next new "paradigm shift of stewardship excellence"? Often they would marvel at my ability to even remember these useless programs and initiatives from the past. They'd say "are you kidding?" It was like being in a Dilbert comic strip, but much funnier. Many of us referred to our ranger careers as "Dilbert in a flat hat."

    The Centennial Project is no different. It will be remembered by few and seen to fruition by even fewer.

  • Black Bear Put Down in Grand Teton. How Many Visitors Ticketed For Providing Food?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Why couldn't the bear be relocated or placed in a refuge? The Smoky Mountains National Forest has a bear refuge for such bears...this "put down" was murder...just plain wrong, wrong, wrong. How can they do such a horrible thing when so many alternatives are available?

  • Black Bear Put Down in Grand Teton. How Many Visitors Ticketed For Providing Food?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    It would appear that, opinions to the contrary regarding Darwin's hypothesis, evolution is indeed strictly a physiological phenomenon. It also is evident that behavioral, or intellectual evolution is lagging well behind in the human species. The instances sited by Merryland and Jon are unfortuantely not unique, and there is a growing attitude by many to "piss on the environment", consequences be damned. By the same notion, in all fairness, thankfully these exhibits are not the norm either. But I cannot find fault in the children's actions when sanctioned by their very own allegedly responsible caretakers. But I'm afraid that as time goes on and they relate tales of their NPS adventures to their children, that specific instance is the one experience that remains the enduring memory from their excursion into the "wild". As for the buffoon at Badlands, bad taste knows no bounds, and as a card-carrying member of our society, he does indeed have the same right to place himself in this geography as do the rest of us. Personally, I believe that at this point a person's rights terminate. If you cannot modify your behavioral urges to comply with the decency of your fellow travellers, PLEASE stay away. We all know that in vitrtually no instance do these human "urges" develop instantaneously. I'm aware that certain medical conditions exist, as I've personally experienced after a recent surgical procedure has altered my life-long rhythms, but you make the required adjustments and move forward. I'm curious how many malted beverages contributed to this immediate need for relief. But I offer no excuse to anyone, as I have managed to experience these many of our parks with the four youngest of my six and still avoided these trapping of immediate convenience. I do disagree about being "forced" into attitudes and behaviors that are deemed unnatural. It's a choice that individuals consciously make, and there is a tremendous lack of thought, caring, or as I refer to it, COMMON SENSE that enters the decision making process. It leaves me questioning what form of life actually represents the most evolved species in this world.

  • Black Bear Put Down in Grand Teton. How Many Visitors Ticketed For Providing Food?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Brings back "fond "memories of fighting with people trying to feed marmots at the Sheepeater Cliffs and very aggressive chipmunks at Gibbon Falls. No one of the stupid tourists could figure out why the chipmunks were attacking them when they kept dangling out Doritos and other crap and would get mad at them. So, that set me off.

    It isn't as though "no trace" though was what happened before Yellowstone was a national park, or else there wouldn't be so many archaeological sites. I think the difference is that we've got a lot of other messes that make this idea so important; in a world of mass consumption, we can be capable of such mass disruption. That's definitely being shown with a lot of studies related to the effect of elk on Yellowstone's northern range. If it's too bad that elk populations got way out of control, it's certainly too bad for us that our population as humans has gotten way out of control. Any of our natural instincts (eating, pooping, and having children) have so many consequences. I'm about to have a child myself within the next month, and there are so many conflicted mixed feelings about the whole thing, though joy certainly is the most common feeling. Yet, it's sad how "progress" and industrialization have forced us into behaviors and attitudes that can be so unnatural. "No trace", not feeding and relating with animals, all that stuff really are unnatural, but of course it's just as unnatural to be so big, travel thousands of miles to see animals, and feed them Doritos. I mean, we have to start somewhere, and I would agree that I would rather see us not make animals sick (and choose that way of being unnatural) than to go with our urges to piss all over the place.

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

  • Black Bear Put Down in Grand Teton. How Many Visitors Ticketed For Providing Food?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Just back from a YELL/GRTE/DETO/BADL/JECA/MORU trip with my son. We had a black bear and cub attempting to raid the dumpster at the Canyon village campsite just a few days ago.. I couldn't help wondering how long before that bear (and cub) get euthanized or perhaps relocated. It's a shame. But on the bright side -- the bear couldn't get anything out of that dumpster and perhaps that means people are putting things there like they should. But how long before that same bear breaks into the convertible top of someone's Mustang to get that bag of Doritos?

    As an aside, I was also treated to parents taking their kids behind a bush to poop on the Mammoth Hot Springs (no cleanup, just walked away like it never happened) and just earlier today saw some bozo urinating in plain sight of everyone at one of the viewpoints at Badlands. If this is what the National Parks have to contend with, things like expecting 100% participation and support of bear awareness concepts are a hopeless cause.

    -- Jon Merryman

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    THANK YOU, Mr. Williams. I absolutely agree.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    @Frank: "Leaving land to recover naturally ("preserving"?) needs no funding". This is quite simplified, because there is substantial research and documentation but let's say it were true. But a National Monument (even more a potential National Park) at MSH is about access to the recovering landscape and interpreting the processes to the interested public. And this requires substantial funding for constructing access roads and parking, visitor centers, maintaining them, enforcing the rules, manning exhibitions and information desks and what ever else is needed.

    Congress wanted MSH to be a National Monument, it was funded lavishly in the beginning. The Silver Lake Visitor Center had everything imaginable and got awards for architecture and exhibitions. And even after almost 30 years there are many Americans and tourists from overseas who want to see a recently erupted volcano, see the marred landscape and recovering flora and fauna. There obviously is demand for education, interpretation and/or simply the entertainment and the thrill to see the forces of nature. The Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center is not to be closed for lack of visitors.

    It MSH worth to be managed on the federal level? Congress said yes in 1982. This can be reevaluated, of course. Are there established criteria? You may want to check license plates at the visitor parking. Or you may take a look at the international interest MSH gets. Just one indicator might be Wikipedia. Right now(*) there are 28 so called interwiki links at - meaning that besides English, people from 28 other languages and cultures find Mount St. Helens worth an article in their language, including Bahasa Indonesia, Estonian and Croatian language.

    * permanent link to the current version:

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    RE: Steamtown

    From Wikipedia:

    Allegations had been made, especially within the mass media, that Steamtown was a "pork barrel" project prior to its building. Some criticized the United States National Park Service, which runs Steamtown, for using mostly Canadian locomotives (inherited from the Steamtown USA operation in Bellows Falls, VT) as working locomotives, although many American locomotives and cars are on display. While the collection within the museum and the rolling stock for excursions have been restored, many pieces of rolling stock that are quite visible to the public are in deplorable condition and face an uncertain future. Some of the most significant pieces of rolling stock (i.e. DL&W 565, one of two surviving Lackawanna Railroad steam engines) have not been restored.

    It also costs $5M to operate; that's more than many "crown jewels".

    RE: Saint Helens

    Leaving land to recover naturally ("preserving"?) needs no funding, and enjoying it in its natural state costs nothing. The funding is for the public's enjoyment of paved mountain highways and extravagantly expensive visitor centers. And its parasitic managers take a cut. Preserving places is cheap; enjoying places in our modern mammonish age is expensive.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    MSH, because of its easy access to the public and science affords a unique ability to watch the natural processes of regeneration - a regeneration process which requires park status protection. There are lots of areas outside the monument where Weyerhauser and others can study the effects of timber planting and other intrusions into the natural cycle, but unless MSH is fully protected from "use," it's value to science and to the public's interests as a scenic geological area will become even more compromised than it has been already.

    No one's suggesting that every time a volcano blows in the lower 48 it be turned into a NP... though to be honest, all that have erupted in historical times are in NPs EXCEPT Mount St. Helens... the one we have the chance to watch regenerate both biologically and geologically from the its major eruptive event.

    As for the idea that the Forest Service will somehow become an instrument of protection rather than use, if Gifford Pinchot couldn't be convinced, it ain't gonna happen 100 years later. The Forest Service may learn how to better allow private use, but it will never cease private use. It's completely contrary to their mission.

    And therein lies my argument. MSH has historical, geological, scenic, scientific and cultural value for all Americans. It deserves to be protected for future generations. It will not be under the Forest Service.

  • Black Bear Put Down in Grand Teton. How Many Visitors Ticketed For Providing Food?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    It appears as though our four-legged friends just can't win. Hiker strays into backcountry, is accosted by mountain lion, lion is tracked and put down. Campers wittingly or otherwise subsidize bear's diet, bear is put down. Wolves try and re-establish packs (with government approval and assistance), carry out a few successful hunts involving "free range" (i.e., government sponsored land grant) cattle, sheep or the like, wolves are put down. Condors living in areas of the west almost exterminated by pesticides. Ranchers complaining that prairie dog burrows are responsible for broken legs on their precious methane-producing herds, prairie dogs are poisoned. No, I'm not an advocate of exclusion theories. People can and will continue to explore well beyond the limits of civilization, and I am as guilty as anyone in that aspect. It just seems to me an inexcusable sin that others suffer through our own ignorance, or in most cases our arrogance. It is most unfortunate that national park passes do not ensure that the human visitor has any basic knowledge of safety and environmental protocol, both ours and those who call these places home. It would take so little behavioral modification on our part to assure that these incidents are completely erased.
    And the onus is definately on us, unless one is willing to concede that we are the less evolved species. Incidents like this leave me wondering how socially evolved we are, in as much as we of the 21st C have yet to really master, let alone tame our environment. Our "place" is where we continue to go, which is just about everywhere. I'm not suggesting that our exploration, scientific or recreational be limited. But I see nothing wrong with advocating just a bit of common sense when entering these domains. It could save lives, and one of them might be yours or one of your loved ones. Remember a family camping trip in the Wasatch earlier this year? No food that we know of left open at that particular campsite, but the results were tragic.

  • 10 Best Lodges in the National Parks   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Got to be Charit Creek Lodge in the heart of the Big South Fork. It's an old homstead that is now a walk/bike/horseback-in hostel at the confluence of Charit Creek and Station Camp Creek abot 2miles from the nearest trailheads. Head a mile from the lodge over in one direciton and you come to the Station Camp Crossing in one of the most remote parts of the Big South Fork Gorge. Go the opposiite direction for a few miles and you have a smorgasboard of huge standstone arches and stunning overlooks of the gorge.

    President, CHS SPEAK (CHS Students Promoting Environmental Action & Knowledge)
    Founder and President, CHS Campus Greens

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    I think it's a little harsh to say that Steamtown isn't 'nationally significant' because it and Golden Spike are the only 2 NPS units that I am aware of that preserve our nation's railroading history. Without railroads, the West wouldn't have been opened nearly was quickly.

    That being said, there are many NPS sites that are worthy of protection, but aren't nationally significant...

    President, CHS SPEAK (CHS Students Promoting Environmental Action & Knowledge)
    Founder and President, CHS Campus Greens

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Many of the areas that would be deemed, by this process of reordering, to be less than full blown "national treasures" would find their new status as state and municipal parks or privately run museums and trusts to be a vast improvement in their preservation and interpretation. Many parks that currently languish in the lower tier of NPS properties would notice an improvement almost immediately from the more focused attention and dare I say love from its more dedicated and locally focused management.

    Some immediate suggestions: Cape Canaveral National Seashore (especially the north unit) would make a swell Florida state park. There is nothing of national significance about this storm washed barrier strand that requires the U.S. taxpayer to fund in perpetuity. Starting next year the NPS will begin charging $7 per person ($28 for a family of four!) to enter what is already an underused and seldom visited beach area. There is no reason that Florida or even Volusia County couldn't run this beach in the same spartan and low-key manner the NPS already does. Not a "crown jewel" but still nice enough to visit and be run by locals. Florida charges $4 per vehicle to enjoy all of its state parks including beaches far more spectacular than Canaveral.

    Pipe Spring National Monument is a Mormon pioneer focused historical site that could be run much more effectively and with much greater funding by the LDS Church. They own and operate many wonderful historical sites throughout the country which have state of the art interpretive services and visitor centers as well as elaborate living history programs that capture the lives and struggles of their pioneer period. Some of the units include Cove Fort in Millard County, UT, the Jacob Hamblin Home and Brigham Young's winter home in St. George, UT.

    Pipe Spring is NOT nationally significant and would be a fine addition to an already impressive collection of pioneer historical parks run by this church. The LDS Church spares no expense in maintaining their sites, which cannot be said of many of the small monuments and historical sites run by the NPS. Pipe Spring is certainly one that we could afford to transfer to a better and more enthusiastic steward.

    I have many other examples which I could also expound upon including Gateway NRA, Cedar Breaks NM, Steamtown NHS, Keweenaw NHP and Golden Gate NRA to name but a few. I think that if many of these areas could be transferred or reassigned to other entities there would be more funds available to maintain the true "crown jewels" that were the original core function of the NPS. Stopping politicians from putting "park barrel" in their districts would be another angle from which to attack this from but I've taken up enough space for one day.

  • Interpretation on the Tallgrass Prairie   6 years 47 weeks ago


    I did not know about the differences between flint and limestone before I took the guided bus tour last Saturday. This tour was conducted through a portion of the Flint Hills of Kansas (within which the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is situated).

    Being naturally curious, I asked my question during the tour stop that featured a discussion of the geology of the area. Not having obtained an answer, I proceeded to search online for further information, some days later. Here's what I found on the NPS' website:

    "Mineral deposits often form in the cracks and pores of limestone. Calcite deposits can be found in the form of geodes and crystals in some layers. Perhaps the most well-known deposits are those from which the hills receive their name. Chert or "flint" is common in many Kansas limestones as nodules or continuous beds. It breaks with a shell-like fracture, and the edges of the broken pieces are sharp. Chert is a sedimentary rock composed of microscopic crystals of quartz (silica, SiO2). It is unknown for sure what the source of silica would have been. However, it has been theorized that it was precipitated from volcanic ash and hardened in cracks and voids of the limestone."

  • Black Bear Put Down in Grand Teton. How Many Visitors Ticketed For Providing Food?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    This "putting down" of a Teton bear is not an isolated incident, but has a long history that has seen a variety of attitudes over the decades. In fact, questioning the Park Service's enforcement of food storage regulations is a significant development in that history. For a very interesting and readable account of this history of bears and people in the national parks (Yellowstone in particular), I recommend "Do (Not) Feed the Bears: The Fitful History of Wildlife and Tourists in Yellowstone" by Alice Wondrak Biel.

  • Yosemite Falls All Dried Up   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Thanks for the info everyone. I had known that it wasn't totally unusual for Yosemite Falls to run dry, but I didn't know that it happened every year. I appreciate all the extra detail you've provided.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker makes some good points and raises some good questions that should be explored.

    As I've noted several times over the past two years, Congress is quick to designate national park system units, but not so quick to adequately fund them. The result? Well, there's that $8 billion maintenance backlog for starters, as well as the National Park Service's trend toward replacing full-time rangers with volunteers because it simply can't cover all the bases.

    Lines need to be drawn, both to whittle down the Park Service's budget problems and, frankly, to protect the integrity of the park system. Now, that's not to say that adding Mount St. Helens would damage the integrity. I think a sound argument can be made for its inclusion. But as Lone Hiker questions, where do you stop? If the Park Service budget were solidly in the black, I'd probably jump on the bandwagon. But it's not.

    Frank and Beamis more than once have called for a reordering of the Park Service, and one project whose time perhaps has arrived is taking a good, hard look at the various units and deciding whether they truly deserve to be within the national park system.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    True, the event on 1980 marked a unique and significant geological opportunity for ecological and geothermal studies "right in our own backyard". The results were catastrophic in terms of environmental impact, while at the same time invaluable in the seismic and geothermal data that were collected. Most noteworthy has been the replenishment of plant and animal life at a far greater pace than previously thought possible by E&E scientists. While many scars still remain and the local geography and topography have been forever altered, and while there can be no arguement for this region being termed volcanically active, I would like to pose a few questions. Are we prepared to designate any or all future eruption sites are National Parks? Aside from chronology, what criterion are to be utilized to denote this event from probably future events in the same or any other range of mountains? There is mounting evidence and data currently being collected that strongly suggest other probable volcanically active sites beyond the Cascades. And while Volcanos National Park gained status as a national park through the usual "unique character" clause and to some degree due to its remote location and the novel character of the Hawaiian Island chain of ancient volcanic mountain builders, where are we prepared to draw the line in the sand? Should the area of the Mississippi River where it's channel was permanently altered by the New Madrid earthquake be designated a National Park, or monument or preserve?
    Are any other remnants of natural disasters within the scope of presevation? My vote would be to nix the NPS acquisition of Mt. St. Helens, consider status with other capable organizations (e.g., the State Park system of Washington?) and manage it from within. There happen to be more than a few local individuals with the resources to assist in both direct and indirect fiscal subsidies, as is common to many public facilities across the nation. I submit for reference funding sources at the Grand Tetons. Any other ideas?

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    Coldwater Ridge should remain open. We visited Mt. St. Helens in April and would not have been able to if it was not open then. This resource is very valuable for the general public and teachers such as myself.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    oh, and often times the agencies close things to get visitors to call politicians to get them to start funding things adequately... it's an effective "shaming" tool for getting politicians attention.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    "USFS simply isn't used to deal with keeping the balance between tourism and protection in a highly visible NM. "

    hold on a minute...

    maybe not a "highly visible NM" but they do manage highly visible, heavily used national forests- many national forests get way more visitation than the parks and are coping with much smaller budgets. san bernardino, wasatch-cache and maybe a few more near the front range of colorado come to mind... and there is no off season. i would put money on the fact that some of these forests have visitor centers that get more visitation in a weekend than some nps units receive in a year and are additionally on par or exceed annual visitation at yellowstone or yosemite.

    kurt- i'd like to see some numbers on this, to compare, if we're going to banter about nps vs. usfs and visitor centers and who should manage. i mean, really, it's not like you often even see uniformed rangers in the nps visitor centers (save zion, you see them there) last three visits to capitol reef were vols, saw no uniforms (concessionaire employees!) in bryce, retirees (vols) in yellowstone and i guess escalante doesn't count because they're blm anyway. i guess my issue is it's not like nps is the only land management agency out there dealing with the crowds. if you look at the population explosion out west, where the bulk of public land is, everyone is forced to deal with increased visitation trends these days.

    disclosure: i do not work for the usfs, i think it would drive me crazy.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 47 weeks ago

    As I mentioned last time this came up, there is enormous pressure on the Forest Service for mining, forest and (intrusive) recreational use within the boundaries of the monument. Because the Forest Service's mission is not about protection of the resource, but best use of the resource, the Forest Service is prone to give in to these commercial interests.

    I hear what you're saying, but there seems to be a flip side as well. By providing special places to manage in a different, more protective manner, the FS may begin to evolve toward greater stewardship. It's difficult to help change the culture of an agency if all you do is take away the best places and give them to the park service.

    A similar tact is being taken with BLM's system of protected lands, called the National Landscape Conservation System. The Clinton/Babbitt strategy of giving the BLM (aka, Bureau of Livestock and Mining) some nice protected places seems to be having a slow - but steady - effect on the way the agency does day to day business. As long as the agency doesn't completely blow it, I believe that you can help slowly steer the ship in the right direction (ie, resource conservation and sustainability over resource extraction and "traditional use").

    Scott. |

  • Interpretation on the Tallgrass Prairie   6 years 47 weeks ago

    What's the difference between flint and limestone?" he was asked. "I really don't know," was the answer.
    Everyone clap for Owen. He already knew the answer.

  • 10 Best Lodges in the National Parks   6 years 47 weeks ago


    Great start of a thread. Here's my new favorite:

    The Chalet at Oregon Caves...I stayed two nites in a third floor room and had a gorgeous sleep listening to the waterfall out my open window. The ghost that lives across the hall didn't bother me a bit. The breakfast in the coffee shop below was yummy. Wonderful, relaxing place. I can't wait to stay there again. As I recall, the rates were very reasonable.

    BTW: Ref The Ahwahnee...The name comes from the Native American word for Yosemite Valley which means "place of a gaping mouth." How unintentionally appropriate is that! ;)