Recent comments

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

    I, for one, want to commend Bob Janiskee for elevating the tone of comments on this site. I have great respect for the work that Kurt and Jeremy have done to raise issues about the parks and the NPS, yet have grown increasingly frustrated with the negativity of some commenters. The National Park Service is a political institution, subject to all the same forces that affect every other government agency. While many of its employees are absolutely outstanding, it is also a government agency and its employees are therefore subject to all the forces that affect every other government agency. Let's not be shocked or blame all of the problems that the parks have on either the agency or its employees. Instead, let's insist that the agency and its employees meet the highest standards.

    And please, despite the cynicism that pervades so many posts, distinguish between the political appointees and the career civil servants, most of whom work hard for conservation and to fulfill the organic act ideals despite the "starve the beast" and "sell it out" mentality of our political masters.

    Yes, I work for the NPS, and have done so for many years. It, like me, has its flaws. But I am proud to work for the agency and proud to be doing my part to make it better, and proud to both protect parks and to do what I can to help people enjoy them.

    So thank you, Prof. Janiskee, for what you add to this blog.

    AND, since the topic of the thread is supposed to be jet skis, over my dead body will they be allowed in any national park unit I am responsible for.

    a national park superintendent

  • Park History: Petrified Forest National Park   6 years 45 weeks ago

    Among Arizonans (including myself), Petrified Forest is often overlooked. But, it really is one of the coolest places in a state with a long list of such places. The last time I visited - it's probably been 6-8 years now - we were shocked at the $50 fine for stealing petrified wood. A $50 fine for stealing a piece of petrified wood that would cost four times that just outside the park is ludicrously low and not at all a deterrent. I've been told that it's been increased, but unless it's on the order of $5000 or so, it's probably not enough. I hope the expansion acquisitions are realized in the near future - there are plenty of resources that still need protection.

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

    Did you know that the National Marine Manufacturers Association is one of many "transportation" lobby groups (including the International Snowmobiles Manufacturers Assn.) to spend millions to lobby National Park Service? As long as the NPS is in a political system, it will be subject to pressure from interest groups.
    Read more at:

  • Park History: Petrified Forest National Park   6 years 45 weeks ago

    A beautiful park! The magnificent sweep of grand vistas and color splashed desert badlands blew me away. The rangers were some of the friendliest and most helpful I'd encountered in quite some time. They truly seemed to enjoy being in this unique preserve located on the edge of nowhere, bisected by the indifferent roar of I-40.

    The wood is really only one part of a much larger story at this park.

  • Park History: Petrified Forest National Park   6 years 45 weeks ago

    The NPCA reports that souvenir-collecting visitors haul away an estimated 12 tons of petrified wood every year in Petrified Forest National Park. I guess if you wait long enough, souvenir hunters, collectors, and thieves will haul away nearly everything of value or interest that isn’t firmly anchored in place and constantly guarded.

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

    Maybe, if the name was changed to Big Cypress National ORV Park I would not feel so disgusted?

  • Ghost at Blevins Farmstead; Excerpt From 'Haunted Hikes'   6 years 45 weeks ago

    That's a neat story cause Oscar was my great uncle I just remember meeting him a few times.

  • Park Service's Top Investigator Pleads Guilty To Theft   6 years 46 weeks ago

    NPCA consistently lobbys for more funding for the NPS. While the Parks are underfunded, just giving the Park Service more money means that the top managers will only waste more money. Before the IG put a stop to it, Buccello was commuting back and forth to her Maine home at government expense, even though her official duty station was supposed to be DC. That wasted at least $60,000, money which could have been put to use hiring several seasonal rangers (remember what seasonal rangers were?).
    Appropriating more money to properly manage the National Parks is needed, but also some budget controls which are sorely lacking.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 46 weeks ago


    I think the editors have picked a particularly provocative photograph in this instance, as they, understandibly, have a tendency to do. (just as we writers are guilty of making the same choices with words)

    I agree with you. This impairment thing is a conundrum. And God love you for bringing up those elk trails! They can do some "damage" can't they?

    Unlike most animals, we humans use tools. Using tools is "natural" for us. Gortex and metal aren't natural by your definition. Should we hike barefoot and naked and use campfires instead of stoves? Any way you slice this cake, it's a messy one.

  • Is the Bear "Hunt" in Katmai National Preserve Sporting or Ethical?   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Opponents of hunting bears near the McNeil River State Game Refuge and Sanctuary say it is unethical to kill bears habituated to humans. Proponents of hunting the bears say in several coastal areas, bears tolerate humans when there is a large source of salmon, and that the situation in Katmai is not unique. This is true, and as long as there is salmon in and around the McNeil River there will be bears. Opponents of letting hunters harvest these bears worry that there won’t be as many bears, and that it will ruin the relationship between the bears and humans. Weeks prior to the opening of the 2007 season, officials surveyed the bear population and recorded it as a “very high density, very healthy population” of bears in the area. This is one of Alaska’s foremost wildlife management success stories, yet we still people trying to ruin what is considered tradition to most Alaskans which is hunting. These people include anti hunters and whack jobs like the infamous “Grizzly Man” who was brutally mauled and killed along with his girlfriend by these same bears of Katmai. Maybe we could’ve asked him how “habituated” these bears are to humans if perhaps he was still alive. Opponents of hunting the bears should turn their focus to worrying about the local salmon runs rather than hunters harvesting these bears because that is what keeps the bears in the area and the population so high. Instead they would rather attack the hunting community and try to publicize this type of hunting as unethical and not under the terms of “fair chase hunting”. How they can prove that is still undetermined.
    Now I am not for eliminating the species or even anything close, but there is a solution to this problem that will benefit both hunters and viewers alike. The way to do it is select a manageable and healthy number of bears to be taken every year by those who put in for the registered special area permit. This is different from what they do now

    which is open season every other year to everyone and anyone who is willing to pay the price to get down there and hunt these bears. The number of bears chosen to be harvested depending to the years’ recent surveys and numbers will benefit not only the hunters and viewers, but also the area’s local bear population. This is because it will keep the bears at a healthy population for the area, and also prevent a future deterioration of the local population due to an excess saturation of the bears in a certain area. This idea saves face at both ends of the spectrum by allowing hunters to harvest these bears while at the same time limiting the number of hunters allowed to harvest bears in the area depending upon that year’s population outlook. This is ethically the right thing to do to properly manage the bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve and to keep it as one of Alaska’s foremost wildlife management success stories.
    Some other problems that this issue involves is that these bears are a problem for the state of Alaska, and the villages that are located near these high density areas where bears flourish and become a nuisance. These areas believe it or not have too many bears. Yes, it is neat to see, but perhaps it is not natural for the bears. Simply their high numbers raise the number of bears that can be harvested. It is getting harder to “live” with the bears, and if you lived in some of these villages around the state of Alaska that are close to these bear sanctuaries you would probably understand. Instead we have to deal with nonresidents from say California who think they are at peace with the bears because they can watch them at close distances while they devour salmon. If those salmon were not there you can bet it would be them. Then they see a few hunters making a clean legal kill on television and begin whining. They also do not consider the local villagers who have to deal with the bears year round, unlike those who view them, and have to send their children off to school with nine foot grizzlies with cubs roaming the streets like dogs. They are not the human-stalking animal I’m making them sound like, but until you corner one going to your shed or accidentally without knowing step between a sow and her cubs you’ll know what I’m talking about.
    The answer in my opinion is simple. Take action in the proposed plan, and if that still doesn’t work for those who are against hunting the bears, close it off to the viewers as well and ruin it for everybody. To make the bears “wild” they must not be exposed to humans on a daily basis. Close Katmai to bear viewing, let the bears return to the “wild” and establish normal hunting regulations. Bottom line, the open hunting area is twenty-five miles away from the bear sanctuary. Here it is legal to harvest bears every other year. What more do these people who oppose of the hunting want? Should we move the boundary to thirty miles, maybe fifty, or should we just cut off the whole Alaska Peninsula to hunting period?

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Any human use (hiking, birdwatching, camping, kayaking) of a park "impairs" it in some way.

    That depends on how you define impairment, and HH has put it in quotes, so perhaps we share the same thinking, but I'd disagree that "any human use" qualifies as impairment. Clearly, all types of human "use" have an impact, but I don't think hiking (footprints) even compare to the ATV tracks in the photo above. Therefore, I'd say footprints and hiking are an impact, but not an impairment because (generally) they don't damage. It would be hard to argue that the ATVs that created the tracks in the above photo haven't damaged the area.

    Also, consider whether a human on foot is part of the ecosystem or separate. I'd argue the former. At Crater Lake, I've followed elk paths up forested ridges. The elk really tore up the soil on their path. I mean, it was highly impacted and altered. But is that an impairment? The disturbance my feet cause in comparison to a herd of 30 rutting elk is miniscule. A human--no, hundreds--on an ATV going through the same terrain would have a higher impact than the elk herd and would therefore impair the area. The same can be said for camping. I've seen places where a herd has rested for the night, and it's pretty disturbed. Likewise, tents create a disturbance. Add RVs and oil leaks and pavement, and I think you've got damage (impairment)--not disturbance.

    My point is that humans are natural, a part of the environment, and should be allowed to be a part of that environment. Our vehicles and roads and technology are not and have no place in areas we've decided to keep unimpaired.

    Sorry if this is rambling; it's Friday. HH, thanks for your thoughts, and I appreciate your comments on the Everglades! :)

  • Park History: Everglades National Park   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Regardless of which specific words we might use to describe the net result of Everglades inundation, I think we can all agree that sea level rise would bring about some pretty dramatic changes in the true Everglades area of the park. The suburban ruins scenario is wonderfully thought-provoking. This is the sort of "what if" thinking that I spent a lot of time on in a futuristics course that I taught back in the 1970s and 1980s. The exercises really helped us identify and think about some "possible futures" that we might otherwise never have considered. The scenarios that my students found most engaging were the dystopian futures. Using techniques such as linear extrapolation, matrix analysis, Delphi studies, and computer modeling we even came up with some "possible futures" for our national park system that were very unacceptable. After fleshing out this or that possible future that we considered unacceptable ("jeez, we sure wouldn't want THAT future to happen!") , we'd ask: What can be done to prevent that particular future from happening? We could usually list broad-scale political, economic, social, technological, and institutional changes that could divert us from that "wrong" path. But as they say, the devil is in the details.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 46 weeks ago

    As a tax-paying citizen, I care about the effect jet skis, snowmobiles and other wildlife disturbing activities have on the environment. Wasn't the purpose of establishing these National Parks so that they could be kept in a natural and pristine order for the enjoyment of all, including future generations? If activities that disturb these conditions continue, what will be left? Certainly, there are other places to jet ski and snowmobile outside the NPS. I think ignorance plays a factor here and the only cure is getting more information out to the public. Who knows, maybe if Director Bomar and other key NPS people hear an outcry from the public, it may change their minds.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 46 weeks ago

    I reviewed the map of the Bear Island ORV Unit. It appears to be (approx) a 5 mile by 6 mile area just north of and alongside Interstate 75. Street legal 4x4s are also allowed on these "trails" which tells me these trails may be more like roads. According to the NPS website, the ORV plan intends to eliminate dispersed use and limit ORV use to designated trails only by 2010. Seems reasonable to me.

    Schwartz says less than 1% of Big Cypress visitors are ORVers. Of the 500,000 non-ORV visitors to Big Cypress, how many of them hiked or kayaked more than 1 mile from the road? Honestly, I'm afraid to know the answer to that question. If the Sierra Club is suggesting that we manage recreational use based on the percentage of visitors who participate in that activity, then the NPS better start paving some roads.

    Any human use (hiking, birdwatching, camping, kayaking) of a park "impairs" it in some way. Science will tell us that every time. It is the duty of the NPS to find ways to prevent and repair some of those impairments in ways other than closing off the area to human use.

    I'm not an ORVer. I'm a long distance hiker, mountain biker, and kayaker. I have run into ORVers several times during my travels. The vast majority that I met were people who appreciated the areas they visit 100 times more than the 500,000 tourists jumping out of their cars to take pictures at the overlooks.

    Without having been there, I hesitate to voice a strong opinion on whether ORV use is appropriate at Bear Island. But, I have seen many examples of "nonprofit" groups like the Sierra Club wasting time, money, and human energy filing lawsuits over issues that in the large scheme of things aren't huge problems.

  • Park History: Everglades National Park   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Frank, I'm with you on this "alter" vs "destroy" point. And I'm sure you are right that this ecosystem has seen many dramatic fluctuations in water levels in the last 4,000 to 2 million years. Correct me, but aren't mangroves opportunists that have adapted to endure in just this scenario? I see similarities to the fire/forest succession analogy regarding how the everglades will adapt to climate change. Will there not be some poetic justice when suburban ruins become the foundations for mangrove islands? Just as Calusa shell middens became keys.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 46 weeks ago

    So it's agreed that political considerations tend to dominate and often subvert the stated conservation mission of the NPS. This seems to be the general consensus among most contributors to this website, regardless of which end of the spectrum they find themselves on. From Merryland and Jim MacDonald to Frank and Lone Hiker to Fran Mainela and Ranger Melissa it is obvious that intrusive politics are the true bane of the national park system.

    Maybe it's time to forge a different path. I've stated my views on some of the alternatives in many previous posts so I'll refrain from a review of them at this particular juncture.

    I think that a cursory review of the articles and comments from this valuable website over the past year would amply highlight the problems, and most stem from partisan politics, whether it is Fran Mainela telling us she was urged, by her bosses upstairs, to ignore compelling science (which cost $10 million to obtain) in Yellowstone or caving in to pressure that sanctioned the wanton slaughter of bears in Alaska or 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.

    Will this type of system remain viable over the long haul? Would we be better off with something else? Do most people even really care?

    These are the questions we need to seriously consider.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 46 weeks ago

    I just said that the misconception was a popular one, not that it should be ignored as a factor affecting public attitudes toward specific park management decisions. Remember that the Park Service didn't establish the "preserve it absolutely unimpaired, but let the public use it as a pleasuring ground" policy. Congress did. And if you are a bureaucrat, you do what you are told -- or at least you fake it to the best of your ability. BuRec didn't give a hoot about any of the values you mentioned when the agency built the Hoover and Hells Canyon Dams and impounded those reservoirs. The dams were built to provide irrigation water, generate electricity, reduce flooding below the dams (now THERE'S a joke on us all!), and enhance flatwater recreation opportunities. When the Park Service was eventually given administrative responsibility the National Recreation Areas focused on those impoundments, the scenic canyons, Indian artifacts, and all the rest had already been inundated for a good long while and the Park Service had exactly zero-zippo-nada to say about whether that was a good idea or a bad one ( I vote for bad). Would Stephen Mather understand this kind of park? That's a very interesting question. Mather was a pragmatist who labored long and hard, twisting plenty of arms, to improve access to the parks and get more and better recreation facilities and lodging built in and near the parks. Mather believed that boosting recreational use of the parks would curry public favor, get Congress to provide more money and staffing for parks, and generate lots of ancillary benefits. That said, I believe that Mather would see the mass recreation excesses at Lake Mead NRA and the Glen Canyon NRA (encompassing Lake Powell) as examples of the extrapolation-to-absurdity syndrome. As a wise man once observed, and as many of us have learned the hard way, "up to a certain point, the more, the better; beyond that point, the more, the worse." Incidentally, I meant no disrespect to Anon and I have nothing against tax paying citizens.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 46 weeks ago

    So Bob, how do Lake Mead and Powell fit into that paradigm? The Native American artifacts, cliff dwellings and rock art have all been destroyed by the government built dam and the natural canyon ecosystems have been inundated by hundreds of feet of water. Jet skis now rule the surface of the water column! Can you understand the confusion?

    Would Stephen Mather understand this kind of park? Anon is not without merit as an entitled taxpaying park user.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Anon's lament arises from a popular misconception about what Congress intended the national parks to be. Providing for public access and recreational use of the parks is most emphatically not ancillary to the central mission, it is a central OBLIGATION. Preservation and public use are explicitly identified as co-equal concerns. Here is the gist of it. Congress passed the Organic Act in 1916, creating the National Park Service. Two years later, Congress issued a Statement of Administrative Policy that instructed the fledgling agency to operate on the basis of three clearly enunciated principles, to whit:
    • The national parks must be maintained in absolutely unimpaired form for the use of future generations.
    • The parks are to be set aside for the use, observation, health, and pleasure of the people.
    • The national interest must dictate all decisions affecting public or private enterprise in the parks.
    Adhering faithfully to both of the first two principles is clearly impossible, of course, and therein lies the rub.

  • Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans   6 years 46 weeks ago

    The parks were not created for us to enjoy,they were created to preserve natural habitat.Any use we get is and should be ancillary to that mission.

  • Park History: Everglades National Park   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Frank rightly points out that a forest ecosystem is not destroyed when wildfire burns it to the ground. The forest ecosystem is just temporarily restored to an early stage of ecological succession. After the fire you get weedy-fast growth (grasses, shrubs), and then the seedlings grow into trees, the canopy closes, and you've eventually got your mature forest back. That's the way secondary ecological succession works in a forest ecosystem. BUT it is only able to put the climax forest community back because the soil was not removed by the fire and and the temperature, precipitation, and other controlling variables have remained essentially the same. If a glacier were to arrive on the scene, obliterate the forest, and scrape away the soil right down to bedrock, you would have to wait until the glacier melts away and start all over again with a soil formation process that turns rock into topsoil at the rate of maybe five hundred to a thousand or more years per inch. Several thousand years or more might elapse before you've got your climax forest back. That's the way primary ecological succession works. I'd have no qualms whatsoever in claiming that the glacier destroyed the forest, since it obliterated it so thoroughly that putting it back takes thousands of years. Now let me get to the point. If sea level rise puts the existing Everglades ecosystem under several feet of salty water, it will destroy that ecosystem -- no ifs, ands, buts, or whats. None of the plants living on the landward side of the mangroves can survive salt water inundation. Not the sawgrass in the true Everglades "river of grass", not the hardwoods in the hammocks, and not even weedy crap like the invading melaleucas. They will be gone, and so will the algal mat and lots of other things that are down there at the base of the food chain and without which the higher-order life cannot survive. I'd hate to have somebody burn down my house and then say that he merely "altered" the footprint on which it stood.

  • Park History: Everglades National Park   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Bob makes some interesting points. According to the International Panel on Climate Change, it's 90% likely that humans are at least partially responsible for climate change and that there's likely nothing we can do to stop it. Sea levels might rise over the next century (although the sea level rise depicted in An Inconvenient Truth probably won't happen for centuries).

    Given this, Bob's observation that some might consider CERP to be like "pounding sand down a rathole" seems valid. I do question the use of the phrase "destroy the ecosystem", though. A more accurate and less loaded term might be alter rather than destroy (just as forest fires don't destroy, they change).

    Maybe someone with more knowledge about Florida's natural history (like Beamis) can fill me in, but hasn't Florida and the Everglades been submerged under salt water before? Weren't parts that are now ocean once swamp (maybe during the last ice age)? And if in the past parts that are now exposed were submerged, how did they recover and how long did it take?

  • Park History: Everglades National Park   6 years 46 weeks ago

    How sad that on this day, exactly 60 years after Pres. Harry Truman signed off on the legislation establishing Everglades National Park, the park is in such sorry shape and has such gloomy prospects. Recent commentary on this state of affairs has centered on the CERP's many shortcomings, and especially on the federal government's failure to hold up its end of the bargain. Reading this stuff is enough to make even the most optimistic park advocates sick at heart. And if all of this CERP news weren't bad enough, consider this: CERP or no CERP, a sea level rise of just two or three feet would cause salt water to flood the Everglades and destroy the ecosystem. "Walling off the sea" to save the park, even if it were possible, would be ecologically absurd. There is no higher ground for some of the park's rare and endangered plant and animal species to “retreat to," either. Farms, ranches, residential neighborhoods, and other developments have already laid claim to that higher land and will not budge. So there you have it. If you believe that global warming is real, and that a sea level rise of at least several feet is inevitable, you cannot logically believe that the CERP can save the Everglades. A cynic (though certainly not yours truly) might suggest that the feds have already decided that the risk of substantial sea level rise is now so serious that funding the CERP is the budgetary equivalent of pounding sand down a rathole.

  • Grand Teton Puts Down Another Bear   6 years 46 weeks ago


    Do you worry that your supervisors know who you are from the posts you have made here? In any event, I admire your bravery for speaking out.

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

  • National Parks Contribute Holiday Ornaments to White House Christmas Tree   6 years 46 weeks ago

    Gee, Jim, I never could imagine someone so sensitive over Christmas tree ornaments but you obviously are. If you weren’t so, then you could understand how such ornaments will make the public more aware of the NPS, its role, and how individuals can help the NPS. I’ve given 25 years of volunteer service to the NPS in many ways: committees for the National Park Foundation, served on Friends boards for NPS sites, and given time helping at NPS sites.

    I believe that if everyone helped in such ways instead of being so sensitive to Christmas tree ornaments, then our parks and monuments would be in great shape. I’m also confident that all of us can better serve the NPS by contributing more while complaining less, which would be a great lesson for you to learn.

    That is what this year’s White House Christmas tree hopes to do. And, it’s succeeding because of all the good news from it this Christmas season.

    Merry Christmas,