Recent comments

  • A Winter Visit to Grand Canyon National Park's Phantom Ranch   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Owen--I should have introduced myself better. I'm that 76 year old retired math teacher, football & track coach. Korean War vet, who worked for the Forest Service & Park Service for about 25 years (summers). My wife Shirley & I packed up the family of 4 boys after each school year and headed out for Yellowstone Park (Old Faithful), where I was a commissioned Federal Law Enforcement officer, AKA Park Ranger (protective). We practically lived in the back country during those years, visiting just about every cabin in the Yellowstone backcountry with our boys. They learned to hike during all the years of their lives, and so did we. So, I suppose that we have hiked several hundred miles in the Yellowstone country. Also, having been a coach all those years, we know what it means to TRAIN! Thanks for your tips. If you can think of any others, we welcome them. Thanks for your fast response. Ken

  • Dinosaur National Monument Cutting Paleontology Staff   6 years 39 weeks ago

    This discussion on the paleontology program at Dinosaur National Monument has degraded into some kind of personal vendetta. This isn’t discussion - it’s pure vitriol. This kind of post reeks of a private agenda and should call into question his entire argument. The moderator of this site should weed this sort of stuff out.

  • Bush Administration Plan to Remove Wolf Protections Draws Criticism   6 years 39 weeks ago

    One environmental group has actually come out in support of delisting.

    See the press release from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

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

  • Dinosaur National Monument Cutting Paleontology Staff   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Allow me to shine some light on a different aspect of the "Gutting of the paleo program" at DNM. I have recently served as an SCA (Student Conservation Association) Intern at Dinosaur for 3 months during the summer of 2007. I filled a Paleontology research assistant internship position under the direct supervision of Scott Madsen (one of the individuals who is being "Axed") a 20+ yr. employee of the NPS. Scott's official title is the "Park Geologist" but more importantly he is the paleo lab manager, chief fossil preparator (who's talents are recognized nation wide), and field (excavation) coordinator at DNM and has been the absolute heartbeat of the paleo program for the last 20 years. As an undergraduate student I had the AMAZING opportunity to work with Scott Madsen as well as many other very well known paleontologists during my time at DNM. I came to DNM as a senior college student very interested in vertebrate paleontology but unsure weather I wanted to pursue furthering my education and or career in paleo. Within the first week that I worked with Scott, all my questions or doubts were answered and I knew whole heartedly that vert paleo was my calling. As an intern I learned more from Scott Madsen in 3 months than any semester throughout my college career. He is truly one of the most knowledgeable paleontologists that I have ever come in contact with. As a mentor, I have never had a better one and he taught me all I needed to know to get started in the field of vert paleo and more specifically skills as a fossil preparator. During the summer of 2006 (June), as the President of the Buffalo State College Geology Club, I lead a trip to points of geologic and paleontological interest throughout portions of Colorado and Utah. As our final stop we visited Dinosaur National Monument. It turned out that we made it there one month before the closure of the Quarry Visitor Center (Bone wall) and I will tell you that we were all completely amazed at the amazing display of fossils. For those of you who don’t know, DNM is THE ONLY site of its kind (and stature) in the WORLD! Yes that’s rite folks the ONLY place like it in the WORLD! Scientifically speaking it is a "meca" for paleontology and the work that has been done there has only scratched the surface! There are so many other discoveries to be made and sites to be worked at DNM and this should absolutely be made a priority by park management but "UNFORTUNETELY" it HAS NOT been included in DNM's "Core Operations" plan and science is suffering. During my first week at the park it was blatantly clear that the management at DNM has a "CANT DO" attitude as they repeatedly squashed any idea or plan that would give the public (visitors) what they wanted to see which are paleontologists in the field, making discoveries, before their very eyes! Mr. Madsen had initiated a plan to excavate a known micro site at the Rainbow Park are of DNM as well as another known locality just below the quarry visitor center. He had a plan in place as well as the resources to accomplish such a plan and Marry Risser (Park Superintendent), Wayne Prokopatz (Resource Manager) as well as Dan Chure (Park Paleontologist) denied permission and squashed the plan with NO formal reasoning as to why it couldn’t be done! Now I ask you (the public), what do you want to see when visiting Dinosaur National Monument? I propose the answer to be - dinosaur bones and paleontologists at work? Well, the quarry visitor center which contains the fossil wall is closed for good reason as the building is moving and self destructing at a rapid pace. So this leads to my next question - If you can’t see the fossil wall what do you want to see instead? I propose the answer to be - alternate exhibits and paleontologists at work in the field making new discoveries? Am I on to something here? Mr. Madsen's plans would have given thousands of visitors a first hand experience of witnessing fossil excavations in progress as well as operations and techniques associated with such work. Instead the visitors (which numbers continued to drop throughout the summer) got to take a 10 minute tour of a make shift visitors center containing very few (and poorly done in my opinion) exhibits, listen to a ranger talk about what they could have seen, take a guided walk on the fossil discovery trail (where they get to see mostly scraps of badly weathered bone) and then get a 30 minute bus tour of the park that they could have done in their own car. I will add that amazingly the Chief of Interpretation did allow us to give a live fossil preparation demonstration at the make shift visitor center. This demonstration was a HUGE success and we averaged 6-10 visitors watching at any given time with some crowds much greater in size. People were amazed, curious, very inquisitive and appreciative of the chance to see paleontologist at work. So now I ask, what are the priorities at DNM (an amazing paleontological and geological resource)? It appears to me that the priorities are everything but paleontology. So why is paleontology not a priority at a paleontology based park? What is the future of one of our National Treasures? How can you have a paleontology program with just one (hands-off) paleontologist who works out of his home and is rarely seen at the park at all? How can you have a collection of fossils with no collections manager (yes that’s rite Marry Risser is also eliminating the curator position held by Ann Elder who is another 20+ yr. veteran of the NPS)? Why are collections currently being stored in car garages (employee housing) and an old beat up semi trailer? Is this proper care for our National Treasures? I think not! How can their be a functioning paleo program without a fossil preparator/lab manager/field coordinator? The answer is that their flat out CAN NOT be a functioning paleo program with only one person at the helm. Dan Chure CAN NOT replace the need for the 50+ years of combined experience and knowledge that Scott Madsen and Ann Elder bring to their respective positions. Hiding behind a smoke screen of "outsourcing" and "partnerships" is not the answer! For those of us in the paleo field, we all know how expensive "outsourcing" can be. Paleo consultants come at a price of over $30.00 an hour in most cases. As far as partnerships go their has been NO formal partnership with ANY outside organizations other than BYU who has FAILED miserably at producing any viable work at DNM to date. As a student in science I was and still am very DISTURBED by this negative attitude and absolute failure to provide both the public and researchers access to this amazing resource. Since 2002 (the last attempt by upper management to decimate the paleo program) Scott Madsen has successfully supervised and mentored 12 interns from both the SCA and GeoCorps. At least 90% of these interns have gone on to further their education and or career in vertebrate paleontology. Who will take on these valuable interns when Mr. Madsen's position is cut? The answer is NOT the park paleontologist because since 2002 he has had only 1 intern! Let it be known that in the 13 weeks that I worked at DNM as a paleontologist research assistant, not ONCE did the park paleontologist meet with me or give me ANY formal training or information whatsoever! In fact, I only met him briefly in passing and it was one of only 3 times that I physically saw him out at the park during those 13 weeks! Marry Risser says that this is the man who will oversee the program? I feel that this is even a larger problem looming over the program! It's high time that other students, researcher's, community member's, politicians and the general public (tax payers) continue to get involved and speak out against this MOST IGNORANT decision!

  • Bush Administration Plan to Remove Wolf Protections Draws Criticism   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Who counts these wolves? Can their numbers be considered accurate? We should be demanding verification of the counts. To remove the wolf from the endangered list without accurate data would be tragic.

  • Bison Slaughter In Yellowstone National Park Draws Protest Against Park Service   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Objections to the notion of a "philosophical debating club" aside (I think philosophy has nothing to do with debate), the National Park Service has in fact changed management policies over the years based on a prevailing management ideology.

    As people, our only concern should be what is right and justified and whether the actions are. If NPS is incapable of making decisions based on anything rational, then it's imperative that people organize against their absurd behavior until it changes. If that seems unrealistic, then they've lost all meaningful hope. And, all this discussion really is just a debating match, just pissing in the wind. But, then, there are no winners; we all lose.

    I don't know whether the world can ever or should ever have 30 million bison roaming again - who can possibly answer that question - the question really is what we are justified in doing now. And, if NPS is incapable, is impotent to act (and they may well be, but on the particular issue of bison slaughter, they probably can do something), then it only makes the call stronger for people to take more radical action, such as that carried out and called for by Buffalo Field Campaign.

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

  • Cycling at Haleakala National Park Given "High Risk" Rating   6 years 39 weeks ago

    You can always do what my wife and I did several years ago. We went to Haleakala Bike Company. They took us to the top to see the sunrise, then took us to the entrance of the National Park. NPS does not allow bike shops to let a person ride from inside the Park without a guide. Right outside the entrance they unloaded bikes, had us test them, and sent us on our way. The great thing about doing this was that we got to go at our own pace. Others went faster or slower. We laughed when we saw the groups going by that had to stick together. To me, the ability to go at our pace was thrilling. We rode our bikes back to the bike shop, picked up our car and were on our way. Even if the NPS stops it inside the park, you still have this as an option.

  • Bison Slaughter In Yellowstone National Park Draws Protest Against Park Service   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Jim,

    "The question shouldn't be how many bison should there be but rather why we think we are right to control the number of bison within a certain number. And, more than control that number, why we think we are right to control the movements of these animals."

    The point you raise is philosophical and National Parks management is not a philosophical debating club. They manage the little piece of the North American eco system that is left. The romantic vision we hold of a buffalo herd of hundreds of thousands roaming an endless sea of grass is sadly gone.
    Lobbying for a National Park dedicated to a large buffalo herd would certainly be interesting. My dealings with National Parks people always has resluted in the ' two hat speach'. One hat agrees with the environmental side but the other defers to the states ecnonomic plan. In reality governments and their employees are interested in jobs and tax revenues (economic development). A roaming buffalo herd isn't an alternative for them. Maybe a rich Indian Tribe would want to combine the concept with a casino?

    Yeah..I know.

    Joe

  • Dinosaur National Monument Cutting Paleontology Staff   6 years 39 weeks ago

    First, re the exchange between Arizonaman and Kurt about "full-fledged national park" status, the nomenclature is indeed meaningless as far as policy, but it still has an effect. "National Park" has more cachet with the public and often translates to more visitation, which will sooner or later influence management.

    Alas, at Dinosaur we can not "be sure the surrounding communities would love to see the change in designation." The name change proposal back in the '80s withered in the face of local opposition, because the old guard of the Uinta Basin is dedicated to extractive industries. Their rallying cry was that park status would require Class I air quality designation and prevent further energy development (and God forbid that we should breathe clean air instead of building a multitude of coal-burning power plants with which to turn the entire Basin substrate into a giant oven for extraction of shale oil... but I digress).

    In any case, energy still ties into the present Dinosaur debacle. Had the quarry been closed 10 or 15 years ago, in a downturn of the boom-bust cycle, I think there would have been a lot more uproar about closing the Basin's number one visitor destination. Now, local motels, restaurants, campgrounds and just about everything else are packed with oil/gas employees. The impact of the quarry closure on tourism has hardly been noticed—except, one suspects, by NPS managers who are thinking, "Now's our chance to gut the paleo program, when nobody's looking."

  • Clinton, McCain, Obama Answer Questions on National Parks   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Well Kurt, much said by all three candidates, but we'll see how well-loved the National Parks are with the next administration. Anything is better then the present Bush & Cheney administration. Such a pathetic waste of eight years!

  • Cycling at Haleakala National Park Given "High Risk" Rating   6 years 39 weeks ago

    That is so sad!!!

  • Bison Slaughter In Yellowstone National Park Draws Protest Against Park Service   6 years 39 weeks ago

    According to the Billings Gazette, there are now 230 bison that have been shipped to slaughter with another 60 now waiting in the Stephens Creek facility. Apparently, the hunt total (according to BFC's Web site) rose to 130 (possibly from the Nez Perce hunt). That means, the total dead is now 360 bison with another 60 awaiting slaughter. At 420 bison, that would be approximately 9% of the entire herd, and the bison hazing and killing season is still quite young.

    In other news, the government may de-list the wolf next week.

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

  • Glen Canyon NRA Releases EA on Castle Rock Cut Deepening   6 years 39 weeks ago

    This decsion-so called seems apparent of another politcal ploy to waste more money to meet the needs of the so called recerationists and their power vehicles to ruin the natural habitat which is the over all concern and goal of the natl park service not some uncontrolled snut noseed recerationist who want to have their own way and destroy the envioriment ion the process.

  • Grand Canyon National Park Officials Release Transportation Plan EA   6 years 39 weeks ago

    "Along with the proposed parking plan, the preferred alternative calls for improvements to Mather Point to open up some of the vistas that have been obscured by vegetation, to make trails more accessible, and provide more interpretive exhibits at the information plaza."

    ...obscured by vegetation...? So now we're clearing all that "natural stuff" so people can see the canyon without all that junk in the way... nice...

  • Dinosaur National Monument Superintendent Favors Law Enforcement, Maintenance, Interpretation Over Paleontology   6 years 39 weeks ago

    This is nutso -- now we potentially have the influence of a young-earth-believing state government in charge of a national paleo resource? Just what we need... local "control" of what the public sees, doesn't see, and is told about the resources of Dinosaur National Monument. Why don't we just move all the stuff to the Creationist Museum in Kentucky and save a few steps?

  • A Winter Visit to Grand Canyon National Park's Phantom Ranch   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Ken,

    Here are some additional pictures to wet your appetite for your upcoming trip and hike into the Grand Canyon.

    http://www.parksonline.org/parks/owenhoffman/grandcanyon2007/index2.html

    You won't need to worry about ice on the trail at that time of the year. The inner canyon will be much warmer than in winter, but still more reasonable than during the 110 degree plus days of mid summer.

    I am writing my answer to your request for information assuming that hiking is second nature to you, even at age 75. Here's a test: If a ten-mile all-day uphill hike is relatively easy, then you are ready for the Grand Canyon. If such a hike is presently impossible to do, then I would not recommend hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back.

    I am fairly fit at age 63, but I found my upper legs to be quite fatigued by the time I approached Phantom Ranch. I used hiking poles. Many others did too. By the end of the hike down, my stride walking into Phantom Ranch was more of a hobble than a gait. I don't know how I'd feel at age 75, but I hope I'll still be able to do it when I'm your age. When we did our hike in December, there were perhaps two persons that we met in your age group who were hiking and staying at Phantom Ranch.

    I recommend diligently training for this hike between now and April. Walk everywhere you can. Include long walks up and down hills wearing a small pack. Pre-hike training will reduce the inevitable fatigue and pain from a 7-mile downhill journey. Pre-hike training will also forewarn you of possible physical difficulties you should be prepared for.

    The views are spectacular, but even with the commercial duffle service, pre-hike training is a must. In fact, I would not recommend anyone at any age undertake this hike without having engaged in at least a few months of pre-hike conditioning. Pre-hike training will pay off tremendously, especially with regards to negotiating the thousands of stair-like water breaks when descending the South Kaibab. Before doing this hike, try hiking a few miles downhill carrying a relatively heavy pack and see how you feel.

    When you start your hike, leave as early as you can after breakfast and go as slowly as you are able to walk, which will guarantee that you spend more time looking at the scenery than at the trail. See if the views along Cedar Ridge approaching O'Neill's Butte are as spectacular in the early morning light of April as they were for me in late December.

    Carry at least two quarts of water down. You might be able to carry less on the return, because you can re-stock with water at Indian Gardens. However, if the weather is very warm, I would be sure to carry two quarts at all times.

    Give yourselves enough time to hike down really slowly and to rest up before dinner. I might suggest a Phantom Ranch dinner seating later than 5 PM, if you can arrange it. I enjoyed having a bunk at Phantom Ranch to rest-up before dinner. Staying two or more nights in the canyon is a great idea. This way, you will be reasonably well rested upon hiking out.

    During your "rest" day, try (if you are in the mood for and are able to engage in more walking) hiking up the North Kaibab Trail along the gradual incline of Bright Angel Creek and the inner Bright Angel Fault to Ribbon Falls. This is another spectacular spot in the inner canyon and makes for a perfect day hike. You can trace your steps before and after the hike using Google Earth (highly recommended).

    In April, you will have more hours of daylight than we did in late December. But, I wouldn't worry at all about possible darkness. Hiking slowly is the key. Carry a flashlight or head lamp for emergencies. Carry a first-aid kit and moleskin to attend to the likely event of blisters.

    Be sure to stop frequently to take lots of photos. Newer digital cameras do a terrific job on Grand Canyon moods, colors and contrasts.

    I hope I've been of some help. If you do this hike at your age, it will be something to tell your great grand-children about, and I hope you will comment about your experience on National Parks Traveler. Good luck.

    Sincerely,

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Shenandoah National Park Announces Opening Dates   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Visitor Center openings are evidence of the erosion of purchasing power of NPS's operating funds-- in the 70's when I worked at SNP, the Harry Byrd VC was open year around. with steady visitation. The winter visitors, fewer in number than during the peak times, and of course wanting to warm up a bit, provided great opportunities for "teachable moments" beyond simply telling folks where the bathroom was...

  • Wolf Advocates Plan to Sue Rocky Mountain Park Officials Over Elk Plan   6 years 39 weeks ago

    These are all good comments. I'm no expert so I read them to learn more about the situation. An excess of ANYTHING is not good. I wonder if we bring in wolves because there are too many elk, what will happen when we have too many wolves? We have to approach this intelligently, with the best interests of our wildlife heritage at the top of our priority list.

  • Does the National Park Service Need a Quota System for Peak Seasons?   6 years 39 weeks ago

    There have been lots of suggestions for increasing carrying capacity, but most of them are unacceptable for obvious reasons. For example, some people advocate installing elevated monorail systems in our big nature-based national parks so that more visitors can be conveyed around and through the parks without unduly damaging the resources. This mass transit system would be in addition to, not instead of, traditional hiking, backpacking, and horse packing.

  • A Winter Visit to Grand Canyon National Park's Phantom Ranch   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Owen--My wife and I are 75. We plan to do the GC on April 5-7, 08. Going down S.Kaibab and returning via BA trail. We have duffel service both ways for us and our son(46) and his wife. Will be staying at the BA campground for two nites. Eating our meals at Phantom. Any advice for us "oldies"? Any suggestions? Thanks

  • Wolf Advocates Plan to Sue Rocky Mountain Park Officials Over Elk Plan   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Wow! I've looked at alot of different sites about the Wolves and Elk in Colorado, Idaho,Wyoming and Montana. I can admit when I'm wrong. Elk populations are not being decimated by wolves, depending on who you talk to. There are many reasons such as fire, disease etc... I guess what I would like to know is... what happened to the wolves in Rocky Mountain Nat. Park before? Were they hunted out? Did they move to different places? What originally happened to them? If it was because of natural reasons, leave it alone. If it was because of human reasons, make it right. Where do the wolves they want to introduce to RMNP come from? Are they captured from another state and moved? This whole thing is crazy to me. What it all boils down to (for me) is Why move the Wolves in to the Park if they are not (or very little) preying on the Elk to begin with? Maybe just relocate the Elk? I don't think Sharpshooters or BIRTH CONTOL is the answer, nor do I think wolves are the answer. From what I've read recently wolves are not going to thin out the Elk, the Elk will thin themselves out as they have in Idaho for example. Thanks for the commentary on this subject. P.S. I was not talking about Wolves killing humans, it was about killing off Elk which I was somewhat wrong about. They do not kill enough Elk to Decimate whole herds.

  • Does the National Park Service Need a Quota System for Peak Seasons?   6 years 39 weeks ago

    If you wish to use a "scientific method" to determine "...how much access and use can be permitted without seriously reducing recreational quality or causing unacceptable damage to physical and cultural resources in the parks." It seems that we would need to answer a few questions. First, what do we mean by recreational quality and 2) what is "unacceptable damage." These are fraught with value laden questions that are not necessarily amenable to scientific inquiry.

    Perhaps National Parks are not overused but underfunded.

    Carrying capacity in range management is about maximizing the productivity of the range, not limiting it. Perhaps we should ask if there are ways that we could increase the capacity of parks in ways that reduce visitor's carbon footprints, promotes the conservation of the natural, cultural, and historic conservation.

  • Wolf Advocates Plan to Sue Rocky Mountain Park Officials Over Elk Plan   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Following up on wolf deaths, there is a (partial, I'm sure) list of confirmed deaths by wolves on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_attacks_on_humans

    If this is correct, there has been 1 death in all of North America in the past 10 years. By comparison, in 2006 there were 174 deaths in the United States alone caused by West Nile virus.

  • Does the National Park Service Need a Quota System for Peak Seasons?   6 years 39 weeks ago

    Anon has a good point about unfair advantages that internationals might enjoy if they were to book their peak-season park visits through tour operators who get a permit allocations without being subject to the lottery. However, advocates of the lottery system might simply point out that international visitors already enjoy, at very modest prices, the use of national parks that American taxpayers have funded. And millions of Americans who helped to fund the very parks that the internationals are visiting cannot afford to visit the parks themselves. If I were in charge of tweaking the system, I would have the Park Service charge tour operators very hefty fees for their peak-season permit allocations, with modest surcharges imposed on permits used by internationals.

  • Wolf Advocates Plan to Sue Rocky Mountain Park Officials Over Elk Plan   6 years 39 weeks ago

    I don't understand the problem with bringing back the natural order of things and having the wolves come back? The elk need to be culled because their natural predators have been decimated. Are wolves threatening to humans? How many deaths have wolves caused since they've been reintroduced? I haven't heard of one death, but then again I don't try to read Idaho or Wyoming newspapers for such news.