Recent comments

  • Exploring the "Other Half" of Our National Parks: Stargazing Under Protected Dark Skies   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Great article Mr. Hoffman.

    Another resource for beginners are the monthly star charts at:

    During the summer spotting satellites is fun.
    You can even get predictions at:
    When you register you can setup predictions for your exact location. For example, The Smoky Mountain Astronomical Society often visits Unicoi Crest in North Carolina

    Forrest Erickson

  • Commentary: Who Runs the National Park System?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    As a former Director of the National Park Service I can tell you that this ruckous over Sylvan Pass is not unusual. Usually, if you trace an issue like this back to it's source, you find a few. srtrident local people who stand to make money based on the decision. They usually don't care what the decision will cost the tax payer or whether or not it makes sense from a resource management point of view.

    They may be snow mobilers, off road vehicle users or a variety of other users. They are usually vocal and well connected politcally. Cody, Wyoming residents have had a strong voice in National Park Service policy for years but they are not the only ones.

    If they don't get what they want, their congressional representatives will threaten to punish NPS management in a number of ways including the blockage of funding. It is a way of life--like the tail wagging the dog. It appears to be especially true in western parks where local people seem to to lay the strongest claim on the management of federal lands. You don't usually see New Yorkers trying to run Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. You don't usually find Washington, D.C. trying to run the Washington monument.

    It is hard to explain, but that is the way it is and I doubt it will change soon.

  • Commentary: Who Runs the National Park System?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    The number of snowmobilers who want to enter Yellowstone thru Cody is and has always been small compared to the other entrances. YNP is not the only place where these few can ride during the winter. In my opinion, a huge expense and risk for just a few.

    On the quote "They can spend $ on wolves- why can't they spend it on us?", literally millions of dollars have been brought into the entire Greater Yellowstone area by people hoping to see and/or hear a wolf. Millions of dollars also made from wolf t-shirts, coffee cups, etc. Talk about money well spent !

  • Commentary: Who Runs the National Park System?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Yes, when looking at these things, it's important not to reduce this to Cody - you can rest assured that most of Cody wasn't involved with this, either (whatever the local attitudes were or weren't). State Sen. Colin Simpson, who was heavily involved with this, is the son of former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson.

    Who exactly was "Shut Out of Yellowstone", the group that sprung overnight to fight this?

    It's too simple to put this on a gateway community; who are the people involved? What interests do those who take action have at stake, and what are their interests with the levers of power?

    Interesting you fingered Cheney; a long series in the Washington Post a couple years back, Cheney got directly involved in the Yellowstone cutthroat issue, though no one would have guessed he'd have put himself into such a minute issue. You, of course, don't know if Cheney was involved here, but it's not out of the question. Someone higher than Suzanne Lewis was involved with the decision; she didn't suddenly see the light (as you said, it makes no sense).

    Small numbers of people are always the one that make change - this is one for the worse; but it's always true you won't find that many people behind any significant change. When society is as large as it is, that's both an empowering thought (for those of us who would like to bring change) and a scary thought (to think that we could have such consequences when we are playing with a fire this large has to be really daunting to anyone would would try). I don't begrudge small groups of people from being so effective; what's upsetting was that this was the kind of change that they made, that they are no doubt heavily connected with the levers of power, and the net result is the shelling of Yellowstone National Park with ordnance - some of which is still unexploded in Yellowstone.

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

  • Commentary: Who Runs the National Park System?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    If read lots of opinion on the issue, but I feel I miss some hard facts. If this about the city of Cody as such? With 53 miles the city seems a bit far off to be that interested.

    While searching for background information I came across the FAQ of an outfitter and snowmobile tour guide at They specifically mention Pahaska Tepee as being cut off from business with snowmobiling in the National Park. That lodge, the former hunting lodge of Buffalo Bill, now family owned by Bob and Angela Coe, with rooms from midscale to family oriented rates is located only two miles outside the park on the road to Cody. Their mailing address does not use the nearest ZIP code of Wapiti, WY (82450), but that of Cody, WY (82414). In former years they made 80-85% percent of their winter income with snowmobilers - In 2007 they had to close the lodge, lay off their staff and cancel all reservations because of 26 days at the beginning of the season, the pass was closed for 10 days - - Bob Coe is on the board of the National Forest Recreation Association - - and his issue with the pass and his snowmobiles goes back to at least 1996 - -, when he bought 40 snowmobiles and led protesters who complained about closures even then: "They can spend $ on wolves - why can’t they spend it on us?" - that were of course the closures due to federal budget struggles.

    That's it so far. You are closer to the issue then I am, pick up the lead and see, if it leads somewhere.

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 32 weeks ago

    My only curiosity is that the Supreme Court decision concerning the D.C. handgun ban will be released in the next two weeks. I can't help but imagine what kind of impact that decision will have. If the D.C. gun ban is upheld, why should the DOI secretary need to change the rules if he doesn't want to? On the other hand, if the D.C. gun ban is struck DOWN, I would think it's going to be "open season" on ANY questionable firearms regulations, including those currently in place in the National Parks. They would never survive the scrutiny until January. See what I mean?

    And I also liked it better when the NRA just needed to teach Hunter-Safety classes, instead of having to fight political battles.

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Hi Fred --

    My recollection is that when they announced their schedule, DOI was asked by a reporter when Dept. of Interior expected to be able to make the decision on the rulemaking/regulation, and answered "in January." Not Jan 1.

    However, I don't have a copy the report of story that carried this, and am relying on memory. I will try to scour around and see if any old news archives cover this exchange. Maybe someone else saw the same piece and can comment, but I will look.

    But that kind of timing can be made to appear plausible, assuming they can say they have the comment period close in a little less than a month, most likely they do not extend (as they sometimes do where there are a bunch of comments), then stop to review the decision, prepare an analysis, go through the review with their lawyers, put their finger up in the air to see where the politics is, and then publish their result.

    Either way they get the advantage of stirring people up, without having to go on the record one way or another before the election, but protract the whole thing to target the specific constituency. If this is right you should expect to hear a bunch more on this around september-october. At the least the Senators signing the petition and who are running get a bounce, and we will see if they can work it into the presidential campaign. If they can get Obama to say he disagrees is sept or oct, they can use that against him in states like Pennsylvania, that he needs, with strong NRA.

    This strategy will not work if Kempthorne announces his decision in sept or oct. Anyway, just watch the bouncing ball and see if you are right, that this is a 'principled' decision by Kempthorne, or if he waits and is just playing this for the political bounce of objectifying Obama and opponents of republican senators in swing states.

    Republicans must be desperate to hold on to all the seats they can.

    Imagine, they could be talking about habitat preservation instead !

    Personally, I prefer the old NRA that worried about sustaining wildlife and wildlife habitat.

  • How We View National Parks Today Matters For Tomorrow   6 years 32 weeks ago

    A National Park for the Upper Mississippi River was discussed as early as 1917. In 1932 the NPS sent the superintendend of Yellowstone NP, Roger Toll, on a five-day evaluation tour to southern Wisconsin and Iowa. He found the area not suited for a National Park, but recommended that the Effigy Mounds north of Marquette, Iowa should be protected in a National Monument. From then it took until 1949 until "Effigy Mounds National Monument" - - was created.

    Most probably Tolls conclusion still stands: If National Parks are supposed to be vast tracts of nature, unimpaired by men, then nowhere on the Mississippi River a National Park can be created. But if National Parks can be valuable nature, interspersed with remnants of historic use and modern day recreational needs of the Twin Cities, then the Upper Mississippi in the area that now is "Mississippi National River and Recreation Area" could become a National Park of that new kind.

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    I guess a Bernard DeVoto of our times should stand up and say "Let's close the National Parks", if Congress does not fund them properly, as he did in 1953 in Harper's Magazine - in full at His outcry was influential in starting the Mission 66.

    "Therefore only one course seems possible. The national park system must be temporarily reduced to a size for which Congress is willing to pay. Let us, as a beginning, close Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and Grand Canyon National Parks—close and seal them, assign the Army to patrol them, and so hold them secure till they can be reopened."

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Here are a couple of ideas that would never fly, but since you asked:

    Since the majority of Americans are basically slothful couch potatoes, who's idea of "reality" is directly linked to such nonsense as what is purported to be classified as such by the brainless marketing and production staffs that are television executives, how about a "real" reality show about the status of the American landscape? We're SO good at throwing our hard-earned monies at sympathy causes all over the globe that maybe, for once; we as a nation might concentrate on some domestic issues within our own borders, generate some personal and national pride in restoring the images and landmarks that comprise our collective heritage and future.

    Another option is exposing the youth of America, the elementary, middle and high school aged children, to stories, images and the general history and current conditions that are the NPS. Play on their sympathies and jump-start their guilty consciences. Show what was, what currently is and what is projected to be if we continue with business as usual. The younger minds are most easily influenced (ok, pliable, malleable, preyed upon, whatever) and are the most likely to institute the movement required for the needed changes in attitude, funding and general advocacy to take place anytime in the near future. If you're waiting for political intervention you're a fool. Likewise with funding from the private sector in amounts that would truly be substantial enough to make a difference, in the short term at least. A "benevolent benefactor" with the available resources to ride in like the proverbial knight in shining armour doesn't exist in this world, mostly due to the fact that they wouldn't receive the "personal recognition / promotion" that those morons usually demand. This is a "for the good of all people" project, not some personal gratification /furthering of one's image and status program. So let's utilize those who are most likely to come under the spell of the Great Outdoors, those who have probably yet to live the experience, but who would at the same time be most likely to be forever influenced by such exposure.

    Reporting, as usual, from La-La Land............

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Good point, Kurt.

    However, advocacy begins from within, and you are not going to see the kind of advocacy that our Parks need until we once again have Directors, Regional Directors and Park Superintendents who will hold fast to the ideals as expressed in the Organic Act of 1916, even in the face of political pressure: until we once again have Directors, Regional Directors and Park Superintendents who are willing to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough! We cannot do more with less, and we will not put the resources with which we have been entrusted at risk, nor our people or our visitors, just to appease politicians’: or until we once again have Regional Directors and Park Superintendents who are willing to lay their careers on-the-line, and curtail or even shut down management-related activities that cannot be sustained without ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. Until a new generation of Managers the likes of Hartzog, Chapman, Anderson, Cone, Kowski, or Thompson take the reins and lead in accord with the ideals as expressed in the Organic Act of 1916, advocacy from within doesn’t stand a chance.

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    It was a Nikon, I believe my old N-70, which since has been replaced by a D80.

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Kurt, just one question. Your photo on this page, when was it taken? Nice composition and color...and what kind of camera used?

  • How Can We Build Advocates for the National Parks?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    There is an additional challenge for increasing national parks advocacy besides the ones mentioned in Kurt's post and by other commenters. In the last few years, many environmental groups have responded to the threat of global climate change by focusing the lion's share of their resources on it.

    This has meant not only that there are fewer professional opportunties for people intersted in traditional public lands advocacy but also that young people coming into the environmental movement are being channeled mostly toward global climate change issues.

    It's hard to say how much of this is driven by the groups themselves. Foundation funding for more traditional conservation work is shrinking as funders increasingly move their money into slowing global climate change. Since many environmental nonprofits are dependent on foundation funding for a big part of their budgets, that shift changes what they can do.

    As a result, citizen advocacy is more important than ever. I know there are huge systematic issues that could really use more people paying attention, but I would settle for more people standing up for the parks they care about. My own experience is that you can indeed get many recreationists to become public-lands advocates, but it happens only when there is a huge threat to their personal playground. Once they start speaking out, however, they are some of the most ardent advocates around.

  • How We View National Parks Today Matters For Tomorrow   6 years 32 weeks ago

    One of the concerns with extending the "national park" designation to any type of NPS unit is whether that will cause the public to shrug their shoulders when development or other threats to natural values are proposed in a old-school, big and wild national park because they've become accustomed to development in other places that are called national parks.

    For instance, there is a push now to reclassify the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) as a national park. Some folks are already calling MNRRA a national park in advertising for events taking place on the Mississippi River. MNRRA doesn't have land or legal authority to manage what happens on the Mississippi, but renaming it as a national park would give the people of Minneapolis/St. Paul a national park that really is in their back yards. (The Mississippi River flows right through Minneaplis/St. Paul.)

    Whether associatiing "national park" with an urban area will change how Minnesotans respond to threats to other national parks that aren't urban remains to be seen. Or will it perhaps raise consciousness of national parks in general and make Twin Cities residents curious to see other their other national parks?

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Fred, for god's sake come up for air on this gun issue. Why are you so wildly honed and intense on this issue? Lepanto makes a damn good point!
    The Bush & Cheney ideology has infected and poisoned just about every governmental agency in this country with it's pure chain-ball stupidity and corrupt political chicanery. Now, this gun issue, such unbelievable waste of breath during election year when we have such horrendous internal problems and moral decay in this country...and you worry about packing a concealed weapon in the National Parks. Such a pity!!!

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Where is the information about the January 1st effective date? I was not aware of it. What is the Secretary using for justification? Why not an immediate change to the regulations after a review of the public comments? I realize that there's more than TEN THOUSAND comments, but they are almost all in SUPPORT of the rule change. Why not use SEPTEMBER 1st, or maybe even AUGUST?

    The DOI website says, "Once the public comment period has closed, all comments received will be evaluated and incorporated into the decision making process on a final rule. The number and substance of the comments received will determine the timeline for the final decision."

  • Mount Vernon, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument Proposed To Become World Heritage Sites   6 years 32 weeks ago

    We need to ensure that we do not allow "the World" to take over these locations. We manage them just fine ourselves. However, all things considered, the inclusion of a site on the list is significant.

    I believe that the State of Illinois is doing a fine job of preserving and interpreting Cahokia Mounds. The visitor center is fabulous and outclasses many visitor centers interpreting ancient sites preserved by the NPS.

  • Yellowstone's Latest Snowmobile Decision for Cody: Politically Motivated or Simply Neighborly?   6 years 32 weeks ago

    There may be things in life where that kind of money is worthwhile - I don't know - but I can't imagine it's worthwhile even if someone was giving the Park Service $8,470.76 per person to bombard Yellowstone National Park with munitions.

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

  • National Park History: Big Bend National Park   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Nice catch, Leslye, and I do thank you very kindly. You are too generous, though. Although I must have known what a peccary is at one time or another, I've managed to forget. Did you say that the javelina is related to the HIPPOPOTAMUS?!

  • National Park History: Big Bend National Park   6 years 32 weeks ago

    FYI, and you probably already know this, but javelinas are not pigs. They are peccaries and most closely related to hippopotami. Cute but dangerous animals, especially during mating season.

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 32 weeks ago

    But Fred, follow the bouncing ball!

    The timing was chosen by the politicians. If the congressional and Administration supporters of this proposed rulemaking were serious about good government, then why did Kempthorne announce a january decision date? Why not do this two years ago? Or last year.

    You may believe in this -- and the point of these kinds of manipulations is to have easily provocable believers -- but the politicians are doing it purely as a wedge, to polarize and paralyze the American people.

    Even if you can't see your way through on this because of your suseptibility to the gun issue, surely you can look around at some other hot button and see equivalent behavior on other issues, where some other group can be gulled. And call it 'principle.'

    Hey, folks. Let us get beyond those people, and find the things that unite us.

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 32 weeks ago

    This is NOT a new, election-year issue. If you take the time to follow this link you will see that the NRA has been fighting this battle for more than five years.

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Yes, FrankC, of course they are "political" in the sense you use it. And, in that sense, parks should be political, and the congress should represent the will and energy of the electorate. One reason to have a democratic republic is to get your representatives to do things you like.

    What I was trying to say, very different, is the gun thing is not the same. It is not healthy politics. There are professionals in the business of politics today who are SEEKING wedge issues, not because of the merits of the issue, not because Americans want them (like parks), but in order to split americans, and provoke a targeted group to simplify their vote and thinking, or come out to vote. The idea behind provoking gun advocates is to get some percentage to vote who would otherwise not vote, voters who WILL be provoked by the "wedge" and who will (they hope) vote overwhelmingly for this or that candidate.

    The kind of politics you are talking about is altogether different, and I'll bet you actually understand this without being reminded, I'd guess.


    The establishment of most parks is almost always seen by local people as a positive thing when they come up this way. There are almost no cases of parks being created by Congress over the objection of the local congressional delegation. Alaska, of course, is the notable exception. This is not to say some parks were created amid strong objection by some local people or groups, but park establishment is mostly a 'feel good' thing. By the numbers, is a soft enterprise, and does not go very deep in stirring political passions. There are all kinds of surveys demonstrating thiis.

    Rarely do advocates of a new park get the kind of huge bounce the politician would get by provoking a challenge, such as putting out a proposed rule on guns, or a referendum on gay marriage. Or, the bounce they might get by making a big public point of supporting snowmachines.

    There are exceptions.

    Some new parks were seen as 'saviors,' to an area, such as Lowell or Shenandoah, and local business interests (in the case of Shenandoah, as opposed to small holders who opposed the park) or great local zeal seeking individual affirmation, as in the case of a Lowell or Rosie the Riveter, or Women's Rights, or Ellis Island, Tuskegee airmen, telling the Untold Story of a neglected class of Americans. THOSE people would vote for or aginst a politician, as we saw when a sitting congressman lost his Lowell seat after failing to get the funding the park needed.

    The most cynical way, most of the time, the establishment of new parks or funding old parks is used by elected officials is to appear to be an environmentalist -- by supporting parks alone -- without doing much else for air or water. But that also is a pretty cosmetic sort of politics, not the sort of "wedge politics" this guns in parks thing is trying to be.

    Some politics is just the way to get something done. Some politics are deliberately destructive, to get short term gain by going negative, inflaming some constituency, and using the cover to fail to act responsibly by governing well. It is now widely believed by Members of Congress that -- even though congress is significantly responsible for what goes on in this country -- you do better by NEVER acting as if you are responsible, but to just attack government as if it has nothing to do with them. The 'wedge" issue is part of the same strategy.

    the gun thing is a wedge. Creating new parks, almost never. It is easy to tell the difference. It is the difference between trying to get something done, and trying to excite antagonism.

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 32 weeks ago

    Lepanto, if you look at the creation dates for national historic sites, national recreation areas, and all those other non-park or monument status NPS units, you'll see that an overwhelming majority were created during an election year. Parks are political. This thread about concealed weapons in national parks seems to make the case for removing national parks from a political system. Were parks were removed from federal ownership and managed by non-governmental trusts, as are many museums, then the Second Amendment wouldn't apply and individual parks could choose to ban weapons in parks. Food for thought.