Recent comments

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 2 days ago

    With fuel oil at $4 a gallon, you bet I have good insulation, and yes, I know that most of us try our best to reduce our footprint on the planet. As for air conditioning, we don't have that in Seattle. My wife and I just run a fan. But I sure had it when I taught in Texas! As we agree, we get so used to all of these things we forget how tied to "progress" all of us are. I don't begrudge anyone the fruits of their labors; I just want all of us to use common sense. So much of what we call our "needs" these days were truly luxuries in the past. Every time I start feeling sorry for myself, I remind myself that I have ten times more than my father and mother ever had. Bridging that disconnect between our true needs--and our false ones--remains the greatest challenge we face today.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   2 weeks 2 days ago

    cburt

    So you want the government to breach their contract? What are they going to sue Xanterra for, living by the contract terms?

    It may have been a poorly thought out deal by the NPS/Government but it is the deal they made and the deal they should live by.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   2 weeks 2 days ago

    They should never have been promised repayment for improvements they made to leased property in order to make more money. Anyone who has leased property knows the lessor isn't going pay one for making improvements to help one's business. Moreover, there should be law to keep the park service from indebting the parks, which belong to the public.

    Xanterra has made a bunch of money off public parks. I say let them suck wind. Their prices are too high and the services they provide the public are not the best. I don't care if all the concessions close - as long as the resources are protected.

    Give back the other parks their money and let Xanterra sue Grand Canyon (as they are). And then maybe the public will sue them back and find out how much they made at Grand Canyon after investing their money. The United States of America can sue them. Or a citizens' group can.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 2 days ago

    Let's not forget the F350 diesel truck used to pull the horses to the trails... I usually ride from my house to the trails.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 2 days ago

    Absolutely true, Dr. Runte.

    However, if each of us does all we can to minimize our impacts by walking or biking when possible, by reducing home fuel use through good insulation, by turning the thermostat down just two degrees in winter and up two in summer, using solar power any way we can, buying fuel-efficient vehicles and literally hundreds of other available options, what can happen?

    Yes, we are all part of the problem. But if we are willing to try just a little, we can all be part of the solution.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 2 days ago

    You see what I mean, Rick, in your statement: "There is a world of difference between a Jeep or a Chrysler and an organization formed with the precise purpose of working against things I believe in." Indeed there is. My grandfather once said the automobile would destroy America. And if the machinations of the automobile lobby in Washington, D.C., are not intended to do just that, what are? The biggest battles environmentalists have lost have been funded by the auto industry. That "maintenance backlog" the Park Service so boldly announces is almost entirely roads and parking lots. In Yellowstone, that backlog is an estimated $560 million.

    Just who are we kidding here? Ourselves. I have always wondered why my book, ALLIES OF THE EARTH: RAILROADS AND THE SOUL OF PRESERVATION, never caught on with the environmental community, for which it was written. Now I know. Environmentalists never see the problem as having anything to do with themselves. It's always the other guy's car, and the other guy's airplane flight, and the other guy's second home in the mountains, and the other guy's investments in corporate America. We are clean because our motives are clean.

    No, we're not. We are just as tied up into knots--and full of inconsistencies. We want to preach from a comfortable pulpit just as much as "the other guy." Edward Abbey hated cars in the national parks, but loved ramming his pickup truck through the desert just outside. All of my friends have done "low impact" hiking in Nepal, but how in God's name did they get there? "We have met the enemy, and he is us," said Pogo, that famous cartoon character from the 1960s. That still sticks with me today. We get nowhere by pointing fingers. We rather concede that all of us are guilty and need to mend our ways.

    End of sermon, and yes, my pulpit is very comfortable, thanks to central heating run with oil. I am about to get in my car and get a cup of coffee. I should walk but it is four blocks away. So again, we see what Pogo meant.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 2 days ago

    The case of CHNSRA, managerial pitfalls, NGO political influence, and inflexibility has dramaticly increased cost of managing that park. Many feel they increased the size of thier beauracracy simply because they can, with little benefit to the park or it's resources.

    The same can said about Cape Lookout and Assateague, where they are reinventing the management plans solely because of NGO influence and management inflexibility that will raise the cost of managing these parks as well.

    I would prefer allowing States to own and manage these parks instead of privatizing.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 2 days ago

    Thanks for the sources Michael. I was just doing the math after a quick check of the number of households and the NPS budget. It doesn't solve the problem either way of course but it does influence my opinion somewhat. It could also hurt the credibility of the source. I hope it’s my numbers that are off somehow and not the NPCA’s. It is odd to me that they site so many different sources for their figure.

    The number you sited didn't surprise me while mine did. $2.50 vs $25 is not insignificant. Then take into account how many households don't pay any federal taxes and the number would increase even more. Factor in those who don't care or visit the parks etc. and the numbers could get really interesting. If privatizing is an option certainly something any buyer would want to understand.

    I am not a fan of the argument that the parks add to local economies. While I don’t dispute that is true, it opens the debate of who then should be paying for the parks or how much. That is, should a special tax be levied on those businesses that benefit from everyone else’s tax dollars? I liken it to the professional sports teams that argue cities need to build them huge new stadiums because they are so good for the local economy.

    I also see a graphic from NPCA stating new parks aren't part of the problem. I think this is short sighted as any new park is certainly going to eventually add to the maintainence backlog sometime in the future.

    I do not know much about NPCA but am a huge fan of the parks.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 2 days ago

    Rick,

    All you've done is pointing out that you don't like the goals and funding of the organization, but you've said nada about the idea. You got your thinking priorities backward. Ideas and principles should stand or fall on their own, not based on who supports them. We already see too much of this in current politics with both parties who only like ideas that they came up with.

    Now, that's not to say that we can like an idea while questioning the motives of the supporters. But, that's a separate debate.

    So, who's going to debate the original idea or answer my question about how the NPS spends its budget? :)

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    Alfred...

    Yup. I live in a town with a tourism-based economy. I know about dirty money, literally.

    There is a world of difference between a Jeep or a Chrysler and an organization formed with the precise purpose of working against things I believe in.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    But Rick. When I was on the board of NPCA, we never turned down a conservative's money, either. In fact, we had so many entangling alliances I couldn't recognize the place anymore. Just for the record, environmentalists have no problem with big corporations pursuing their agendas--most recently solar power, wind power, and the abatement of climate change. In fact, back to my days on the board of NPCA, our magazine was running ads for Jeep Cherokee, while Audubon Magazine sported an ad of a Chrysler SUV pounding up a wilderness streambed. I am all for criticizing "dirty money," but you know what? Much of ours is dirty, too. Great fortunes are built by stepping on toes. Ouch! You shouldn't do that, Mr. Rockefeller, but yes, we'll be glad to take your money for Jackson Hole, the Smokies, and Acadia.

    America is a messy place--full of contradictions and inconsistencies. The question remains before us: How do we fund these things called national parks? One of these days, we will have to stop pointing fingers and resolve the issue. I am all for starting the process now.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    many incredibly wasteful non-defense projects absorbing taxpayer dollars.

    I agree - those monies would be better going to non wastefull defense projects. National defense, one of the enumerated powers, accounts for about 1/5 of the budget. The other 4/5ths are largely non-enumerated powers.

    is a goal that will never be reached.

    I hope you don't manage your household budget that way, i.e. "we are spending more than we can afford but we will never get our spending down so lets just spend more".

    Yes we need a balanced budget and it can be done if there is a will.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    So what Rick? Do you have any rational counter to their argument?

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    BTW, in case it is not evident, this comment was replying to ecbuck's previous comment.

    Michael

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    I am glad that you want to see more funding for the National Park System. However, you are presenting false choices.

    Putting off funding the NPS until we "get our fiscal house in order" is a goal that will never be reached. Defining when our fiscal house is in order is totally subjective. If you mean balancing the budget, that has not happened for many decades, it is not likely to happen in the future, and many economists do not believe that it is even necessary — or even desirable. So waiting until we "get our fiscal house in order" is a recipe for doing nothing for the NPS.

    There is also no comparison between funding the NPS or funding national defense. We are talking about 1/15 of one percent of the federal budget for the NPS vs. 19 percent of the federal budget for the Pentagon — which wastes far more money each year than the entire NPS budget. Even if we agreed that the Pentagon budget were sacrosanct, there are — as I pointed out — many incredibly wasteful non-defense projects absorbing taxpayer dollars. The Green Scissors report, issued by Taxpayers for Common Sense and Friends of the Earth, lists a whole slew of such wasteful expenditures.

    So my point is that we do not need to go without vital public programs to fund the NPS. The NPS is a vital public program, and we should be funding it instead of wasteful programs that do not benefit and are not supported by the public.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    Thanks, dahkota. From that source:

    =====

    Funding

    At some point since April 2003, PERC recently underwent a name change from Political Econonomy Research Center. According to Mediatransparency, PERC under its old name, received $603,600 from Bradley Foundation and $640,775 from Olin Foundation.

    Other funding has come from Sarah Scaife, JM Foundation, Lambe Foundation, McKenna Foundation, Earhart Foundation, Koch Foundation, Carthage Foundation and Castle Rock Foundation -- the guts of a force of roughly a dozen or so foundations that, since the 1960s, have coordinated their efforts toward forging national policy favorable to deregulation of industry and to privatization. According to Mediatransparency's records, PERC received $4,175,875 from all funding sources combined from 1985 to 2002.

    Since 1998 PERC has received $80,000 (unadjusted for inflation) from ExxonMobil.

    =====

    He who pays the piper calls the tune. That's why I evaluate my sources.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    there is a disconnect between public opinion and the amount of money that is allocated to the National Park Service.

    That is because "opinions" don't cost anything. Make them pay at the gate and the "opinion" changes substantially.

    BTW, I too would like to see more funding for the parks but not until our fiscal house is in order. And while there certainly are wasteful and ineffecient programs in the military, I don't think the defense of our country (a Constitutionally granted power to the Federal Government) should take precidence on the chopping block vs non or even unconstitutional expenditures elsewhere.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    I wish I could reverse that.

    And I suppose you will call a park ranger when the dirty bomb goes off in your home town.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    Of course, you make valid points. My main point is that there is a disconnect between public opinion and the amount of money that is allocated to the National Park Service. And, that the amount of money we are talking about is miniscule in the context of the whole federal budget. And, that vast amounts of taxpayer money is being spent on wasteful projects that most people do not support.

    If we put that all together, the missing piece is strong leadership for the National Park System, including both funding the existing system and expanding the system. The last time we saw robust, nationwide leadership on this issue, we passed the 1980 Alaska Lands Act and more than doubled the size of the National Park System. That, despite the unanimous opposition of the Alaska delegation and strong political opposition from many other directions. The reason ANILCA passed was because conservationists got serious and worked together for that goal.

    We need to revitalize the national parks movement. That means building a base of grassroots support. Otherwise, we will continue a downward spiral of inadequate funding and park expansion and end up with increasing privatization, along the lines of PERC's suggestions. I believe we can, and must, to do better. We did it with ANILCA and we can do it again.

    Best,

    Michael

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    Hi wild,

    Thanks for your comment. That was a 2013 figure from National Parks Conservation Association.

    http://www.npca.org/news/media-center/press-releases/2013/new-infographi...

    It also appeared in a number of publications.

    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2013/11/npca-releases-new-graphic-s...

    I have contacted NPCA and asked then for a citation for their figure.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    "What was not transparent was who funds PERC."

    Three guesses...

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Property_and_Environment_Rese...

    NPS budget: http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/budget.htm

    According to Third Way, in 2011 my tax dollars sent $8.23 to NPS. $397 went to Iraq and Afganistan operations. I wish I could reverse that.

    http://www.thirdway.org/taxreceipt

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    The average American household pays only $2.56 in taxes annually for the operation of our park system

    Michael, if I am not mistaken I think you are off by a factor of 10. I think it is closer to $25 per household. The latest figures I could find were for 2013 estimated number of households at 122,459,000

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    We all know what other government programs COULD fund. However, chronic underfunding of the national park system was a problem long before the twentieth century, let alone the twenty-first. The railroads stepped in because they had to. Uncle Sam would not fund the parks.

    What about American culture explains the phenomenon? Giving up an extra Starbucks for the parks is fine, but that is exactly the point Kurt is making. Given that Americans have never thought that way--and the parks are allegedly struggling to make ends meet--how would you convince the American public to make the investment, again, an investment they have never fully made?

    Deep within our heart of hearts, we don't believe in the investment, either, as was pointed out at the conference. How many of us pay extra at the gate? How many of us are willing to dispense with our senior pass? Now 67, I have not paid an entrance fee at any national park for all of the past five years. PERC is asking us to put our money with our mouth is. That is what the article is all about.

    Granted, our military obligations are out of control. And just wait until Ebola hits our pocketbooks. Then is there no merit in fanchising some of the parks? We essentially already do that with park concessions. Again, if you can convince America to give up a cup of Starbucks for the national parks, I'm with you. But you can't even convince wealthy seniors to give up their pass. So where does that leave us--still with no money for the parks. What I would like to know is how we solve that problem without blaming everyone else for being "frivolous."

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    Sorry Zeb. Evaluating the quality and motives of a source of information is not an ideological prism; it's a valid and necessary tool of scholarship.

  • Is Outsourcing Parks A Key To Solving The National Park Service's Financial Woes?   2 weeks 3 days ago

    Sorry about that.