Recent comments

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   2 days 16 hours ago

    Exactly, Gary, and that is why I asked the question above. Ron and Michael Kellett expand on that. The lack of environmental education for young people is a threat, however. Perhaps that is an area where electronic media might play an important role.

  • Is Global Climate Change A Threat to National Parks? Another Response   2 days 16 hours ago

    I usually agree with much of what you write, Dr. Runte, but this last post makes me question whether or not you may have strayed into the realms of extremism of your own. I really don't think our universities have been "destroyed" by political correctness. Is it possible that there is some kind of opposite corrollary to PC thinking? Perhaps something like "political INcorrectness?"

    Do better answers lie somewhere in the middle of all this? I hope so.

  • Is Global Climate Change A Threat to National Parks? Another Response   2 days 16 hours ago

    Thank you justinh, I am in agreement with your post. I to am a fan of Dr. Runte's, I do read his posts. On the issue of population, Dr. Runte has a valid point. Recently I was supporting a candidate for the Calif. State Senate. A very good person. I asked him one day if it was OK to discuss populations issues. He replied say nothing about it until after the election. Another congressional candidate I supported, a high school science teacher , really smart guy, gave me the response, Ron, forget it, technology will solve everything. Even in our best environmental organizations, family planing and population control are discussed, but when the conversation enters the political arena, forget it. However, I am still with Dr. Lemons, we must try just as Rachel Carlson did in "Silent Spring". It simply cannot be just about us.

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   2 days 17 hours ago

    Social media and cyber technology is certainly an issue that needs serious consideration. However, in terms of actual negative impact on our parks, intensive recreational and commercial development is a much bigger threat. Max Old Bear is sounding the alarm about a blacktop bike "trail" that is as wide as a country road, which Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is slashing through intact forests. This is bad news for that park and for a disturbing trend in national park management direction.

    Mountain bikers have created a powerful lobbying organization that is pressuring the National Park Service to greatly expand bike trails in our parks. A good example of the potential damage this can do to wildlands is the public land riders on the recent defense act. These riders included boundary changes in an existing New Mexico wilderness area and the downgrading of potential new wilderness areas in Montana to much weaker "special areas," to allow for expanded mountain bike trails that would not be allowed in wilderness.

    There are other serious threats to our parks and public lands from an array of industrial recreation and commercial interests. This includes efforts to expand off-road motorized vehicle access, predator hunting, drone use, and privatization of recreation facilities. The National Park Service needs to re-commit itself to its founding principles, and not be swayed by special interests that are willing to undermine these principles for their own benefit. Otherwise, the agency is on a slippery slope that will take it farther and farther away from the mandate of the 1916 Organic Act to keep our parks "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

  • Is Global Climate Change A Threat to National Parks? Another Response   2 days 18 hours ago


    I don't think political correctness has destroyed the university. There was certainly some gatekeeping in the humanities and social sciences that reflected values of the New Left as some of its members began to occupy university positions in the 70s and 80s (as happens with every generation that holds institutional power) but that hardly destroyed the university. It's also possible to discuss an issue with respect to its scientific as well as its ethical dimensions, without blurring these disciplinary boundaries. I'm a big fan of yours, Alfred, but it's hard for me to track your argument here.

  • Is Global Climate Change A Threat to National Parks? Another Response   2 days 19 hours ago

    We see in Dr. Hoffman’s [John Lemons's] response exactly what is wrong with this debate. There is no debate, in their opinion. We have to “do something” to halt global warming, and need to do it now.

    I may not be a card-carrying scientist, but the environmental history of science I know. So let’s go back and review. Much of this started in 1962 with the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. It was a powerful reminder that, yes, what people do affects the earth. The problem today is that the environmental movement would like to leave it there, now to argue that the rest of the literature should be forgotten as offensive to the notion that people control their destiny.

    Dr. Botkin and I simply choose not to leave it there. It has nothing to do with morality; it has rather to do with scholarship. Of course we don’t want people to starve and live in poverty, and it is absurd to suggest that we do.

    But there it is—the Club of Political Correctness. Having destroyed our entire university system, it now threatens to destroy the dialogue period. If you can’t win a debate on the evidence, you can at least hit your opponent over the head. Don’t you know what you are doing to the poor? Have you no compassion for what global warming is doing to all of those “innocents” abroad?

    Compassion, yes. Guilt, no. Neither compassion nor guilt is science. The science is how people got here. Why the morality lesson? Because the 98 percent feel naked without it. Science today is all about making the sale.

    This is to remind us of that “other” book in the 1960s that everyone wants to forget. Say the title quietly now, lest the thought police come a-knocking. The Population Bomb, by Paul Ehrlich. You know, he was that rogue scientist from Stanford University that Johnny Carson invited to appear on The Tonight Show. Everyone in universities across the country watched Ehrlich’s appearances, including me, then at Illinois State. I happened to read the book just after its publication in 1968. I recall Dr. Ehrlich thanking David Brower of the Sierra Club for urging him to write it. The book was assigned repeatedly in college courses throughout the 1970s, until suddenly all mention of it fell silent.

    Why? Because it was no longer politically correct to suggest that poorer countries were growing far too rapidly. The new mantra in the debate was guilt. Those countries consuming more were the guilty party, not population growth per se. Everyone else was just a victim of a system beyond their control.

    Even my friend Dan Botkin has little use for Paul Ehrlich. Dan rather believes that if we find the right technology population will take care of itself.

    You see the point I are making here. There is a debate to all of these issues. Debating them is right and proper no matter what the “majority” thinks.

    As a historian, I happen to believe from my research that no one is “serious” about global warming, including the 98 percent. Because if they had been serious, they would not have blacklisted Paul Ehrlich for having expounded on an uncomfortable issue. He may have been wrong to talk about famine and pestilence, and yes, wrong to say that forced birth control was perhaps the only way out of the mess. But he nailed why human beings are forever in denial of what it is they need to admit. If the human race keeps growing, and by growing changes the planet, how can anyone pretend to say they have the solution to change? Growth itself will undo every “solution” so long as growth remains the problem.

    As it stands, no one is giving up on fossil fuels—including the “greenies” here in Washington State. They are just readjusting the “mix.” Whom are they trying to kid? They hope the voters. A little wind, a little solar, a little natural gas to “back them up,” and suddenly you have green energy. Right? No, you have the burning of fossil fuels again. Well, we’re working on it, they say. Meanwhile, just to make sure everyone complies, we will impose a carbon tax on the “guilty” parties, to be used for what—expanding and building roads! [Seattle Times, December 17, 2014]

    All of you intent on “doing something,” give yourselves a break. Until the human race gives up on the notion that growth is inevitable, no technological fix will lead to a recipe for “progress” that the earth can ever sustain. In the end, if so-called renewable energy simply allows more growth (gosh, look at all of the power we have to spare!) it won’t “solve” a blessed thing.

    Now you know how to read Alfred Runte. And, just for the record, my wife Christine and I have no children. We did not add to the four billion people now here since we were in college, still to wonder just who did.

  • Is Global Climate Change A Threat to National Parks? Another Response   2 days 19 hours ago

    those selfish few who callously deny any responsibility

    Oh, you mean 53% of the US population? The other 47% are just Gruber fodder.

  • Is Global Climate Change A Threat to National Parks? Another Response   2 days 19 hours ago

    Thank you, Dr. Lemons, for emphasizing the moral and ethical considerations. These are foreign concepts to those selfish few who callously deny any responsibility for contributing to the changes. Adamantly stating "we didn't cause this" doesn't lesson the burden of responsibility for having caused it. It is just the 4 year old denying that he knocked the lamp over.

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   2 days 20 hours ago

    Gary, I am inclined to agree with your post. Your experience mirrors my own in my emergency hire FIO position. In iconic parks like Yosemite, the real issue is the demand exceeds the facilities available during the peak visitor season, particularly in Yosemite Valley, but also Glacier Point and Tuolumne Meadows. There is no shortage of demand by some demographic groups as well as visitors from other countries. Also costs for young people and some demographic groups is a factor. I do think opportunities for environmental education in our schools is an issue, many visitors that come are uneducated to some of the ecological concerns park employees face (as well as the nation generally), but that is another issue.

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   2 days 20 hours ago

    Ask yourself Lee.. When you are out in the wilds of Salt Lake, is there any shortage of youths that are not recreating in the backcountry of the wasatch! Heck, the olympics sure did spur that "youth movement" and brought in quite a bit of ski resort traffic.

    Here is another article about how a movie is causing people to think "hey, let's go hike the PCT!"

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   2 days 20 hours ago

    There is no shortage of people of all ages (and all walks of life) posting photos from the National Parks on facebook, instagram, and using twitter. I know for a fact through social media statistics, that boomers (55 and older) only make up around a 1/5th of the social media traffic on one of the smokies social media pages. The younger generations comprise most of the traffic, and a lot of likes, and shares are from people of all ages, not just baby boomers. On popular trails in a majority of our bigger National Parks, one can find people of all ages hiking them. Almost every shelter or campsite i've been at this year had teens, college aged kids, and younger people camped out enjoying the backcountry, and that's from not only trekking in the Smokies, but in 4 other National parks. I almost always spot a diverse group in almost all of the parks. In a few parks, like Bryce Canyon and Arches, i've had experiences where I didn't even feel like I was in my own country.

    Most boomers gave up backpacking a long time ago, but on the AT, Pacific Crest trail, etc there's no shortage of youth seeking out and using the trails. In fact, now the "fear" is that movies like "Wild" and "A Walk in the Woods" are going to create a "youth boom" on these trails as these films popularize them. Ohh gosh forbid!! I don't get where this "only boomers" use the park mentality derives from, and it drives a lot of us nuts when this is stated constantly. It's like the rest of us don't matter. There was an article recently written here from a millenial that lived in Montana trying to dispell this myth, and I agreed with almost all I saw in her article... I get that the retirees have more time, but back in the 1970s and 80s, was it that vastly different when the WW2 generation had time on their hands to travel, while the boomers worked full time? I'm sure back then, the same could have been stated about the WW2 generation and that the boomer generation was neglecting the parks, and that if something didn't change, all would fall by the wayside and the National Parks would cease to exist. I'm willing to bet that if anyone took a camera along popular trails like Half Dome in Yosemite, Chimneys in the Smokies, Bright Angel in the GC, and Angels Landing in Zion that one would find that baby boomers are outnumbered by at least 3 to 1 on these trails (and in some cases more). In fact, they might be suprised to find how many "millenials" and "gen xers" are in the park.

    I follow a lot of the facebook, and instagram feeds from the NPS, and there seems to be no shortage of people posting pictures from their recent excursions. People don't need to be instantly wired to still use these services along the way during a vacation. In fact, many post to them a few days after their trip, and it seems to still generate likes and engagement.

    Social media is changing the landscape too. Back in the 80s and 90s the best chance to find up to date information on a park was by calling the parks visitor center. Today, just by having millions of people reached by a single post on facebook, twitter or instagram, anyone instantly knows what is occuring in the parks. Whether it's saguaros in bloom in arizona, leafs at peak in the appalachian mountains, or if the Grand Tetons is recieving a 4 foot snow storm. It's only been about 3 years that many of the major parks have been using social media too. But, now their posts reach out to millions (and site traffic continues to grow upward daily), and baby boomers are just a % of those millions. Social media is educating end exposing the parks to a large and diverse group of people that could never have been achieved decades ago.

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   2 days 20 hours ago

    I'm wondering if this is REALLY a valid issue or not?

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   2 days 21 hours ago

    Think the historic and cultural roots of these Parks have it all over today's "virtual" approach as far as really connecting on a transformational level. The virtual is a distant, well, I don't know how far down the line it is. Some would say you have to be relevant, like leading tours of the Park dumps to see the bears?

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   2 days 21 hours ago

    Boomers are the ones who hike in parks week after week, volunteer week after week, donate to parks and join Friends groups.

    Boomers bring their children and grandchildren to parks. Children can only go to parks if adults are willing to take them.

    We want to see and talk to rangers face to face, not on a screen.

    Danny Bernstein

  • Unknowns In Terms Of Funding And Personnel Await New Units Of National Park System   2 days 22 hours ago

    News article today has some local perspective on one of these new sites: "Coltsville faces hurdles before official national park status".

    This local story notes, "There are several conditions included in the legislation creating the Coltsville National Historical Park that will take some time to meet before the site that includes the home and factories of Elizabeth and Sam Colt can be honored with that designation."

    "And it’s likely to take years more before Coltsville bustles with visitors who flock to see the old factories and a new museum in the East Armory, a vision promoted by Coltsville supporters who say the park will be an economic boon to the city and the state."

    A good summary in the above link of the long-term challenges ahead before this park becomes a reality.

  • Is Global Climate Change A Threat to National Parks? Another Response   2 days 23 hours ago

    Owen (and Dr. Lemons),

    I appreciate the moral dimension of the issue that you've introduced here. The world’s poor tend to be those most vulnerable to climactic and environmental change, by living on the margins--in places with little infrastructure, access to clean water, etc.--and stranded there by very limited economic and political power, and other conditions that prevent freedom of movement. The morality of this situation might be an interesing conversation, but one that would probably take us too far afield of the national parks.

  • Is Global Climate Change A Threat to National Parks? Another Response   2 days 23 hours ago

    Actually, most of the world's poor are most vulnerable to impediments to progress .

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   2 days 23 hours ago

    Seriously, the only people perpetuating this nonsense is boomers that barely use technology. People still post photos to instagram and facebook without the need to be instantly wired-in. Millenials and gen-xers are using the parks. its not even an issue and is entirely overblown.

  • National Park Service, In Court Filing, Claims Xanterra Trying To Block Competition In Grand Canyon Concessions Business   3 days 8 min ago

    Looks like Xanterra and NPS may have worked something out.

  • Congress Sends Defense Authorization Bill, With National Park Legislation, To President   3 days 23 min ago

    trailadvocate, exactly!

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   3 days 26 min ago

    Why should it be a choice between adding electronic means of interpretation and putting more rangers in the field?

    Perhaps some concentration on educating visitors about WHY parks are so important and what has already been lost is also needed. Surely there is more than just a very narrow set of values that can be communicated to visitors.

  • Is Global Climate Change A Threat to National Parks? Another Response   3 days 36 min ago

    Mr Lemons - thanks for exposing your true agenda. An attack on "wealthy people". How dare they be wealthy.

  • Is Global Climate Change A Threat to National Parks? Another Response   3 days 50 min ago

    My colleague, Dr. John Lemons, who is currently on foreign travel, has asked me to submit the following commentary. This commentary is in response to remarks made above by Dr. Alfred Runte suggesting that the only solution to climate change is to recognize that change is inevitable and that all that remains for human-kind and natural ecosystems to do in response to this change is to adapt.

    <<On 10 December 2014, I along with my coauthors for the publication in NPT “Global Climate Change and National Parks: Another Response,” published a comment in response to some people who commented on our article–a rebuttal response to Dr. Daniel Botkin’s article “Climate Is Changing, and Some Parks are Endangered, But Humans Aren’t the Cause.” In our comment, we stated why we wrote our original article and also stated that nevertheless we feel that the “to and fro” regarding human–induced climate change merely fosters confusion among those who are not experts in climate change by sowing doubt where, in fact, there should be none because the fundamental aspects of human attribution of global climate change is settled as a scientific question.

    In his 4 December 2014 comment on our article, Dr. Runte states that Dr. Botkin is not in the least saying what we “accused” him of saying. The only thing our article focused on was Dr. Botkin’s use of scant and questionable scientific information to conclude there is no human attribution of global climate change. Dr. Runte does not offer one shred of evidence that supports Dr. Botkin’s views or that refutes ours–perhaps Dr. Runte can be excused for this lapse because he is not, after all, a scientist but rather a historian. But Dr. Runte, for some inexplicable reason, does lecture readers on how the so–called “balance of nature” is a myth. As ecologists, we understand very well such a myth, but this myth had nothing to do with our article and we did not even mention it.

    In his 15 December 2014 comment, Dr. Runte seems to be taking an implicit stance about some of the moral aspects of human–induced global climate change. Dr. Runte states, “the earth doesn’t care” about climate change, human–induced or not. This is true–the earth does not care. And then, Dr. Runte seems to take to task people in Seattle and in Alaska for trying, as best they might, to do something to help solve human–induced global climate change. I would agree that solutions are difficult, but I am unaware that most scientists are full of hubris as charged by Dr. Runte.

    But the salient albeit implicit view of Dr. Runte’s is that while change is inevitable (and it is), that a simple acknowledgment of this is all that is required and then, therefore, we can all go happily forward with changing the earth, regardless of the changes we have wrought that do or might bring havoc not only to the earth but to people both contemporary and future.

    Fundamentally, human–induced global climate change is a moral problem. Historically, the United States is responsible for around 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions since first being informed of the problem around 1965, despite having less than 5 percent of the world’s population. Although as a nation China now exceeds the United States in annual greenhouse emissions, the United States still ranks (by far) number one in the per capita emissions of greenhouse gases (excepting the small oil producing nations in the middle east).

    Dr. Runte seems to be saying never–mind, the earth changes so there is no problem. Yet, almost all secular and religious morals and ethical frameworks would say there is, indeed, a huge problem. Dr. Runte is guilty of making a gross mistake that most first–year university students would be criticized for, i.e., the “naturalistic fallacy,” which is tantamount to accepting that the “is implies the ought.”

    Human–induced global climate change is, mostly, due to the more wealthy people of the world using fossil fuels as well as contributing to deforestation that has a major consequence harming vulnerable people, those contemporary and future who are poor and who have contributed least to the global climate change problem. Again, this violates every secular and religious moral philosophy I can think of, because none justify harming other people without their knowledge or consent. Yet, this is exactly what has been happening and will continue to happen, especially under an implicit view of Dr. Runte’s that because the earth is constantly changing, we can or should simply “wash our hands” of the whole mess.

    I have lived in Alaska and seen first–hand the effects of human–induced global climate change on people and animals. I have seen the same in arid and semi–arid regions of many developing nations. Who, and how, are the more than 10 million environmental refugees from the Nile River Delta suppose to adapt to loss of their land and agriculture through no fault of their own? No problem, says Dr. Runte, the earth is always changing. None of the people in these areas have consented to be harmed, to say nothing of the impacts to loss of biodiversity. Human rights, as defined by the United Nations, are being violated by human–induced global climate change. I urge readers to look up references to points in this and the paragraph above.

    So, is the earth always changing? Yes. But in terms of moral and ethical considerations it matters whether we bear some responsibilities and duties to others. And if we do, we need to figure out what they are. In our view, supporting the lifestyles of wealthy people by the use of fossil fuels that harms the most vulnerable and those least responsible for human–induced global climate change is not a just option. (I recommend interested readers about the ethics of climate change peruse

    Dr. John Lemons>>

  • Congress Sends Defense Authorization Bill, With National Park Legislation, To President   3 days 1 hour ago

    Uh, d-2, the only virtuous impression I get from your post is actually presenting what you really think and not the dark side deception that has almost completely taken over DC. You may have, in your own mind, glorious intentions on proceeding to an environmental utopia. What stands out for many to see is your's and many other's Gruberlike status. Not that we're all to stupid, it's that the processes you and others have stooped to are so wrong and don't bode well in the big picture. Sure, it's done accross America in todays political environment but it's tearing the country apart. I'd take another look at what you've been a part of.

  • Reader Survey Day: Should The National Park Service Angle For "A New Generation," Or "Go Back To Its Roots"?   3 days 2 hours ago

    Instead of trying to put in cell towersto lure young folks back in the parks, perhaps the NPS should go back to the roots of NOT charging taxpayers to use the National Parks. When it costs as much to go to a theme park as visit a forest, you will lose relevance over time.