Recent comments

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   5 days 10 hours ago

    Harry, you're right. But "future" is a word foreign to most Americans -- and certainly to our government.

    "Future" requires active planning and forethought. It requires vision. It also {gasp!} requires funding. Money. It's an uncertain investment.

    In a nation that is increasingly about ME and where the operatant issue seems to rarely expand beyond the simple selfish question of what's in it for ME, the future is an abstraction that only diverts attention from important things like being constantly entertained or seeking after greater fortune.

    "Future" is not politically important, so it's easy for lawmakers to ignore it.

    Unfortunately, without strong leadership that looks toward the future, we will continue to flounder in the present.

    But as long as we're making money while we flounder, all is well.

    Right?

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   5 days 10 hours ago

    The NPS web site, A Call to Action--Preparing for a Second Century of Stewardship and Engagement, was last updated on August 24, 2012. There is a link on the page to the current plan, Preparing for a Second Century of Stewardship and Engagement, dated 2014. Is this the latest information and thinking on 2016? Has nothing happened since 2014? The page (http://www.nps.gov/calltoaction/success.htm states the following.

    The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016. To us, it's not about cakes and candles — it's about being an organization ready to take on the challenges of our second century. Our blueprint to get there — A Call to Action — outlines the innovative work we want to accomplish. Every partner, program, and park plays a dynamic role in realizing that vision. Take a look at what we're doing and get involved! Some examples are listed below.

    A Hip Hop Musical Adventure on the NET

    N'oubliez Pas: Preservation & Advancement of the Louisiana French Language >>

    Learning to Camp - Alongside the Arctic Ocean

    A minute man visits Iowa.

    President Clinton Visits Governors Island

    My question is what does all of this have to do with preparing the National Parks for the challenges facing the service in 2016 and beyond? How can the NPS operate to meet the needs of the visiting public to ensure their safety and protect the resources? Where is the money going to come from for roads, sanitation, and support services that every park needs? How is the service going to take on the challenge of managing a growing number of parks with fewer people and resources?

    2016 should be a golden opportunity to reach out to the American people and Congress to ensure that our parks are funded, maintained, interpreted and survive to be passed on to later generations of Americans. Where is the long range planning and critical thinking? Perhaps the service has taken these steps but if so I see no indication in the 2016 literature that being promoted on the web. The serious questions and challenges are not being address.

    2016 seems to be all cake and ice cream and one big celebratory party. No one is thinking about the years to come. Has NPS management forgotten that in the final analysis our purpose is to protect the parks and ensure that every visitor has a quality experience?

  • Main Attraction At Jewel Cave National Monument Growing Longer Bit By Bit   5 days 14 hours ago

    Jewel Cave is a real jewel. (Sorry 'bout that . . . ) It's fascinating to think that such a complex underground maze exists anywhere. It's also wonderful that there are people who are adventurous enough and tough enough to do the work necessary to extend our knowledge of places like this. I did a little cave crawling in West Virginia when I was young and know how very difficult and uncomfortable it can be.

    The article expresses distances in hours and not feet or yards. When you stop to think that much of that time was probably spent crawling on hands and knees or slithering in cold, narrow, wet, muddy passages, you have to take your hat off to these explorers.

    Is there a chance that someday in the future, these spelunkers will share more photos and tales with Traveler readers?

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   5 days 14 hours ago

    Currently, there is no law forcing them to be placed on the chopping block.

    And under the Cruz amendment there is no law putting the Parks on the chopping block. To be disposed of, they would have to go the exact same process they would need to go through today and there is little doubt that the National Parks would be one of the last of the massive government lands considered for disposal.

    As I detailed before in the states affected, the Parks represent a very small portion of the massive Federal land alotments that would still be allowed.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   5 days 14 hours ago

    Here in California, roughly 52% of the 100 million or so acres is in public hands.

    As of 2010 it was 47.7%.

    http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42346.pdf

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   5 days 15 hours ago

    No more vulnerable than they are today

    I doubt that. The Cruz Amendment, had it passed, would by law place national park units on the chopping block for the several states identifed in the article to which Lee linked. (As Kurt pointed out, we would hope that an Interior Secretary wouldn't cut the NPS units.) Currently, there is no law forcing them to be placed on the chopping block. So, how would they be "no more vulnerable" under the Cruz Amendment "than they are today"?

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 9 min ago

    Yep, there are quite a few more ready to climb out of their caskets to redefine "feel good."

    Exchanging places with revisionists would be on their minds, I'm thinking.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 10 min ago

    Well, growth requires the activities Gary mentions, politically it is truly a catch 22. I am empathetic to your views Alfred, but like so many issues, times change, population increases. It is a gain whenever we can get better protections for the public lands, but that can be extremely contentious also. Here in California, roughly 52% of the 100 million or so acres is in public hands. We have been very fortunate, most of the debate now is how much and what type of uses should be permitted, though there are those that would like to reduce that public acreage considerably.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 44 min ago

    Here's the bottom line when it comes to "adding" acreage to existing parks and wilderness. Nine times out of ten, the acreage is already ours in the first place. All Senator Feinstein, et al., are doing is changing the name. In Theodore Roosevelt's case, the national monuments were REAL addtions, since the land was still open to occupancy, sale, and settement under the homestead laws. In 1935, settlement of the public domain ended. Essentially, it's been a "name change" ever since.

    Yes, it makes me "feel good" whenever the existing public domain is given a semblance of greater protection. Just don't get carried away by what your politicians are "giving" you, for in truth they aren't giving you a thing. And besides. Many of those bills have yet to pass. We will see what they look like when the special interests have lobbied them to death.

    You said it best, Gary. Whole swaths of this country are now one big wind farm. Theodore Roosevelt is rolling in his grave.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 2 hours ago

    Nice post Harry, I am in agreement. The activity is here to stay, but I must admit I am a real novice at it.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 2 hours ago

    California's energy commission stated that if 160,000 acres were utilized in Southern California for solar and wind, it would power about 1/3rd of the states "clean energy goals" by the second decade of this century. Granted, is solar thermal clean energy? Not entirely. There are many potential hazards and issues with it. When I flew to Denver this year, it looked like western kansas into eastern colorado was nothing but a giant wind farm. I agree that the hyperbole of calling wind and solar "green" is a misnomer. The manufacturing process to create the wind turbines and solar cells require mining and oil.

    As for wilderness protection, there are also republicans introducing wilderness bills. Senator Corker and Alexander have introduced bills to protect wilderness in Tennessee, granted it's tiny by western standards, but it's still a nice chunk of land. And of course, Mike Simpson in Idaho has an important bill on the table as well. There are plenty proposals on the table but we just need congress to act. Will they all happen? Probably not. But, I do hope one day, we can see the country protect about 1/10th of the landscape as wilderness. And let's fact facts - most of the best places are well preserved.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 3 hours ago

    While the Cruz amendment makes national park units vulnerable to being sold off

    No more vulnerable than they are today. There is nothing that would prevent a national park unit ( or part thereof) from being sold/given away today. In fact, I found it interesting when doing the research on the potential impact of the Cruz amendment it was hard to find an NPS source for the number of park acres in a state but easy to see how much have been sold off/given away since 1948. See http://www.nps.gov/state/nv/index.htm as an example

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 3 hours ago

    I agree, Alfed, that this may not be as partisan an issue as it sometimes seems. While the Cruz amendment makes national park units vulnerable to being sold off at auction or turned over to the states, there does seem to be a preoccupation on the other side of the aisle with green energy over wilderness. That said, one can't really ignore the kind of bills Gary alludes to, offered by Dems.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 5 hours ago

    Alfred, Dianne Feinstein recently introduced another bill into Congress that could potentially add an additional 250,000 acres of wilderness to the Southern California deserts. Would expand Joshua Tree and Death Valley, and add 2 more national monuments. And yet, you're going to say that a few solar farms are the end of it all? Come on. There's so much wilderness in southern california that you and many others would spend your entire lifetime trying to access every part of it and never see it all. And they are adding more. Let's keep some perspective. Your computer and the servers that serve up these pages don't run on magic fairy dust.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Mammoth Cave National Park In March   6 days 6 hours ago

    I do not like the fact that a concessionaire can use the LSI as a stranglehold on competitive bids

    Nobody likes that. However, the concessionaire should be compensated for upgrades (hard or soft) they create in the properties. Perhaps it would be better to credit it immediately against their concesssionaire fees so that LSI would not build to levels that become a barrier to competitive bids. Or, there needs to be a better process to determine what the property values actually are.

  • Presidio Expected To Add An Additional Lodging Facility   6 days 6 hours ago

    Unfortunately, the Presidio was forced into the postion of being self-supporting back when it was turned over to the Park Service, so it's no surprise. We need to start a campaign to make it a regular unit of the Park System. (That's no guarantee, however, that lodging will be any more affordable ... )

  • Higher Fees Coming To Mammoth Cave National Park In March   6 days 6 hours ago

    Once again, lots of lies, and baseless attacks by Jihad Johnny. None of which have any accuracy or truth to them. .

  • Higher Fees Coming To Mammoth Cave National Park In March   6 days 7 hours ago

    David,

    You sure wouldn't like things in the Smokies then. The only concession that has ever been allowed to operate a private lodge in the Great Smoky Mtns National Park is Leconte Lodge. They suppress the information as to when the purported bid goes public and for good reason. They pull in about 1.8 million dollars per year in exchange for a paltry 200k return to the NPS. In addition, they get the sham "friends" groups to run PR campaigns for the lodge and extol the virtues of running weekly Lllama trips to resupply said lodge on a very fragile trail system. (ironically, the lodge managers complained non stop about dogs being brought up on "their" trail system) Just the damage to that 8 mile trail alone is likely in the 20 thousand dollars per year category. And guess who the biggest proponents of fees in the park were? You guessed it. The lodge itself and sham Great Smoky Mtns Association. Why they even went so far as to produce a PR piece for the Lllamas on that trail recently appropriately entitled, Grandstand of the Smokies. Here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRqmj85Gu1s

    There is something dreadfully wrong with Jarvis NPS. They have seriously lost their way. The moustache club needs some trimming.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 8 hours ago

    If I may, I would like to bring this discussion back to the issue of revising National Park web sites to support the Bicentennial activities of the service in 2016.

    First let me say that I completely support the service in this activity. Like it or not the present generation uses the web every day and depends on it for all sorts of information. Both business and government have to come to terms with this reality. There is no going back to the past. The web is here to stay and the National Park Service has to embrace it and spend the necessary money to have the best web presence possible.

    As I said in a previous post a few days ago, I would just like NPS management to show some competence and have a web presence worthy of the vast diversity and richness of park resources. That means no broken links, up to date material, images that work and are appropriate, and managers who have the courtesy to answer email that may come in from the visiting public. Many of our existing web sites are just not meeting this standard and would not be tolerated by any private business or other government agency.

    The National Park Service Centennial web site (http://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/index.htm) although improved still needs work to correct dated information and broken links. If you visit the section dedicated to John Muir (http://www.nps.gov/history/bestideapeople/Muir.html), you will see that the links to Challenge of the Big Trees, National Park Service: First 75 Years, John Muir NHS - 2016 Centennial Initiative, John Muir at Glacier Bay and Muir Home Historic Furnishings Report are all broken. Is anyone from the NPS looking at this site? I doubt so.

    Muir is not the only person cited on this site to have disappeared. Booker T. Washington and Thomas Edison both are gone. Eons Mills, maybe the Father of Rocky Mountain National Park, but the NPS seems to have lost his web site.

    There are many more errors, blank pages and other problems I could cite but I think everyone reading this post will get the image. As I said in a previous post, in this digital age NPS management is clueless about the power of electronic media. I hope that this will change soon.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Mammoth Cave National Park In March   6 days 8 hours ago

    I do not like the fact that a concessionaire can use the LSI as a stranglehold on competitive bids thus there are no bids exept the one who owns the LSI.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 8 hours ago

    Years ago, Herb Schwartz of the National Parks Conservation Association asked the George Wright Forum to publish a special issue on "quality." What is it? What does it mean? Today, I am sure Herb would be asking, too, what it would mean to have a "quality" website.

    Above all, to achieve quality you have to believe in it. You have to believe it even exists. You know the problem, Harry. Quality is the first thing a bureaucracy "marginalizes" as too expensive and/or subversive.

    For the Park Service to have superior websites, the agency would need to believe in people like you and Herb. These days, it is so much easier to say you believe in "leveling the playing field." The Park Service is not "clueless"; it is rather just rudderless, now awash in the sea of political correctness that engulfs us all.

    Now you see why I take much on the web with a grain of salt--unless you happen to believe in arguing over the color of a dress. When you staffed the History Division, you believed in quality. You asked the opinion of the people who knew what it was. They still know, but yes, they are being marginalized now that the level of the playing field has sunk so low.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Mammoth Cave National Park In March   6 days 9 hours ago

    Thanks.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   6 days 9 hours ago

    Now, boys! "There you go again!" (Ronald Reagan) Look. BOTH political parties want to "kill" the public lands. They are just going about it in different ways. The Democrats want "redistribution." The Republicans want a fire sale back to the states. "What difference does it make?" (Hillary Clinton) Both parties are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

    Just for the record, President Barack Obama has presided over the biggest "redistribution" of our public lands since the New Deal. He currently wants 40 million acres for wind and solar power plants, i.e., "wasteland" deserts in the American Southwest and California. Against that, the Hetch Hetchy dam and reservoir was a Sunday school stroll in the park. I don't care how much he "re-preserves" in Alaska or anywhere else. It's smoke and mirrors, and my party keeps falling for it. Why? Because ideology trumps the facts.

    No party likes the public lands when they stand in the way of votes--or political contributions. The national parks? They will be fine, but they might soon be ringed with developments that undermine everything they were meant to be.

    Stop being suckered by rhetoric or the language of congressional bills and start thinking for yourselves. Many of these bills are not meant to pass; they are simply meant to assure "the base" that its ideology has been heard. For now, President Obama is in charge. My beef is entirely with him. It's not a wasteland, Mr. President, and just because General Electric thinks so is no reason to give it away.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Mammoth Cave National Park In March   6 days 9 hours ago

    Different situations JT. Most of Xanterra's LSI was accumulated over decades, before the provisions of the 1998 act were implemented. We're working on a story that will address this in more detail, but the way things are designed now no concessionaire should be able to amass such an interest in a facility.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Mammoth Cave National Park In March   6 days 9 hours ago

    Maybe the "so" is so the NPS won't end up the same situation they have at Grand Canyon, where the concessioner's surrender value has gotten so high that it's difficult to impossible to get anyone to bid on a new contract. When that happens, I don't think visitors or the NPS benefits.