Recent comments

  • Repeat Photography Exposes Changes Around Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park   5 days 1 hour ago

    Nice to see our local Skagway images here, but there are also other comparison photo studies of Alaskan glaciers and this same phenomenon is occurring everywhere in the state. It's very sad.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Your Favorite National Parks As Officials Search For Cash   5 days 10 hours ago

    Western Slope No Fee is not a good source for what is in HR5204. Much better to actually read it for yourself. There are both good things and bad things in the bill. The question is, is there any other alternative plan for the expiration of FLREA?

  • Higher Fees Coming To Your Favorite National Parks As Officials Search For Cash   5 days 14 hours ago

    I wouldn't be so quick to blame Rob Bishop and the GOP, HR5402 passed out of committee by unanimous consent with no dem objecting.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Your Favorite National Parks As Officials Search For Cash   5 days 15 hours ago

    Why has the "edit" option disappeared from my last post and I get a message telling me I'm "unauthorized" to access it?

  • Higher Fees Coming To Your Favorite National Parks As Officials Search For Cash   5 days 15 hours ago

    Yep, Harry Reid is a Saint. Greater than Bishop:)?

  • Higher Fees Coming To Your Favorite National Parks As Officials Search For Cash   5 days 15 hours ago

    HB 5402 --- ah, yes. The handiwork of the grubby fingers of Rob Bishop and Doc Hastings.

    It's likely that these two will use a frequent tactic to avoid properly considering the bill in Congress by attaching it to some important and unrelated bill -- such as an appropriations bill -- that would be hard to vote down. It was already jammed through committee without discussion or hearings. And to think that we are constantly hearing from Bishop that the gummint is trying to "lock up" our public lands . . . . . It's not the gummint -- it's Bishop and his buddies.

    It's a shame that the only way some of our lawmakers can get legislation passed is by skirting the rules -- or even downright dishonesty.

    Let's hope against hope that Donna McAleer will defeat Bishop in a couple of weeks. Chances are admittedly slim because the Utah GOP did a masterful job of gerrymandering their districts, but recent polls show that she's gaining. He might actually have a run for his money this time.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Your Favorite National Parks As Officials Search For Cash   5 days 16 hours ago

    Parks Canada offers a Discovery Pass, it's the closest thing to the $80 annual America The Beautiful (ATB) interagency pass.

    ENTRY - ANNUAL Discovery Pass Adult$ 67.70 Senior$ 57.90 Youth$ 33.30 Family/Group$ 136.40

    The Discovery Pass is more expensive than the ATB, but it's available equally to Canadians and foreign visitors. Right now the same is true for the ATB. Fee legislation pending in the US House (HR 5204) would change that. If it passes, the ATB pass would become available only to citizens and permanent residents. All others would have to pay a la carte, full freight at each Park they visit. I wonder how many Canadians who currently enjoy long visits to many of our Parks would find another way to spend their vacation. I also wonder how this would be enforced without raising a significant risk of racial/ethnic profiling at Park entrance stations. If you present an ATB but don't look or sound "American," will the fee collector pull you aside for special handling?

    HR 5204 is full of other awful stuff as well, especially it would expand fee authority on the National Forests and BLM to the point there would be no meaningful restrictions at all. You could be required to show a pass to go for a walk in the woods, anywhere on federal lands. Details at

    http://westernslopenofee.org/index2.php?display=yes&pageid=34

  • Jumping, Even A Little Bit, Can Be Dangerous In Zion National Park   5 days 21 hours ago

    Ouch! Good reminders for visits to any park.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 10 hours ago

    EC is right. Wilderness fanatics will never have enough. Federal agencies don't like Wilderness because it basically means that access to the backcountry reverts to 19th century means (woohoo, what a progress!!!). Trails can no longer be maintained in a cost effective manner (no chainsaw, ride a horse to the trail...).

    We already have 100m acres of Wilderness, and millions more protected in some way, shape or form. Adding more does not solve anything. And when the world runs out of oil, we will drill in ANWR.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Your Favorite National Parks As Officials Search For Cash   6 days 12 hours ago

    I met an older couple from Edmonton, Alberta while camping at one of our state parks last week. They spend much of every summer down here exploring our national parks. They said our parks are much more "natural" (their word) than theirs.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Your Favorite National Parks As Officials Search For Cash   6 days 12 hours ago

    This past year Parks Canada has had tremendous and devastating cuts in staffing.

  • Higher Fees Coming To Your Favorite National Parks As Officials Search For Cash   6 days 12 hours ago

    I don't know how Canada provides funding for their National Parks, but know that the Canadian entrance fees are considerably more expensive than the U.S. National Parks and priced on an individual basis. We have it pretty good!

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 12 hours ago

    The National Park Service may well be guilty of neglecting Wilderness to some extent. However, the NPS record is far better than that of the other three federal land agencies. For example:

    • The National Park System has far more Wilderness — in total acres and percentage of the land base — than the National Forests, Bureau of Land Management Lands, and National Wildlife Refuges. Over 52 percent (43.9 million acres) of National Park System lands are designated under the Wilderness Act and more than 80 percent of the park system is designated or recommended Wilderness. Just 19 percent of National Forest, 14 percent of National Wildlife Refuge, and 4 percent of BLM lands are designated as Wilderness areas.

    • National Park System Wilderness areas tend to be significantly larger than those of the other three agencies. The average BLM Wilderness area is a mere 5 percent as large as the average National Park System Wilderness. This figure increases to only 11 percent for National Forest Wilderness and less than 40 percent for National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness.

    • National Park System Wilderness areas have stronger protection than that provided by the other three land systems. The other agencies — particularly the Forest Service and BLM — often allow “nonconforming” uses that were incorporated in the Wilderness Act due to political compromises. These harmful uses may include livestock grazing, hunting and trapping of predators, artificial habitat manipulation, game fish stocking, and motorized access to support certain activities.With rare exceptions, these uses are not allowed in National Park Service Wilderness.

    • National Park System Wilderness areas are generally surrounded by lands managed under the protective Organic Act. In a few places they are adjacent to intensively developed recreation areas. On “multiple-use” National Forest and BLM lands, Wilderness areas are usually scattered islands in a sea of industrial resource extraction and motorized development. National Wildlife Refuge lands may allow intensive wildlife management adjacent to Wilderness.

    • Despite budget cuts in recent years, the National Park Service has far greater resources to protect and manage Wilderness than any of the other federal agencies. The National Park System budget dedicates $27.00 per acre per year to park preservation, education, and recreation programs. This, in contrast to just $7.50 per acre for comparable programs for the National Forest System, $5.00 per acre for the National Wildlife Refuge System, and $2.50 per acre for the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System.

    So, let’s have a vigorous debate about how to improve National Park System Wilderness programs. However, that debate should be in the context of what is happening on the rest of America's lands. In the case of the Forest Service and BLM, they are actively destroying potential Wilderness areas and fragmenting existing Wilderness areas with massive and widespread industrial exploitation. If is fair to hold the National Park Service to a higher standard. However, if we are worried about the degradation and loss of Wilderness, the National Park Service is the least offensive of the agencies.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 12 hours ago

    While I can understand the comments, I lean with Dr. Runte. NPS did the required studies and endorsed legislative proposals...but probably not as strongly as some would have liked. In many respects this was because the Organic Act and its following management policies made backcountry management regimes much like established Wilderness would have accomplished. So we did not have as much concern as those who manage and support USFS and BLM lands where multiple use is part of the agency mandate.

    I agree that there should be services for those who are unwilling or unable to get into park backcountry; but that has been managed carefully in trying to determine what services were needed to let people see and get a "feel" for a park (roads, facilities) versus keeping those levels lower and away from impacting resources when facilities are available adjacent to a park. That was a major reason why Mission 66 funding was used to buy out facilities within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park since Estes Park and Grand Lake and other adjacent areas could handle a lot of folks.

    But such actions do not "save" the rest of the very systems such parks were established to showcase and preserve for "future generations". Established Wilderness is protected from public development pressure in that it would take Congressional action to make a majoar developmental change. For a number of years there was a lot of local pressure to establish a second version of Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain to help carry the increasing traffic. Without the protection of designated Wilderness such actions could have taken place more easily than with today's designation.

    If you are going to protect and preserve ecosystem areas to meet the reason an area was established (and that admittedly is very difficult to achieve) then you need to protect the integrity of as much landscape as possible. And that is not a move against the visitor, but rather a move to preserve those areas for the very reasons they were nationally significant enough to set aside.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 13 hours ago

    Alfred (to whom I owe an apology for comments made sometime back),

    I have no interest in destroying all the wilderness that exists. I just don't think you have to go as far as the Wilderness Act to establish its preservation. I don't lament the NPS reluctance going back 50 years to not endorse Wilderness management. Our parks would have far fewer visitors and far less support if that had been the case. Gary may like that but I don't.

    Should the backcountry areas of Yellowstone or Yosemite (and others) be protected? Absolutely. But that can be done without the unyielding constraints of Wilderness designation.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 14 hours ago

    Here's a link to a related article written by the son of David Brower, Kenneth Brower, for Outside Magazine, entitled, "Leave Wilderness Alone"

    http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/nature/Leave-Wilderness-Alone.html

    Along with an excerpt:

    <<For eight years starting in 1955, my father and his closest colleague, Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society, worked together toward passage of the Wilderness Act. Zahniser was the bill’s author, and my father occasionally joined him at his favorite table at the Cosmos Club, in Washington, D.C., to help polish the language. My siblings and I got regular progress reports, and we were witness to the long, hard march of the legislation into law. My old man was the fieriest environmental evangelist of his generation, and he brought that evangelism home, practicing his powers of persuasion on us—as if those needed honing. During hikes in the Sierra Nevada, at the dinner table, and on the road, he drummed the poetry and logic of the wilderness idea into us. And he talked wilderness politics. One lesson, repeated often, had to do with the asymmetric warfare between exploiters and preservationists. “They only have to win once,” he would say. “We have to win every time.”

    The price of wilderness is eternal vigilance by the people who love it.>>

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 14 hours ago

    Excellent comment, Dr. Runte.

    May I submit that the sinister agenda behind the retreat from wilderness is very simple? It's something called MONEY.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 15 hours ago

    EC, as anyone who reads me knows, I love the great lodges built by the railroads, i.e., the "front country" Kurt is talking about. However, I also love pure, untrammeled wilderness, and yes, believe that the Park Service should protect that, too. What concerns me is the growing notion that the nation has no need of both--either the front country or the backcountry if it is called a national park. In the 1980s, backcountry visitation in Yosemite was 50,000 annually--no small number, especially given the fact that in 1900 only 5,000 people saw the entire park. Yellowstone itself did not reach 50,000 total visitors annually until 1915.

    Numbers are not what make a democracy. Choice is. If I lose the choice to enjoy pure wilderness, American democracy is eroded--or at least so once we thought. Right now, we could use a few more choices in the political arena, since the current choices seem to believe that wilderness is frivolous if it stands in the way of their pet bureaucracies.

    Think of it this way. When wilderness is gone, the United States of America is gone, since it is wilderness that makes us unique. We have space to dream over; most other nations have lost that. Fine, pile millions of visitors into the front country, but we need the backcountry, too. Any other nation can have a democracy. Ours comes with the wonder of vacant land.

    At least, so once we thought. How did we stop thinking that way--and why? Many of us still think it, to be sure, but I scratch my head every day when I see the environmental community lead the retreat from wilderness as if somehow it is now a sin. Must we have Ebola to prove to Africa that we care? Must we give up wilderness to prove to the world that we care? Care about what? Being just like them, it would appear. That is not America; it is rather something sinister, and we had better figure it out before we lose it all.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 15 hours ago

    Then again, given the constant pressures to permit more and more "recreational" use of park lands, maybe wilderness designation is more important now than it ever has been.

    This was an excellent piece. Kudos to Jim Walters for writing it.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 15 hours ago

    Are you suggesting we need more roads and lodges in the parks?

    It depends. But we don't need "Wilderness" designation or management to prevent it.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 15 hours ago

    Backcountry travel is a very small segment of traffic

    That is my point. If Yosemite, Yellowstone etc had been managed as Wilderness from day one, the only way to visit them would have been by backcountry travel.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 16 hours ago

    "The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.”

    ― Edward Abbey

    How would creating wilderness "lock out the vast majority of people" that visit parks? Backcountry travel is a very small segment of traffic in the national parks, and designating areas currently being managed as wilderness shouldn't lock out anyone who is interested in trekking into those regions under the current management. And it certainly won't affect front-country travelers, who constitute the vast majority of park visitors.

    Areas in parks already threaded with roads and dotted with lodges and stores won't be impacted.

    Wilderness designations will, however, prevent the growth of development in the parks. Are you suggesting we need more roads and lodges in the parks?

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 16 hours ago

    I don't see how it would help or would have helped the NPS or the public to virtually lock out the vast majority of people that currently visit the great parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Smokies, et al.

    For some of you that is OK because "Wilderness" is more important than humans. I'm not in that camp.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 17 hours ago

    I have a friend who teaches a course that chronicles the fracturing of the conservation movement in the way Alfred Runte describes. (We had a long talk about it as we were backpacking through the old-growth Quinault rainforest in Olympic NP.) It does seem that wilderness has been marginalized. I still think, though, that there is an argument that can define American exceptionalism in terms of wilderness, which can be palatable to that aging segment of the academic left Alfred seems to be describing.

  • Op-Ed|The National Park Service And Wilderness: 50 Years Of Neglect   6 days 17 hours ago

    Indeed, an excellent piece. All of my research supports this essay, especially the research I did for Yosemite: The Embattled Wilderness. Now, what is the cultural problem within the NPS that has led to this result? But of course, it is the worship of Stephen T. Mather and Horace M. Albright, who believed that the parks needed more tourism to survive, i.e., the Park Service itself need more bodies to convince Congress it was doing its job.

    History is a powerful thing. If an organization starts well, it generally matures well. The Park Service started magnificently in some respects, but not all, and therein lies the problem with changing it today. Wilderness preservation came late to the environmental movement itself, which also believed in attracting more tourism in the early years following Hetch Hetchy. Early environmentalists also worked with the railroads to get more visitation; they also applauded the automobile for more visitation, too. Then people like David Brower realized that wilderness was the victim, especially when the Bureau of Reclamation proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument and Grand Canyon.

    The bottom line here is this: It is not just the Park Service that has failed wilderness, nor is it just the Park Service failing wilderness today. Wilderness is everywhere on the chopping block over renewal energy, and most environmental groups are playing right along. It's downright appalling what they accept for the Mojave Desert, but hey, we need to save the earth from climate change!

    As for all wilderness, we have academic license that Native Americans were in it first--and themselves believed in changing it. It is not Aldo Leopold at the University of Wisconsin today. Wilderness is the "wrong nature"; it is artificial. If academics are saying that, why not the Park Service?

    Seventy-five years ago, the Park Service could still find enthusiastic supporters--and mentors for new hires--in places like UC Berkeley, the University of Washington, Harvard, Rutgers, and Yale. Most of that support is gone, now riddled with guilt over defending anything American lest their own careers come to a halt.

    A great essay, but the problem runs deep, and indeed, far deeper than most of us know.