Recent comments

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    Yes Jim, you are absolutely right. They have no basis to claim insincerity. That is merely a strawman. Yes the issue is the practical value of the bill.

    It seems that's a wiser approach than the proposed bill; perhaps land disposed through existing programs should be "credited" against future additions, such as the 44 acres in question at John Muir NHS.

    I don't see anything in that bill that would prevent that from happening.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    It should be noted that the federal government already has a process for disposing of land deemed no longer best suited for public ownership. Here's one example, and here's another: 597 acres of BLM land being offered for sale right now in the Las Vegas area.

    It seems that's a wiser approach than the proposed bill; perhaps land disposed through existing programs should be "credited" against future additions, such as the 44 acres in question at John Muir NHS.

    Of course, politicians can't claim any credit for these steps to "trim the federal estate." :-)

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    ec - You're correct. It's difficult to determine the sincerity of anyone on any issue. It would be more accurate to question (as some have done above) the practical value of this bill. Those who would like to see less public land will like the bill; others probably won't.

    If passed, this bill could be a classic example of the law of unintended consequences. Other comments have touched on the "hidden costs" of sale of public lands, but here are a couple of more. Before a parcel of public land is sold, someone has to research the background of each acre. How was it acquired? Was it donated to the feds and therefore has underlying restrictions on a sale? Is it subject to mineral leases, or grazing leases, or a scenic easement, or has it been the subject of court decisions to protect endangered species, and more? Would its sale cut the income for a rancher who has a grazing lease on a BLM parcel? Finding those answers - and picking parcels for sale that have no such impacts takes time and money.

    Even those seemingly desolate acres in Nevada are likely to have supporters based on factors like scenic viewsheds and wildlife habitat, so it wouldn't be a surprise to find plans to sell off even small parcels would meet legal challenges. As suggested above, legal requirements could be imposed on agencies to complete an expensive EIS before a sale. Like it or not, those legal arguments are a reality of today's world.

    The bill assumes disposing of relatively small parcels of land will save the government money in management costs, but is that true? To stick with the real-world example mentioned above, under this bill adding 44 acres to one park would require disposal of 44 federal acres elsewhere.

    The incremental cost for the NPS or BLM to "manage" 44 undeveloped acres that are part of a much larger tract is usually negligible. However, once sold, control over activities on those 44 acres is lost - and some of those activities can have major impacts on the remaining and adjoining public land. When that occurs, the cost to the agency to monitor and deal with impacts from that adjoining activity can be much higher than current minimal costs of management.

    Will that always happen? Of course not. The point is simply turning over some public land to private ownership does not guarantee financial benefits to the taxpayer - and the reverse may very well be true.

  • National Park Service Sitting On Half-A-Billion Dollars Of Concessions Obligations   1 week 4 days ago

    An earlier NPT article says the sources of half the Grand Canyon LSI buydown 'loan' are concession franchise fees from other parks:

    "The funds, swept up by the National Park Service's Washington, D.C., headquarters in August, come from concession franchise fees collected by the parks. Those fees typically are spent on a wide range of items, from commercial services plans and capital projects that support concessionaire activities to visitor services and resource needs."

    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2014/12/eighty-eight-units-national...

    So I was curious to read in this story that:

    Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Michael F. Bennett wrote to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in mid-December."...we also believe the practice of 'borrowing' funds from park maintenance accounts is not an adequate solution. We believe this practice should not continue, and we urge you to intervene and stop this practice."

    Are the Senators confused, or just grandstanding? The NPS link: "Guidelines for Use of Concession 80% Franchise Fees" is not working. Can someone explain how these funds are normally spent, and if that really includes maintenance?

    For a sense of NPS micro-management of concessions, take a glance at this page:

    http://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/policies.htm

  • Opening Roads In Mount Rainier National Park: The Good And The Bad   1 week 4 days ago

    Also good news is that the paved Skate Creek Road (USFS #52) has been open all winter between Packwood and Ashford. This provides the shortest alternative between Paradise and the east side of the park while the Stevens Canyon Road remains closed. The bad news is that you may be subject to ongoing road construction delays between the (SW) Nisqually entrance and Paradise through this summer.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    None of you yet have shown that the Senator is insincere in his proposal. You have fabricated that accusation to create a strawman to attack. Are you trying to argue he is not a Conservative and is only proposing conservative legislation with conservative principles to get votes. Preposterous. Conservatives propose legislation with conservative principles, because they believe in those principles. You may not like their proposals but that is principled behavior, not pandering.

    For Jim - the are hundreds of millions of acres of federal land, much of which offers little if any value in public access, scenic views or wildlife habitat. They could be sold, generate money and reduce carrying costs - that would benefit voters. Besides, the Senators bill only requires the sale in amounts equal to acquisitions. On a net basis that would not be any " loss of public access to that property, and loss of other values such as scenic views, wildlife habitat, etc." In fact presumably, the lands gained would be of higher value than those sold.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    The fact that Virginia has relatively little federal land compared to some other states does in fact suggest the bill could be considered political posturing by the sponsor. Why? If passed, the bill would have little impact, pro or con, on his constituents, but he could hold it up to his voters as proof of his conservative credentials. It's easy for voters to like a bill that doesn't have any negative impacts on them personally.

    Ec suggests the sale of some public land would benefit voters, but how? It might raise a token amount of revenue, but at the loss of public access to that property, and loss of other values such as scenic views, wildlife habitat, etc. Seems like the only real "benefit" is a philosophical one for those who would be happier if the public owned less territory.

  • National Park Service Sitting On Half-A-Billion Dollars Of Concessions Obligations   1 week 4 days ago

    It's shameful that park service has structured concessions so that no one, save a few concessionaires with less than the best guest service in mind will take any interest in operating the concessions. They have continually micromanaged the life out of the businesses, dictating light bulb wattage, specific condiments, menu items, paint colors, etc. for each concession. Most successful businessmen want some say in how to run their own operations.

    I believe that different class of hotelier altogether would have long ago invested in the national parks if such were the case. Now NPS is in the hole for an exorbitent amount. Something they brought on themselves. An amount any concessionaire with the slightest amount of business sense would not hold their breath on ever seeing.

    Yes, many of the lodges are historic, and historic guidelines should be set. Restaurants should be required to offer a variety of items catering to many different tases, with plenty of healty options (currently they are the purveyors of some of the grossest lukewarm GMO Sysco garbage available, which, however is what NPS has approved), but does not need to dictate each and every menu item, portion size, and condiment.

    Concessionaires also need to stop being treated like second class citizens. No respectful businessman wants to be treated in such a matter, nor have employees treated as such. NPS does specifically that in the requirement that employee housing is structured so that overcrowding is a major issue (while much of their own housing sits empty), and also in its general demenaor towards the private employees in the parks.

    I know that this will upset the "government knows best" crowd, but their are businesses that run outside the park system quite successfully that respect history and the environment. We don't need NPS to tell us what ply toilet paper to use, figuratively speaking.

    Leave your hands off the businessman, and you might find a willing investor even now.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    Nice pirouette, Ginger.

    As for addressing immigration, tax reform and international terrorism, you mean a bill like the other omnibuses they've passed recently that contained more pork than the Omaha stockyards? And if the adverse effects of the bill won't directly affect his immediate constintuency (sic), that makes pandering easier because his base won't immediately have their butts bitten by the snake he's turning loose. It'll bite other people first and might take a long time for his base to notice that they actually were losers in the process.

    Thank you for supporting my argument.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    the points I noted that are missing from the congressman's legislation are proof enough.

    The legislation is about one thing and you want to criticize him for not addressing something else in that legislation? Should his bill also address immigration, tax reform and international terrorism?

    Do the residents of Virginia in general (where 9.2 percent of the state is federal lands) and his district specifically really care about the size of the federal estate?

    That kind of proves the point. If it doesn't benefit his immediate constintuency, how could it possibly be pandering?

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    And, finally, the congressman is from Virginia. Do the residents of Virginia in general (where 9.2 percent of the state is federal lands) and his district specifically really care about the size of the federal estate? They might if Interior proposed selling parts of Shenandoah NP to timber companies.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    EC, the points I noted that are missing from the congressman's legislation are proof enough.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    just how it proposes to accomplish what you seem to think it will do.

    Lee, I don't know how clear it can be. It explictly says in section a) that the feds will sell equivalent acres for any acreage they acquire. What is unclear about that. Heck the name of the bill is "Acre in Acre Out" and the subtile of the section quoted above "NO NET INCREASE IN CERTAIN FEDERAL LANDS." You would have to be pretty dense not to understand that.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    Yes, it is clear to anyone who can read that the bill, as written, is vague and does not address the issues raised in the original article nor in many of the comments above.

    I challenge you, ec, to demonstrate by quoting directly from the bill just how it proposes to accomplish what you seem to think it will do.

    Then let's see you address the concerns Kurt outlines in his post a few minutes ago.

    Don't attack anyone. Just provide simple proof from the original source that what you have written here is correct.

    Did you learn your moves from Ginger Rogers?

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    it would seem he is subconsciously

    And I challenge you, Kurt, to show that he is incincere in his proposal - consciously or subconsciously. Am I incincere in my support? Am I pandering? Can people not honestly hold this view?

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    How long, and at what cost, under Rep. Griffith's measure would you think it would take Interior to decide which 44 acres somewhere else in the public domain can be sold off, and at what cost, and how?

    The Interior could sell off 100,000 acres in the Nevada desert and far more than cover the transaction cost and have 99,954 more acres they could then acquire. This is a total red herring. Fact is, their cost of acquisition is likely far higher than the cost of disposal .

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    and acreage that was set aside for a reason, not a whim.

    And what was the reason to set aside 85% of the state of Nevada?

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    If he's not consciously pandering, EC, it would seem he is subconsciously.

    This is the problem with Congress, and it goes back most recently to the Defense Authorization Act passed in December that included a half-dozen or so new park units. Congressfolk have no qualms about tossing about legislation when they don't have to account for the dollars, plus or minus. As JT pointed out above, keeping score on land acquisition and disposal is not an inexpensive process.

    Yet does the good Congressman Griffith address this matter? Of course not. He just wants to send out a message that he's anti-federal government landscapes.

    These folks need to be held accountable. They need to do their homework upfront before they start tossing out legislation that would have some serious financial, and potentially environmental, side effects. Let's see someone introduce legislation that would require each piece of new legislation to contain a cost-benefit analysis, as well as a funding source. That I could get behind. But you'll never see it. It would preclude grandstanding.

    As I noted in the story above, there recently was legislation introduced to increase the size of Muir Woods by 44 acres. How long, and at what cost, under Rep. Griffith's measure would you think it would take Interior to decide which 44 acres somewhere else in the public domain can be sold off, and at what cost, and how? Sounds to me that at least an environmental assessment, if not a full-blown environmental impact statement, could be required in some cases. And those are neither cheap nor quick.

    I offer the good Congressman Griffith space front and center to explain how he sees these land swaps he proposes playing out, and how much it might wind up costing the federal government, both in dollars and acreage that was set aside for a reason, not a whim.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    Then explain just what the scope and intent of the bill is

    The scope and intent is to prevent an expansion of land ownership by the Federal Government. Pretty clear to anyone that can read.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    your claims are not substantiated.

    I haven't made claims, Lee. I haven't attacked the motives of individuals involved. I have nothing to substantiate. I do have opinions. In my opinion, there are massive amounts of federal lands that should be in private ownership.

    Explain to all of us exactly how this bill will help America and our national parks.

    Selling off those lands could bring substantial revenues to the US Government and could lower the cost of maintaining them. The bill specifically has the revenue reducing our debt. That will help America. Some of that benefit might even go to the parks.

  • National Park Turns: The Slides Of March   1 week 4 days ago

    It's good to see skiing articles in NPT, thanks, Patrick!

    No doubt many folks are sick of winter, but here on the snow-starved west coast, I've mostly been 'skiing' the internet lately. Here are a couple fine short videos I thought some might enjoy:

    Skiing the 'Forbidden Tour' in North Cacades National Park (outstanding photography):

    https://vimeo.com/121905850

    Spectacular day-trip at Mount Rainier:

    https://vimeo.com/122163018

    'Winters Of My Life'; (35 years as a Yosemite hut keeper):

    https://vimeo.com/13972943

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    My, I wonder what the Republican sponsor of this original bill would think about the idea of selling land currently owned by the people of the USA to a citizen of China?

    I suspect, if he is a true conservative, he would have no trouble with it. Do you think Chinese shouldn't be able to own land in the US?

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    Then explain just what the scope and intent of the bill is and tell us how much farther it should go. No ambiguity please. Until you can do that, your claims are not substantiated.

    Explain to all of us exactly how this bill will help America and our national parks. Real concrete explanations. No generalizations. No opinons. No repeating echo chamber talking points.

    Have you actually read the bill?

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    Can you ask him to stop making unsubstantiated accusations? Pretty please.

    This IS on topic. He insists the legislation that is the subject of this thread is pandering but he provides nothing to substantiate that accusation. I say the legislation is clear in scope and intent and doesn't go far enough.

  • "Add An Acre, Sell An Acre" Proposal Aimed At Keeping Federal Estate From Growing Introduced To Congress   1 week 4 days ago

    If someone from China wants to buy Federal Land and is the highest bidder, I have no problem with it.

    My, I wonder what the Republican sponsor of this original bill would think about the idea of selling land currently owned by the people of the USA to a citizen of China?

    Heck, might as well sell it to those rascals at the U.N. Seems like the folks at Fox News would have a field day with that one:-)