Recent comments

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 1 hour ago

    I had forgotten about the Gibbon Falls bypass, but I don't believe it can be seen from the falls. I walked parts of the alignment right after it had been cleared, but conceded, as Superintendent Mike Finley asked, that there was "not much else" he could do.

    Sometime this century, I do believe we will follow the Europeans and substitute many of these roads for light rail. By then, the absurdity of insisting we must curb global warming while maintaining an auto culture will have hit us. Yellowstone and Yosemite will "go back to the future," so to speak, just as Glacier National Park, will its glorious red buses and TRAIN, never abandoned that future. Both, especially the red buses, are the "pace cars" of a slower pace of life. Have you ever noticed how people slow down in the presence of those historical "relics?" But then, why should we be surprised? The red buses are fun; they are beautiful to look at; their interiors are intimate and they MEET THE TRAIN. You don't "need" a car in Glacier. You really don't. That simply needs to be true of all our parks.

    In America, we think of the past as "nostalgia." In Europe (and Africa), the past is something to respect. When I wrote the first edition of my TRAINS OF DISCOVERY, I wondered aloud how we ever confused "progress" for respect. The point is that Glacier National Park was not confused. At least, forces conspired to keep it respectful of the past. Amtrak kept the EMPIRE BUILDER; the concessionaire kept the red buses, until eventually they were restored.

    So, all is not lost. We have the "model." We just need to apply it with greater conviction. You're parking the BIG BUS at the gate; the BIG MOBILE HOME at the gate; the BIG SUV at the gate. Inside, expect the roads to twist and turn. You will see wildlife; you will see all of this park. You will just have to check your "individualism" at the gate. But that's all we are asking you to forfeit. We indeed want you to enjoy your park.

    As I said, I do believe we will get there, because that is how it all began. It just takes time, for as Winston Churchill said, we Americans are in the habit of trying everything else before trying what we knew we needed in the first place.

  • Desert Lands In Three California Parks Being Protected Through Partnership Efforts   5 days 2 hours ago

    Great story! Two other successful partnerships occur at Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 2 hours ago

    Gary, one new road comes to mind immediately. The bypass road around Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone. I'm sure there are more. That one features a very high bridge to carry it from one side of canyon across to the other. I have not been down to the falls lately, but fear that bridge might be somewhere above the falls. Does anyone here know?

    Dr. Runte is right on when he talks about capacity, overcrowding and trying to accomodate it all. One current example is the expansion of the VC parking lot in Zion to hold more than a hundred additional cars.

    But again, I'm forced to ask if anyone out here can come up with a really workable solution other than closing the gate when X number of vehicles have entered the park each morning.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 2 hours ago

    Dr. Runte and Dr. Hoffman -- both right. Unfortunately.

    Again -- what's to be done about it given the realities our parks face. Just try limiting access in any way and the explosion will be of far greater magnitude than Mt. St. Helens.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 3 hours ago

    As mentioned previously, several of us, including Dr. Runte, have worked at one time or another during our careers in Yosemite National Park.

    Reading the above thread of commentary, I'm reminded of a special training session held during the summer of 1970 for our professional staff of seasonal park ranger-naturalists. This training session was held at Glacier Point by our Chief Naturalist William R. (Bill) Jones.

    After Bill introduced us to the geological forces that formed the Yosemite and the glacial erratics deposited on Glacier Point, Dr. Carl W. Sharsmith intervened to express a personal concern. Dr. Sharsmith talked at length about increasing "improvements" compromising the pristine back country of Yosemite. He talked in a rather soft baritone voice about the encroachment of infrastructure during the (at that time nearly 5) decades he had worked in the park. Dr. Sharsmith described the new concession stables with highly reflective metal roofs visible from the summits of many of the high peaks, the enlarged parking areas at Tuolumne Meadows, the widening and straightening of the otherwise "optimum" Tioga Pass road. When he finished, Dr. Sharsmith asked Bill Jones, "When will it stop?" What followed was only prolonged silence.

    Often, carrying capacities for parks should be determined as much by aesthetic considerations as the potential to impact fragile ecosystems. Carrying capacities in parks are quite difficult to establish, let alone enforce, when such actions, invoked to protect the scenery and the wildlife therin, impact local and regional economies.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 4 hours ago

    Speaking of roads traversing Wilderness, remember the Mineral King Road

    Proposals eventually leading to a south Sierran transhighway through SEKI ?

    What did The NPS do to stop this proposed crime against wilderness values ?

    Mineral King: Public concern with government policy Paperback – 1982 by John L Harper

    The Sierra Club sued, the case went to the Supreme Court twice. In the end, Disney backed away, Mineral King was included in Sequoia National Park and the alpine ski proposal died a well deserved death. With development of Disneyland in 1955, surrounding businesses earn more money off of Disney than Disney does itself. Disney vowed not to let that happen again, including at an alpine ski area. Disney tried again at Independence Lake north of Lake Tahoe - and again failed because they could not obtain complete control.

    http://southland.gizmodo.com/a-mountain-disneyland-how-disney-almost-built-a-ski-re-1525286740

    http://www.mineralking.org/Mineral_King_Road_Cooridor/The_New_Road.htm

    http://www.disunplugged.com/2012/09/09/mineral-king-walt-disneys-last-lost-project/

    http://www.mk-webcam.net/

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 4 hours ago

    This thread is amazing. I'm in agreement with Mr Runte twice and G. Wilson once. Quick, I'm putting a star on my calendar.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 7 hours ago

    Good point, Roger. We're all insane. In the old days, you had to write a formal letter to the editor, who would reject it if you were insane. You had to sign it with your real name and give your address and phone number. Now anyone can pick a pseudonym and have at it. Off with his head! Still, I find it a valuable process, especially for those who might suffer the consequences of expressing their views in public. We can only hope that those using pseudonyms on The Traveler need to use them. Otherwise, I am delighted when people step forward and sign.

    So back to the discussion. Ageed, I can think of no instance in recent history when the National Park Service built a "new" road, but yes, I can think of many that have been widened and straightened. And let us not forget all of the reports on these pages of the parking lots being expanded and "improved." Wasn't Arches National Park recently cited there? Time gets away from us all, but I was in Grand Teton when the Jenny Lake "complex" was completed, including the huge parking lot that is there now. As for Yellowstone, I have pictures of the road widening and straightening there, including all of the new embankments strewn with "decaying" logs. In 1959, when my mother took us west, all of the speed limits were 35 mph. The biggest private vehicles in the parks were Airstream trailers. Now most of Yellowstone is 45 mph, but really, 60 mph is the norm. You don't believe me? Just try going 45 mph when a tour bus has a "schedule" to make. A century ago, it took five days to see the park by stagecoach. Now many brag they see it in one. Again, what's the difference between here and Africa? As this article says, it is the ROADS, in Sean's description, little more than "a mud streak." Navigating those mud streaks takes commitment and TIME.

    With wildlife, you have to be patient. Dramatic scenery is always there. Because our parks were designed for dramatic scenery, we are still scrambling to catch up with TIME. I love railroads because they remind us of that. Why shouldn't we spend three days crossing the country? Exactly what are we to do with the time we "save" by flying?

    But that's not our culture. Way back in 1830, Alexis de Tocqueville, writing DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, noted that we Americans would gobble down dinner and instantly bolt the table, even if we had nowhere else to go. We're always in a rush. We don't want to miss a thing. That's not all of us, but it certainly infects all of us. And so, along with kissing our railroads good-bye, we have "speeded up" everything in our national parks. Need to call home, ET? No problem. The new cell phone tower just went in.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 7 hours ago

    Thanks, Roger. Much truth in that :-)

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 9 hours ago

    This is from an article in the British Independent website by Robert Fisk, a famous war correspondent who spent much of his life in Lebanon. For some reason it reminded me of some (not all) of the comments on NPTraveler. It applies to many comments on the internet which I think is dumbing down the whole world. Hope I haven't offended anyone who doesn't deserve it.

    "As Alain de Botton’s Philosopher’s Mail – a web-based newspaper with all the old-fashioned principles of literacy – points out, “the ability to post comments at the end of online news stories has revealed something unusual about our fellow citizens: even though most of them seem really quite nice and very polite when we meet them… they are” – when commenting online – “very different: jealous, furious, vindictive, heartless, obsessive, unforgiving and a little short of insane.”"

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 9 hours ago

    When and where has the NPS increased access?

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 9 hours ago

    Alfred, I don't think the NPS created a new road in a single major National Park within the last decade. I can't think of any of the 59 National Parks having expanded roads, and widening highways. Can you provide an example? The only example I can somewhat think of would be the Clover ramp that is part of the Old Faithful mall lot, but that was more of a fix to a bad original design, than any sort of expansion. While, the old faithful area is crowded, and draws scores of visitors, to me that is not even close to being the "complete and total yellowstone" experience. However, congress has approved of many wilderness areas inside National Park boundaries within the same time frame. In fact some major parks have gone from "managed as wilderness" to actual wilderness over the last decade. So, i'm not sure I agree that the devleopment side is winning in this country. I think the opposite is the case. I tend to draw a line between propaganda, and logic based on factual analysis.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 10 hours ago

    Excellent post Alfred Runte, I remember having lunch one day in San Francisco with Mr David Brower. I was asking one of questions raised by your post, can we prevail on the visitor capacity issue in a major iconic park. He responded (in so many words), in this case maybe, but we must always remember that what is saved today will be the next days development proposal. In several meetings with well informed persons on the issues raised by your post, the subject always comes up, at what stage of the decision making process does the politics become the deciding factor. I completely understand your passion, but we live in a political system, that is the reality, as did Mather. Fortunately, the books you have listed, thank you Barbara Morstich, others, continue to raise the issues, but at some point compromise with the political reality is the way it works, for better or worse. Your post raises so many excellent points, but to respond to one more, I agree that the record does not always show the contributions of many outstanding NPS employees at the park level simply because they are usually filtered out up the management line, they do not conform to the current political spin, but that is true of all organizations both public and private. Politics in its broadest sense is played at all levels, including our own personal relationships. To make it work, everyone has to give something, I am not sure it works very well at times, but it is our system.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 11 hours ago

    The preservation argument is interesting, because without any visitors (or consumers in the eye of a few), those parks would never exist. I appreciate that many love the parks as their own, but they still belong to all of us to enjoy.

    As for Mr. Runte take on the difference between the draw of African parks vs. US parks, I could not agree more. The two persons I know that went to an African safari were primarily taking pictures of wildlife (and are also quite well-to-do...).

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 11 hours ago

    I believe the issue here is whether the National Park Service would ever adopt strict controls over visitors, as in Africa. They won't. Why? Because the NPS is too busy widening and straightening the roads for the current crop of visitors entering in mobile homes, tour buses, and SUVS. I know that many of you, as ex-employees, believe that the agency is something different. The problem is: When I get into the records, I don't see those "differences." You may display them, and that is wonderful. But you alone are not the history. So-called "bear management" did not come to the national parks until 40 years ago--and still is fraught with politics. So is wolf management. "They are a headache," one high-ranking NPS official (name withheld) told me just last fall. Bureaucracies do not like headaches. They rather want to be "liked." The NPS is no different. The bureaucracy wants to survive.

    You admit it among yourselves--on these pages every day. The "carrying capacity" of the parks is constantly nudged upward, no matter what the "biology" says. In a management contest between biology and visitation, biology loses every time. Yes, 95% of park X is wilderness, and that is where the biology is supposed to go. But what if the 5% is still the problem underming the health of the entire 100 percent?

    No one escapes his culture. As a country, we are now even to the point of arguing that wind turbines killing eagles, hawks, and bats are "no big deal." House cats kill far more birds, we say. We rationalize; we invent a new euphemism. We say that the wind turbines are "green." We force the biology onto a smaller reservation so we can have our cake and eat it, too. The national parks have hardly "escaped" that. Preserving "scenery" is therefore so much easier than admitting what really needs to be done.

    While you were off jumping down one another's throats about Ethiopia, I note that you gave Stephen Mather another "pass." Those among his contemporaries who were biologists did not. A culture ripples and endures. Just the presence of a widened "road" in a national park changes that park entirely. It "forces" a management style on that park, in Yellowstone, now to hand every visitor coming through the gate a warning to slow down. Why? Because 100 major animals die every year, the warning says. The point is: The NPS wouldn't need the warning IF THE ROADS WERE DOING THEIR JOB. Their job in a park is to slow motor vehicles--with twists and turns, but no, now everything can go barreling through.

    We all know what the national parks "do," but we should also be honest about what they "fail" to do. Much of what survives within their borders is due to the sheer luck of the draw. I know that every national park has wildlife; I also know how much biologists pleaded to make it so. Read chapters 6 through 11 of YOSEMITE: THE EMBATTLED WILDERNESS. Read Barbara J. Moritsch's THE SOUL OF YOSEMITE. Read Carsten Lien OLYMPIC BATTLEGROUND. Read Richard A. Bartlett YELLOWSTONE: A WILDERNESS BESIEGED. We are not spending all of our lives writing frivolously. We have done our homework, and so should you.

    If you want to believe that what the Park Service IS is not influenced by what it WAS, you are dreaming. But yes, it's a free country, and so dream away. However, the next time you lose a battle--and the loss goes to your gut--remember why we write. You cannot say we didn't warn you.

  • 20 Years On, Yellowstone National Park's Experiment With Wolves Continues To Evolve   5 days 11 hours ago

    Lest We Forget: Even NPS Management was Anti-Predator including wolves:

    Murie's conclusions that wolves were not a scourge on the landscape – and his call for wolves to be protected, not exterminated – made him unpopular, even within the Park Service itself. But he persevered, and eventually many of his proposals were adopted.

    Adolph Murie (1899–1974)

    Episode(s): 6

    After visiting Mount McKinley National Park in Alaska as a 22-year-old college student, Adolph Murie was inspired to pursue his doctoral degree in biology. He became an important voice in preserving wild nature in national parks. He conducted a number of wildlife studies for the Park Service in a range of parks, the most significant being his landmark observations of wolves in their natural habitat at Mount McKinley. His conclusions that wolves were not a scourge on the landscape – and his call for wolves to be protected, not exterminated – made him unpopular, even within the Park Service itself. But he persevered, and eventually many of his proposals were adopted.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, Murie objected to plans for building a paved highway into the heart of Mount McKinley National Park, and for a hotel and gas station near Wonder Lake. He won a partial victory when the Park Service ended the paving after the first 13 miles and abandoned the plans for the hotel and other construction.

    Murie's half-brother Olaus, also a biologist, was an important figure in American conservation, serving as a director of the Wilderness Society and playing an instrumental role in the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the passage of the Wilderness Act. Olaus' wife, Mardy, was his full partner in the conservation efforts and carried on after his death. She played a key role in the fight for creation of the Alaska parks in the late 1970s and was eventually awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

    The Murie Center in Grand Teton National Park, created from a ranch given to the park by the families of the Murie brothers, continues their conservation work. On August 16, 2004, the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali National Park was officially opened and dedicated to Adolph Murie, in honor of his work to enlarge and protect national parks and their wildlife populations.

  • No Bones, Bullets, Or Bodies Connected With 132-Year-Old Winchester Found At Great Basin National Park   5 days 12 hours ago

    Continues to be an intriguing story - and the photos above show how the rifle could be easily overlooked by any visitors to this remote area.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 13 hours ago

    Ethiopia

    Which was proceeded by your bringing up Ethiopia as 360th on the list of energy users. Hence my response.

    If there was any said disparagingly it was your comment:

    " Even though he apparently can't understand the need for us to work hard to prevent our parks and natural resources from becoming Ethiopianized."

    You never did explain what the means or how you came to the conclusion that was my stance.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 13 hours ago
    Submitted by ecbuck on January 21, 2015 - 9:38pm.ecbuck is on your ignore list. Click here to view this post.

    But if the resources that make the park a park are not conserved, then where are we?

    Ethiopia

    Looks like it's time to start using the IGNORE button again. No sense playing endless word games with a master Troll.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 13 hours ago

    Dr. Runte--I was lucky enough to be in Yellowstone as Acting Superintendent when the wolves were reintroduced, some 20 years ago. I am in touch with scores of current and former NPS employees. I have never heard one of them say that he/she did not accept the reintroduction as anything but a good move. Maybe you know NPS people who don't accept wolves but they're sure not on my rolodex.

    Rick

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 13 hours ago

    chosen apparently at random as a 'bad example'.

    Baloney. Lee is the one that brought up Ethiopia not me. I never said anything despariging about the people or things Ethiopian, much less people or things African. Pure fabrication.

  • 20 Years On, Yellowstone National Park's Experiment With Wolves Continues To Evolve   5 days 13 hours ago

    Has it REALLY been twenty years? Doesn't seem possible.

    But the good news is that the wolves are doing well.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 22 hours ago

    Exactly, Kurt. Multiple dismissive comments to Ethiopia and Ethiopians, chosen apparently at random as a 'bad example'.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 22 hours ago

    No, Al. As a former Seattlite, I'm familiar with your willingness to appeal and appeal, and I do not chose to argue with you. I was just making a point. Have a nice day and thanks for your response.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   5 days 23 hours ago

    Alfred, I find myself in agreement with T. Thomas and Gary Wilson, I have much respect for your positions on issues and I am aware of your lifetime of study of the NPS. What little history I do know leads me to believe you must study the context of the times when Mather and Albright decided/accomplished what they did. Politically, it was no easy task. We have done well in the parks, and any fault finding I have for current NPS policy fall in line with the T. Thomas comment. Actually I have been involved in a major iconic park for going on 55 years, I certainly do not claim to be an expert on the area, but I do find the vast majority of current employees are keenly aware of the ecological values in their area and work hard to maintain that balance between visitor access and park resources. It can be done, in Yosemite for example (95% of which is designated wilderness), wildlife objectives are of prime importance even in Yosemite Valley. I do think that during the peak summer period, visitor demand exceeds supply. We spent 12 years litigating that issue (WSRA requires said), but, as you know, the agency, once the NEPA process is successfully completed, makes the final decisions on the alternative selected. There was some success, a visitor capacity number was set for the Merced River corridor, many of us felt it was to high, but it will be interesting to see how evolves.