Recent comments

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   6 days 12 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   6 days 15 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   6 days 15 hours ago

    Thanks, Roger. Much truth in that :-)

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   6 days 17 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   6 days 17 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   6 days 17 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   6 days 18 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   6 days 19 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   6 days 19 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   6 days 19 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   6 days 20 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   6 days 21 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   6 days 21 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   6 days 21 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   6 days 21 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   6 days 21 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   1 week 5 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   1 week 5 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   1 week 7 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.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   1 week 8 hours ago

    Like most species they are at the whim of politics. How would those that argue for wildlife describe the dissaperance of Wolverines from the Sierra Nevada? I'd like some day to see where reality can be received more than political expedience. We're not there yet and may be getting worse. Some politico making many to believe whatever he can? Gotta get a bit smarter to see through the BS.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   1 week 8 hours ago

    Sorry Alfred, but I disagree with your comment. Our National Parks do have wildlife. Glacier is one of the last respites for Wolverines in this country. Wolves and Grizzlies are in mostly National Parks (glacier, yellowstone, grand teton), while are sporadic in range elsewhere. I've spotted more than my share of Grizzlies in the GYE over the years. Cougars and bobcats thrive in places like Joshua tree, and many of hte desert parks in the southwest. Florida Panthers are pretty much only found in NPs. And in the East Coast black bears are prominent in many of our National Parks. So, I disagree with your comment. Alaska parks are another case in point and I don't know of many large carnivores in jeopardy of being eliminated in Alaska. Yes, Africa is wild. But the same can be said of the NPs here in the United States. Sure, there are a few species here and there missing, but they are on their way back, or the NPS is doing a lot to preserve them. Woudn't be surpised if you even see cougars again in the appalachians in 50 years, even if they might be a slightly different subspecies than what existed before. Africa has a huge poaching problem. Much bigger than here in the US.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   1 week 10 hours ago

    Could that not be construed as disparaging both Ethiopia and Ethiopians?

    Not disparaging, recognizing an economic fact. And, it says nothing of African people or African things.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   1 week 10 hours ago

    You know, Rick B., I am delighted to "clarify." Fact: The Organic Act called for the preservation of wildlife, but Stephen T. Mather killed off the half he didn't like--wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, badgers, wolverines, etc. Imagine if Mather had been in charge of the African parks. What "bloodthirsty animals" would he have eliminated then? Yes, American parks "have scenic vistas and wildlife," but the wildlife remains last on the list. Wolves only came back to Yellowstone 20 years ago, and still are not fully "accepted" by many people in the Park Service that I personally know.

    Africa remains a true wilderness in that ALL of the wildlife is valued. Yes, African parks have "scenery," but the scenery people want is the wildlife. They WANT the lions, not just the zebras. For every 100 pictures my Seattle friends show me of Africa, 95 have wildlife, and 90 of those are pictures of LIONS. For every 100 pictures my Seattle friends show me of Yellowstone, 95 have geysers, hot springs, and waterfalls. They go to Yellowstone--as did our forebears--to see the "wonders," as it were. Sure, it's exciting when any wildlife appears, and yes, our national parks became wildlife refuges by default. But that is not why they were set aside in the nineteenth century, while for Africa--whose major parks appeared in the twentieth century--wildlife was the prized resource from the start.

    If you want to argue with this old professor, remember, I am an old professor. "Sorry, Al?" "You wanna reconsider that point?" No, I don't want to reconsider it. I have spent my entire life studying all of the points relating to our national parks. I am not "disagreeing" with you; rather, I am asking you to think of nuance and the weight we give certain values. Our national parks are weighted toward scenery, or would you go to Yellowstone just to see bison poop in the woods?

    I love the bison, but yes, they are the add-on. In 1872, Yellowstone was all about "monumental" American scenery, just as Africa became the place many went to see "monumental" animals, and in Theodore Roosevelt's case, shoot a few thousand. The Park Service cannot learn from Africa unless, yes, it adopts the same restrictions so wonderfully discussed in the article above.

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   1 week 10 hours ago

    EC, I believe their reference was to your comment at 9:38 p.m. last night that if park resources weren't conserved in US parks, we'd be left with "Ethiopia." Could that not be construed as disparaging both Ethiopia and Ethiopians?

  • Op-Ed| The National Park Service Could Learn A Few Things From Its African Colleagues   1 week 10 hours ago

    T'would be completely futile,

    So I guess you didn't understand what you said either, Lee. Once again, where did I ever say or imply that our Parks should be Ethiopianized? I'll help - I didn't. Like Rick, you just made it up.