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A Traveler Special Report: "Oil Trains" Pose A Significant Threat To National Parks

May 18th - 11:30am | tomp2


May 15th - 20:05pm | ecbuck

Rick,The Amtrak crash had nothing to do with infrasturcture. The engineer was going twice the speed limit (perhaps intentially).  But it is no surprise you want more "government" as the answer.  Amtrak on the NE corridor is a money pit and always will be as long as it is government subsidized. 

May 15th - 17:48pm | Rick B.

While discussing this issue it is hard not to consider both the tragic Amtrak crash near Philadelphia, followed almost immediately by Congress drastically cutting the funds Amtrak needs for their infrastructure.

May 15th - 15:00pm | Kurt Repanshek

Due to copyright issues, we had to delete the last comment. I'm afraid we're not allowed to take stories from other media and post them here without prior approval.

May 15th - 12:57pm | CJDillon

More than 100 trains a day pass through Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, one of the most biologically diverse parks in the National Park System. Many of theshe trains contain oil cars and other hazardous materials. Train-caused fires are not uncommon and a derailment has long been a threat. The NPS is currently suing one railroad for the fires it caused in the park.  

May 15th - 10:45am | ecbuck

So Ron, you prefer the riskier methods of transportation at the expense of American jobs?

May 15th - 10:28am | rmackie

Tahoma, others, thinking about the posts on this issue, I was reminded of a lunch  with David Brower in San Francisco. We were looking over at the Marin Headlands while discussing the NPS plans for the post 1997 Yosemite Flood planning recovery effort in Yosemite NP.  Mr.

May 15th - 10:00am | rmackie

Thank you tomp2 and tahoma, interesting posts. 

May 15th - 09:35am | ecbuck

tahoma,Those tar sands are going to be exploited whether XL is built or not.  Trying to stop the pipeline will only increase the risk and hurt US workers.  It won't stop the development.  You are cutting off your nose to spite your face.

May 15th - 09:26am | tahoma

Normal 0 Thank to Kurt for this special report!   According to the NY Times, in 2013 much more Bakken crude was shipped east & south by rail than west (pie chart near end):   

May 15th - 09:18am | JohnBick

Widespread opposition to Keystone? -- from a CNN poll: The 1,179-mile Canada-to-Texas pipeline is backed by 57% of the 1,011 Americans surveyed on Dec. 18-21. Just 28% oppose it, while 15% say they are unsure. doesn't sound very widespread to me. 

May 14th - 21:15pm | rmackie

Thank you Alfred, as you frequently point out in your posts, unless we can get some handle on the growth, we can write a lot of things off. 

May 14th - 19:30pm | ecbuck

The States will be exposed to the majority of the risk and to no great benefit.

May 14th - 19:13pm | ecbuck


May 14th - 19:00pm | tomp2

ec & PS--You are using apples to argue in favor of oranges.

May 14th - 18:22pm | Rick B.

And Keystone is designed to carry Koch-owned Canadian oil THROUGH the US and shipped on out to other nations. The States will be exposed to the majority of the risk and to no great benefit.

May 14th - 17:23pm | ecbuck

No oil is "wanted" but some levels of spills is to be expected. On a gallons spilled per ton-mile transported, pipelines have a much better record.

May 14th - 17:06pm | Kurt Repanshek

I guess it comes down to how much oil you want in the environment. Neither is perfect, and both face challenges. 

May 14th - 17:04pm | ecbuck

U.S. pipelines spilled three times as much crude oil as trains over that eight-year period,But they carry 25 times as much oil.  In my book, that makes them far more effective. 

May 14th - 16:53pm | Kurt Repanshek

Safer...and messier.

May 14th - 16:11pm | ecbuck

Only, the Keystone Pipeline would carry Canadian oil SOUTH.So what - it is traveling south now using trains, using the pipeline would be safer.  

May 14th - 15:10pm | Alfred Runte

Only, the Keystone Pipeline would carry Canadian oil SOUTH. In the Bakken, it is all about carrying U.S. crude WEST. Even the oil companies want to take advantage of the best markets, which does not mean being tied down to any pipeline. 

May 14th - 12:44pm | JohnBick

Excellent piece of writing, Kurt. And, echoing EC, I've never read a more effective endorsement of the Keystone Pipeline. 

May 14th - 00:51am | rmackie

Thank you Traveler for an informative post, and thanks Jim for your insights. In 2007, 6000 tanker cars, 2013 435,000. It does not make much of stretch to wonder how much railbed upgrades, etc, have been done, little would be my guess.

Modest Fee Increases On Tap At Joshua Tree National Park

May 18th - 07:49am | SmokiesBackpacker

Modest?  I'd say fairly steep fee increases.  Jarvis, the fee Czar of the NPS.  What would Mather have said?  Bet I know what Roosevelt and Muir would say about Jarvis legacy.

Northern Tier Senators Want A Little National Park Service Love

May 17th - 21:54pm | drew

As the bill's title asserts, parity is needed. These three National Scenic Trails fulfill the requirements of unit status and are at least as important to our Nation as Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site, Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site and half or so of the other existing units.

Restoring The Marinescape At Biscayne National Park

May 17th - 14:22pm | Lee Dalton

Fascinating.  Thank you, Jameson.But one sentence stands out and that one sentence says a lot: "Thus, politics and economics have become entwined to cast an ecosystem out of balance."

Musings From A Very Busy Zion National Park

May 17th - 13:53pm | Lee Dalton

You got it, Owen.  Another factor with extra heavy weekend use right now is that it's springtime and local folks know this is best time to visit without broiling.  (However, this past weekend was anything but broiling.  It was downright chilly!)We used to think back in the early 1980's that things were crowded.  Little did we know what was coming.

May 17th - 12:54pm | Owen Hoffman

After reading this report and the ensuing commentary on traffic and crowds at Zion, I'm sure glad my own experiences stem from working there in 1969.  I wonder how much the internet and social media have influenced park visitation?  I think social media have made it much easier to post images of park scenery and bring parks into the homes and offices of urban, suburban and even rural America.

May 17th - 12:48pm | ecbuck

It's very easy to criticize instead of making a sincere effort to learn the facts.

May 17th - 11:38am | Lee Dalton

MINIMAL infrastructure????????????Spending one or two weekdays in a quick visit to a park is certainly not the best way to learn about the place.It's very easy to criticize instead of making a sincere effort to learn the facts.  I'm actually surprised that Zion's backlog is as small as it is.

May 17th - 10:55am | Kurt Repanshek

Infrastructure takes the lion's share -- $43,573,822. That includes roads that need paving, parking lots, bridges and tunnels. You can find the dollar details here:

May 17th - 10:46am | ecbuck

Glad to see that visitation is up. My only point was that I didn't get a sense of over crowding. From the second article "Zion National Park is close behind with $62.1 million in postponed repairs."I sure would like to see that list.  Zion has minimal infrasturcture so its hard to fathom a repair list that large.

May 17th - 10:25am | Lee Dalton

Two links to recent articles from The Spectrum, St. George Utah's local newspaper:

May 17th - 08:23am | ecbuck

Funny, I was there two weeks ago and experienced none of that.  Drove in from the east entrance and made it all the way to the tunnels without a required stop.  (Actually wish we had spent more time here stopping and exploring as I found its topography more interesting than the canyon.)  At that point the ranger had halted traffic and I had three cars in front of me.  Waited about 60 seconds an

May 16th - 22:41pm | Lee Dalton

Forgot to mention that I watched my odometer and noted that vehicles waiting to enter the long tunnel from the east were backed up for 7/10ths of a mile!  I'm certain that by the time the eastbound line I was in cleared the tunnel, that line headed west had to have been more than a mile long.

May 16th - 22:03pm | Lee Dalton

I was in Zion this morning around 9:30.  Had the naive idea that I might find a vacant site in South Campground.WRONG!The park was insanely busy this Saturday, May 16.  I simply entered the Springdale entrance and continued without stopping out the east entrance.  It was as busy -- and perhaps even busier -- than it was back over New Years weekend.

Teenager Posing For Picture Gored By Bison At Yellowstone National Park

May 16th - 18:06pm | wild places

Shame on the host family for being either ignorant, reckless or both.  I'm not sure that a 16 year old and a foreigner to this country should be expected to know better, particularily when they witness adults behaving so recklessly but the adults have no excuse.  I hope they received the appropriate fine and that she recovers with no lasting ill effects.

Burros Inadvertently Save Life Of Hiker Lost In Death Valley National Park

May 15th - 19:39pm | rmackie

Dittos brenda, over the years, I had the opportunity to work with many excellent SAR volunteer groups. It was always a pleasure. Thank you for your efforts. 

May 15th - 18:34pm | Acadia on my mind

Thank you brendat for being part of the search & rescue, and helping to bring the hiker to safety. Hope the hiker will recover without any long-term harm. He was out there a long time, a week, but how lucky he was to find those burros, and water. Having hiked the Death Valley backcountry, we know how disorienting the desert can be. 

May 15th - 13:12pm | brendat

My husband and some of the members of our Kren River Valley Search & Rescue Group went out on this search. The man was way out there in really the middle of nowhere. Thank God that he thought to follow the burros.

May 14th - 12:49pm | rmackie

Thanks Jim, know there are some issues with these animals, but I love the burro's. 

May 14th - 10:31am | Jim Burnett

Alert move to follow the burros to water - and then stay there until help arrived.

New Navajo Leadership Opposes Escalade Project At Grand Canyon

May 15th - 09:54am | rmackie

Good news.

May 15th - 07:46am | Jim Burnett

An encouraging development. Let's hope it in fact sidelines this proposed project. Sounds like from news reports his predecessor wasn't above a tricky maneuver that sounds more like a Washington political stunt. A news story says:

Higher Entrance, Backcountry Fees Coming To Grand Canyon National Park

May 15th - 08:49am | SmokiesBackpacker

"Many comments supported a fee increase"  Well, how many did not?This is another trick the bureaucrats at NPS use.  If they get 59 comments and two people agree with their predetermined fee scheme, then it gets spun to the media as "many" comments.  You got to watch these guys.

Reader Survey Day: Have Fee Increases Prompted You To Buy An America The Beautiful Pass?

May 14th - 18:19pm | Rick B.

"... jack booted kojaks with backpacks and attitudes to match their weapons...." sounds like a photo op to me. Of course, it isn't my way to go pulling on Superman's cape or spit into the wind.

May 14th - 16:23pm | lorene

I usually buy a Northwest Forest Pass which costs $30, but I'm planning trips to Alaska and Utah with visits to the National Parks. I figured out all the fees and I'll definitely save money with the annual pass. Plus having a pass always encourages me to make more stops at places I might skip because of the fees.

May 14th - 16:13pm | SmokiesBackpacker

Fee increases have prompted me to avoid NPS units in favor of National Forest lands as much as possible. And it has been much more pleasant not having to deal with jack booted kojaks with backpacks and attitudes to match their weapons.

May 14th - 15:38pm | David Crowl

I have often got two summer vacations out of one annual pass by just planning next years trip to happen before it expires. $80 seems like the logical choice. I wouldn't doubt it will go up in the near future.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide