Featured Articles on National Parks Traveler

National Parks: Valuable Assets In Efforts To Conserve Birdlife

Xantus's Murrelet, copyright Glen Tepke.
Peregrine Falcons, once teetering on extinction, are regulars at Acadia National Park. Bald Eagles, also once feared to be ready to blink out, have rebounded incredibly and are highly visible in many national parks. During a week-long canoe trip in Yellowstone National Park last fall I was blown away by the birdlife. But how is the overall "state of birds" in America these days? Unfortunately, things aren't entirely as they appear.

Musings From Virgin Islands National Park

Salt Pond Bay, Virgin Islands NP, Kurt Repanshek photo
Floating face down in the Caribbean, with snorkel clenched in your mouth, lacks the structure, the regimentation, of observing the natural world in the way we’ve grown up to accept while walking through a forest, strolling through a meadow, or hiking up a mountain. Clouds of neon blue tangs drift by while black-and-yellow striped sergeant majors flit about, lacking the tangs’ regimented approach to life in the ocean.

Tracing The Postage Stamp-Sized History of the National Park System

You could call it a postage stamp-sized history of the National Park System, but the history of park scenes on U.S. postage is really quite colorful and carries a few stories with it.

Spring Blooms Not Too Far Away in Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, And Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sunflowers, violets, trillium and other wildflowers are just around the proverbial corner in the Appalachian Mountains. You can spot these and dozens of others in Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks, as well as along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Can You Still Get Off the Beaten Path in National Parks?

How much have the national parks changed since you were a kid? Have they changed? When you return to a park that you haven't been to in decades, is it like returning to an old friend, or visiting someplace totally alien?

Stimulating the National Parks: Good For the Short-Term, But Then What?

Over the coming months there will be a flurry of construction work across the National Park System thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. But then what?
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A National Park Service Regional Director Shares His Priority List for 2009

Earlier this year the Traveler offered up a post on what priorities we hoped the National Park Service would address in the coming year. Mike Snyder, director of the agency's Intermountain Region, has his own list of issues his region has in its sights this year.

With or Without a Stimulus Package, National Parks Can Be Economical Vacation Destinations

With all the economic doom and gloom of late, it'll be a miracle if anyone goes away for a vacation this year. At the very least, folks will be looking for bargains, and that's where the National Park System comes into play.

Are We Properly Caring for Our Ocean-Based National Parks?

There was an essay recently that brought to my attention a startling figure: Even though there are nearly 1,700 marine protected areas in U.S. territorial waters, 99.9 percent of all our territorial waters were open to fishing in 2008.

On Stimulus Packages, Lobbyists, and Congressfolk

If you've been paying any attention to how Congress is treating the National Park System in terms of the economic stimulus package, you'd have to agree there are a few interesting, and possibly even amusing, side stories.

Yellowstone Geologist Worries About What Goes "Bump" At Night

Who hasn't been jarred awake at night wondering what went "bump!"? Hank Heasler doesn't worry too much about it...unless his cellphone starts chirping.

Humans as "Super-Predators" – New Study Offers Startling Information about Hunting and Fishing

Bighorn sheep
Most areas of the National Park System are closed to hunting, a long-standing policy which is the subject of ongoing debate. A recently released study offers compelling reasons to continue that policy—and it includes some startling information about the impacts of humans as the "Super-Predators" in today's world.

What Priorities Should The Next National Park Service Director Address?

Kurt Repanshek photo.
Yellowstone snowmobiles. Guns in the parks. Climate change. Infrastructure in shambles. These are just some of the issues the next director of the National Park Service will inherit. But how should he or she prioritize their approach to managing the National Park System and addressing its problems?

How Many National Park Rangers Does It Take to Cut Down a Tree?

How many national park rangers does it take to cut down a tree? Well, before you can answer that question, you need to prepare a 100+ page document that not only identifies which trees need to be cut down, but explains how to go about cutting them down.

What Were YOUR Favorite National Park Stories of 2008?

Back on December 21 we told you what we thought were the top national park stories of 2008. Now, here's a look at which stories YOU thought were the most intriguing.

What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?

What were the top stories across the National Park System in 2008? That's a good question, but unfortunately one that brings to mind many stories we at the Traveler wish never arose.

Don't Overlook Park Advocates and Friends Groups When You Make Your Charitable Donations

Programs to lure youngsters into the parks. "Healthy Kids/Healthy Parks." Research to gauge the impact of visitation on park natural resources. Restoration work. These are just some of the projects that your taxable donations allowed to occur across the National Park System in 2008.

28 Years Ago, the National Park System Gained Millions of Acres

Imagine if the National Park System could grow, overnight, by 43 million acres. That's exactly what happened nearly three decades ago in a place called Alaska.

From Job Creation to Everglades Czar, Green Groups Have Lengthy National Parks Wishlist

Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park. Kurt Repanshek photo.
A coalition of nearly 30 "green groups" has a lengthy to-do list for the incoming Obama administration when it comes to the National Park System. For starters, they say, let's include the parks in the economic stimuli being proposed, expect more from National Park Service leadership, and protect the natural resources.
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Study Touts Economic Benefits of Mount St. Helens "National Park"

There's an economic report out touting the benefits that a Mount St. Helens "National Park" would bring surrounding communities. And that begs the question of whether units of the National Park System should be viewed largely as economic engines?
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National Parks the World Over are Preparing for Climate Change

Devils Postpile, Middle Fork of San Joaquin River. Kurt Repanshek photo.
Climate change is global. No one country or hemisphere has a monopoly on calmer or stormier weather, on drier or wetter climates, on higher or lower lake, sea, and river levels. While here in the United States the National Park Service is trying to confront the change, on the far side of the world another country is doing what it can to protect its parks from climate change.

Election 2008: Fearless Forecasts, Foregone Conclusions, and Prescient Prognostications

The campaigns are over, the results are in, and it’s time to consider what the 2008 elections portend for the National Park System. We highlight several foregone conclusions, make a couple of fearless forecasts, and invite you, the readers, to share your prognostications.

Plenty of National Park Issues for Next Administration, But Will They Get Tackled?

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone. Kurt Repanshek photo.
With the days of the Bush administration vanishing more quickly than the fall colors, what's in store for the next administration in terms of national park issues? Quite a bit, actually. The real question is whether they'll get tackled.

How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?

After eight years of highly questionable management of public lands by the Bush administration, the next administration will face myriad environmental issues when it takes office in January. But how will it respond?

Imagine the Impacts of Climate Change on the National Park System

Waterless Yosemite Fall, Kurt Repanshek photo
Imagine Yosemite National Park without Yosemite Fall. Or Glacier National Park without glaciers. Or Old Faithful becoming less faithful. Across the National Park System, the effects of climate change could be quite dramatic.
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Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!

The National Park Service says there are 391 units in the National Park System. If you take a close look at how that number is derived, you won’t know whether to laugh or cry. Have the inmates taken charge of the asylum?

How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?

How did the National Park Service err so badly in developing a winter-use plan for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks? According to a federal judge who blocked the plan from taking effect, the agency overlooked its own science and its own mission.

Is Climate Change Driving A New Forest Regimen in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?

As ecological drivers go, you wouldn't think an insect roughly the size of a rice grain would be that significant in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. And yet, the mountain pine beetle, aided by a warming climate, is poised to send quite a shudder through the ecosystem.

Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?

The recent posts about GPS Rangers and SPOT beg the question of whether technology is compatible with wilderness values in the National Park System. Are these truly useful tools, or do they diminish the wilderness experience? Where do you draw the line?

Find Me, Spot. Staying Found in The National Parks

Backcountry rangers in some Alaska national parks routinely signal their position with "Spot," a personal locater beacon that can be used to summon help or to simply let friends know you're OK. Recently, Spot helped rangers find two backcountry travelers in Sequoia National Park who found themselves in trouble.