Grand Teton Puts Down Another Bear

For the third time in less than a month rangers in Grand Teton have put down a bear that had become too accustomed to human food. Kurt Repanshek photo.

It's beginning to sound like open season for black bears in Grand Teton National Park. For the third time in less than a month rangers have killed a black bear that had grown too accustomed to tying humans to food. This time the bear was a 60-pound male.

In recent weeks rangers killed two other black bears, both females, who had turned into problem bears because park visitors had left food out.

In the most recent case, the young male is thought to have obtained food in early August when visitors had left food unattended at Inspiration Point.

"Since then, this young bear repeatedly acquired food from people, once more at Inspiration Point but primarily at the Jenny Lake Campground and along the shores of Jenny Lake. He boldly approached people to take food and did this more frequently as time passed," park officials said. "During the first week of September, incidents involving this bear occurred almost daily. He showed no fear of humans by this time, approached families at picnic sites, walked around cars in parking areas, and even investigated a cabin in one incident, putting his paws up on the cabin window."

The park's news release did not mention whether any visitors were cited for making food available to the bear and calls to park officials were not immediately returned.

Comments

So, when do they begin the sensible course of action......close the park until people can act responsibly? Hopefully, the winter snows will come early and often.

We reported this Bear to the Ranger at Jenny Lake on August 29, 2007, we had 5 hikers turned around coming towards us on the trail by the String Lake Trailhead, they had encountered the black bear and said it was aggressive towards them.

We continued on the trail with another couple and made lot's of noise and had the bear spray ready, there were at least 4 areas of fresh bear scat on the trail towards the ranger station and ferry just south of String lake.

My problem was with the Park Ranger when we reported the Bear sighting, after explaing the story he laughed and said, that's what bears do, they are hungry and looking for food. We reported this in hopes the rangers who at least put a warning notice up on the trail.

"It is what bears do," but this situation could have avoided if people had taken the time to inform each other about bears and this bear in particular. Not all organizing is advocacy organizing. We are still combating long held cultural stereotypes about the joys of feeding animals as well as the simultaneous sensationalizing of bear attacks. As I cover Yellowstone, I read countless number of people who think they are going to some big outdoor zoo and are upset when they don't see "Yogi" (can point you to blog links if you'd like). Just yesterday, a couple thought it only appropriate that when in Yellowstone, it is only appropriate to order buffalo for dinner and then flippantly remark that the cousins outside might not like that. It's not hard to see how from those kind of cultural attitudes that we are not far from the needless death of a lot of animals - including that bison's cousin who do in fact die every year (probably unbeknownst to the recent blogger to which I am referring).

So, yeah, the ranger can put up a sign - great. I'm skeptical that it matters. There are so many warnings, so much literature on this, so many ranger programs on this, and certainly not enough rangers to go out and put a warning out for every bear a group of tourists says is aggressive - especially when the odds of even so much as a bear mauling to happen to you are in most years several million to one (and death? - you are many times more likely to die from a terrorist attack than by a bear; that's just how rare they are).

But, because of culture and stupidity, as well as the lack of social responsibility that people have (and understandably so in our society), bears suffer and die while people have an inordinate amount of fear and fascination. If we want to protect bears and hikers alike, we have to take on the culture aggressively that treats bears and other animals as a kind of joke. At the same time, it means attacking the tactics of the advocacy groups who use people's cultural stereotypes about wildlife to feed their own coffers (and some of these groups, I otherwise support!) Bears are bears; they might attack, in some cases, they'd like to get your food (especially when food is scarce). They aren't always not going to be aggressive. However, humans are humans, and we aren't going to want to be attacked by bears; at the same time, we don't want to see bears needlessly die. If we really believe that, let's inform each other. Let's tell each other the truth about bear attacks, put it in context, and help each other cope with the reality of our choices and the choices of bears. And, if you want to help, hold educational events in your own towns. They are very easy to put together. Find a space willing to host it (a library, a church space, an outdoor space), put out some email announcements, maybe some fliers, and inform your neighbors. If the topic is bears, I'll bet you'll get several dozen people. That's how we do this - we can't reduce this or any other situation to the understandable skepticism of a ranger at the other end of a phone. In that ranger's shoes, I can perfectly understand his snide reaction.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Jim Macdonald,

This is not my first visit to the Tetons or Yellowstone, we hike annually in Glacier, Yellowstone, Tetons and Alberta, Canada. We have always been told to "Report all Bear Sightings" to rangers or park service employees so they can keep tabs on the bears, Banff National Park even has a web-site that lists encounters. You are stereotyping all visitors in your comments. We are respectfull of all wildlife and don not agitate or feed the animals.

We didn't continue our hike until we grouped up with another couple heading back to our cars, made lot's of noise ahead on the trail. I wasn't looking for a pat on the back from the ranger, just reporting the situation as I had been told to do on visits to other parks.

We had hiked the prior week in Yellowstone and there were daily posts on the trailhead of bear sightings, I guess Teton Natiuonal Park Rangers do not find that necessary.

Randy Wolf
Phoenix, AZ

Randy,

I think you make an excellent point. Lately, I've noticed that, in some parks in particular, the condition of NPS trailhead bulletin boards is pathetic. Water stained interpretive brochures. No trail information. And no updated, if any, safety advice. I'm not saying that was the case at Grand Teton. Just something I've noticed elsewhere.

It's disappointing the ranger didn't take your report more seriously. It can be easy for park rangers to forget that many park visitors have more experience in the outdoors than they do. (I have been guilty of this myself.)

I read an article recently about the book "Night of the Grizzlies." In short, the author concluded that the NPS was negligent because they failed to warn hikers that certain paths were used by grizzlies to get to and from a garbage dump. A couple ended up camping on this path. One hiker was killed.

So I don't agree with what Jim implies. That bear problems are primarily the result of the stupidity and culture of park visitors. Yes, the park newsletters are chock full of safety advice. Yet, a park is a dynamic place. Hazards ebb and flow. Accidents and deaths are going to happen. But, if visitors are reporting that a certain trail is being frequented by an aggressive bear, the NPS should make an effort to warn hikers preparing to hike that particular trail. At the very least, your report to that ranger needed to be documented so that a pattern a bear behavior could be established.

My point is that over the longterm, this is no way to solve this problem (and it's actually no way to solve any law enforcement problem). There's posters all over my apartment complex to "report suspicious activity." There are two freaking plain clothes police officers living in my building, an attempt to intimidate and scare residents. Even if I see something suspicious, I am not going to report it. There's almost undoubtedly nothing good that will come of it except the continued use of harrassment to drive fear (even if they happen to catch a problem bear - ahem, I mean suspicious person).

In this case, the report was ignored until it was deemed a problem bear, and that leads to the death of the bear. By the time we reach a point where a sign is being posted to warn people of bears, where a chronicle of incidents is being reported, can we trust law enforcement to deal with what is essentially a cultural problem? There is no "suspicious activity" that is worth the fear and persecution that people face, especially people of color and those who don't speak English; there is no reason that bear management should essentially be a law enforcement issue (and however they mask it, that's what it is). --it that way, I'm also responding to posts above.

I was also not stereotyping you; I was trying to explain why I could understand why your report was stereotyped and how it would be reasonable to do that. Whatever the policy is, the individual ranger is going to be as cynical as anyone. The stereotype here is actually the reverse - that the person asked to carry out a policy is identical with those putting out the policy. Just as you and your group were people on a trail who took good precautions around bears, as opposed to most (not all) who get mauled and should not be identified with the larger culture of stupidity, the ranger is in the same position of having to figure out whether to put hikers into a frenzy because of an individual bear report (and in the Tetons, where there are fewer trails, black bear sightings are quite common - for instance, I've never been on the Cascade Canyon trail without some report somewhere). Anyhow, the point is to say that the larger cultural problem points the way to the solution. By the time we are at rangers posting signs and trying to discern your group from everyone else, it's too late. That bear is already in trouble (which is to say that any bear is already in trouble). We're not going to be able to help that bear, (only good news is that there probably is very little that needs to be done to help the hikers, who probably won't be mauled, and should already assume that they are in bear country). So, informed hikers like yourself are better off organizing educational events, working to change the culture for the future. Instead, we have a society that expects the Park Service to fix all the ills and be responsible for doing so. Frankly, they do about as good a job as anyone should expect under the circumstances. Their mistakes have been chronicled and their deficiencies noted (by me among others) - so much so that I believe we have to re-conceive the way we view parks and the entire "management" philosophy.

I just want to see people empower themselves - not just on the trail - but before people are on the trail. In the end, a cultural change will be much more helpful in "bear management" than making this a safety and law enforcement situation. That's the point.

And, because of incidents like this, you know it makes me - perhaps for very different reasons - less likely to report a bear sighting. It isn't that you weren't taken seriously; it's that you might be. And, when you are, the tendency of people in law enforcement is to overreact. We have far too many dead bears this year in and around Grand Teton. What's worse, we have too much additional sensationalization (that is magnified by those who share the stories that are reported). All of this won't help until we do more. In fact, I'm thinking of organizing an event myself. The last two years, I've organized events around Columbus Day to talk about genocide and imperialism, to inform people about the legacy of Euroamerican expansion. I probably can't do that this year because I'll have a newborn. What I can do, though, is talk about bears and hiking. Things are even worse here on the East coast when it comes to that. It is up to us to combat the myths that lead people like you (Randy) to not be taken seriously, even when you do exactly what they tell you to do, as well as those that lead others to be taken too seriously (who is that funny-looking man in the apartment complex?).

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

I worked in Grand Teton this summer as a seasonal ranger, and the bear situation was deplorable. The biggest problem was a lack of a ranger presence in the campgrounds. Some of you may recall that Grand Teton's campgrounds were "privatized" a few years ago. That was a terrible decision that has had a very direct impact on our wildlife.

Grand Teton and Yellowstone see millions of visitors every summer. I had a friend who was a campground ranger, and he used to spend all day in the campground, contacting numerous visitors about bears and food storage and confiscating food.

With the privatization, rangers from other divisions were asked to "fill in" with campground patrols in addition to their other duties. I can tell you for a fact that the campgrounds had days when there was zero ranger presence all day.

I might have had one or two hours to patrol the campground once or twice a week. And every time i did, i found major food violations. I would then contact park dispatch who usually sent someone from the lodge company to confiscate the items - i.e. no ticket for the offender - i.e. no lesson learned. Absolutely ridiculous!

Privatization is one of the most evil things currently being foisted off on the National Parks. It makes no sense to remove rangers from the campgrounds in such a high use park and replace them with a private company who then hires teenage workers from foreign countries to staff them.

It's no wonder visitors are breaking the rules and bears are being killed.

I had friends visit me this summer who stayed in the campground. When they registered, not only were they not given any warnings, but one of my friends asked the young man from the Chzek Republic working at the booth if he should worry about bears and the response was "No, we just have black bear. No worry."
Awesome, since we have both black and grizzly bears. And this was during the time period in which we were about to kill one of the "problem" black bears in the area.

I was so fed up and angry by the end of this summer, i seriously began to consider other career options. But then i remembered that it's about the parks. I love the parks and despite all the bureaucrats in charge, i can make a difference. I can change the operation from the inside.

My Dear Melissa, I hear you and do sympathizes with your anger which shows much utter disgust. This is a typical and normal reaction that any decent hard working ranger would have. Don't despair! I do commend you for your dedicated and devoted service to the national parks. In hindsight, this kind of response that you just reflected, does discourage many good potential candidates from becoming professional rangers. Long as we have a administration that's hell bent on exploiting our natural resources for rape, greed and pillage, and use the National Parks as a corporate entity to "to suck it for all it's worth", then the message is clear, are national crown jewels are up to the highest bidder. Melissa, if you can weather the storm regarding this kind of fiasco, and hang in there and not get dejected, then I whole hardily applaud you for your tenacity to stay the course. It's a phenomenal battle to contain when privatization takes the national parks as a gravy train for corporate greed. It's not about the parks but about cronyism and back room deals that rewards the biggest exploiters ( I do remember the MCA dealings in Yosemite many years ago). So, Melissa carry on with future professional endeavors and I wish you well.

That's it "anonymous"...it's all Bush's fault...nevermind that his wife is a huge fan of the parks (unlike Bill Clinton's wife).
You have absoulutely NO credibility in what you say as long as your ilk want to blame everything on the President and his administration. Did it ever occur to you that these decisions are made at a MUCH lower level???

Melissa,

I too want to thank and congratulate you! Stick with it.

My experience is a bit varied. And I've never been a ranger - I'm on the research side of things (and of course, a visitor to many national parks). But my experience this summer - note, I was in Alaska, which is a different situation - is that many of the rangers often get slighted. By this I mean that they do have a tough decision - whether to take reports seriously. Many people may not realize how tough a decision they have, considering the varied sources of pressure they feel when making a decision. Many visitors to our parks - and all public lands - are so disconnected from the animals (and natural environments as a whole) they are watching that they do over-react too often. A couple of the rangers I met this summer deserve to hold on to their cynicism.

That said, we have too many people doing things in our parks (whether feeding the animals or whatever), that need to be stopped. I know that the interp staff at Rocky Mountain NP here in Colorado says that only about 5% of their 3 million annual visitors actually attend a ranger-led talk or program. Signs get ignored far more than they get read. Park literature is never looked at - even when given out for free. This is an audience problem, in my opinion. People need to be responsible. If you figure out how to force responsibility and maturity on people, let me know!

And until we reconnect many of our park visitors to the real world around them, situations like this Grand Teton - bear incident are not going to go away. We need to be the ones reaching out and trying to inform our fellow visitors. Maybe this can be some good peer pressure. :)

Jen

Jen: Your comments are right on. Reminds me of an experience this summer in Yosemite. Checking into White Wolf tent cabins, I got the usual bear warnings. The man behind me look stupified. "You mean there are bears here!" "Real bears?" "Will they come into my tent?" Hard to believe that someone coming to Yosemite just had no clue. Of course, that night, a bear ransacked a bear box that had been carelessly left unlocked. Maybe by a person who just didn't think there really were bears in Yosemite National Park.

Yes Gerald, I realize that the lower subordinates dish out some of the fool hardy decisions of this present administration. Yes, fool hardy! But all this butt sniffing goes all the way to the top of the White House. Who do you think is guarding the hen house your fairy godmother? Damn right I blame the Bush administration for most of the crap that goes on within the national parks today. I didn't realize Mrs. Bush was such a lover of the national parks (I deeply welcome that) not until the latter part of the year, and not until the world was denouncing the Bush & Cheney doctrine on most of their anti-environmental polices, from global warming to the lack of wholesome support for the national parks, and other major pertinent conservation issues here in the U.S. and aboard.

Wow, Melissa's comments make my heart ache. I wish I could, like the others, tell you to "stick with it" but instead I'll give you my advice; "pace yourself" while trying to change things from the inside or move on.

I do think she gives a good example of where privatization of park can fail. I'm curious what Beamis and FrankHead have to say about this. Though, I suspect privatization is less to blame here than the undertrained, undermotivated, understaffed ranger force. Surely the Chief Ranger still has jurisdiction in these campgrounds. No?

There are many not-so-expensive ways to mitigate this campground/bear/human education problem (as Melissa explains it), but alas, I'm no longer on the pension payroll.

I love the parks and despite all the bureaucrats in charge, i can make a difference. I can change the operation from the inside.

Some advice from my mentor:

"Frank, you will not change the bureaucracy. I couldn’t; Norm Messinger couldn’t; John Krisco couldn’t; Brian Harry couldn’t; Wayne Cone couldn’t; John Muir couldn’t; Stephen T. Mather couldn’t. Thoreau, Jefferson, Michelangelo…the list goes on ad infinitum."

I got this advice from my mentor on my sixth season out of ten seasons with the NPS, and looking back, I sometimes think that I had gotten the advice earlier or at least understood it earlier; the "operation" of the NPS can't be changed from the inside.

A lowly seasonal will never be able to change the operation of the NPS. If you ask questions, if you show originality of thought, if challenge any of the NPS's sacred cows as a seasonal, forget about it. You can be fired at any time for any reason, and I know seasonals who were fired for speaking out against unsafe boat tours at Crater Lake and for sticking up for the private property owners at Mineral King in Sequoia. I've seen seasonals get reprimanded for pushing for recycling, opting out of dangerous training exercises, discussing environmental degradation caused by the NPS.

Try to get a permanent job so you can change the system. But the federal hiring system is so corrupt, so full of nepotism, favoritism, careerism, and more -isms than you can shake a stick at. Other groups will have preference over you, especially those already firmly entrenched in the civil service. Hell, a veteran working for the IRS and looking to escape hell will waltz right into a job in the park you've spent six summers in and know like the back of your hand.

If you do get a permanent job, by the time you've got it, you'll be struggling to pay back student loans that have pilled up for the years you worked seasonally. You'll get health insurance for the first time in years. You'll finally be on the road to a fat pension. You'll get comfortable. You won't speak out. Too dangerous. Might loose everything you've been working for. Besides, you can make some small changes, here and there, as a permanent ranger. Next thing you know, twenty years have gone by.

No, the system can't be changed from the inside. The only thing to be done is end the system. There is a better way. There is a way to end the corporate, government-sanctioned monopolies that have invaded our national parks. There is a way to end political influence in national parks. There is a way to create a stable funding source for the national park, that will not be subject to political stalemates (by the way, people were chanting the same "the NPS needs more money!" mantra during Clinton's administration).

It's called a public trust. I've talked about it before. If you're not familiar, you can read more about it if you want.

Also, please stop demonizing "privatization". The firms operating in the NPS are government-sponsored monopolies and multi-national corporations. Private art museums manage to protect their art, but I don't hear people screaming about the privatization of art. And for decades the NPS has allowed these corporations to fleece tourists and send the the vast majority of the profits out of the park and out of the country while charging a minuscule franchise fee that is often less than 5%. Sometimes it seems that the NPS was established primarily for the benefit of the tourism industry and concessionaires.

You have every right to be offended that the NPS is sponsoring such a multi-national monopoly that has no interest in preserving the park and doesn't bother to train its Czech employees. But realize, the such a corrupt system will crush internal dissent and can only be eliminated through external pressure.

With all due respect -- BS Frank. There are too many people looking to blame someone else. A journey of a million miles begins with one step. And another. And another. Everyone who works at the park and everyone who visits the park is to blame for not doing enough. Everyone. This problem won't get solved by all of us sitting back and counting on the charitable goodwill of the masses to maintain the parks. Also please stop belittling people who have the desire and will to make a difference. If enough people speak up from within change can happen. It's thoughts like yours that poison the well and make it that much more difficult. I don't care that your experience sucked, but thanks for sharing. A public trust still depends on people, and people are the source of the problem, not government. You go Melissa!

I think we all thought at some point in our ranger careers that we could change things from the inside. Unfortunately change is not something that is welcomed from the vast majority of entrenched bureaucrats who wish to maintain their privileged civil-service status, fat retirements and cushy assignments in paradise.

I'm pretty tired of being shot down by those who say that my experience was an aberration and that the NPS is just fine the way it is currently run and all that it needs is a lot more money thrown its way. I beg to differ and have done so consistently, as many regular readers already know.

I was able to affect a lot more change on the outside that I ever could on the inside. In one instance I had a superintendent grudgingly back down after I enlisted the aid of a U.S. Senator to get a totally bogus and onerous regulation removed after first trying friendly negotiation and reason. I would have never been able to accomplish this same feat with my career on the line.

The superintendent in question only did what he did because of the potential blot his exposed stupidity could've placed on his own legacy. He didn't act out of reasoned analysis of the situation but only because his position and status was threatened by a salvo of outrage from a much more powerful politician.

What I did worked in the given situation and benefited the park, I was even approached by rangers who said that they could've never accomplished the same thing without seriously damaging their careers and were very grateful for my efforts to curb their tyrannical boss. This is not the best way to manage natural resources or serve the visiting public. Not by a long shot.

For another slant I offer blog posts from the wonderful Retread Ranger Station: http://snipurl.com/1usfg then read http://snipurl.com/1usdp

Ranger Bob is a retired NPS ranger who left in good standing and truly loves the parks but is also very realistic about the actual conditions on the ground in a self-perpetuating bureaucracy that more often than not tends towards corruption and self-preservation in the higher ranks. Check out his blog, it's well worth your time.

With all due respect -- if you don't like what I have to say, don't read it. HH wondered what I had to say, so I obliged her. Also, nothing in my writing "belittles" anyone else; I'm merely expressing my opinion. "It's thoughts like yours that poison the well and make it that much more difficult." The well is already poisoned. It's comments like this that attempt to stifle dissent, to police the thoughts of others, which--in a society founded on liberty--I find very repugnant.

In recent years, we've heard that folks on the inside of the NPS have felt their jobs would be in jeopardy if they spoke out about things they didn't like (the 2005 Management Policies 'Hoffman rewrite' as one example). But, there are organizations out there willing to help these folks make a change. These are groups like the Association of National Park Rangers (ANPR), the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR), and the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). ANPR for instance, offers a health insurance program for seasonals -- this is somewhat new. The CNPSR lead the charge against the Hoffman policies. I know you have issues with PEER Frank, but they have stayed on the Teresa Chambers case, years after it has fallen from the headlines.

My point, it is possible to affect change from the inside, but it takes some guts, the ability to cover your ass, and probably some help from friends on the outside. More power to you Melissa if you are willing to be the change you wish to see in the world.

Jeremy,
Thanks for pointing out those resources. While possibly helpful, they’re external to the NPS. There is no internal NPS structure that I know of (and someone please correct my ignorance on the subject) to assist current employees who would like to "make a change". That intimates that the NPS is inherently a conservative (small-c "conservative", not the big-C political term) organization; it resists change and prefers to perpetuate the status quo.

Again, I have to come back to our former mentor. Gary also said something like, "Perhaps the tacky myrtle wood sign in gift shops sums it all up: Grant me the ability to change the things I can, the ability to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference." It took Gary an entire career to learn that.

Gary tried to "make a difference", but he--as a GS-11 chief of interpretation--was marginalized by an inflexible system and those who vehemently defended it. (In fact, I believe that the system and those who marginalized him, those who stripped him of his pride, are partially culpable for the cancer that ended Gary's life.) I understand and even shared Melissa's idealism and I think Gary would have, too. But if someone in a loftier position can't change the system, how in the larger scheme of things can a seasonal ranger change it?

Jeremy, you say Melissa can be the change she wishes to see, and in this arena she has the most power to affect change: her own actions. However, conservative elements in the NPS may view her behavior as non-conformist and dangerous and she may suffer for it. I truly hope that won't be the case.

Let's face it folks, mavericks and outside-the-box thinkers don't have long term careers in the NPS. All of the independent minded people that I ever knew in the agency are all long gone, except for one person (who admits that working for the green & gray really sucks but stays on because this person actually enjoys the natural wonders of the park they are currently stationed in). Go figure.

I know that my experience is only one single example but I hear this same refrain from other colleagues who have left the agency that tell me the people that they admired the most as former co-workers have also left the NPS. Most of those that remain are what I call the "go along, get alongs", people that ride the wave to retirement and are quite content to give a sub-par performance as government careerists. These are also folks that would be totally unable to land the same high level of pay and benefits in the competitive marketplace. They know a good thing when they see it. Then there are the newly entitled, as I like to call them, federal hangers on like non-combat military veterans milking the 10-point cow as well as specially targeted classes of government decreed victims who are given preference over more qualified personnel due to their membership in a supposedly oppressed group or race. (I always put a check mark in the Pacific Islander box whenever I was required to fill out any government forms about my identity. It never seemed to get me the promotions I was looking for though.)

This is not the snapshot of a workforce that will tend to be overly eager to shift paradigms or rock the boat. A nice quiet glide towards a comfortable retirement on the good ship green & gray is more their speed (with all the paid holidays you can shake a stick at). I believe this is what upper management rewards and it is why the agency is the stagnant and inefficient morass that most outsiders see today. Most insiders do as well, but are generally way too afraid to say it all that loud.

I truly wish Melissa the best. I myself have built a successful company that conducts natural history tours and lectures to a wide spectrum of clients in a variety of national park areas across the country. I'd suggest that she think through all of her non-NPS options first before giving too much time and effort to an organization that values group-think and conformity over change and re-invention. The NPS often talks a good game but if you take a really close look at who actually works in the agency you'll find a strict obedience to the chain of command, along with a deep-seated fear of retribution and an overall mindset that highly values loyal soldiers who will march in lock step to the latest WASO initiative as the path of least resistance to a successful career in the dreary uniformity that is the way of the green & gray.

Wow, you pretty much summed it up right there, Beamis.

I first started as a seasonal ranger, eleven years ago. I worked for a number of years as a campground ranger and in fee collection at the entrance stations. When i took my first job in interpretation, i was full of enthusiasm and a belief that i could make a difference. I felt like it was such a privelege to be part of the history of our parks, and of course the NPS has a fantastic mission statement. But that's really all just on paper.

The agency appoints superintendents who try to circumvent the rules whenever they can get away with it. They often follow the letter of the law and not the spirit of it. I have seen permanent career employees who are either shockingly apathetic about resource issues or make decisions that will advance their careers even to the detriment of the park (like agreeing with really poor decisions from on high, instead of speaking up.) I had one supervisor in the recent past who was an amazing man ... passionate, intelligent, vocal and he was consistently passed over for promotion.

The summer before last i was fairly fired up about a pending decision to "improve" the Gros Ventre campground. It's a large campground on the southern flank of the park, it has several hundred campsites, and hardly anyone stays there. And the reason for that is because it's on a side road that for some reason on the park map looks like it's not paved. After the privatization three years ago, the lodge company began agitating for improvements like 100+ sites with electrical hookups for RV's, and they wanted to build shower facilities and a camp store and a bloody laundromat (i'm not even kidding!!!) Meanwhile, the town of Jackson is a mere 5 miles away! For some reason, the park superintendant was all for this plan which is currently on a back burner, not off the table mind you, due to a lack of funding.

This side road that the campground is on just happens to go through the area where most of the park's bison and antelope give birth to their calves. It's also one of the few places in the park in June, July and August where you can take a nice leisurely drive to watch wildlife and not pass a thousand other people. I've sat on the shoulder of that road at dusk, watching the bison, deer and elk and also watching across the valley the headlights from hundreds of cars on the park's main road. In both directions ... a solid line of car after car after car. Meanwhile, where i am, i might see two or three vehicles in a half an hour.

But if you build it, they will come. Adding electrical hookups and services to the Gros Ventre campground would increase the traffic out there by what? A hundred fold? More? I mean, i agree there is a lack of amenities for RV'ers that need hookups but there are also three other campgrounds on the main road that they could "improve" instead. What kind of value should we place on keeping the solitude of that part of the valley? For crying out loud, it's not 1930 ... the NPS should be waaaaaay past the point of development simply to encourage visitation. So .... i was fired up about this topic, and basically i couldn't find anyone else in my district that cared. Supervisors or seasonals. No one cared. No one was even interested in discussing it with me.

And the situation this summer with the bears was simply the icing on the cake. Several of these deaths could have been averted by having a ranger staff patrolling the campground, and closing trails and backcountry campsites to the public, but no one wanted to make the decision to close trails. Why? Because we have to be a good "neighbor" to the community of Jackson. If we close the trails or campsites some local residents might be unhappy. (This excuse is a political decision i heard repeatedly over the last few years to justify many absurd policy decisions.)

This past summer i finally realized ... i have no ideals or enthusiasm left for the National Park Service. The beaureaucracy has crushed it out of me. Stick a fork in me, i'm done.

I still want to live in a national park ... how can i do anything else at this point? And for the most part, i still like the job that i do. I do good work. I get positive feedback from the public, if not from the agency. And i have no intention of quitting. When i say that i believe i can change the agency from the inside, what i mean to say is ... i can do exactly what i did two summers ago. Write anonymous letters to the local papers, call up local environmental organizations and fill them in on the issues (which surprisingly they often know nothing about), and give them information that they might not have otherwise.

I worked with a gentleman who had met Ed Abbey when he was right out of college, and he likes to tell the story of what one of Abbey's supervisors had to say about him ... "You better keep an eye on that one. He's a thinker."

Melissa,

Do you worry that your supervisors know who you are from the posts you have made here? In any event, I admire your bravery for speaking out.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

i think that by putting a bear down is a bad thing the people could of just tried to scare it away. there is not need to kill the bear.i don't agree with that,i thing that by killing an animal is sin. because no animal desirves to be killed at any matter. thats also hurting the envirment to other baers... so what if even more bears started doing this are they all going to have to die?? just because of that???.....