Conservation Groups Urge National Park Service to Reinstate Jet Ski Bans

Are Jet Skis, also known as Personal Watercraft, appropriate for national seashores and national lakeshores? Photo by Will Pate via Flickr.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and National Park Service Director Mary Bomar are being asked once again to stand behind their pledges that science will guide management decisions in the national park system.

While that was the request when Yellowstone National Park officials were debating whether to allow recreational snowmobiles to continue on in the park, now the focus is on Jet Skis (generically known as personal watercraft, or PWCs).

Earlier this year, when the Park Service kicked off its Centennial Initiative, the Interior secretary and Park Service director spoke glowingly of protecting the park system's resources for future generations.

* Stewardship and science will guide decisions, Mr. Kempthorne said in his cover letter regarding the Centennial Initiative to the president. An inventory of all wildlife in parks will be completed, a vital baseline to monitor change and adjust management. Strategic acquisitions will protect landscapes.

* Much has been accomplished and more remains to be done to fulfill a common American dream -- to leave things better for those who follow us, added Ms. Bomar in her own letter.

* This is not only a report to the president, but a pledge to the American people, who are the shareholders in the greatest system of parks and special places in the world ... a pledge that the men and women of the National Park Service will continue in preserving these wonderful places for the generations yet to come, Ms. Bomar added a bit later.

But with the Yellowstone snowmobile decision on its way to being finalized despite scientific reports from the park's own staff that Yellowstone's resources would be better off without snowmobiles, those pledges are being questioned.

Today a trio of conservation groups is asking the Park Service to reinstate bans against personal watercraft in Gulf Islands and Cape Lookout national seashores as well as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. If the agency balks, the groups say they'll take it to court over the matter. (See attachment)

Back in 2000 the Park Service found that PWC use was inappropriate in most units of the national park system. At the time it said PWCs were "high-performance vessels designed for speed and maneuverability and are often used to perform stunt-like maneuvers." In March of that year the agency, which also found that PWCs can be harmful to the environment, conflict with other users, and constitute a safety concern, issued a final rule prohibiting the use of PWC in national parks.

However, shortly after the Bush administration took office the Park Service cited 21 parks where PWCs had been allowed and gave them two years to finalize rules to continue the use, if they thought it was appropriate. Six of those parks decided to ban the watercraft. In fact, at Cape Lookout, Gulf Islands, and Pictured Rocks, PWC use was discontinued from 2002 to 2006. Last year, though, the Park Service reversed itself and began finalizing regulations to allow PWC use back in these park units.

At Cape Lookout, a much more peaceful and secluded national seashore than its big brother just to the north, Cape Hatteras, visitors can enjoy 56 undeveloped miles of beach front along with four barrier islands. While the lack of development is a big plus for marine life and shore birds, PWC use seemingly conflicts with that setting and even the seashore's mission.

In February 2006, when Cape Lookout officials were going through the process to draft PWC regulations, they noted that:

"Some research suggests that PWC use affects wildlife by causing interruption of normal activities, alarm or flight, avoidance of degradation of habitat, and effects on reproduction success," read the Federal Register notice. "This is thought to be a result of a combination of PWC speed, noise and ability to access sensitive areas, especially in shallow-water depths."

A bit further the report notes that "...experts from around the country have voiced concern that PWC activity can have negative impacts on marine mammals, disturbing normal rest, feeding, social interactions and causing flight."

"Toothed whales (included dolphins) produce sounds across a broad range of communication as well as echolocation, a process of creating an acoustic picture of their surroundings for the purpose of hunting and navigation," the narrative continues.

"Watercraft engine noise can mask sounds that these animals might otherwise hear and use for critical life functions and can cause temporary hearing threshold shifts. Bottlenose dolphins exposed to less than an hour of continuous noise at 96 dB experienced a hearing threshold shift of 12 to 18 dBs, which lasted hours after the noise terminated. A hearing threshold shift of this degree would substantially reduce a dolphin's echolocation and communication abilities."

When the decision was made in 2001 to ban PWCs at Gulf Islands -- a 160-mile stretch of barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, off the shores of Florida and Mississippi -- the Park Service supported that decision by explaining that “PWC use poses considerable threats to estuarine flora and fauna, pollutes waters essential to estuarine and marine health, poses unacceptable risks of injury to operators and bystanders, and conflicts with the majority of other longstanding uses of the Seashore.” Nonetheless, in May 2006 the Park Service reopened Gulf Islands to jet skis.

Today Friends of the Earth, The Wilderness Society, and the National Parks Conservation Association claim these reversals violate both the recently adopted Park Service Management Policies and a settlement agreement reached by the Park Service and Bluewater Network, a division of Friends of the Earth, in 2001. And they are calling on Mr. Kempthorne and Ms. Bomar to honor the Park Service's 2000 decision by reinstating the previous decisions to discontinue jet ski use at Gulf Islands, Cape Lookout, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

“The Park Service largely banned jet ski use based on findings that these machines threaten wildlife, damage water quality, and spoil other people’s visits,” says Danielle Fugere of Friends of the Earth. “The 2006 decision to re-open these parks to Jet Ski use without any new data appears to have been based on politics, not sound science.”

At The Wilderness Society, Kristen Brengel says that, “The mission of the national park system is not debatable. From the shores of Cape Lookout to the waters of Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks, these special places must be conserved for future generations. We hope Secretary Kempthorne and Director Bomar uphold their commitment to the mission of the Park Service and restore the protections for these park units by reinstating the bans on jet skis.”

“Our national park system holds some of our country’s most renowned beaches and wild lands,” adds Mary Munson of the NPCA. “All Americans should be able to enjoy these special places, not just for specific activities and definitely not for motorized recreation that damages waterways and disturbs the natural atmosphere.

"Jet skis are fine for some water bodies and can be enjoyed in lakes, seashores and rivers throughout the country, but in the national parks at issue here, their use violates a national standard of protection. We hope the Interior secretary and National Park Service director will allow future generations to visit the parks free of disturbances by ending damaging and dangerous jet ski use in Cape Lookout, Pictured Rocks, and Gulf Islands.”

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Comments

I say we just sell off the parks since we can't enjoy 'em anymore. I don't want a cent of my tax dollars supporting them either.

The parks were not created for us to enjoy,they were created to preserve natural habitat.Any use we get is and should be ancillary to that mission.

Anon's lament arises from a popular misconception about what Congress intended the national parks to be. Providing for public access and recreational use of the parks is most emphatically not ancillary to the central mission, it is a central OBLIGATION. Preservation and public use are explicitly identified as co-equal concerns. Here is the gist of it. Congress passed the Organic Act in 1916, creating the National Park Service. Two years later, Congress issued a Statement of Administrative Policy that instructed the fledgling agency to operate on the basis of three clearly enunciated principles, to whit:
• The national parks must be maintained in absolutely unimpaired form for the use of future generations.
• The parks are to be set aside for the use, observation, health, and pleasure of the people.
• The national interest must dictate all decisions affecting public or private enterprise in the parks.
Adhering faithfully to both of the first two principles is clearly impossible, of course, and therein lies the rub.
.

So Bob, how do Lake Mead and Powell fit into that paradigm? The Native American artifacts, cliff dwellings and rock art have all been destroyed by the government built dam and the natural canyon ecosystems have been inundated by hundreds of feet of water. Jet skis now rule the surface of the water column! Can you understand the confusion?

Would Stephen Mather understand this kind of park? Anon is not without merit as an entitled taxpaying park user.

I just said that the misconception was a popular one, not that it should be ignored as a factor affecting public attitudes toward specific park management decisions. Remember that the Park Service didn't establish the "preserve it absolutely unimpaired, but let the public use it as a pleasuring ground" policy. Congress did. And if you are a bureaucrat, you do what you are told -- or at least you fake it to the best of your ability. BuRec didn't give a hoot about any of the values you mentioned when the agency built the Hoover and Hells Canyon Dams and impounded those reservoirs. The dams were built to provide irrigation water, generate electricity, reduce flooding below the dams (now THERE'S a joke on us all!), and enhance flatwater recreation opportunities. When the Park Service was eventually given administrative responsibility the National Recreation Areas focused on those impoundments, the scenic canyons, Indian artifacts, and all the rest had already been inundated for a good long while and the Park Service had exactly zero-zippo-nada to say about whether that was a good idea or a bad one ( I vote for bad). Would Stephen Mather understand this kind of park? That's a very interesting question. Mather was a pragmatist who labored long and hard, twisting plenty of arms, to improve access to the parks and get more and better recreation facilities and lodging built in and near the parks. Mather believed that boosting recreational use of the parks would curry public favor, get Congress to provide more money and staffing for parks, and generate lots of ancillary benefits. That said, I believe that Mather would see the mass recreation excesses at Lake Mead NRA and the Glen Canyon NRA (encompassing Lake Powell) as examples of the extrapolation-to-absurdity syndrome. As a wise man once observed, and as many of us have learned the hard way, "up to a certain point, the more, the better; beyond that point, the more, the worse." Incidentally, I meant no disrespect to Anon and I have nothing against tax paying citizens.

So it's agreed that political considerations tend to dominate and often subvert the stated conservation mission of the NPS. This seems to be the general consensus among most contributors to this website, regardless of which end of the spectrum they find themselves on. From Merryland and Jim MacDonald to Frank and Lone Hiker to Fran Mainela and Ranger Melissa it is obvious that intrusive politics are the true bane of the national park system.

Maybe it's time to forge a different path. I've stated my views on some of the alternatives in many previous posts so I'll refrain from a review of them at this particular juncture.

I think that a cursory review of the articles and comments from this valuable website over the past year would amply highlight the problems, and most stem from partisan politics, whether it is Fran Mainela telling us she was urged, by her bosses upstairs, to ignore compelling science (which cost $10 million to obtain) in Yellowstone or caving in to pressure that sanctioned the wanton slaughter of bears in Alaska or forcing the NPS to accept a marginal park unit in New Jersey (that they deemed unworthy in their own assessment a few years back) simply because a Congressman wants to create some tourism pork in his district that the local government would never fund but will now use the coercive force of the federal leviathan to squeeze the taxpayers of Montana and Hawaii for a brand new park on the Passaic.

Will this type of system remain viable over the long haul? Would we be better off with something else? Do most people even really care?

These are the questions we need to seriously consider.

As a tax-paying citizen, I care about the effect jet skis, snowmobiles and other wildlife disturbing activities have on the environment. Wasn't the purpose of establishing these National Parks so that they could be kept in a natural and pristine order for the enjoyment of all, including future generations? If activities that disturb these conditions continue, what will be left? Certainly, there are other places to jet ski and snowmobile outside the NPS. I think ignorance plays a factor here and the only cure is getting more information out to the public. Who knows, maybe if Director Bomar and other key NPS people hear an outcry from the public, it may change their minds.

Did you know that the National Marine Manufacturers Association is one of many "transportation" lobby groups (including the International Snowmobiles Manufacturers Assn.) to spend millions to lobby National Park Service? As long as the NPS is in a political system, it will be subject to pressure from interest groups.
Read more at:
http://nps-reform.blogspot.com/

I, for one, want to commend Bob Janiskee for elevating the tone of comments on this site. I have great respect for the work that Kurt and Jeremy have done to raise issues about the parks and the NPS, yet have grown increasingly frustrated with the negativity of some commenters. The National Park Service is a political institution, subject to all the same forces that affect every other government agency. While many of its employees are absolutely outstanding, it is also a government agency and its employees are therefore subject to all the forces that affect every other government agency. Let's not be shocked or blame all of the problems that the parks have on either the agency or its employees. Instead, let's insist that the agency and its employees meet the highest standards.

And please, despite the cynicism that pervades so many posts, distinguish between the political appointees and the career civil servants, most of whom work hard for conservation and to fulfill the organic act ideals despite the "starve the beast" and "sell it out" mentality of our political masters.

Yes, I work for the NPS, and have done so for many years. It, like me, has its flaws. But I am proud to work for the agency and proud to be doing my part to make it better, and proud to both protect parks and to do what I can to help people enjoy them.

So thank you, Prof. Janiskee, for what you add to this blog.

AND, since the topic of the thread is supposed to be jet skis, over my dead body will they be allowed in any national park unit I am responsible for.

JLongstreet
a national park superintendent

So what happens Mr. Longstreet when you go to manage a park like Glen Canyon or Lake Mead? It's quite easy to make a declaration such as yours if all you end up administering are battlefields and fossil quarries.

A much more bold and courageous statement would be: "over my dead body will jet skis be allowed in any national park administered by the hallowed agency that issues my paycheck every two weeks". Just simply avoiding water parks during your career is not what I'd call a principled stand. In fact it is nothing more than self-aggrandizing pomposity.

By the way, what park are you the superintendent of Mr. Longstreet?

I think Mr. Longstreet has confused cynicism and criticism. Cynicism implies a pessimistic outlook and little hope for change, while criticism implies a serious examination and judgment of something. Criticism aims to induce change ("constructive" criticism), while cynicism implies pessimism and little hope for change. I think most critics who comment at NPT are hopeful that change will occur and believe that the management of our public lands does not necessarily have to be political. I think most critics who comment at NPT have shared constructive and alternative ideas, something a cynic would not do. I think criticism is necessary in a free society, and it is essential to maintaining our freedom.

By implying that criticism is the antithesis to "elevating the tone of comments", an attempt has been made to stifle critics who post at NPT. And by stating that the "topic of the thread is supposed to be jet skis", an attempt has been made to control the free discussion of ideas. (Incidentally, the first paragraph sets the topic: The directors of the DOI and NPS have been asked to let "science [not politics] guide management decisions". I'd say that all the comments are on topic, and if not, what's the harm? If a conversation thread is off topic, simply ignore it rather than trying to control the conversation.)

The propensity of those in charge in the NPS to squelch dissent is a major concern. If we don't allow people to speak their minds, to be critics, then how will we solve the problems national parks face, such as the wanton impairment of our national treasures by snowmobiles and jet skis?

http://nps-reform.blogspot.com/

PS

it is also a government agency and ... subject to all the forces that affect every other government agency

Then I guess the NPS has become "just another government bureaucracy" which is what was warned against when it was founded. If this is the case, perhaps we can come up with a new paradigm for managing the parks.

Well put Frank.

Superintendent Longstreet's comments take me back to my days as a mid-level supervisory ranger working in a major national park. I learned very quickly that any form of criticism or dissent that deviated from the top down chain-of-command group-think that would often pass as open and frank discussion in the NPS would generally be received as a form of disloyalty, or even worse yet, cynicism about "the mission". Oh heaven forbid!

The most important thing was to consistently strive to be a "team player" and to always go along to get along. You couldn't afford to get more than one evaluation stating that "Johnny doesn't play well with the other kids" before seeing your career prospects taking a noticeable free fall. As I've said in past posts risk takers and paradigm shifters are not to be found in large numbers in the NPS. It has NEVER been the path to a comfortable retirement.

In my own business I must have the frankest and most direct feedback I can get from my employees and customers in order to stay attuned and sharp as a relevant player in the marketplace. Without totally open and sometimes acidic feedback I would be lost and probably soon out of business. Results and customer satisfaction are all that matter and to be a success you're going to get your ego stomped on more than once.

Criticism is not cynicism Superintendent Longstreet.

I have spent a good portion of my career in water parks, Beamis, but I am not going to tell you which one I work in right now. All I will say is that I'm proud of what has happened under my tenure and the resource has come out consistently first in my decisions. I've also managed to get public support for most of those decisions because I understand that the parks are in a political context and success comes from building coalitions. My park has shown up periodically in NPT and, I think, looked pretty good in the process.

I choose not to work in places like Lake Mead or Glen Canyon, however. But however any of you may dislike those parks and their compromises, I suggest you sharpen your arrows for the Congress, which inserted them into the National Park System, rather than at the employees of those parks, who you seem to want to fall on their swords, time and time again. It's more valuable to fight the injustices of the recent Yellowstone and Big Cypress decisions, where big things are at stake and the superintendents there gave away far too much.

Some of us rail quite regularly at the inefficiencies of the system and work our damnedest to make things better. I'm proud of that and proud of my staff. In fact, I reflect quite often, Frank, about Horace Albright's admonition, and do whatever I can to fight the bureaucracy; but I choose my fights carefully so I can be effective and make actual changes, not simply rant for the sake of ranting. The Service has sunk to become a bureaucracy, I regret, but you confuse defense of the many fine employees with denial of the problem. We have lots of problems in this organization -- but you two seem to believe that every one of those problems is either the fault of the political system (and many are, I agree) or spineless employees or corrupt or overbearing supervisors. Are the only noble employees the ones that left, in your minds?

I was once a seasonal GS-3, a GS-4, a GS-5, etc. and never would have believed that someone who bucks the system as often as I have would succeed in the NPS. But I did, and there are more of us than you might believe. What I have learned, though, is that what seems like constructive criticism is often ineffective or based (and I speak from my own experience) on what we wish the NPS was under a law that doesn't exist, rather than what it is under the laws that do exist. In my park, I encourage discussion and ask my entire staff for critique; but the most valuable critique is from those who understand the legal and political context of the decision that needs to be made and recognize that to be considered, the input needs to be timely and focused on the issues, not simply ideals. I now understand that some of the dumb decisions I thought I saw superintendents make weren't so dumb; but of course, some were. Perspective comes from experience.

So: bottom line. Let's have a discussion. Let's respect other opinions. You're certainly free to rail against the NPS and its employees all you want, but if you continue to do so you'll drive away the few remaining insiders or retirees who believe -- as I hope you do -- that the parks, and the National Park Service, are not a lost cause. I participate in NPT because I choose to and I have no ability to stifle your comments. But I may give it up because I spend all day at my park trying to focus on the things that make a positive difference and I can only spend so much of my evening arguing with you over the things that don't.

JLongstreet

And yet, every once in a while, criticism and cynicism are inextricably linked...

Merryland: You're off topic! :p But here's a fun quote:

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
George Bernard Shaw

So while we're wandering way off topic I'd like to offer this gem: "A cynic is just a well informed optimist".

Let's respect other opinions.

This reminds me of a passage in Jonathan Rauch's Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. Rauch related a conversation where someone demanded: "The least you can do is respect my opinion." The other participant replied, "No — respect isn't the least I can give your opinion; it is the most."

Respect for an opinion can't be given. It must be earned. I'll agree to respect the individual, but opinions are to be challenged; opinions are fodder for discussion and should be subject to intense scrutiny.

I and others have shared our observations that there are hard working employees in the DOI and NPS. I have the pleasure to work under several articulate, responsible, responsive, intelligent, and competent supervisors. I can say the same about some co-workers. But for every one supervisor or co-worker cut from this mold, I can cite one or two examples of co-workers who were inarticuluate, irresponsible, unresponsive, doltish, and incompetent. And many of those shining examples have been actively driven from the service or have hit a ceiling while the anti-models have been promoted and have climbed the GS scale. Yes, "the idots are everywhere" as my mentor told me. But in the civil service, they are supported by tax payers and extremely difficult to remove. That's something that Beamis, Lone Hiker, and I have observed and commented on in other locations.

National parks are not a lost cause, but I believe the NPS has become an unresponsive, calcified bureaucrasy and think our national parks deserve better. I doubt this statement has enough power to drive away others who believe otherwise. I hope that it will drive them to the lifeboats or at least wake them to the fact that the ship is sinking in a political quagmire.

Superintendent Longstreet in response to your statement: "I suggest you sharpen your arrows for the Congress, which inserted them into the National Park System, rather than at the employees of those parks, who you seem to want to fall on their swords, time and time again", I'd like to say that if you have been a regular reader of this website you'd see this is exactly what I've done. In fact, in this very thread, I wrote about how the Congress was "forcing the NPS to accept a marginal park unit in New Jersey (that they deemed unworthy in their own assessment a few years back) simply because a Congressman wants to create some tourism pork in his district that the local government would never fund but will now use the coercive force of the federal leviathan to squeeze the taxpayers of Montana and Hawaii for a brand new park on the Passaic."

Could I have made my view more plain about the chicanery that is inherent in the U.S. Congress saddling the NPS with "park barrel" units? For once I'd like to hear a currently employed manager of the NPS stand up and be heard on this subject and not wait until they are safely retired and getting their monthly checks before they'll speak up about issues of great importance to the well being of the parks. The fact that you yourself wish to remain anonymous speaks volumes about the institutional culture you're on the lookout to protect your career from.

All I have been saying is there are other ways to skin a cat when it comes to protecting park lands besides the 100 year-old model we are currently employing to the exclusion of other, possibly better, models and systems. That this notion would threaten career level managers and seem to be cynical to those with a great stake in the current paradigm does not surprise me in the least.

Is it merely cynical negativity to suggest that a top-down military style bureaucracy, slow to change and mired in thick layers of intractable politics should be broken up or actually abolished and replaced with a variety of other models of resource protection? I say it is not. This process is not only necessary it is actually what is going to happen.

Geez, I hate to see these four guys working in the same park: Longstreet, Beamis, Frank and Merryland! Could be utter chaos! With each quoting something from Muir to Bernard Shaw, all trying to out do each other rhetorically, if not poetically or politically in words or deeds. Amazing bunch! Long Live The Parks!
P.S. I think Longstreet is on to something positive.

Or maybe the creative tension would create something dynamic and worthwhile. It's always a big mistake to think success comes from marching in lockstep to a rigid set of management plans and top-down policy initiatives. In fact if you look around at many of the world's truly successful organizations they all tend to thrive on the give and take of diverse approaches and opinions. This is certainly true of such entities as Google, Apple, Toyota and FedEx. It certainly does not characterize government enterprise which many of you will soon experience on your next visit to the post office or local DMV.

Good evening--

Longstreet has quite a few things right, Anonymous. And one of them that is most right is that Beamis and Frank have hijacked the NPT site by constantly bitching about the incompetence of the NPS and its employees. As Longstreet observed, this will eventually drive current employees and retirees like myself from Kurt and Jeremy's very welcome NPS discussion forum. I know I don't read it as often as I used to, primarily because of the steady stream of negativity coming from them. It really doesn't matter what the topic is; the refrain is always the same: "NPS supervisors and managers are at best imcompetent, at worst corrupt. Very few of these managers have the courage to do the right things. The incompetent ones climb the GS ladder; the competent ones leave. The NPS is hostage to political influences. Pork barrel parks are everywhere....."

I am sorry that Frank and Beamis didn't find the NPS a good agency for which to work. I'm sorry that felt they had to leave. I am not sure, however, that I would have wanted their toxic points of view in any park in which I worked. I welcomed creative tension. I despised constant negativity.

I allso assume that Longstreet has more reason to cloak his identity than do Frank and Beamis.

Rick Smith

I'd only point out that Superintendent Longstreet was also loudly lamenting the negative politics of an uncaring Congress saddling the NPS with inappropriate parks. He seems to agree with me on at least a few things.

Kurt and Jeremy are free to ask me to stop contributing if they feel my postings are a poisonous cancer on this website and I will respectfully comply. The truth of the matter is that many folks, including a lot of current rangers, do see the NPS as a politically compromised organization in decline and I can tell you this with some degree of knowledge garnered from a wide variety of personal contacts among active rangers in the field. The Pat Buccello scandal is not an isolated incident nor is the political arm twisting that Fran Mainela recently spoke out about concerning snowmobiles in Yellowstone. (As usual she waited until she was a former employee before coming out with the truth). If you think the majority of my postings are simply the bitter ravings of a disgruntled former employee I respectfully declare you to be wearing blinders, which a successful career in the agency often requires.

This is NOT about having an ax to grind but calling it like I see it. I care about the future of the parks and for the most part see the long-term solution to their continued viability as something other than the current business model of a military-style civil service bureaucracy headquartered in Washington, DC.

As for any lingering bitterness you think I may possess I have none, as I am quite happy in my current life and pursuits and left the ranks of the green & gray on good terms, highly evaluated and amply awarded. If my somewhat dim view of the bureaucratic machinations inherent in the operations of the NPS is perceived as blatant negativity I challenge you to engage me in a spirited defense of your beloved agency or to politely ignore it. If I'm a crank at least I strive to be an articulate and reasoned one.

By the way my recent post on the Petrified Forest was laudatory of both the rangers and the park. Did you get a chance to read that one?

I can't add much to what Beamis has said, but will offer the same: "Kurt and Jeremy are free to ask me to stop contributing if they feel my postings are a poisonous cancer on this website and I will respectfully comply."

Mr. Smith, when addressing Congress, you said, "As a matter of generational equity and of respect for those who came before us, we should manage [national parks] with the highest regard for their resource integrity and their ability to remind us of who we are as a people and a nation. We should not be careless with this legacy nor allow it to be subjected to a political agenda." [Emphasis added.]

When you addressed the ANPR in 2004, you stated that we are falling "into the trap that Albright warned us about years ago about becoming just another federal bureaucracy"; you attribute this to forgetting traditions, while I attribute it to the growth of the size of the system and government, both of which are not mutually exclusive.

I wholeheartedly agree with you and have been expressing those opinions, which are based on my experiences and research. We might disagree on a possible solution, but our concern is the same.

Frank and Beamis, I don't read every post; I browse NPT selectively. I'm nonetheless pleased to see that we agree on some things and that you've on occasion been complimentary to NPS employees. It's a nice side of you guys; you should try using it more often. We all agree that the NPS has problems and needs to be held accountable; Rick Smith and I simply want it to succeed where it often appears that you'd prefer it to fail. I'm sure we'd both be happy to be proven wrong about that.

One of my NPS mentors once told me that MY negativity was a drain on the organization and compromised my ability to achieve my pro-resource objectives. That was a wake up call for me. It caused me to think more critically, to understand the reasons for my frustrations and anger, and channel that energy into more positive, and more selective, communications. It's allowed me to get far more accomplished since then, and win more allies. Which also means more victories and less tilting at windmills. I am pretty confident that the track record doesn't show that as the point I entered the dark side, either.

Enough about you, and enough about me. I'm signing off of this thread.

J Longstreet

If people tell you that your negative energy sucks the life out of a room when you enter it, it's time to take a long, hard look at the way you relate to others.

The bottom line is that Anonymous and Mr. Smith are attempting to neutralize two critics of the current system by labeling their postings as nothing more than blatant negativity. If the truth be known Frank and I have repeatedly made suggestions and shared our ideas for forging a different path in the management of the national parks. In the meantime we have also continued to point out the failings and political corruption of the current system, as a good many of the featured articles on this website readily attest to, as a means of bolstering our point. This is what caring watchdogs do when they wish to keep the pressure on those in charge to bring meaningful change or a full-scale deconstruction into something totally new.

I'm glad that Superintendent Longstreet is able to "understand the reasons for my frustrations and anger, and channel that energy into more positive, and more selective, communications." I'm sure those skills are important in maintaining a career in the current system but I do not share the same abiding faith in that system that he does.

The truth is that I love the parks but don't trust their politically driven administering agency to accomplish the job of preserving and protecting them over the long haul. There is currently too much waste, corruption, careerism and politics for the critical functions to be carried out in an effective manner. That is my stand and as long as there is a forum to discuss better ways to do it I will.

This website is about supporting the parks, not worshiping the government agency that has a monopoly on their administration. Instead of attacking us I suggest they'd both look a whole lot more credible if they engaged us on our ideas instead.

"We don't want you to stop commenting. But we think you've more than made your feelings known about what you think of the Park Service and its employees. The Traveler is not the forum for this continued condemnation." Kurt Repanashek

I will respect the wishes of NPT and cease posting comments at the NPT site critical to the status quo of national parks management. NPT is a private endeavor. NPT is not subject to the protections of the First Amendment; that's one thing it has in common with the NPS.

It's regrettable that grown adults cannot simply ignore that with which they do not wish to contend. Instead, they censor. They silence. They misrepresent.

My comments have been called shrill, but if you search the record, you'll mostly find reasoned arguments about wrestling national park management from the quagmire of partisan politics. Occasionally, I've been Abbey-esque, but it's a sad statement that NPT wouldn't welcome Cactus Ed's opinions and writing. Those seeking to perpetuate the current paradigm of political management of national parks mislabel criticism as negativity, and in that way, NPT further resembles the NPS. Because of comments critical of NPS bureaucracy, supposedly "in extreme cases, folks simply are not returning to the Traveler." I would enjoy seeing some hard evidence on that, and would beg to differ. Healthy debate attracts participation, and if you look at the posts with the most comments, they are usually hot topics with a lot of debate.

Regardless, I'll take the debate elsewhere. Stop by my homepage from time to time. Leave a comment if you support park management unfettered from political partisanship. More importantly, leave a comment if you don't.

"Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage."
-- Winston Churchill

"Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed -- and no republic can survive."
--JFK

http://nps-reform.blogspot.com/

Frank, it's your constant scab picking at that NPS that irritates. We understand your grievances run deep and hard, but your losing your point by the constant brow beating on the parks. The less said, the better the impact! I think you're being a bit overly sensitive about Kurt's comments about slowing the constant negativity. You have made your point many times over. However, your comments are well taken with some merit.

Every single person who contributes comments to NPT is a resource -- somebody with experiences to share, insights to offer, questions to challenge us with. Consider J Longstreet, for example. Isn't it great that a park superintendent wants to share in our forum? There are fewer than 400 national park superintendents in the entire country, for crying out loud, and these are exactly the people we need to be hearing from and talking to and yes, even trying to persuade. We need to engage them even if we don’t agree with all the things they say, all the views they hold, all the things they want to do. And what happened to this superintendent when he joined in and commented? He got dissed by several of our commenters (you know who you are) in a mean-spirited way, as though he were an enemy to be disposed of. No effective leader achieves important goals by throwing away valuable resources, cutting off critical lines of communication, and insisting that “it’s my way or the highway.” Let’s not drive each other away. Everybody’s a resource.