Recent comments

  • Photography In The National Parks: Avoid Those Bison (And Other Wildlife) Jams   3 weeks 5 days ago

    When John Townsley was superintendent of Yellowstone, he was on the way to an important meeting with a carload of bigwigs. They came across a bear or elk jam and one of the bigwigs suggested they push through it. Townsley just sat and waited. He told the impatient Important Man that most of these people have never seen anything like this and never will see it again. "Let's allow them to enjoy it," he said.

    There are times when some frustration bubbles up in me when I hit another jam. But then I remember how very fortunate I am that for me, a once in a lifetime experience has become commonplace.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 5 days ago


    Don't believe SELC check the links provided. The spring shoulder season for some very specfic business might be off. I say might because some of the busness doing the complaining are avid ORV users themselves. I don't believe the fall season is at all. Actually I think the fall season is better because the few that didn't come in the spring for Red Drum fishing postponed their trip to the fall.

    Yes I can assure you I do live on HI, in Buxton, and have for probably longer than you have been vacationing here.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 5 days ago

    Maybe someone else can shed some light on economic analysis and what economic considerations are expected with respect to the Organic Act and NEPA when forming new rules. I'm under the impression that NEPA is the guiding instrument when management decisions are made concerning economic implications of new rules not the Organic Act. As far as CAHA was concerned the government's economic analysis didn't find any problems. I don't see anything written in the EL for CAHA where local economic interest supersedes what was intended for the management of CAHA.

    Beachdumb just making a claim that the local economy has suffered because of new management is not good enough even if you have operate a business near the Park you need some proof to back it up with.

    "With the exception of 2011, when Hurricane Irene cut off access to Hatteras Island for nearly two months, visitation to Cape Hatteras National Seashore has remained steady or increased for the past nine years, from a low of 2,125,005 (in 2006) and a high of 2,302,040 in 2012. In the first year of management under the Final Rule, Seashore visitation was the highest since 2003.

    Cape Hatteras National Seashore visitation

    2012 - 2,302,040

    2011 - 1,960,711 *

    2010 - 2,193,292

    2009 - 2,282,543

    2008 - 2,146,392

    2007 - 2,237,378

    2006 - 2,125,005

    2005 - 2,260,628

    *Hurricane Irene cut access for nearly two months(See “Annual Park Visitation” Report for CAHA at

    Dare County, NC, where the majority of the Seashore is located, reports that visitor occupancy tax receipts for each year under the court ordered ORV restrictions (2008 to 2012) exceeded receipts in 2007 and prior years, with 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012 setting successive records for all-time high receipts. Tourism revenue for Hyde County, NC (the Ocracoke Island portion of Cape Hatteras National Seashore) has held steady or increased since 2005, to a record high $31.69 million in 2011. The chart below shows tourism revenue data for Hyde and Dare Counties, both before the court ordered ORV restrictions went into effect in 2008 and afterwards.


    This analysis agrees with my own observations as a full time resident on Hatteras Island. Right now unless something catastrophic occurs with Oregon Inlet bridge or highway 12 I predict 2014 will be an excellent year for business and tourism, even with the disruption of the 4th of July weekend by Hurricane Arthur. It doesn't appear to be any problems with visitation or the economy: lots of busy restaurants, grocery stores, shops, no vacancy signs and larger than usual number of people in the NPS Oceanside Parking lots. I don't see the smoke the ORV orgs are telling everyone.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 5 days ago

    Nothing from the SELC is trustworthy. This group is very well known for cherry picking, half truths and misinterepreation. Ask any HI business how the shoulder season economy has been since 2003. Since you claim to live there, I'll wait for your answer.

  • Photography In The National Parks: Avoid Those Bison (And Other Wildlife) Jams   3 weeks 5 days ago

    Are the park roads to be treated like every other public road?

    Is it ok for you to cross double yellow lines and cut in front of over 15 cars patiently waiting for the bison to move out of the way? I am a YNP visitor and I have seen you in action, Deby. I suggest anyone that has been in a bison jam taking photos and video review them for evidence of a black Nitro barreling her way through a herd.

    I ask you wait your turn and stop trying to own the park. We are all visitors. I know one day I'm going to read about a calf being hit because it came out from between two cars the very moment you raced by. (You don't inch along)

    {Ed. note: this comment has been edited in accordance with our code of conduct.}

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    I as "small government" as one can get and agree that better efficiencies can be obtained. That said, I see no problem with fees in some cases. I agree with the tiered fee system. Similar (in kind and public demand) parks would have the same fees with the top fee capped - I like the current $20.00. These fees would cover a set of basic services with "premium" services being paid ala-carte.

    Backcountry fees of $5 bucks - no problem, if they are applied to backcountry services not to some unneeded reservation system.

    American the Beautiful at $80. Its a deal if you use it a lot but you need to visit 5+ fee charging parks to make it pay. Most people don't do that and to encourage more frequent visits isn't a bad thing.

    $10 seniors - a give away - but don't change it until next year ;)

    International. If they are spending the bucks to get here, they can afford to pay the entrance fees.

    A digression, but left Great Basin park today. No entrance fee. Great Basin is proof positive that putting NP on the name doesn't create a vibrant gateway city. Baker is a virtual ghost town. Its the land and location that creates the gateway cities not the NP label. Great Basin is no Yellowstone and Baker is no Cody.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Agree tnbackpacker. Can tomorrow's question be "how can we get creative to ELIMINATE all fees for our parks"

  • Photography In The National Parks: Avoid Those Bison (And Other Wildlife) Jams   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Great point Jim, about using caution when pulling out. It is important to find out why everyone is stopped and make sure passing can be done safely for animals and humans. Sure glad to hear that the bears survived that crossing.

    And, I agree about more pullouts and parking. The park recently re-did the Calcite Springs/Tower road where numerous black bears like to hang out with their tiny cubs, which is a huge draw for people. With this in mind, more parking and wider shoulders might have been wise. Also, we have lost many pullouts this year to horse trailers that have their own designated parking areas, which were enlarged, and can park in regular lots as well, while we can not park in their lots when not being utilized. The park service expects us to park properly but we don't have sufficient space to do so.

  • Photography In The National Parks: Avoid Those Bison (And Other Wildlife) Jams   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Thanks for raising an important topic. These bison, bear and moose jams can be a difficult situation for everyone involved. For visitors who have never seen these animals in the wild, the temptation to stop and look, even if there's no safe place to so, is more than many can resist. In many cases, other drivers caught in such tie-ups aren't sure whether to try to pull around or wait it out. While I understand the reluctance to pave even more of the landscape (and the cost), I agree that in places like Yellowstone, some additional pullouts where the terrain allows them to be placed fairly easily would help.

    The result of these roadside wildlife situations can be hazardous to motorists and animals. A few weeks ago, we were in Waterton Lakes N.P. (just across the border from Glacier), when a sow grizzly and two cubs ambled out into the road right in front of us. I was glad I had time to stop and avoid an accident; I put on my flashers to warn a vehicle coming up behind me, and tapped the horn to encourage the bears to proceed.

    The second vehicle came up behind us and stopped, but then a third (apparently a "local" based on his Alberta tag) came up behind, and had no intention of waiting. He zoomed around us faster than was prudent and nearly hit the adult bear, who had decided to continue on across the road. A close call for all.

    Lesson learned - if you're going to pull out into the "wrong lane" and bypass other vehicles stopped in such jams, do so with caution.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    If the federal government cannot manage it with the funds they have, let the states do it then. The mismanagement is ridiculous.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Philosophically and practically I am basically opposed to fees to use facilities which are taxpayer funded. For example, researchers do not have to pay to use public archives and no one pays to use libraries which hold or are designated as depositories for public documents.

    That being out of the way, and Kurt may reprimand me for what follows but I am genuinely trying to address the issue of fees, I do have three thoughts.

    (1) IF (and I've already noted I'm opposed) fees are to be charged, I strongly believe all veterans should get free entrance. They have served us all, often done so at considerable sacrifice to family and their personal well-being, and at least in the lower ranks invariably done so at pay scales which don't exactly equate to a top-drawer lifestyle or financial well-being. They deserve some type of token thank you (sure aren't getting it through VA health care) and this would be one way to do that. Incidentally, if I may for a moment sermonize--take time whenever you can to thank those men and women who have served in our armed forces.

    (2) The approach to concessionaires needs a thorough analysis and major reworking. Two posts above, one on the lodge on Mt. LeConte and the money-making machine it is for the operators and the other on the absolutely exorbitant costs for lodging and meals in some parks, highlight what is a general issue. I have no problem whatsoever with concessionaires making a reasonable living and return on their efforts. However, there is something fundamentally flawed when they are profiting in an incredible fashion. Also, in the situation I know best, there has long been a behind-the-scenes kind of favoritism with certain concessionaires.

    (3) Take a long, objective look at the salaries paid Park employees, especially those at the higher pay grades and examine just how functional and effective the overall bureaucracy is. Again, in the system I know best, there is and long has been bureaucratic bloat.

    Addressing points 2 and 3 admittedly won't resolve all Park-related monetary issues, but it would make a mighty fine start.

    Jim Casada

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    I'll try to keep this in bullet points:

    Entrance fees: Group the parks into tiers (I can think of perhaps 5). Entrance fees for all parks within a tier should be the same. Tiers could be based on attendance or on facilities provided (for instance, does the park offer a shuttle service). Then price accordingly. I can see the top parks charging $40-$50 for a 7 day pass, mid-tier $20, lower tier $10, etc. Keep the existing system of charging per car, not per person - the parks should do all they can to encourage families to come and charging per person will price many families out.

    Campgrounds: Keep the fee structure as is.

    Passes: Seniors should have to pay a per year fee for a deeply discounted pass ($20/year would be reasonable). Permanently disabled and military veterans should receive free lifetime passes. No discounts for 18-64. They should raise the regular America the Beautiful pass fee to $100/yr (that's still only 5 of the bigger parks to get your money's worth). Keep the system in place that allows international travelers to buy the standard AtB pass, there's no reason to have a special international pass. Allow each park the ability to have their own yearly park pass that is good only in that park.

    Backcountry camping permits for established backcountry campsites should be $5/night across all parks.

    High impact activities such as ATV, ORV or mountain biking (where allowed) should have special use fees to cover the maintenance those activities require.

    "Drive through" parks such as Smoky Mountain are trickier but I do think that there should be an entrance fee to access places like Cades Cove and to park at trailheads for hiking.

    Finally, your entrance fee should cover all activites not listed above, such as ranger-led programs, access to all public areas of a park, visitor's center activities, and park shuttles.

    My rationale for this is simple - park systems that charge entrance and use fees, even nominal fees, are healthier park systems than those that do not. This is most evident on the state level, especially in the Midwest where the contrast between those states that charge an entrance fee (Michigan/Wisconsin/Indiana) and those that do not (Illinois/Iowa) is night and day.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    I agree we shouldn't be talking about how fees should be structured but how to get rid of all these random fees. I can't tell when I am in a park what requires a fee and what doesn't. Maybe an entrance fee but certainly not backcountry fees, paddling fees, etc. Surely the guy saying they should charge 4x the fee for entering a park must indeed work for the NPS they seem to have never met a fee or fee hike they didn't love.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago
    No problem at all about disagreeing with fees, and that's been debated frequently on this site. For purposes of this one thread, let's focus on a more specific topic: IF fees are to be charged, how should they be structured? Plenty of room for good discussion there, with some starting points included in the story.
  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    NPT Editors,

    With all due respect, the slant of this article implies that there is a general consensus that people agree there needs to be additional fees within the NPS. I find it difficult to believe that is the case. By disallowing conversations that argue the opposite are you not, in essence, doing that of which the NPS itself stands accused ? Is there data to imply that the general public thinks fees are a favorable option? There are many organized groups that are on the other side of this thing.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Folks, as noted in the article above, " for today's question let's avoid those debates and get creative in crafting a reasonable fee schedule for the parks." Let's stay focused on the specific topic, please.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    I knew this fee talk would bring the NPS employees out of the woodwork and from under logs. . Cutting staff is what the NPS needs to be doing. When I hear that they hire a backcountry specialist and all these other needless positions within the agency who can do nothing better than come up with ideas to fund their positions and pay for their retirement then the time has come for this conversation.

    Why is it that an agency that has had a steady increase in funds for years can poor mouth and denigrate any one who questions their all knowing fee authority? Some folks need to get off our government computers and get back to work serving the public instead of justifying their ballooning ranks.

  • Exploring The Parks: Fossil Butte National Monument In Windswept Wyoming   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Lee, you are so right. We hit up Fossil Butte on our drive between Jackson Hole and Dinosaur National Monument. Its about 3 hours from Jackson Hole. Great visitor center but even better is the digging at adjacent quarries. Spent a good 3 hours digging up fossils with a private company. We have a lot of awesome fossils in a shadow box in our house. An awesome experience. If digging up fossils is your thing, check out which is in Delta Utah between Great Basin and Salt Lake City. Another great experience.

  • Photography In The National Parks: Avoid Those Bison (And Other Wildlife) Jams   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Bison, Bear and other Wildlife Jams are a part of the Yellowstone experience that will only be resolved by adding more pull outs at key points and widening the roads to allow for safer traffic patterns. Until then -- we all have to be considerate of new visitors seeing their FIRST bison, bear, elk or whatever. Patience is the key. As for the Author of this piece -- her advice is geared toward the visitors she considers impeding her from getting to her OWN photo shoot -- wolves, etc. She can't even abide by her own advice --- she says "Stopping in the road in Yellowstone is illegal, as it is anywhere, but more than that it is rude to other visitors who might need to be somewhere at a certain time, or have other plans for their day".... and later on allows herself to violate the advice she gives the rest of us by saying that she herself stops "in the road to take photos, if no one is behind me, but have found that I need to watch behind me more closely because one of the law enforcement rangers seems to find me every single time." That's a little self-serving. I have a lot of respect for her skills as a photographer -- but find her advice on bison jams unbalanced and serving her own interests. There are all kinds of visitors with varying levels of experience with wildlife. Be safe...and have patience with your fellow visitors...and don't get in Author's way...she has her OWN photos to take -- so get out of her way...she can't be bothered by tourists.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    I think that someone asking for no fees to then call the NPS "the worst case of entitlement mentality I have ever seen" is someone living a life of irony.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    The America the Beautiful pass is great value, I would happily pay more - say 100 or 120 $ - for it. Coming from Europe I appreciate that non-US visitors can always purchase the pass as well.

    What's the sense behind the senior pass reduction anyway? These folks are usually quite wealthy AND have a lot of time to spend in parks. They should pay the same price as others.

    I also don't understand the free pass for Military personnel. They should pay, too.

    Just a dream: a hefty extra charge for drivers of very loud, large and otherwise disturbing vehicles (motorbikes, massive RVs).

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Face it the Feds are broke and that is only going to get worse. The National Parks are way to valuable to let go into decline and users fees are the only viable, reliable funding source available. Current fees are woefully inadequate and rediculously low. The Grand Canyon is looking at a $150 million replacement of the water line that supports the heavily visited South Rim. That exceeds the capital budget of the entire NPS.

    Thoughts on specific fees:

    Entrance fees - Six Flags tickets currently run about $60 PER DAY PER adult and $40 PER DAY PER child. The Grand Canyon is $25 per vehicle for up to seven days. A serious imbalance. Entry fees should be raised at least four fold and reduced to three days. Passes should be good within that time period at other Parks, i.e. your Grand Canyon Park will get you into Zion and/or Bryce. The argument against the entry fees is access, but when you look at the cost of taking a family of four from the midwest to the Grand Canyon the entry fee is a trivial part of the cost, even at the proposed levels. Gas, food and lodging costs for a family are several times what the entry fee amounts to. In general a reduction in attendance at most parks would be a good thing. Most are being degraded by over use.

    Senior Pass - I have one, love it, but it is ridiculously cheap. Senior discounts are typically 10 - 20%. The Senior Pass should be in line with that. The pass can remain a forever pass, just reduce the benefit to a percentage discount..

    Military Service - Every member of the armed services should receive a free pass into all parks good for life.

    Special User Fees - Horses, pack animals, ATV's and other ORV's should pay an additional fee to cover the administrative, management, and other costs of their activities. Fee should be based on a fair share of these costs.

  • "Paddling Protection Act" Raises Debate Over Wilderness Travel In Yellowstone National Park   3 weeks 6 days ago

    NPS like most bureaucracies is slow to change and update rules. I don't know the inner workings, and people on this site should be able to fill in, but there seems to be quite an aversion to changing anything. Is it because it requires more paperwork and more work than just going along with the status quo?

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Buxton, you know eco groups are the ones that were totally unwilling compromise. If those options were even remotely viable, the NPS would have implemented them on their own. The RegNeg was a failure and what we ended up with was totally derived from the NPS and the threat of law suits by the eco groups.

    Closing miles of beach to ALL, new restrictions, fees/permits, and pedestrian closures in front of village houses can't possibly increase tourism.The economic engine of the CHNSRA lost a couple cylinders due to promise's of the NPS being broken.

    Does the EL, Organic Act and ESA take into any consideration the economic impacts to the surrounding areas? Didn't seem to in case of the CHNSRA.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Would You Structure User Fees For The National Parks?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    I’ll start by saying I think the National Parks are one of the best values around. I actually feel good handing over my entrance fee when entering one of the parks. That is not to say I don’t think there is room for improvement (I will limit my comments to just the parks. Monuments, seashores etc. I would handle somewhat differently).

    I think $25 for a seven day pass per vehicle is a bargain but should a single person wishing to enter the park pay the same as a car full of 6 adults or a family? I would charge a fee for each adult entering the park rather than a vehicle fee and perhaps a small fee for each child. A $10 lifetime senior pass is ridiculous to me. I would charge seniors the same as every other adult. I would not give special treatment to any group based on age (children being the exception). I would definitely charge an entrance fee to all of the parks and yes I would make them all the same (including the Smokies).

    In general I am a fan of user fees over taxes where practical but I wouldn’t get too carried away. I think the current system has it about right. Added fees for horse use, backcountry camping, a boat ride, climbing etc. are fine and make sense to me. As best I could I would base the fees on actual costs so that those activities were self-supporting.

    There are two areas I see room for improvement, concessions and lodging. In my experience both of these seem overpriced. I don’t think lodging or food inside a park should cost significantly more than outside the park and both should be kept affordable. At many parks it is now out of reach of many Americans. I don’t see a place for $400 per night accommodations or gourmet meals in our parks any more than I think everyone should be forced to camp or pack a lunch. The fact that they can charge this much does not in my opinion mean they should.