Recent comments

  • Of Gray Whales, National Parks, and Climate Change   5 years 27 weeks ago

    The Eastern Pacific gray whale is not subject to commercial hunting or blatantly fake "research" harvesting of the type that Japan is notorious for. Treaty provisions do make a small (and very controversial) allowance for aboriginal/subsistence harvest.

  • At Gateway Arch, a Two-Week Blackout Benefits Migrating Birds   5 years 27 weeks ago

    How wonderful that we are doing something to help migrating birds. I have had readers comment that they have not had any swallows nesting for the first time in 25 years. I have had other readers say swallow numbers are the same. I am in England.

    I think we all realise that it is complicated to find out why swallow numbers decline, but a lot of the problems could come when they are migrating. Anything that helps swallows and other migratory birds is a marvellous thing.
    Trisha

  • Of Gray Whales, National Parks, and Climate Change   5 years 27 weeks ago

    I was so very fortunate to see an amazing gray whale yesterday on Santa Maria beach yesterday 9/17/09. I don't know how rare this is this time of year. I was totally awestruck as to how close the beautiful whale was. I thought at first it was a seal as it was 30-50 yards out (as confirmed by 4 others on the beach - guessing more towards 30 yards). Then when the beautiful mammal came up and blew out water and I saw the gray I figured it was a very young gray...pretty small. It may have been young but it certainly was not small as it's second breach it really showed it's full top (I could see much of the whale under the water from the beach) and then the upper tail came out 5-10 seconds later. I would estimate the gray to be at least 20-25 feet long at a minimum because of the duration between the breaching of the blowhole to the breaching of the top-front of the tale. There must be a good drop off but I never did see it's full tail out of water.....probably because as mentioned above this is seen when the whale dives down. It was a magical experience getting to walk/jog alongside this beautiful earthling for nearly an hour and nearly a mile. He/she seemed to wave goodbye as the last time I saw him it seemed like it showed it's side fin (maybe I imagined this but it's only real if you believe!). It definitely felt very spiritual and I'm still feeling high off the experience!

    Is this what the Japanese are hunting?!?! Aren't they protected Internationally?!?! Hats off to those daring people that try to stop it from happening.

    [This comment was edited]

  • SPOT – The Good, the Bad and the Silly Uses for Those High-Tech Communicators   5 years 27 weeks ago

    I'm all for the SPOT device and its uses because I own one myself but I do agree on the "boy who cried wolf." I would of never bought one myself but was given one as a gift from my parents and absolutely love it and would recommend it to anyone venturing into the backcountry. When on vacation in Arches National Park in August 2009 the SPOT device helped me save a guys life on the Devil's Garden Primitive Loop Trail. Response time from hitting the 9-1-1 button to first Ranger on scene was two hours which is pretty good in my opinion. Thanks for the article and I can't wait to get the new version of the device!

  • Historic Railroad Bridge in New York State Becomes Part of National Trails System   5 years 27 weeks ago

    To Some Guy, it is not likely that any federal funds will go into maintenance. Generally, federal funds for transportation projects go only to construction, and the states must maintain it.

    To Kurt, it might be worth mentioning Congressman Maurice Hinchey rather than, or at least in addtion to, Salazar. Mr. Hinchey is one of the strongest advocates of the National Park System and Service in the Congress. He has been on both the National Parks subcommittee for authorizing legislation, and is now on the Interior subcommittee of Appropriations, which has funding jurisdiction over parks. Few Members of Congress from New York would seek national park committee assignments, but Hinchey has, and has stuck with it.

    And, most everyone sees Hinchey as the guy who spent years saving this bridge, and seeking funding at several levels to make this project happen. And, he hung in there as project after project for the 400th Anniversary crashed and burned, Hinchey's insistence kept this project on line, when other important projects, such as for Governors Island in New York Harbor, had no local advocates with the skill and persistence of Hinchey. Hinchey has been seeking ways to link historic and natural resources up and down New York State, from linkages such as Recreation Trails and greenways, to networks of people and advocates. It is no easy task linking the west bank with the east bank of the Hudson, who need to pull together to protect and enjoy this magnificent river. Hinchey reminds me of the kind congressional advocates for National Parks that used to fill the U.S. Congress, but sadly do not anymore.

    Without Hinchey, Salazar would have had nothing to celebrate.

  • Joshua Tree National Park Nabs Man Accused of Scattering Thousands of Golf Balls in the Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park deals with the cleanup of assorted "offerings to Pele" that are scattered all around. Sometimes it's just a ti leaf around a rock, but often it's fruit, alcoholic beverages, or even meat. They not only have problems with litter, but it's creating a problem with the local wildlife.

  • Joshua Tree National Park Nabs Man Accused of Scattering Thousands of Golf Balls in the Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Thanks for the correction.

  • Joshua Tree National Park Nabs Man Accused of Scattering Thousands of Golf Balls in the Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Actually, Joe Zarki works for the park. He was detailing the episode to Jim. He wasn't the one throwing golf balls.

  • Joshua Tree National Park Nabs Man Accused of Scattering Thousands of Golf Balls in the Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Zarki is just an extreme example of what all-too-many do while visiting public lands. There seems to be a basic drive to mark your territory while in a new natural area. People who climb mountains frequently pile rocks on top of one another as a way to memorialize their visit or carve their initials into a tree or face of a rock wall. It's the equivalent of a dog urinating on a tree to tell other dogs that it has been there. Ideally, wild areas should be left unmarked by human graffiti. Each visitor should have the opportunity to see and experience a natural area without man made distractions.

  • Joshua Tree National Park Nabs Man Accused of Scattering Thousands of Golf Balls in the Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    It takes a lot of balls to pull a stunt like that.

    Someone had to say it.

  • Joshua Tree National Park Nabs Man Accused of Scattering Thousands of Golf Balls in the Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Bruce--

    The Coachella Valley is full of golf courses surrounded by public (BLM) land; I know several places I could collect >1 ball per minute (I'm not as sure about locations for used tennis balls, but I'd start at Whitewater Wash by Indian Wells). Plus, there's always used balls collected from the water hazards that can be had for less than $1 each.

    I'd let Douglas Jones* off with a requirement that he pick up enough Brassica Tournefortii seeds to equal the weight of all those golf balls. The folks at Joshua Tree might not be so forgiving...

    * edited because Joe Zarki is actually the JOTR spokesman, not the accused. See:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-golf-balls18-2009sep18,0,1155524.story

    Also, the last line in the LA Times story indicates that Douglas Jones worked at a golf course, so he'd get golf balls with even less effort than my walking BLM land.

  • Interior Secretary Salazar Upholds Delisting of Gray Wolves in Part of Yellowstone Ecosystem   5 years 27 weeks ago

    The delisting of the gray wolf is but one example that we still have not turned the corner from those disasterous eight years of the Bush administration. Secretary Salazar must remove the blinders from his eyes to see that our natural heritage, land and animal is in grave peril.

  • Interior Secretary Salazar Upholds Delisting of Gray Wolves in Part of Yellowstone Ecosystem   5 years 27 weeks ago

    As has been said manny times our wild brethern are truly endangered and need all the help that we can possibly give them. The wolf, although appears to have recovered still needs help and MUST not be removed from the endangered species list. To see one of these noble animals suspended from the struts of an airplane is an abomination. It seems as though the shades of the Bush tribunal are still with us today.

  • Joshua Tree National Park Nabs Man Accused of Scattering Thousands of Golf Balls in the Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Sounds like the guy is mentally ill. If so, hopefully he gets some help.

  • Joshua Tree National Park Nabs Man Accused of Scattering Thousands of Golf Balls in the Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Have you considered the cost of 3,000 golf balls? Assuming the poor guy does not live next to a golf course with a sharp dogleg hole abutting his backyard or one of those 3-pars completely surrounded by a deep pond, he had to shell out for them.

    At $25 a dozen for 250 dozens, that comes to $6,250!

    Throw in the cost of tennis balls and cans of fruit and vegetables, plus transportation and the value of his time, hasn't this guy already paid his debt to society? Free Joe Zarki!

  • Joshua Tree National Park Nabs Man Accused of Scattering Thousands of Golf Balls in the Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Well I certainly hope that [person] will pay %100 of the cleanup cost instead of being sloughed back onto the taxpayer. Good job in catching him! [comment edited slightly]

  • Woman Drowns In Yellowstone National Park's Backcountry   5 years 27 weeks ago

    I just heard about this sad incident. I sent the article to my husband since he and his brother hiked a 6 day trip through the Bechler River System in 2006.

  • SPOT – The Good, the Bad and the Silly Uses for Those High-Tech Communicators   5 years 27 weeks ago

    DM -

    Thanks for the information. I've modified the closing of the story in response to your comment.

  • SPOT – The Good, the Bad and the Silly Uses for Those High-Tech Communicators   5 years 27 weeks ago

    SPOT does offer a Cancel function on both Help and 9-1-1 emergency modes. This is useful if it becomes clear that third party help is not needed. It sends a cancel message to the appropriate recipients including the emergency response center who monitors SPOT emergency signals if the 9-1-1 button was pressed.

  • Too Many Deer in the Nation's Capital? Rock Creek Park Holds a Public Meeting on Wednesday   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Attempting to artificially control the population of deer in Rock Creek is an exercise in futility. Even if possible the cost would far outstrip the benefit. Deer and other wildlife do not recognize human boundaries and will fill whatever favorable ecological niche is available. The removal of wolves and woodland panther reduced natural population controls on deer and other game, leaving only humans, disease and periodic starvation to cull the deer herds. Unfortunately, these controls are less effective and fail to select for the maintenance of healthy populations. The coyotes are simply moving in to take advantage of the vacuum created by the removal of other predators.

    I used to think of Nature as fragile. In the short term it often is. However, over the long haul nature will virtually always win. Attempting to create and maintain a "civilized" wilderness with an artificial mix of wildlife compatible with human ideals is ultimately a loosing proposition. It would be far more effective and efficient to simply let nature takes its course along the Rock Creek strip and learn to live with the natural dynamics. It will eventually happen anyhow.

  • Too Many Deer in the Nation's Capital? Rock Creek Park Holds a Public Meeting on Wednesday   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Both Mr. McDonald and you are correct in describing Rock Creek Park and it's layout and what will happen with selected sharpshooting. Trust me, there is plenty of illegal hunting going on throughout the Washington metro area (we certainly have it in our park which is off limits to hunting and someone recently circulated a flyer asking to bowhunt from properties in the neighborhood!). Sadly, this entire problem is not a deer problem, but a human problem. Deer were obliterated from the State of Maryland with far less population than we have today. They had to be reintroduced. Bear were hunted so severely (predator of fawns) that a moratorium was held on hunting them (although Virginia just opened season on Black Bear). This all speaks of mismanagement to me. Gee, coyotes tried to get a foothold in Montgomery County and were wiped out. They would take a fawn as well, but are not effective against adult deer, but they would benefit from roadkill. Actually, Maryland and Virginia have all out war against coyotes.

    The deer are being managed like they were cattle in a stockyard. These are animals that have routines that follow the seasons. They have effectively adapted to our encroachment of what used to be their territory. And they will continue to do so. Contraception works with feral dogs and cats (and coyote...effectively in AZ). In herbivores, it is more difficult. I understand the hesitancy there by officials to spend the money on an animal that will most likely expire from the tranquilizer. In addition the last injectible/implantable contraceptive was only effective for a year and it would be a waste of manpower and money to trap and tranq these animals annually. Castration might be solution. Both goats and cattle grow horns when castrated, I can't see how much impact that would have on deer. A 'true' hunter shouldn't be hunting for the antler anyway, but the meat.

    My worry is in this random removal of deer, the impact it has on the overall herd health. You are killing adult animals that know how to safely maneuver roadways with fawns (because if they don't, they are all dead) and it is true, once established deer are killed, new deer who have been run off their property (ICC) will relocate happily and won't know their way around. So you are in fact creating a vacuum effect.

    I once suggested to MCNPPC about tagging fawns to follow, vs. the random radio collar (too expensive to track many deer). They don't have to be tranquilized, males could be castrated on the spot, the plastic ear tags are easily seen by anyone, it would tell you where deer go and how far and with whom. Blood samples drawn from fawns would correlate maternity/paternity and keep an eye on Chronic Wasting Disease (not established in MD yet). Besides the price of the ear tags, applicator, lab supplies and blood spin/test, this could all be done by Biology and Veterinary students from UM, Tech, etc.

    On the bright side, with a virtual CWD-free population, other states may have to kill off their deer. This is not an optimum solution as it narrows the gene pool down to zero. Of course when you only think of deer as meat on the hoof, who cares, right?

    For the Lyme proponents who want deer killed because of the ticks. This doesn't get rid of the ticks (still in the woods, folks) or the real villains (mice and rabbits whome you shouldn't eradicate because that will really offset the whole scheme of things) who carry the bacterium. NY/NJ/CT States tested a new paracitide (acaricide) along the lines of CO/NM/AZ with their Bubonic Plague issues. This didn't involve killing either...except fleas, and in our case ticks. Food stations were established and posts with 'drip baffles' (used with livestock) were treated and the deer applied the insecticide themselves...taking it back to their beds and causing a 68% drop in Lyme in the area. This was a 6 year study conducted by Yale University.

    I think we need to learn more about deer and their real habits vs. what we are spoon fed by the media to make an educated decision on their future.

  • National Park Quiz 69: Camping   5 years 27 weeks ago

    There are some places that have specific passes. I think most NPS sites with entrance fees have their own annual passes that cost less than the full interagency pass. In Hawaii the only option short of the full interagency pass is the "Tri-Parks Pass" that's good for the three NPS sites in Hawaii with entrance fees.

    http://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/feedetails.htm

  • Historic Railroad Bridge in New York State Becomes Part of National Trails System   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Are federal funds going to keep up maintenance on the bridge? It will probably need a coat of paint now and then to keep it from rusting away.

  • National Park Quiz 69: Camping   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Sorry about all the typos and proofreading errors.

    I would note that the standard $80 ATB beautiful pass doesn't give any amenities (camping, tours, boat launch, etc) discounts. It's only valid for entrance (and some use) fees. I thought that the same went for the older National Parks Pass or Golden Eagle passes.

    I recall that the Senior Pass (or the older Golden Age pass) is only valid for US citizens or legal permanent residents. I've heard of foreign visitors 62 or older coming for extended trips, but who had to pay for the regular pass.

    As for the regular passes, I think the key to maximizing validity is to get it on the first of the month, in which case it expires at the end of the same month in the next year. That would give up to 13 months use on the same annual pass.

  • National Park Quiz 69: Camping   5 years 27 weeks ago

    I think the $80.00 fee for an America The Beautiful pass is way too much. I had a National Parks pass just before the change and used it regularly mostly in national parks and monuments in Colorado. I very rarely use other agencies camping areas. I will wait until I turn 62 in 15 months and buy the permanent $10.00 senior pass. The age for the senior pass should also be lowered to between 55 and 60.