Recent comments

  • Rescue of Injured Woman from Isolated Canyon at Death Valley National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Re: Anonymous' comment about NPS spending.

    There's probably unlimited opportunity for debate about spending priorities for NPS dollars, and everyone interested in parks will have their own take on that subject.

    Re: the comment that "this woman was hugely lucky." As the story and several comments indicate, the outcome of this incident hinged on the fact that two "rangers on patrol" happened to discover the woman in time to initiate excellent emergency medical care and a timely rescue. We'll never know what may have happened if those rangers hadn't been in the area.

    In terms of how SAR and other emergency services costs are related to "patrols, searches and rescues," one of the functions that suffers from NPS budget limitations is the kind of "routine patrol" that made a positive difference in this case, and dollars spent on incidents such as the one at Buffalo River are often diverted from funding for badly needed seasonal staff and even permanent positions.

    It's unrealistic to expect ranger patrols to cover even a fraction of most parks on a regular basis, but there's sure room for improvement in staffing for that function to allow better coverage than currently exists in many parks.

    A chief ranger and district ranger get their slice of a park's annual budget, and it doesn't take too many significant incidents (or a lot of smaller ones) to eat up enough dollars to require leaving a field ranger position unfilled. That doesn't mean it's realistic to bill most victims for the the cost of emergency services, but I felt it was important to clarify earlier comments that suggested all costs for SAR incidents are already built into a park's budget.

    There will always be debate about priority-setting and budget allocation by NPS management, and there's also plenty of support for other valid activities as well - including resource management and interpretation.

    So .... given the fact that there will never be as many rangers on the ground as many of us would like, I'll also second the comments about visitors doing what they can to minimize their risks. That includes careful evaluation of the wisdom of solo trips into the backcountry, and the importance of making sure a responsible individual who is not part of your trip knows your plans in enough detail to sound the alarm if you don't return on schedule.

    In this incident at Death Valley, the woman was not hiking solo.

  • Worth Considering: A Trip To Canyon de Chelly National Monument   5 years 31 weeks ago

    This is an absolutely beautiful place. It is on the Navajo reservation which is an interesting place in itself if you've never been on the rez. Also be sure to go by Hubbell Trading Post. I remember reading about that place when I was a kid and it looked exactly the same as those old pictures. Prices are very reasonable at the Post and they offer authentic goods. Arizona is a wonderful place - every square inch of it.

  • Interior Department Agrees To Conduct EIS on Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 31 weeks ago

    EIS's are not a waste of money (in my opinion). They are used to help ensure we think about what we do before we do it. It also gives the public more time to weigh in on issues. And further, it catalogues the decision making process so that if things get challenged in court in the future (with any decision) it can be shown that park Admin did or didn't consider it.

    The reason that an EIS should be done, in this case, is because guns have the power to kill or injure wildlife. I completely agree that very few people in their right mind would set out on their NPS vacation to shoot a bear, but wildlife will be shot. And while CCW holders are well educated about how to handle a gun, they may be completely out of their comfort zone in a wild NPS setting. They may misread a bluff charge from a bear or other animal and instead of using bear spray (which is proven much more effective at stopping a bear), either end up escalating the charge to an attack or end up injuring a bear (perhaps fatally).

    As a critic will point out, there are a lot of "if" and "may" statements piled in that last paragraph. But only a few sow grizzly bears would have to be killed or injured over a period of years to cause a big setback in the population of bears in a place like Grand Teton NP. That would be a significant environmental impacts.

    Finally, just because someone is normally a law abiding citizen doesn't mean that they will always be. Just look at people who are tested, licensed, and registered in databases to drive automobiles. But this EIS is not about if laws will be broken (it is a certainty that laws will be broken), it is about the potential for this new activity to impact sensitive ecosystems.

  • Rescue of Injured Woman from Isolated Canyon at Death Valley National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    There are more pressing needs than larger visitor centers, though there are more than enough visitor centers with dated exhibits that certainly could use freshening up.

    But there also is trail maintenance that needs to be done, both archaeological, cultural, and paleontological resource work that's been put off, vast amounts of archival work that awaits, invasive species to be eradicated, facility maintenance and upkeep, stabilization of historic structures, campground restoration work, biological assessments, improved outhouses, the list goes on and on.

  • Might The Obama Administration be More Invested in Everglades Restoration Than Its Predecessor?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I hope so because it would be sad if the Everglades were lost.

  • Rescue of Injured Woman from Isolated Canyon at Death Valley National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    ".....but the costs described above are often paid by diverting money from other, urgently needed, park operations."

    Such as what? Bigger, more expensive visitor centers? New office buildings for the staff? More F250 trucks? Ever more "resource managers" that do nothing but file reports?

    I agree with the NPS mission, and many of the personnel are excellent, but the Park Service is GREAT at wasting money for front-country foo foo, regional office overhead, and aesthetic asphalt turn-outs. They'll spend millions on frontcountry development, then whine about how they have no money for operations.

    Patrols, searches, and rescues are one of the few necessary functions that the NPS does. So spare us the tax whining and 'we're so busy' tales of woe.

    And yes, this woman was hugely lucky.

  • Springtime: Roads Opening In Yellowstone National Park, Bears Coming Out in Grand Teton National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Mike, glad to hear things are working out so well for your trip. I'm definitely envious. And this weekend's improving weather should make things even more enjoyable. Let us know if you get any great photos you'd like to share with Traveler's readers.

  • Springtime: Roads Opening In Yellowstone National Park, Bears Coming Out in Grand Teton National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Thanks alot for your hard work and due diligence in keeping us travelers informed. I just wanted to let you know that we made it from Seattle to Yellowstone late yesterday afternoon. My wife and I were greeted with every animal imaginanable. We entered through the north entrance and as we approached Gardiner we saw herds of mule deer being chased by a herd of horses in their pasture, quickly followed by several herds of elk and mountain goats. At the campground below Mamouth at the switchback, the wolf spotters were watching a female wolf being followed by a coyote. As we entered Mamouth we were greeted like always by the herd of resident elk and bison. Thinking that our chances of spotting wolves for the day might be lost we continued our approach toward Gibbon Meadows where to our amazement was several cars pulled over. Could they be looking at the herd of Bison, maybe, but looking beyond the herd of bison nestled down in the new growth of grass, was a small pack of wolves, SCORED!!! After watching them for awhile we proceded to the West entrance. My wife and I were saying that the next animal we need to see is a grizzley. Then BAM!! at about 3 miles from the west entrance there were a slew of cars pulled over and what were they watching we asked?? A grizzley. Accross the river just east of Riverside RD up on top of the hill was a BIG GRIZZLEY bear just laying there watching all of the spectators watching him.
    So far this has been an exciting trip with just the animals that we have seen so far in just a couple of hours. However alot of the geyser areas are closed due to carcases in the area which increase the bear danger.

    Thanks Again!!

  • Creature Feature: Feral Burros are "Equina Non Grata" in the National Parks   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Brighty currently resides downstairs in the lobby of the Grand Lodge at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. His nose is still quite shiny.

  • Worth Considering: A Trip To Canyon de Chelly National Monument   5 years 31 weeks ago

    You forgot to mention Cottonwood Campground. Although the sites have no hookups it provides water and a dump station and many beautifully shaded spots. And - it's free. Also, the entire canyon rim is accessible by car and the views are amazing. The tribe keeps the overlooks clean and regulates the vendors so that you are getting authentic Navajo crafts from sellers who sit and wait for business but do not solicit you. We bought native american flutes from a man who played them over the rim of the canyon - amazing!

  • Might The Obama Administration be More Invested in Everglades Restoration Than Its Predecessor?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    By all means, lets spend 200 million, or better yet 10 billion to improve the new home of the burmese python!
    I was appalled by the Apr. 20th article in the New Yorker magazine, "Swamp Things" about the problems with invasive species in the Everglades, and with controlling their entry into this country. For much less money, we could have stricter legislation and a few more inspectors at the port of Miami. Then maybe it would make sense to spend whatever it takes to improve the water conditions.

  • Interior Department Agrees To Conduct EIS on Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Come on. Do you think the NPS current rule keeps criminals from taking their guns into Parks? Certainly not. This new rule would allow people who have a legal, approved license to carry a gun in a Park where the local laws otherwise allow it. The license holders are known to the police, they have gone through training, and have registered on a database with law enforcement. These law-abiding responsible people are the LAST people who would violate gun laws. This is NOT about hunting. This is NOT about randomly shooting in the woods which is illegal. This is NOT about carrying a weapon into a Federal building which is still prohibited. This is about self protection.

  • Creature Feature: Feral Burros are "Equina Non Grata" in the National Parks   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Thanks for this excellent piece, Bob! What keeps the burros protected under PL 92-195 from recolonizing areas where they've been successfully eliminated or reduced in number? It seems like there might be suitable habitat and water sources adjacent to the Grand Canyon, such as Kanab Creek, that would necessitate a never-ending removal program.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Bear spray is ILLEGAL ?? That's insanity. I can understand people's points that don't want to allow concealed firearms in Parks, but I can NOT understand banning bear spray. Please, let's verify this Kurt :)

  • Interior Department Agrees To Conduct EIS on Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 31 weeks ago

    While I am not taking a position on the actual gun question, I think this article proves the problems with the federal government. The ability to use a EIS on a gun issue?!?!?! Create enough bureaucracy and then you can guarantee that nothing gets done. Perhaps you have seen the story on the number of permits and approvals that Noah would have needed to build an ark and save the animals. I am assuming, that the gun rules are a carry rule, and not the ability to wander the parks shooting at trees. If it is simply a carry/possession rule, then who in their crazy mind would think that their would be an environmental impact on having a gun on your hip. It creates no emissions, it requires no park resources to possess. This is just an attempt at those who oppose it to use an over grown government program, designed to do good, to push their agenda. The next step is to use and EIS to overturn Rowe v Wade. A really good one would be to use a EIS on all of the trees that died and the landfill space used on the paperwork created by campaign finance reform.

    Bottom line, if their is a desire to reverse the rules on guns in the parks, fine, use a avenue that makes sense, not just another stall tactic, or maybe they need to finance an archeological survey of any park that would allow guns, this would stall the rule and cost millions of dollars. If you read this and think, "this guy doesn't understand the purpose of an EIS or how it applies to this issue" then we are all in deeper trouble than I thought.

  • Snow Storm Still Battering Rocky Mountain National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Springtime in the Rockies.

    I was born and raised in the mountains of Colorado, and spring snows were always a misery.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Christopher, that's an interesting issue you've shed some light on, and one the Traveler will definitely look into. Here in the West park officials routinely recommend bear spray. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I spend every day in the Smokies hiking and see bear numerous times a day during the "hot" bear season.

    I finally broke down and bought a can of bear spray based upon the length of time I solo hike deep in backcountry.

    I just learned that it is ILLEGAL to have bear spray in the GSMNP as well as most other national parks.

    The full details are here: http://yoursmokies.blogspot.com/2009/04/is-bear-pepper-spray-legal-or-illegal.html

    Don't break weapons laws on federal land!

    Christopher Hibbard
    SmokiesHiker for YourSmokies
    http://www.YourSmokies.com

  • Rescue of Injured Woman from Isolated Canyon at Death Valley National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    In 1999, Yosemite park rangers, pilots, firefighters, and volunteers conducted 164 search and rescue missions, recovered twelve bodies, and saved forty-seven lives. The total cost (in personnel and aircraft hours) of providing this service to over nearly 4 million American taxpayers who had a chance of being injured while visiting Yosemite that year was $526,719. This seems quite reasonable when you consider that Congress recently gave the NPS $2.5 million to convert a railroad station into a fancy visitor center in Thurmond, West Virginia---a town with a population of eight.

    I have come to the conclusion that the financial costs of Search and Rescue services provided by the NPS is the least of the American taxpayer's worries. In the scheme of things, it is a drop in the bucket, and a worthy drop at that.

    Decreasing the human cost, injuries and lives lost of both victims and rescuers, prior to and during rescue operations should be our primary concern.

    1. NPS rescue operations should be adequately funded and staffed.

    2. Chief rangers should ensure that proactive, aggressive, and clever efforts to prevent injuries and loss of life through public education are taken and funded.

    3. Only in cases involving criminal recklessness should the government seek to make victims pay for the cost of their rescue

  • Rescue of Injured Woman from Isolated Canyon at Death Valley National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Kurt, as mentioned in an earlier thread on the same topic: As long as the NPS has the manpower to calculate SAR costs of measly 4.7 Million Dollar down to 12 cents, the money is better spend on the safety of visitors than on the beancounters in their offices. Frankly, 4.7 Million is such a tiny fraction of the total NPS budget that I can't think of a better way to spend it. How much would it cost to calculate the amount for an individual SAR operation, write a bill, collect the money and account for it or enforcing it, going to court, spending time and money on lawyers and so on?

  • NRA Appeals Ruling Blocking Concealed Carry in National Parks   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Respectfully, that's your opinion and not mine. I don't poach. I don't even hunt. I don't have any interest in shooting
    animals. I have more experience in bear country than the rangers do, in the park I work in. I know better than to
    shoot a bear with my handgun but if my head was in the mouth of a sow I don't think a "hey bear, hey bear" would do.
    I'm legal to conceal carry. I'm a responsible gun owner. My right to defend myself shouldn't be restricted because
    of a few poachers a few thousand miles away. Your logic would also say then that cars should be banned from the
    parks because someone might hit a deer. Alaska isn't the lower 48. Alaskans don't need to poach. The guys in Game
    Management do a good job and everyone has a full freezer.

    "Why do you want a gun then?" I was threatened by a tourist because of something someone else did. It was zero
    fault of my own. I'm very passive. I have a right to protect myself. I'm not worried about bears. I know how to
    stay safe in bear country. I'm still breathing. It was only one wacko in 20 years, but so what? That's all it takes.

    It was the park service that buried a D9 Cat and a couple hundred barrels of fuel in our national park, not the gun owners.
    Some stewards! And it wasn't the gun owners that ran natives off their land and claimed it. They'd been there for 4000
    years, before the bears were. (considering the end of the last ice age and natural geological changes which changed
    the land from a game migration route to a salmon filled river.) That was natural, bear management by the natives.
    The bears didn't come until the parkies stole their land some 50 plus years ago. It's a wall-less unnatural zoo now.
    I have a hard time respecting the "stewards".
    (I'm not positive about the exact type of heavy equipment buried but it was buried.)

    Alaska state law requires a firearm to be carried in an airplane as part of the survival equipment. Airplanes are allowed
    in the national parks. Considering the vastness of Alaska and its national parks this law would have very little effect on
    poaching. Again, freezers are full in Alaska, legally.

    Anyway, nothing personal. We disagree and I'm OK with that. You're probably not in Alaska, unless you're a ranger.
    Amen? (just kidding)

  • Rescue of Injured Woman from Isolated Canyon at Death Valley National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Volpe and DAP -

    My perspective for 3 decades of work in parks is that you're partly correct. I fully agree that emergency operations are an appropriate and valuable park function.

    Yes, salaries, equipment and other operational costs for parks are paid for the most part by tax dollars. However, some SAR operations, such as the one John P mentioned at the Buffalo River, occur in the middle of the night, when virtually all of the people involved have to be called back to work. In almost any large rescue operation, even the daytime, there aren't enough employees on duty at any given time to handle the incident - resulting in more overtime. Those overtime costs represent an extra cost to the park (and the taxpayers) as a result of the incident. In some cases, parks incur additional SAR expenses, such as contracted helicopter time.

    So.... are those costs "prepaid" by taxpayers? From one perspective, yes, but the costs described above are often paid by diverting money from other, urgently needed, park operations. Most parks with any significant SAR workload budget for a certain amount of overtime and similar costs--but at the expense of other activities.

  • Plague Kills Many Prairie Dogs and Black-Footed Ferrets in Grasslands Near Badlands National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    i dont understand what the plagueis what did it affect on these black footed ferrets i am a 7th grade student and want understand about this
    i am writing a essay on a endangered animal of my choosing i just of happen to choose the black footed ferret but this is the one thing i dont seem
    to understand please e mail me at

  • Rescue of Injured Woman from Isolated Canyon at Death Valley National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    DAP and Volpe, I'm not so sure I'd agree with your point that all rescues are pre-paid. For instance, during 2007, the National Park Service reported 3,593 SAR incidents. The cost of those missions? $4,735,424.12. In theory, that money would not have been spent were it not for the SARs.

  • Rescue of Injured Woman from Isolated Canyon at Death Valley National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    volpe, I could not agree more. All rescues are pre-payed by are taxes, it's one of the few things I am glad to pay taxes for. GREAT POINT!!