Recent comments

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Plain and simple, whoever wrote this editorial is an IDIOT who obviously knows nothing about the subject !! Not worth any other comments.

  • National Park Quiz 18: A Potpourri of National Park Trivia   5 years 33 weeks ago

    I think you've got me on that one, Eric. If I were the professor, I'd use weasel-speak and say decommissioned units don't count;-) Good catch.

  • National Park Quiz 18: A Potpourri of National Park Trivia   5 years 33 weeks ago

    I always thought that Mackinac Island National Park was the first NP established east of the Mississippi. Do decommissioned National Parks not count?

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Not to mention, that there is not a single proven case of Brucellosis being transmitted from wildlife towards cattle. This whole affair is just about fear of loss in the cattle industry. Not based on any fact.

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Getting back to Bob's orginal post, here in the Upper Midwest (which includes T.R. National Park) tourism patterns have been shifting in response to rising gas prices. It's not a simple drop in tourism. The tourism industry has been publicly saying that vistors to certain popular parts of northern Minnesota are increasing because Minnesotans are choosing to save money by traveling within their state rather than driving to, say, the Rockies. I've also heard informal reports that visitors to Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota appear to be driving their motorboats less within the Park, instead hanging out closer to their campsites. (The Park's campsites are accessible by boat only, and dispersed along the shorelines of the Park's lakes. Automobile driving is limited to the Park's approximately 10 miles of roads, and changes in internal use patterns show up more clearly in boat travel.)

    One reason why the drop in visitation at the North unit of Theodore Roosevelt might be related in part to its distance from Medora is the possibility of similar changes in in-state tourism. North Dakota locals have told me that Medora is the favored vacation spot for people in their state. If North Dakotans are trying to reduce their driving because of fuel costs, they may be trying to spend more time in and near Medora, cutting out side trips. North Dakota is one of the states that is getting hit hardest by increased fuel prices, in terms of the percentage of income that its residents spend on gasoline, so it makes sense that they'd be looking for places to cut back.

    The sad thing is that the North unit of T.R. is an incredible place to visit. People who only go to the south unit are really missing out.

  • A View from Abroad: Don't Let Tourism Overwhelm Our National Parks   5 years 33 weeks ago

    It seems our perception of wilderness changes as we become more and more urbanized and we are removed farther and farther from the wild as we become overly dependent upon technologies. To someone raised in the city a farm wood lot may seem like wilderness. I have been to the Grand Canyon several times. I have stayed in a hotel on the rim and have hiked and camped several times in the canyon. The last time I just had a couple of hours and could only visit a few viewpoints on the rim. It was disappointing. While I saw the canyon, I did not experience the canyon. i feel that is true for most visitors. I was told by a ranger that the average visit to the canyon was two hours and the time actually spent looking at the canyon was fifteen minutes. The rest of the time is in gift shops, places to eat, etc. The canyon is just one goal on a checklist. Been there done that. The comforts and luxuries available on the rim seem somewhat incongruent with the true story of the grand Canyon. I now live near Denali Park. There are many ways to experience the park. Guests can backpack in wilderness areas and never see another person. They could travel deep into the park and stay several days in one of the rustic lodges. Or they could be park of the concessionaires quick and crowded tours. I have done all three. Most guests are at the mercy of the companies that are more concerned about making a dollar than truly providing an experience that shares the ecology, history and mystery of the park. One tour goes only 17 miles into this immense wilderness environment and returns guest to gift shops, dining rooms and other places to spend money. The strip outside of Denali has become an eyesore full of expanding hotels and all that accompany them. Most visitors spend more time here than in the park. The park has become secondary and just a lure to get people to spend and spend. There has been talk of trying to build larger luxury hotels deep in the park--not to enable a greater park experience but as new way to get those with the bucks to spend to spend. People will come. people will spend and will feel they have had a wilderness experience--an experience dependent upon comfort and convenience. Thus what we view as wild is degraded. Thus we will continue to bring urban values into the wilds of our parks.
    Unfortunately it is all about money. The wilderness can provide physical, spiritual, psychological, biological gifts to those who give up the urban and meet the wilderness on its terms. But this does not bring in much in the way of dollars. These values are sacrificed. The experiences offered by most businesses associated with parks is to see how many we can get in and not the quality of the experience. I appreciate those companies that offer true encounters with the wild in the wilderness parks. Unfortunately they are relatively few and usually unable to compete with the large corporate entities. The parks and becoming little more than insignificant backdrops to a vacation of catered luxury.

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Frank;

    You're right - currency valuations and their relationships are major drivers in the oil markets and elsewhere. Fuel prices can't be accounted for properly without factoring in the strength of the dollar.

    Lone Hiker;

    So true - it's 'new game time' when the pump-lines start running down the street, and the "NO GAS" signs start going up on the pumps. And with the wild cards in play, it's a standing hazard.

    Good points, both. A complex situation ...

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 33 weeks ago

    If only there were a direct correlation between pump price and barrel price, but alas, once Big Oil Brother knows the American Sucker will tolerate a given level of gouging, the overall scenario will remain much as it currently stands, with the consumer whining but paying, and oil execs wetting their collective pants in anticipation of the next Gulf Coast storm, insurgent attack or other such nonsense as a "legitimate reason" to adjust the structure of gasoline pricing. Example: this past April the cost of a barrel of oil was the exact same as it was at the end of August. The difference to the American marketplace? August gas prices averaged over 40 cents HIGHER in August, in the time period prior to the Gustav craze. In physics, what goes up must come down due to Newton's Law. It's a shame Sir Isaac couldn't make the oil execs understand some basic theories of science. The only "science" they understand is demonstrating a well-defined ability to manipulate the economic structure of the country. Suckers are we all for fostering this practice by allowing ourselves to be bent over the table each and every time the massah cries wolf.

    And by the way Ted, the data you seek, even if available will prove to be worthless. We haven't hit the "gas line" stage in the current economy, which had a much more far-reaching impact on travel during the mid-70's than did the actual cost of the fuel. Just procuring was the issue back then, not the cost per gallon.

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Ted, you'll find valleys in the data that correspond to World War II and the 1970s oil embargo.

    the problem is probably mainly that strong demand is leaning on the production capacity

    Demand currently plays only a minor part in the overall scheme of oil prices. More of a factor in rising oil prices was the weak dollar, in which oil is traded. The dollar is rebounding against other concurrences (whose economies are now also facing recession), and we're seeing a corresponding drop in the price of oil.

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Beamis notes:

    "Oil prices fell below $106 a barrel Tuesday..."
    And a welcome trend it is! Coming near the end of the summer demand season, following speculative bidding with an eye on Hurricane Gustav (now proving to be fairly mild), and well before the winter cold season, there is strong down-pressure on crude. At the moment.

    From the President on down through the ranks - Left & Right - we are being warned that oil ain't gonna be like it used to was for long. At this point, the problem is probably mainly that strong demand is leaning on the production capacity. Not (yet) that capacity is collapsing out from under us.

    Fluctuations - a 'roller coaster' market - are exactly what's expected as oil heads for The Other Side of middle-aged. Once the real trouble starts, controlling market-oscillations, such as we are now seeing (always a nagging worry..) will be the main rodeo-act.

    I will return to the NPS stats site and see how far back the data go. If details are available for the 1973 Oil Embargo we might see something that is helpful with our present topic (the effect of fuel prices on Park visitation). However, that oil-crisis was precipitated suddenly, lasted only from October '73 to March '74, and was hurriedly patched-over.

    Still, brief & relatively anomalous as it was, it was one of our premier crises of the modern era.

  • Pruning the Parks: Delisted Over a Half-Century Ago, Fossil Cycad National Monument (1922-1956) is a Cautionary Tale   5 years 33 weeks ago

    This truly is a sad story indeed. I was born in Hot Springs and am originally from Edgemont, where I lived until 1984. Some of my fondest memories are those of searching for and looking at fossils when I was a kid ( which I still do), including those that I found in our yard. I never knew that Fossil Cycad National Monument even existed. Other fond memories were field trips to the national forest and the Dinosaur Museum. I hope to one day take my son to my "hometown" and state to see the natural beauty and history preserved there. It truly is sad that he will only be able to view what once was a National Park, by driving down the highway, choosing which window to look out of and guess where it once was.

    Nicolette

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   5 years 33 weeks ago

    "Personal technology" -- cell phone, GPS unit, iPod, etc. -- in national parks doesn't disturb me nearly as much as loaded firearms would.

    Claire @ http://travel-babel.blogspot.com

  • Grammar Vigilantes Busted in Grand Canyon National Park, Barred from Park System   5 years 33 weeks ago

    In reply to Mr. Quadivich about where the money from fines goes. This is a goo d question and one that many people might ask regarding the fines paid for citations rangers hand out for speeding, resource damage, etc. The fact is, none of the money goes to the parks or to the NPS. All fines go to the Crime Victims Fund maintained by the Justice Department. The money is the made available vis grants to many organizations nationwide that help crime victims. So, unlike many local and state police departments, there is no financial incentive for the NPS to issue tickets.

  • Creature Feature: The American Marten   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Nice shots, Lindsay. The only time I saw a marten was during a Shoshone trip as well. Must be a popular place for them. Unlike me, at least you were quick enough with your camera to land proof.

  • Creature Feature: The American Marten   5 years 33 weeks ago

    We saw one in Yellowstone last week while doing some back country hiking near Shoshone Lake. We didn't know it at the time, but all of the descriptions I have read lead me to believe that our little guy was in fact a marten. We were able to get a several photos of him as he tried to scare us away with his growling and chirping. Adorable if you ask me! =) We uploaded the photos on flicker (the 3 marten photos are about ½ way through the set on page 2). Feel free to take a look - http://www.flickr.com/photos/53801917@N00/sets/72157607023917426/detail/

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Oil prices fell below $106 a barrel Tuesday in Asia - $10 below its close Friday.

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 33 weeks ago

    I assume that Theodore Roosevelt Nat'l Park is a proxy for examining the wider potential impact of rising fuel costs on Park visitation.

    With sustained high fuel prices, there will be continuing pressure on the motor home, travel trailer, and large pickup markets. Ford - who's bread & butter is the big pickup for towing - is already reporting a steep reduction of sales in that specific recreational market.

    Downward trends in RV-related sales would go on for years, and be cumulative. People who have a nice, comfortable unit now, will wait until it no longer makes them happy, to buy a new one. At that time, they will assess and decide whether to replace their unit, or exit the market.

    So it's much more than just a question of the cost per mile for gas; it's also the long-range decisions about what kind of vehicle to buy. Many will choose to no longer buy & maintain a large recreational vehicle at all. Instead, they may just fly to Banff or the Bahamas and hang out for a week or two.

    The fundamentals of the petroleum industry clearly suggest that prices may continue to rise. Presumably, until they price themselves right out of the market, until demand drops significantly and prices fall to what the market will bear. Some say, "Demand will never drop": There is an element of truth in this, in that many will stubbornly cling to their preferred patterns & lifestyles. To the extent we accept this as broadly true, though, we should also recognize that it probably points to a form of 'brittleness' in public behavior. Instead of a gradual adaptation, it could instead mean a sudden large-scale shift in folks' views & actions.

    How high will/can fuel prices go? It seems an oversight to take up the general questions of this post, without acknowledging what we all know: Prices could (and we assume will) go higher. The main question really is, how much higher?

    I have seen believable economic assessments that we can go to $5-6/gal, and still sustain a close semblance of our present economic dynamic. Beyond that, and we begin to suffer various forms of internal breakdown. If that is the case, and that is (therefore) the target price-range, then I'd say we are not so far from it now that the additional increase will make too much basic difference. If prices go beyond, though, then both the fuel-bill & the collateral economic turmoil could devastate the tourism industry.

    If the Richard Cheneys and Saudi families of the world figure that fuel should go to $7-8/gal, then tourism as we know it may be one of the sectors of our economy that have already been slated for sacrifice. (Its emphasis on fuel-use could very well promote it high up the list for deprecation ... as would appear has been the fate of commercial airlines.)

    Many people are now becoming 'concerned' about our long-term economic outlook. This may apply especially to those who have the latitude to decide whether to buy a quarter million dollar RV ... a half million dollar RV ... or skip the RV thing altogether and go a different route. These are people who often got where they are by being smart with money, and who patently have an 'estate' to protect. Wage-earners are commonly 'just along for the ride', and also have little latitude in their fiscal affairs, even if they decline to embrace the typical fatalism.

    It does seem to me that the price of fuel, the future price of fuel, changes in vehicle-purchase patterns, and the mounting indication of a long stretch of rough road ahead for the national & global economy could all be pointing at serious-to-grave effects on Nat'l Park visitation.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   5 years 33 weeks ago

    This has been a long and meandering thread that has provided a wealth of insights that I did not expect to emerge when it was first posted.

    Some of the main points I've gleaned: 1) That maybe the NPS does not do enough market based research before it builds visitor related facilities or understand the tourism business well enough to price admission fees to cover their costs.

    2) The way visitor counts are collected is not consistent and probably inaccurate in many individual instances.

    3) That

    the NPS needs to do a much better job of understanding its guests, why they do and do not visit and market mission-based experiences based on individual needs.
    (thanks to the RoadRangers).

    4) Many people would be willing to pay as they go for facilities and services, especially if they knew that the monies being collected were being used to sustain the individual park and not being sent to Washington, DC.

    5) Parks were originally intended to be somewhat self-sustaining and that guiding principle has gradually been lost in the maze of politics and bureaucratic inertia that defines the modern NPS.

    Good thread people. We'll give those duffers on that upcoming commission a run for their money when it comes to thorough and reasoned analysis of the national parks.

  • Have High Gas Prices Deterred Travel within Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 33 weeks ago

    I don't buy the fuel cost scenario. Roosevelt may be right on an Interstate (literally), but it's a long drive from anywhere and not even all that easy to fly into. If someone has driven there, they aren't going to blink at driving another 75 minutes to the North Unit, regardless of gas prices.

    June may have been an anomaly. (I was there the first week of August.) I think you're going to see declining visitation as a percentage of total visitation in the North Unit and similar outlying areas of parks simply because people aren't interested in them. Instant gratification and family-friendly entertainment are becoming more and more mandatory for the vast majority of travelers. The North Unit is not very interesting to Joe Tourist. Neither is the Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia, North Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear Dunes, the South Unit of Badlands, etc. All of those outlying parcels require extra effort for little entertainment reward. Listening to the rangers explaining to people at the VC what the North Unit of Roosevelt was, they were almost warning people not to go there. Of course, the rangers were talking to busloads of senior citizens and families that looked like the Von Trapps. Those are the visitors that are raising the numbers in general, but they certainly aren't going to visit remote areas. There are no horse rides at the NU, the road isn't a friendly loop, and it's too far from Medora - which is quite an extraordinary tourist trap (emphasis on the word trap).

    Just my opinion, based on a similar dearth of data as the gas theory. I think it's more the "Last Child in the Woods" phenomenon.

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   5 years 33 weeks ago

    The NPS Public Use Statistics Office can be found at:
    http://www.nature.nps.gov/stats/

    The counting methodology apparently varies by NPS unit and through time, but most seem to use a traffic counter multiplied by some constant (assumed average occupants per vehicle).

    Here at Mount Rainier the total visitation figures are "Recreation" and "Non-Recreation" combined. I couldn't find an explanation of the latter category (as much as 30%, but sometimes zero or even negative), but presumably it includes employees, volunteers, concession workers, contractors, etc.

    There is no commercial traffic allowed, so it appears the NPS inflates the numbers by essentially counting themselves. Interesting that even this way, they have reached the commonly used PR figure of 2 million/year only a few times in the past fifteen years.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   5 years 33 weeks ago

    RoadRanger;

    Absolutely & dramatically, Olympic Nat'l Park is counting visitors multiple times. Furthermore & worse, I believe they are counting those who merely drive through at certain points, because the highway cuts through the Park.

    Specifically, I recently sought out the NPS statistics page for ONP and saw they break down the visitor count by month & major 'destination' within the Park. They list "Lake Crescent" as receiving a quarter million visits a month at peak season. This is an outrageous exaggeration of what the Lake Crescent facilities could accommodate. No, the vast majority of those people are simply driving past anything & everything at Lake Crescent, using the highway to get from point A to point B.

    And it gets worse. The highway that goes by Lake Crescent is virtually the only way to get from the West End of Olympic Peninsula to the East End ... were all the main lumber mills and all the log export is located ... while the great bulk of logging takes place on the West End. Since the Park is evidently using a traffic-counter on the highway to count 'visitors', they are counting logging trucks and multiple forms of business traffic, plus quite hefty portions of local residents traveling back & forth (a delightful part & circumstance of the lifestyle here).

    On the Olympic Peninsula, logging trucks make 2-3 trips from west to east each workday and are in all likelihood counted as a 'visitor' 4 to 6 times each day!

    I see no reason to doubt that other Parks are not likewise enthusiastically padding & spinning their visitor-count. I would not be surprised if the 'error' at ONP is a full order of magnitude. RoadRanger's figure of 50 million could be twice too high.

    If any are interested, I will find & post the link to the NPS stats page again, but I have to get off to work now.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Re Kurt's comments on the 275 million or so visitors in the parks last year. Those who support fees as a means of significant funds for park budgets need to keep in mind that this figure counts visits, not visitors. Does the NPS have any idea how many individuals made multiple recreation visits to parks last year? I'd say we probably have more like 50 million Americans that make at least one visit to a national park in any given year. That figure may be high, I simply don't know. When you run these smaller numbers with the $2.4 billion budget, that American the Beautiful pass at $80 is beyond reasonable.

    I believe this is a valuable way to measure interest in parks, potential constituency, etc. Urban parks with significant recreation components - C&O Canal, Chattahoochee River, Timucuan, Golden Gate, Gateway, etc. - could easily have thousands of visitors who make 200-300 or more visits to a park in a year. In the last twenty years, several of our smaller historic parks in urban and suburban settings have watched the primary reason for visiting the place shift from "history" to "recreation." That translates into a huge increase in multiple annual visits by a small group of individuals. I'd like to know the impact of this shift on Gettysburg's usage. I suspect it is growing, but will be tempered by an increase in use - and an improved revenue stream - when the buffs visit during the CW Sesquicentennial.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   5 years 33 weeks ago

    This Libertarian approach equates the National Park System with your local Wal-Mart or Wall Street enterprise, and it never was intended to be.

    I must respectfully disagree. (And may I ask that you use the small-l "libertarian" here to distinguish between the political party and the philosophy?). The libertarian philosophy of land management does not advocate managing parks for the profit of shareholders or a private family. Rather, libertarian philosophy advocates cutting political influence and encourages park management to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining; historically, at least one national park was meant to be self-sustaining. In 1914, William Steele, "father" and superintendent of Crater Lake National Park, wrote:

    The frequent changes of administration in this Government, together with the unsatisfactory condition in which the national park service is left by Congress, are so pronounced that capitalists are unwilling to advance funds on park concessions in amounts adequate to their needs. . . . Under such conditions it seems to me imperative that the General government acquire possession of all hotels and other permanent improvements of a private nature within the parks. . . . This would be an important step toward making the parks self-sustaining, which they should be. With the road system completed, this revenue, together with that received from automobiles, would make the Crater Lake Park self-sustaining from the start . . .

    Of course, Will Steele, was a bit of a development nut. He advocated a road inside the Crater Lake caldera and a road up Wizard Island as well as a parking lot on top of Mt. Scott, so . . .

    But my larger point is that at the early 20th century, the overall goal seemed to emphasize a self-sustaining nature of national parks:

    Roosevelt's Bureau of the Budget in 1935 instructed the Service to develop a fee structure for all the national parks and the national monuments as well, the object being to make the National Park System more nearly self-sustaining.

    I've seen historical evidence in the other parks I've worked that parks were originally intended to be self-sustaining, although I do not have access to those resources. So, I don't think that the claim that parks should be dependent on federal funding holds much historical weight.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Two words: Corporate Sponsorship. Anyone been to a sports stadium lately? Who wouldn't want to visit the "Frito Lay National Military Park at Gettysburg"? Or perhaps "General Motors National Park"? (It's in Maine. The tallest mountain there is already named for a GM brand.)

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   5 years 33 weeks ago

    Sounds good Frank....until you work the economies of scale, no? You're not talking about one or two locations, a city zoo here, or an art museum there.

    At last count there were 391 units of the park system (and countless more in the incubation chamber we call Congress). The Park Service's annual budget, at last tally, was around $2.4 billion/year. There were roughly 275 million visitors to the parks last year.

    A rough estimation -- and correct my math, please, if necessary -- is that each of those 275 million visitors would have to pay around $875 a year to meet that $2.4 billion. We're not just talking adults, either; we're talking teens, tweens, and toddlers. Family of six? That'd be $5,250 for your annual parks membership. Kinda makes that $80 America the Beautiful Pass seem downright reasonable, doesn't it?

    And then, of course, there are the parks that don't have large visitations and yet still have to pay the bills year-round for their infrastructure. How do they pay the bills? Or do you sell them off? If so, to whom? Who would want them if they can't be self-sufficient? Mining and logging companies perhaps, or gateway communities.

    Sure, I suppose you could have federal taxes pay part, but not all, the bills, but how do you come up with that formula?

    Part of the problem I see is that if you start charging folks not just to come through the entrance gate and to pitch a tent but also to hike this trail or that trail, to paddle on that lake or down that river, or pay a membership fee, ala the local country club, you are indeed going to create an elitist preserve. It's going to be so elitist, in fact, with the dropoff in visitation, that the parks decommissoning commission will be back in a heartbeat.

    This Libertarian approach equates the National Park System with your local Wal-Mart or Wall Street enterprise, and it never was intended to be.

    I would much rather see Congress bite the bullet and adequately fund the parks. How they do it in the end is up to them. Put all the money in the appropriations bill, create endowment funds that individuals and corporate partners could contribute to, start a national lottery with ticket sales going to the parks for five years, and then the interstate highways for five years, and on and on, whatever.

    The problems I see with charging more and more and bigger and bigger fees to fund the parks is 1) it's never going to be equitable across the 391-unit board, 2) it puts the parks out of reach for a larger and larger segment of the population and, 3) the resultant decline in visitation will force those fees to grow at a more and more rapid pace.