Recent comments

  • National Park System Would Gain Official Wilderness Under Omnibus Lands Bill   5 years 40 weeks ago

    It will be interesting if the Omnibus Public Lands Act doesn't pass today - but the bean counters must be pretty confident, as Senator (and Vice-President-Elect) Joe Biden is apparently off to Asia today, according to the Associated Press - although apparently at least three Senators canceled plans to join him on the trip in order to cast their votes. The AP also says that this bill would be the biggest expansion of the National Wilderness System in 25 years (although, I'm guessing that's largely an artifact of the fact these bills had to be consolidated into such a large Omnibus Act.)

  • NPCA, Park Retirees File Lawsuit to Halt Change in National Park Gun Rules   5 years 40 weeks ago

    First of all free men and women have the right to keep and bear arms. Bear arms means exactly that, to carry on their person. There is no logical reason that National Parks should restrict that right as that lawful citizens are are not committing crimes in National Parks. The main impetus was against vandalism and poachers. CCW holders have a better record than even the police in not comitting crimes. There is no reason to suppose that CCW holders will suddenly feel required to shoot at animals or signs or even people. There are already laws against poaching and vandalism and shooting against people so a law restricting guns in parks is unecessary.

    Furthermore, there are National Parks in the Southeast that many researchers are told not to visit due to the lawlessness and the drug labs. Large areas of Oregon and Washington National Parks have acreages of marijuana farms. Rangers are considered more at risk than FBI agents due to increase crime.

    The main reason this regulation was changed is that many CCW people cross National Park land every day on the roads and unless they stop and unload and secure weapon and ammo they are committing a felony. Laws should not be created that make people who are othewise lawabiding commit a felony. The idea of laws is not to make lawabiding people to be criminals because of a regulation that is hard not to break going about their business innocently without ill intent.

    So to all that are scared of this change in regulation it simply a step back to pre 1976 when carrying guns in National Parks were allowed. This simply make it easier for CCW holders to cross park lands in a car not to break a law inadvertantly.

    There is no reason to presume that CCW holders will suddenly feel the urge to shoot in a National Park when they don't in the store or movie theater. This unreasonable fear that a gun has the ability to create homicidal urges in otherwise law abiding is ridiculous. Criminals are criminalbecasue the choose to break laws and those criminal will carry anyway like they do in cities. This allows the non criminals to also carry.

    The only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun whether a cop or a normal citizen.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I'm curious - are there other "gotcha's" one should worry about in the northern parks / states? The Isle Royale National Park (Island) in Michigan has had an ongoing wolf / moose - predator/prey study that has been going on for 50 years (as of 2008). There is a good possibility that I will be working in the study this May (the park is only open from May - September), and probably a good chance that I will be the first to open up some cabins, sheds and other enclosures that are closed from October to April. Recommended protocol? There is obviously a rodent population in every single state, in all environments - that goes without saying - yes?

    Being a native Texan, your comments on Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and the use of powdered sulfur as a deterrent are not lost. My youth was spent crawling around on the forest / plains floors, hiding in piles of leaves during paint ball matches, crouching behind blinds for hours while hunting and waiting for that one 'shot' while photographing. I figure that from what yall depict, me and all my buddies probably should be dead by now (40+ years.. be nice). In all sincerity, it's timely information at any age - wish we had known back then what we know now. Also - don't forget that ticks also carry Lyme's (sp) disease and a few other rarer ones. You can bet - if you catch sickness from a tick / flea bite, it won't be a pleasant ordeal.

    Lastly - while I've never heard of someone getting sick from a chigger bite, there has been many a night spent trying everything (smothering them with nail polish on your skin at the bite/entry area, clawing at them, ripping your skin off, etc...) to get rid of the darn things. They are a bane to all Texans - in all areas.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Better bring lots of ammo, Hobblefoot. Naegleria fowler is a single-cell organism and kinda on the small side.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Fortunately with the new rule changes regarding guns in the park, I'll just blast those little amoebas to peices!

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Warren:

    Check out this brief that was filed on behalf of Dick Heller in the US Supreme Court. Those folks, you will see, fight not only for their enumerated right to keep and bear arms, but also for their penumbral right to gay marriage.

    http://www.gurapossessky.com/news/parker/documents/07-290bsacPinkPistols.pdf

    For the record, I am pro-gay, pro-choice, and pro-privacy. I am also pro-gun rights. Individual rights are not just a list of things you can do. The idea is one of personal freedom and a commitment to responsibility, both individual and societal. Perhaps when I feel the most free is when I am in the backcountry, be in National Parks, Wilderness Areas, Forest service property, or BLM land.

    But I think that you are mistaken to demand that every rights-oriented interest group fights on all front, for all rights at all times. I for one support the ACLU, but they have a dismal record on 2A rights. Before Heller, they said they would not support the 2A because it protected "states rights." Now that the SCOTUS has come out and said it protects an individual right ... do they change their position? No, they say "we disagree with the Supreme Court." They see what they want to see.

    Good luck in your battles for equal rights. They are yours. Go get them.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Mr. Wade and McElveen's comments are unnecessarily alarmist and have little basis, if any, in evidence coming out of states where shall-issue right-to-carry has been law for a decade or more.

    First, the majority of the US population lives in shall-issue states, so people and their small children are already in proximity to lawfully armed citizens.

    Second, Federal buildings in parks have always been off-limits and they don't have metal detectors. As before, law-abiding people will not carry in federal buildings, and as before, criminals of a mind to carry inside these buildings will do so anyway.

    Third, carry licensees already have to disarm when they cross certain state borders, enter schools, university campuses, and the like. They understand and abide those boundaries, and they will do the same when national parks straddle states with different carry laws.

    Finally, data coming out of shall-issue right-to-carry states confirm that licensees are an extraordinarily law-abiding demographic. In many states, licensees are 15-20 times less likely to be arrested than the public at large. Simply put, licensees are extraordinarily trustworthy people. There is no rational basis for worry about crimes at the hands of these people.

    All said, the arguments forwarded by Mr. Wade and McElveen are simply unfounded. It is rather absurd to hear them arguing so strongly for something that has little, if any, rational basis.

    Afterthought:
    I suppose that what dumbfounds me the most regarding these arguments is their long and repetitive history.

    Florida passed shall-issue right-to-carry in 1987, and similar arguments were brought out at that time. Since then, only 2 states have NOT passed some form of concealed carry law. During this 20-year process, these same arguments came up in state, after state, after state. Now after 20 years these fears of Mr. Wade and McElveen have yet to be realized! People, we have good, solid data regarding these carry policies. Look at the data, and distrust the alarmist rhetoric.

    Public policy is too important to be swayed by empty arguments. We are smarter than that.

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   5 years 40 weeks ago

    A wonderful site, made even more so by its proximity to San Francisco. Many other large cities should be so fortunate.

    Another gift to all of us from President Theodore Roosevelt.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I agree that none of these perils should discourage visits to parks, but they are a good reminder that prudent measures are a good idea - for visitors and employees.

    This article also brought to mind a humorous personal experience (although it probably didn't seem so at the time):

    Back in the 1980s, I worked in the Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, and the park staff agreed to participate in a study by the state Health Department to try to determine if ticks in the area were carriers for Rocky Mountain spotted fever. I can testify from personal experience that the thickets of southeast Texas qualify as critical habitat for both ticks and chiggers, so the park staff also provided a pretty good test group for effective repellents against those critters.

    For several months, when we went to the "field" we were armed with a set of small glass vials and some official Texas Dept. of Health labels. If we found a tick on our person, we collected it, put it in the vial, secured the lid, and completed a stick-on label with details (was the tick attached to us or merely crawling, date and location, etc.) The bottled ticks were then shipped off to the lab, where they presumably gave their lives for the sake of science.

    One afternoon, the Chief Ranger called me into his office near the end of the day, and a rather unusual conversation ensued. After some preliminary small talk, the short version went something like this:

    Chief: "So, how are you feeling today?"

    Ranger J (who has just returned from a delightful day in the woods and swamps, where the readings for both humidity and heat exceeded "90"): "Okay."

    Chief: "Any unusual medical problems lately?"

    Ranger J: (Increasingly puzzled): Nope.

    Chief: (after a bit more beating around the bush): "Well, I just thought I should let you know three of the last four ticks you sent in came back positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever."

    Ah, the joys of rangering!

    As a follow-up, my personal experience was that powdered sulphur, applied topically as a dusting powder, was the best anti-tick measure. The military-issue insect repellent, which contained something like 95% DEET as the active ingredient, was also fairly effective, but since it melted plastic camera lens caps and water bottles, super DEET fell out of favor as a classic case of the preventive being worse than the threat.

  • National Park System Would Gain Official Wilderness Under Omnibus Lands Bill   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Jim, thanks for the update on this measure. Sen. Coburn really is turning into an irritant to some. Though if hindsight is of any help, there more than likely is more than a few servings of pork in this omnibus bill. That said, I'd be surprised if the senator has any luck in derailing this train. There are too many states and politicians to benefit.

    While the above story touches on many of the NPS-related items, one that I overlooked (can you blame me, with a 1200-page bill?) is the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail. This trail, among other things, would follow the course of the great Ice Floods that flooded central Washington up to 100 times.

    As I understand it, and as the Ice Age Floods Institute explains on its web site, this would not exactly be a footpath but rather a travel corridor along which the Park Service would be expected to establish interpretive plaques and kiosks.

    If the omnibus bill passes, the Traveler will take a more expansive look at this proposed trail.

  • National Park System Would Gain Official Wilderness Under Omnibus Lands Bill   5 years 40 weeks ago

    An article in today's Las Vegas Review-Journal provides a hint of the upcoming fight over this bill, led by Senator Coburn. He says:

    "The omnibus bill would withdraw millions of acres of public land from energy development, increase government spending by more than $10 billion and add even greater restrictions to federally managed lands."

    The Oklahoma lawmaker has added a new twist to his strategy. He:

    proposed an amendment that would prevent any new spending until the National Park Service gets caught up with a $1.5 billion repair backlog at high profile parks.

    The amendment singles out Lake Mead National Recreation Area, along with the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone National Park, the USS Arizona, Glacier National Park, Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg and Antietam, and the National Mall in Washington.

    The prohibition on "new spending" presumably refers to activities that are included in this bill. Unfortunately, I haven't seen all calls by Coburn to actually provide any funds to help with the NPS backlog, so stalling progress on other provisions until the backlog is corrected is a clever stalling tactic.

    Although I agree this bill has many excellent provisions, it's fraught with the same peril as many omnibus bills, which lump a large number of individual bills into one package, and thus become a convenient vehicle for the oft-debated earmarks, such as yet another "road to nowhere." Since the bill is reported to include about 1200 pages, it is hard for anyone to wade through all the text, posing some risk that a ringer or two that even bill supporters will later regret is lurking in the fine print.

    Will the bill actually come to a vote on Sunday? When the votes are counted, will there be any hanging chads? It'll be interesting...

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Geez, Bob, are you trying to take all the fun away from a park visit?

    As for plague, we shouldn't forget that it killed an NPS wildlife biologist in Grand Canyon National Park in 2007.

    Other threats, though not disease-related, include altitude sickness (aka acute mountain sickness) that can strike if you head above 8,000 feet and are not acclimated; heat stroke or heat exhaustion, which are very common in the Grand Canyon during the summer months; hypothermia, which can occur in many parks if you're not careful, and; various nasty intestinal ailments that are common to Colorado River rafting parties.

    All that said (and I'm sure we missed some threats), I wouldn't let any of these keep me out of the parks.

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Yes, you are definitely forgiven. We were just there on Tuesday (visiting from Utah) and loved it. Your excellent write-up provides great background for one of America's treasures.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    What a story. I have enjoyed the warm springs in Saline Valley over the course of three days and broke all of the rules of safety as did others with me. Suppose we were lucky. Hope there are signs posted now. Beautiful area and aside from a few people that like to play their stereo full blast, it was very nice. Think signs would be out of place? I know the loud music was.

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Does this mean I'm forgiven for getting the centennial year wrong?

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   5 years 40 weeks ago

    One of the most beautiful places on earth - makes San Francisco worth the trip.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    As for Kurt, I truly appreciate that he puts forth the time and effort to operate this website and blog. He and I disagree on this issue but I still think that we could spend a day in a National Park together and enjoy each other's company. We all owe him a big "Thank you!"

    Here here! Running a site like this takes a lot of energy, effort, and time. I'm glad to have a forum to discuss this and other relevant issues.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    It's been awhile since I've chimed in on this issue. My viewpoints haven't changed and I don't think anyone else's have either. I think it is immoral to require someone to disarm themselves when they cross a line on a map. How my concealed pistol will "scare" someone is beyond my wildest comprehension. It's like saying that they're offended by the color of my underwear!

    As for the comments being mostly OPPOSED to this new rule change, I invite you to go to the comments page and read some for yourself. There are many thousands of them. Pick a hundred at random; it might take you a half hour. But it will show you the fact that most responders were in FAVOR of this new rule change!

    http://www.regulations.gov/search/search_results.jsp?No=80&sid=119C6B4B6492&Ne=2+8+11+8053+8054+8098+8074+8066+8084+8055&Ntt=e8-09606&Ntk=All&Ntx=mode+matchall&N=0&css=0

    As for Kurt, I truly appreciate that he puts forth the time and effort to operate this website and blog. He and I disagree on this issue but I still think that we could spend a day in a National Park together and enjoy each other's company. We all owe him a big "Thank you!"

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Ted, I should know better, but....

    * "Disproportionally"?

    Disproportionate to what? To Hispanics, to Asians, to African-Americans, to AARPers, to twenty-somethings, to white males, to white females, to black bears?

    You mention the "general population," but I'd wager the "general population" of the Washington peninsula is considerably different than the "general population" of Torrey, Utah, the gateway to Capitol Reef NP or Hurricane, Utah, on the border of Zion NP, or even Bar Harbor, Maine, next to Acadia NP.

    If you're being specific to the general population of the peninsula, I'm not sure if your point is that out-of-area gays find the park overly nice and enjoyable or that there's been a disconcerting drop in non-gay visitation.

    * "important parts of Olympic National Park"?

    And what would be the unimportant parts?

    The bottom line is, "So what?"

    Back in July of '07 I wrote about an African-American BLM ranger, Wayne Hare, who had written an essay lamenting the general lack of people of color in the backcountry areas of our public lands. Part of his point was that, "The most recent U.S. Census indicates that sometime around the year 2050, people of color in this country will outnumber the current white majority. If the emerging future majority doesn't find intrinsic value in our birthright of publicly owned lands, how much tougher will it be to fund and protect these special areas?"

    To say the least, that post generated quite a bit of heat out...from folks who agreed with Mr. Hare, from folks who disagreed, from folks who complained about all the talk about diversity, maintaining that it had become overly PC and was failing to accomplish the underlying goal in favor of merely playing a numbers game.

    I guess my point is that I would be more concerned about your observation if it was that you didn't encounter ANYONE in the backcountry. Who cares if those you did are gay, or black, or yellow, or purple? Would you have made the same "disproportionate" claim if the majority of folks you encountered were white males aged 35-55? Just to tie back into the original post, would you have commented if you found a "disproportionate" number of backcounty travelers were armed or unarmed?

    Last time I checked the parks were there to be enjoyed by all-comers regardless of race, creed, age, gender, or sexual orientation. Shouldn't they all be encouraged, welcomed, and feel comfortable without being labeled as "disproportionate"?

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Kurt,

    There was no sarcasm in my observations about the high level of gay usage in the Olympic Peninsula backcountry.

    Warren brought 'civil rights' into the thread explicitly in the context of 'gay rights'. You responded to him, expressing reservations about the thread-drift, and indicated that you were "curious" whether his drift can be tied to the 'Parks-theme'.

    I believe there is an opportunity for such a tie-in as you requested, in that gays appear to be disproportionally represented, in comparison with the general population, in important parts of Olympic National Park.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 41 weeks ago

    When I went to Yellowstone, I had a .44 Mag. revolver in my back back when I hiked and camped in the wilderness areas. At that time a young woman 3 weeks earlier had been attacked by a grizzly bear, I felt I had the right to protect myself! I have a CCW for Minnesota, the left wing said it would be like the wild west, there would be gun battles on Main St., we haven't seen any of that. Serious crime has gone done, even the Police Chief of St. Paul says it has posed any threats to any of his officers.

  • Earthquakes Continuing to Rattle Yellowstone National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    K Gies,

    For every "supereruption" there are a thousand "big eruptions", and for every one of those there is a thousand "little eruptions". Neither science nor the government can really tell reliably which of those 'events' a sustained pattern of 'warning activity' will lead to - if anything at all. Most warning-activity comes to nothing.

    Most eruptions are little ... but Mount St. Helens was a 'little eruption', and it was fairly impressive. However, the main effects of St. Helens were confined to Washington State (had the wind been different, the ash would have dumped heavily on the urban Portland, Oregon area ... but still, the human cost would have been light).

    K, nobody - nobody - knows how to tell if the Big One is coming.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Ted,

    I'm starting to worry about your efforts at sarcasm....or, if you're being serious, does this impression overly concern you?

    And please, let's read for comprehension and not insert thoughts into my comments. Whereas I referred to discussion of *general* civil rights issues, without specifying one or another aspect, you felt fit to label my interest as being specific to gay rights. Why is that? What about how minorities are faced with stereotypes or discrimination? What about women not being paid equal to their male colleagues?

    But I suppose that would be thread drift....unless you tied 'em to NPS hiring somehow.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Warren & Kurt viz Parks, Gay Rights, and Drift

    Kurt cracked the door:

    "Perhaps someone can spin [(gay) civil rights] in a fashion that does tie it to the parks, and I'd be curious to see that one."

    I believe that gays are over-represented on the 'intermediate to advanced' backcountry trails.

    Once you have hiked in farther than can be hiked back the same day, it starts to become noticeable that some of the folks being encountered are evidently gays. Normally, one does not notice this, though of course it is always true.

    On the trails and 'designated' campsites a couple days 'back in' from the madding crowds, it becomes emphatically evident that an unusually high portion of one's fellows are gay. I am going to guess that the 'enrichment' may typically run 25% to 50%. On an extra-good day, in an extra-good setting, a casual glance indicates that most of the others finding tent-sites, unpacking, fetching water, getting a few pictures - are gay.

    I think there is a serious - and important - over-representation of gays in the Olympic National Park backcountry.

  • Earthquakes Continuing to Rattle Yellowstone National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I would like to know if there is a plan in place to notify those affected if Yellowstone go's. Which is going to be everyone from Missouri/Kansas north and east. Or is everyone going to kept in the dark and our government and FEMA just hoping for the best? I think the people of this country have the right to know what their government plans on doing if there is any warning of a large quake ( 6.0 or greater) or a large eruption. This kind of event can and will affect many lives.