Recent comments

  • Are Our National Parks No Longer for the People?   5 years 41 weeks ago

    D-2--

    You are too polite to Beamis. He is mostly wrong. Most park people are the opposite of what he claims they are: they are polite, usually well-informed, and have the visitor's back most of the time. I almost laughed out loud when he talked about young rangers coming out of training "gulags". What planet does he live on? As you point out, there's not much training going on anywhere other than the bare minimum that is required to meet certification standards. Park employees, including rangers, are not much different than any one else except they work in really nice places and, in the vast majority of the cases, try hard to help park visitors understand what they are seeing and to have a good time in the park. There are exceptions, as you point out; maybe Beamis has run into every one of them. But his "draconian" law enforcement people and "radical environmental" managers are not the ones I meet when I go to parks.

    Rick Smith

  • Eradicating Everglades Pythons Will be a Formidable Task   5 years 41 weeks ago

    There's a back story to the SREL experiment to see if male pythons can survive South Carolina winters.
    http://www.fort.usgs.gov/InfoQuality/MTF21972/ICR_MTF21972.asp

    In 2008 a couple of USGS scientists published a peer-reviewed paper on the potential range of pythons in the US:
    Rodda, G.H., C.S. Jarnevich, and R.N. Reed. 2008. What parts of the US mainland are climatically suitable for invasive alien pythons spreading from Everglades National Park? Biological Invasions. Published online 27 February 2008 via SpringerLink, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10530-008-9228-z

    A herpetologist who owns pet snakes filed a complaint under the federal data quality act, claiming that the USGS analysis used climate & habitat from the entire range of the pythons in SE Asia, while the introduced snakes in Florida might be from only a small part of that range, and thus may have overestimated the area where the pythons could become a serious problem, and thus possibly resulting in restrictions on python ownership. The back & forth was only interesting if you need to know about the data quality act (which I did): the complaint is that the USGS scientists didn't analyze data that they don't have and that don't exist. Before limitations on ownership are enforced, one side or the other should fund the genetic research to determine exactly where the snakes in Florida came from (a former colleague of mine is just the person to do that work: he's done it for snakeheads & other introduced invasive species).

    But, the simpler, more direct empirical experiment is to see whether some of the snakes from the Everglades can survive winter freezes, and SREL just happened to have suitable habitat enclosures from when it was a substantial ecological research laboratory run by the University of Georgia on the DOE Savannah River Site, and thus was a very inexpensive way to perform the initial experiment.

    As for rules, I agree with Anonymous that rules applied to the general public will be ineffective, as even a low percentage of scofflaws will be enough to continue the problem. However, in the case of exotic invasive species, laws targeting the importation and commercial sale of species that might cause substantial harm can be effective. We already have those rules and quarantines for health & agricultural risk, and they (mostly) work. It takes research to minimize the restrictions on the pet & horticultural trades and pet owners & gardeners while stopping potential problems at the bottleneck where they might be stopped.

    Conversely, Anonymous's suggestion of one more person out hunting snakes (or even hundreds more) won't put a dent in their increase & spread. There are too many of them spread over too large of an area and they reproduce too quickly.

  • Are Our National Parks No Longer for the People?   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I disagree that we need more visitors to our parks. They are overrun as it is, at least the popular ones and at least in the summer. What we do need is more interest in our parks from young people. With the number of visitors, most of whom are city people who know very little about how to behave in the outdoors and around wildlife, the switch in emphasis toward preservation is probably a good thing. Park professionals have learned, in many cases the hard way, that if you let people go unattended into certain sensitive areas ancient artifacts will become souvineers, beautiful rock walls will be covered with graffiti and trash will be strewn around. They have discovered that if you allow people to hike into bear rich areas, people will feed and tease them, hike without taking proper precautions and get too close in the name of a picture; resulting in maulings and dead bears. Etc.
    While nearly anyone who has spent more than a short vacation in our parks probably can site instances where they wish a ranger wasn't there ("So I'm 80 yards instead of 100!! He's not paying the least bit of attention to me, and my car is right there!!! If he looks my way, I'll back up!), the fact is that most rangers do a great job of balancing resource protection and visitor enjoyment. After all, they are overwhelmed, have no idea if you are an outdoorsperson who has spent his (her) life in the wilds, or a city slicker; and they are understaffed.
    I would suggest visiting at a slower time of the year, when things are a lot more relaxed.

  • Are Our National Parks No Longer for the People?   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Beamis, whenever you rail on, I do get the same message, and certainly your distain for people trying to do their job, but I never get a picture of how you think things should work if YOU had your way. You say you believe in preservation, and in parks. So how would it work, if you were Emperor of the North, and could make it go your way? What would people do on Monday?

    Most of the lessons Rangers and other park people learn from, come -- not as you picture it -- but from what actually happens day in and day out, or happened over time, at this or that park, with this or that action by park management. It would actually be welcome if Rangers got more training, but in fact most park people don't take the time they should for training, because they are too busy. (not a good excuse, but true) Most park people are these very practical people who don't have much use for bureaucracy. Park rangers are forever pointing out how lawyer-driven Director's Orders undermine sensible management on the front line in a real park. Practical people. There IS, of course, much regret when some part of the park experience is lost, on those occasions when management let some adverse action go on, that in the end impaired the park experience. Park people REMEMBER and talk about when they should have stepped in but didn't. Those experiences, good and not good, are then applied to future enforcing protection or encouraging park use.

    Park people are always talking to each other about how to be more welcoming, and there is a lot of criticism among peers for rangers who do not like people, or act like they do not like people. Most park people, overwhelmingly, are hugely gratified by how much most of the public really enjoy themselves at the park. It keeps most park rangers going, the joy of the visitor.

    It is true that some of the superintendents are not very politically skilled, and in their public explanations while hide behind what the regulation says, or some higher-up policy, but the reason for that political style is the way public officials get creamed in America today whenever they are open and clear. There are lawyers everywhere, and a lot of angry ranters who love to litigate. Read the papers.

    Ray Bane is right about the pressure on any ranger who wants to confront human impact on the park. At Ray Bane's old park I saw a front-line ranger merely try to enforce a permit condition against a film company in which they promised not to get too close to the bears, and that guy's chief ranger -- the guy who probably negotiated the permit -- rebuked the front line ranger as a zealot, and to chill out. Superintendent's who try to protect beaches in recreation areas really do get sliced and diced. Even in the end if the agency supports the restriction, that superintendent realizes his/her intervention was not deeply appreciated by Higher Authority.

    Parks are there, not just for preservation, but so people can enjoy and learn from unimpared wild, scenic or historic places. It is a wonderful idea, and most of the visitors find the park people pretty wonderful, too. Part of that time, in that grey area, that means there can be tensions over over use, and how to prevent it, and the human beings needed to protect the park and the human beings, with all their variety and vastly different levels of experience, who visit the park. I remember being startled to learn that my own wife, who I think is pretty sensitive and law abiding, was approached once by a ranger who said he'd seen her picking some wild flowers. He was not heavy handed, but pointed out others came to the park to enjoy those flowers, and it would not take many people picking 'em before the whole scene would be altered. For a moment, she was defensive, but almost immediately grateful that she better understood how to behave in a park. She appreciated the 'intervention,' and I am not sure you could have a gentler intervention, other than letting anything go.

    You can bring your incipient anger to characterize rangers as hostile, but it is just not so. It does get boring, it lacks all nuance.

    Thinking through in a collaborative way the right way to protect and experience the parks needs to be a continual and earnest process. Constantly blaming the rangers seems pretty silly.

  • Traveler's Checklist - Glacier National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I have spent quite a bit of time in glacier park. i would suggest hiking into avalanche lake. it is not to bad of a hike and the reward is something to behold. it is one of the most beautiful places i have ever seen. if you like to flyfish you will have a ball, my son and i caught and released many fish. not very big ones ,but almost every cast we caught one. we didn't bring our waders and you can't stand long in the water without them.VERY COLD!! bring your bearspray and wear a bell. we never saw one, but you always need to be prepared. there is a very nice campground at the trailhead, in the morning deer would walk through. we had alot of fun there. anybody thats want to see bighorn sheep and goats up close needs to go to logan pass on going to the sun road. they are always there and they are not afraid of humans. keep in mind they are wild and can hurt you easily. i have seen people trying to pet the little billy goats in the parking lot with momma standing right there. a ranger came out and gave these folks a good talking to. i have had a bad experience with the canadian border guards and i will never try to cross into canada ever again. they treated us like we were trash. the american border guards said they treated them the same way all the time. anyway glacier is a wonderful place you must see in your life.

  • Mount Terror Lives Up to Its Name at North Cascades National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I just wanted to say thanks for the great article. I am Steph Abegg, the climber who was roped to Steve when he fell. We are all thankful for the success of the rescue. The success was due to a series of crucial decisions made by several individuals involved (the 3 uninjured climbers, the rescue team in Marblemount). Thanks to everyone involved.

    I have posted a detailed trip report of the accident, including sevearal photos, on my website:
    http://sabegg.googlepages.com/terror

    -Steph

  • Interior Secretary Moves to Block Uranium Mining Near Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    "Taking a step the Bush administration refused to take . . . " I said it before and I'll say it again. Thank God the Bush years are over. Take this type of action (that is, non-action/obstruction) and multiply it by thousands over eight years and you will have the complete picture of the Bush administration concerning any social issue involving potential business profits.

    I can hear it now: "But, this is private land (or development rights on public land). What about the rights to develop and use the land that the investors own/lease?" I would say, as in so many other similar issues, these property rights CEASE at the point where they would sacrifice the common good.

    This is applied obviously to the air we breathe and the water we drink (under the current administration, at least). Perhaps not as obvious, but no less applicable, are the rights of the public to preserve a national, world, treasure like the Grand Canyon. The world needs the Grand Canyon more than additional uranium.

    To what extent should national parks be protected from development beyond their borders? To the extent that any such development is determined to be detrimental to our national parks in any significant manner. I would think that extensive mining in the area would come under that description.

  • Are Our National Parks No Longer for the People?   5 years 41 weeks ago

    National Parks were established to preserve the natural and cultural resources they have to offer. They are not all things for all people. They are not amusement parks. They were not established for the enjoyment of the people at the risk of harming their natural resources. If you do not care about the natural and cultural resources of a particular park and will not enjoy and respect it, don't go !

    These wonderful, diverse ecosystems deserve to be protected whether visitation is up or down. That is why they were established.......to be saved for those of us who DO love and respect them !

    As an adult without kids, I feel an obligation to get involved and help a kid understand our natural world and learn to protect and respect it. If we all made that effort, maybe a few would leave their video games and cellphones long enough to see what Mother Nature has to enjoy and teach us.

  • Traveler's Checklist - Glacier National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Just returned from spending a 6 days in Glacier last week and it is spectacular, even though it rained much of the time! I was expecting to find "Yosemite style" glacial valleys, so was surprised at how different the glacial landscape of Glacier is from what I am familiar with. If you have seen either Yosemite or Glacier, don't skip visiting the other because you've already seen glacial valleys!

  • Lodging in the Parks: John Muir Lodge, Kings Canyon National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    If you have info to share please contact me through my website at http://www.historic-hotels-lodges.com. Thank you! There's also a more extensive history of Grant Grove Village posted there.

  • Eradicating Everglades Pythons Will be a Formidable Task   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Anonymous No. 1, can't say I ever recall anyone offering video footage of a 50-foot python, but we wouldn't intentionally delete that. Heck, that'd draw traffic in herds! Now, if we could root out that Stalinesque moderator, we'd feed him to that python of yours.

  • Thelma & Louise Redux? Man Drives Car Off South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I hiked the Bright Angel Trail two days after this with no problems. I heard this guy dumped gas all over himself and in the vehical before he drove off. It is sad that this kind of thing happens. It would have been tragic if anyone specialy kids where hit by the car tumbling down over the trail. Also heard of a guy jumping out of a helicopter to his death....some time this year.

  • You Won't Find This On Your Hook....   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Several of the nearby public schools sections in Wyoming have the same stratum exposed and are leased for commercial fossil quarries. Back in the 1980s, the University of Utah's undergraduate course in evolution had a field trip to a quarry the first weekend: you could give each student a block of rock and a screwdriver or chisel, let them split off layers (or varves), and guaranty that they'd find at least 1 fish. That helped get their attention for the rest of the quarter. Grad students volunteered as van drivers: lots of distant relatives got fish fossils as inexpensive Christmas presents! One year we found a complete skate (ray), which became property of the state of Wyoming (as do all scientifically significant finds in the quarries).

    There's also a huge coal strip mine a few miles south of FOBI.

  • Eradicating Everglades Pythons Will be a Formidable Task   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I don't want to shift the subject, but based on the prior comments, I am beginning to conclude that their are only 2 answers to every control issue. License and ban. For us to be successful in any endeavor, we must stop wasting resources by simply piling on more laws and procedures that must be followed. This approach feels like we are doing something, however, the number 1 law is that you do not release exotic animals into the wild. Anyone willing to break that rule, would be willing to break any other rule put into place. All of the new rules will only waste resources on getting the people who would be responsible anyway to jump through more hoops. This does not stop the irresponsible ones. Sure there are some responsible owners, who accidentally loose their snake, but that number is most likely so small that it is irrelevant. Much like the similar issues with gun control, every dollar that is spent and every minute that is spent, tracking, licensing, controlling, legitimate owners, is time and money that is not going to eliminate the bigger problem. 1 person in an office processing forms and collecting money, would be much better spent in the field working on capturing, and killing the snakes.

  • Eradicating Everglades Pythons Will be a Formidable Task   5 years 41 weeks ago

    In an earlier article on "How Big Pythons Can get" I posted a link to video footage of a 50 foot Burmese Python in captivity. It's head is as big as a medium sized dog! My comment didn't get past the moderator however since it directly conflicted with his ridiculous assertion that there were only 40 foot Pythons even back in the day of Prehistorically huge animals. Therefore, I won't bother going to the trouble of finding the link this time since this post probably won't make it past this "throwback to the days of Stalin"-style moderator (but you can Google "50 foot Python" to find it readily enough). Enjoy your life controlling everyone's access to the truth there Mr. Moderator! As long as history agrees with you right?

  • Take Care if You're Visiting Alaska National Parks, As Bears Aren't Being Bashful   5 years 41 weeks ago

    One of the most interesting things I did when I lived in Alaska was to go to a bear symposium, and hear wildlife experts discuss bear facts. A number of myths were also debunked. Did you know for an example that bears can actually be attracted to pepper-based bear spray? that is why you never use it as a so-called "repellant" before a potential bear encounter, and why you get out of the area quickly after using it. Bears also have social interactive skills, so if they are around multiple bears, they act better. In other words, bears who are around many other bears, can often be safer to people than a bear who lives in an isolated area with few or no other bears. Brown bears are intelligent, and sensitive, and can test something new or intiguing within its home range. They love tents, salmon cook-outs on the beach, and berries. Guns are worthless in bear country, for normal outdoor visitor use. That is because you become overconfident, and a gun won't stop a brown bear in time to prevent contact anyhow.

    Ben Lord

  • Take Care if You're Visiting Alaska National Parks, As Bears Aren't Being Bashful   5 years 41 weeks ago


    -- On storminator's point, we had black bears in the Brooks Range that would pursue you unrelentingly. These was very different behavior than I'd come to expect from the brown bear of VA mountains. These black bears in the Brooks Range seemed to be scavengers, and I supposed they had succeeded in getting food from people who used the alpine lakes as drop-off and pick up points. But I don't really know. Just that those black bears did appear threatening, while the brown bear in the vicinity seemed to go out of their way to avoid people. They would just slide away, most of the time.

    -- On Ray Bane's point about camping away from a place a bear frequents, I wonder if that bear had in fact regularly used that island where the archeologists were camping. From his point of view, the archeologists would have been the interlopers.

    I'm no expert at archeological practice in southern Alaska, but from what I do know I believe that the archeological sites and the prime bear habitat are often the same place. Bears are attracted by the same things that have attracted human use over the millenia: great fishing, hunting, gathering or all three. Maybe the island had long been a place of human habitation, AND bear habitation. Perhaps someone could tell me, but is it not possible that a single bear could have been highly territorial toward that specific place?? It seemed to me that the bears of Katmai were driven by habit, but again this is not extensive experience, but it is my experience.

  • Eradicating Everglades Pythons Will be a Formidable Task   5 years 41 weeks ago

    In 2007 Florida passed legislation that named the Burmese python, four other large constrictors, and the Nile monitor lizard as "reptiles of concern.” In January a new Florida law went into effect establishing that python owners must obtain $100-a-year owners’ permits and have microchip IDs installed under the skin of their python pets so they can be owner-identified if they end up lost, strayed, or stolen. BTW, the albino Burmese python that killed the little girl in Sumter County, Florida was reportedly unlicensed.

  • Eradicating Everglades Pythons Will be a Formidable Task   5 years 41 weeks ago

    One step to limit people from releasing non-native species such as the Burmese Python into the wild would be to make it very difficult for people to acquire breeding animals. If the pet stores or licensed breeders could only sell sterilized animals to the public then that would of course slow any spread of snake , in this case, colonization. It is not a cure but a step in the right direction. Understand, I don't claim to be an expert and this is just an idea.

  • Survey Results Label the French as the World’s Worst Tourists   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I'd agree that some of the French can be hard to take, especially considering that if we hadn't pulled their cookies out of the oven twice, they might all be speaking German now.

  • More Low Water Woes at Lake Mead – but This Isn't the Worst Drought on Record for the Lake   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I'm with Dave and Ray on this one. Anonymous sounds like the one who's been brainwashed by the con men &
    politicians selling limitless growth. Desert irrigating civilizations since before Babylon have historically collapsed due to salt accumulation in their soil and overgrazing of headwaters. Where are the biblical cedars of Lebanon, and just how are our own 'make the desert bloom' schemes going to end differently?

    More is not sustainable, and "ultimately" may be sooner than we care to think, maybe even just around the economic corner.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 41 weeks ago

    The NPS "allows" people to climb Mt. McKinley and El Capitan too. It is up to ANYONE and everyone to determine if it is for them.

  • Survey Results Label the French as the World’s Worst Tourists   5 years 41 weeks ago

    It absolutely matches my experiences. After 12 years in the NPS in four parks, I can't tell you how many times a shrug and "I'm French" were the response to warnings about out-of-bounds camping, boats speeding in no wake zones, cars speeding on park roads, approaching bears/wolves/bison/thermal features too closely...you name it. Recently we received a complaint from a French gentleman calling us "socialists" and "communists" because he couldn't ride is mountain bike and drive anywhere he wanted, anytime he wanted. A Frenchman calling us socialists? Ha! And yet we can't even visit their country and ask a question in English without being treated like dirt.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I hiked Angel's Landing less than two weeks ago (July 2009). My boyfriend made it through the first short section of chains and decided to call it quits. I was determined and set out on my own. I nearly didn't make it to the top myself due to the combination of conditions - heat, fatigue and fear. Thanks to the encouragement from a young and energetic couple, I was able to conquer the challenge and make it all the way to the summit. An amazing thrill and accomplishment! What the hell was I thinking?!?!?! So very glad I made this hike but I won't take that chance again. Since returning home I have considered this hike quite a bit. I become anxious and nervous just thinking about it now. I commented there on the trail and I've told this to my family and friends - I am shocked the Park Service allows ANYONE to take this hike. However, I'm not sure the right thing to do would be to shut it down. This is an experience I will treasure my whole life. I do think that more explict sings that detail the danger and deaths that have occured there would be a smart addition. I am appalled to read in these posts that someone saw a parent on this trail with an infant on their back. That's something I simply couldn't watch! This hike is a serious undertaking. And, it's worth every treacherous step. Know your limits and respect gravity!

  • Take Care if You're Visiting Alaska National Parks, As Bears Aren't Being Bashful   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I lived in Alaska for 20 years. Brown bears are dangerous up there. If you go into the woods, be prepared. This is actually more common place than you'd think by that article. Brown bears charge very often in Alaska. Several of my friends have been charged while fishing on the Kenai River.

    They have a lot of competition for available food. They are very territorial. Bears have even returned to the city of Anchorage with the restocking of fish in the city creeks and river systems.

    Every black bear I ever ran across in Alaska seemed way more afraid of me than I was of it. If you're out in the wilderness of Alaska- be well armed. Browns are to be very wary of and respected.