Recent comments

  • Big Bend National Park: Is It Ready For A Mountain Bike Trail?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Mark raises an intriguing question (although it's one that's been touched on previously). It revolves around his statement that adding mountain biking trails "holds the promise of bringing many new NPS supporters into the fold."

    Are we to assume that mountain bikers could care less about national parks unless they can ride off-road -- and preferably on single-track trails -- through them?

    In the past at least one commenter has pointed out that the national parks need all the advocates they can muster, and that mountain bikers, being somewhat innocuous on the landscape (a point that can be debated), should be courted.

    So should a concession here and one there be allowed in the name of luring advocates for the parks?

    Should Yellowstone drop its prohibition to paddlers on the Firehole, Madison, Gibbon, Lamar and Yellowstone rivers to lure more advocates who like to paddle? Should prohibitions against mechanized travel in wilderness and recommended wilderness in parks be dropped to lure more ATV and snowmobile users in the name of building park advocates? What about prohibitions against personal watercraft?

    Is it so difficult to find advocates for the parks simply because of the qualities they preserve/conserve and showcase, and not because of what recreational add-ons folks can bring to them?

    Are there not already enough multi-use lands throughout the state parks, national forests, BLM lands, and even the National Park System, to meet the needs of all these varying interests, or must the National Park Service take on an across-the-board multi-use mission as well?

  • Park Police Arrest Men Who Brought a Loaded Submachine Gun to a Playground in National Capital Parks-East   5 years 46 weeks ago

    How come the NPS arrests people like this (which they should) and allows things like what goes on a Fire Island National Seashore (see below). Aren't these actions crimes? Should the NPS be looking the other way and letting this happen in view of visitors, including kids, in a national park?

    FINS Citations Spark Concern, Even Outrage
    Written by Michael K. Lavers
    Sunday, July 06, 2008

    With the height of the all too-short summer season less than a week away, the news of possible arrests inside the Meatrack, a strip of beach between Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines that has long been a popular cruising spot for gay men, sent shock waves through the two hamlets. The Fire Island National Seashore [FINS], which maintains jurisdiction over the Meatrack, also known as the Carrington Tract, was quick to point out its rangers made no arrests. It did confirm to the News, however, that they cited two people for disorderly conduct on June 15. Rangers restrained one of these men after he allegedly threw a substance into the weeds and attempted to run away. They cited him for possession of a controlled substance.

    Three additional people received citations for disorderly conduct on June 21 for allegedly engaging in sexual activity within view of the trail. FINS spokesperson Paula Valentine categorically denied that any raids or targeted policing of gay men inside the Meatrack motivated these citations. She said the rangers issued them while on what she described as routine patrols—although the first two were issued during an orientation tour for new FINS seasonal staffers.

    "They're there to protect resources and protect people," Valentine said. "If they come across people engaged in activities that are inappropriate for a public place, they are going to have to respond to them."

    She further noted FINS received additional funds from the National Parks Service to put more rangers on the beach this season. The seashore has also used this money to provide lifeguards on Barrett Beach, additional canoe and guided programs at both Watch Hill and the Sunken Forest and to resurface the boardwalk at Sailors Haven.

    FINS again defended its rangers' actions. "Park rangers check for litter and vandalism and impacts to wildlife," according to a statement released to journalists after a number of gay bloggers and Web sites began to report on what allegedly took place. "Park rangers are also there to provide first aid and emergency medical services. But when an illegal activity is encountered, they are obligated to do their jobs as federal law enforcement officers."

    The citations, which many in both the Pines and the Grove initially thought were arrests, sparked concern and even anger among a number of local residents. The Suffolk County Police Department arrested dozens of gay men during raids in the 1960s on sodomy, indecent exposure and other charges. Local activism eventually stopped these Meatrack incursions, but the recent citations brought the issue back to the forefront for some. "For 40 years, [things have] been running smoothly here," East End resident Philip Otten told the News on a recent Tuesday night at Island Breeze in the Grove. "People come here because of the freedom."

    Mid-week patrons at Low Tea and Sip n' Twirl in the Pines also discussed the citations—and resulting hubbub—as they enjoyed their beers and cocktails. "It's absolutely frustrating," one Pines resident, who identified himself as Andy, said. "This is an adult island. This is an island about non-censorship. People want to be free."

    FINS Acting Superintendent Sean McGuinness met with members of both the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association and the Cherry Grove Property Owners Association to address local concerns. CGPOA President Larry Lane said McGuinness stressed to him "the issue is resolved" and "we should not have any further problems."

    "I'm satisfied for the moment," Lane said. "We're hoping there will be no further problems."
    Valentine further stressed FINS will continue to work with both FIPPOA and CGPOA to respond to any further concerns. "The key thing is mutual respect on both sides, from every aspect," she said.

    http://fireislandnews.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=431&Itemid=77


  • The Wilderness Act At Age 44   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Nice essay, Kurt. Can anyone imagine such a visionary piece of legislation being passed in today's political
    climate? Me memory's fadin', but I seem to recall from '60s Sierra Club Bulletins that top NPS brass lobbied
    against inclusion as the Wilderness Act was being passed? An "increasing population", with it's
    ever-increasing economic aspirations, may have to settle for whatever wild lands escape the frenzy,
    designated or not. The best definition of 'real wilderness' I ever heard was 'a place with a very high
    probability of your body never being found'.

    "For while there is quite a lot of national park landscape that arguably would qualify for wilderness
    designation, until that designation is bestowed by Congress these lands are open to development, to road
    building, and to off-road vehicle travel."

    Ed Abbey long ago characterized the NPS as divided into preservationist and development camps, varying in
    relative strength from unit to unit. I think this is still a fair generalization today and a factor in the slow pace of wilderness designation. Even in NPS designated wilderness, the development faction is sometimes still fighting rear-guard actions.

    A good example is Ted's beloved Olympic NP, where some major trails on the map were so seldom maintained by Park crews as to be functionally abandoned. At the same time, new high-standard frontcountry 'Nature Trails' were built almost every year for two decades. Olympic is arguably our finest 'real wilderness' south of Canada,
    but man's urge to tame and 'improve' it has resulted in a trail inventory totaling over 11,000 manmade
    structures, including several hundred bridges and at least eight miles of boardwalk. Five major trail bridges, costing almost a half million in the 1990's, were so poorly designed (in-house) that they were destroyed by snow within a very few years, while older bridges survived.

    The Peninsula chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen has for many years been allowed to carry chainsaws and
    firearms, for 'trail maintenance' and 'euthanasia of injured animals'. This management policy has resulted
    in the Park purchasing quite a few dead horses. The real cause of death in many cases was falling off way
    trails where horses had no business being. I guess ORV enthusiasts aren't the only ones who like to 'see what
    this baby can do'. This 'upgrading' is just another form of wilderness development.

    The local Park Association threatened to file suit over the replacement of damaged backcountry shelters with non-historic prefab designs. Olympic's Wilderness Management Plan has been written for over a decade, even copied, modified and approved by other NPS units, but has yet to be approved by Olympic Park management. I believe they were sued over the delay by The Wilderness Society, but they're still stalling.

    It's amazing how the NPS gets away with whining about the humongous 'maintenance backlog' when much of the
    list is actually desired development, and much of the real maintenance on it was deferred because the money
    and labor resources were transferred to past development. But then, few NPS managers ever got promoted to
    Hawaii or Virgin Islands for just taking care of what was already there at their current Park.


  • Big Bend National Park: Is It Ready For A Mountain Bike Trail?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    As an unabashed fan of adding more shared-use trails to national parks, I have to thank "Barky" for a well-considered message. Trail design and construction do more to determine the impacts of recreation than whether the traffic comes from foot travel, bicycles or equestrian use. Adding well-considered mountain biking trails to appropriate national parks -- as determined by on-the-ground field staff -- holds the promise of bringing many new NPS supporters into the fold.

    As for the Traveler's assertion that the Big Bend trail has to be five feet wide to accept bike traffic ... well there are plenty of mountain bikers who would much rather see the trail narrowed to the 18-inch tread size normally associated with singletrack mountain biking. But those design parameters are best left for the Big Bend trail-building staff to determine -- and that's exactly how things are proceeding in the park.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Bogator;

    While writing an earlier response I considered including reference to "Cervid Wasting Disease", CWD. Looking at web-references about this, I saw mention of:

    • a Canadian national initiative to revive their formerly large deer etc wild game meat industry, and...
    • a reference to an eastern US State's imported deer meat & slaughter regulations, indicating the existence of a meaningful industry.

    It is probably that we could follow your suggestion on a substantial scale.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Lets do this in reverse; kill all of the cattle and raise buffalo and elk. I understand that their meat is better for us anyway. Ted Turner has been trying to convince us of this for years.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Random Walker;

    Yes! Thank you for the links!

    YTY - the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative is an example mentioned by Kurt (he thought languishing). Their website looks nicely developed, with current news. I think there is extra potential for enlarged (and better) habitat preservation in the more-northern regions.

    The North American Wildlands Network identifies itself as The Rewilding Institute. I have surfed into material referencing them: they are known & active. Their website is quite attractive, though it is 'content' (which I like) rather than 'community' oriented. Their front page has an intriguing sketch-map (down a ways) of the western USA, showing potential habitat enclaves with linkages between them.

    Freedom to Roam's full identity is Patagonia Environmental Activism Campaign: Freedom to Roam. It appears to be a project of the Patagonia clothing corporation. A positive engagement, I'd say. Also a content-site.

    The last 2 of these 3 appear focused on establishing linkages, green-belts or migration-ways between now-separated existing habitat enclaves ... or as Kurt refers to them, "islands". (I am about halfway through "Song of the Dodo")

    The particular aspect that I and I think Kurt were considering is to establish policy over extended territories (rather than 'corridors'), even allowing for the inclusion of non-wilderness human presence & activities. By doing so, we can manage larger solid regions of terrain.

    But the 'connector' idea promoted by these organizations certainly looks good. Many would plainly include human presence.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   5 years 46 weeks ago

    I think Beamis's comments 9/2 sum up this thread's journey rather well. The upcoming commission is about to examine an organization with an extraordinary mission. In the world of E. O.Wilson, we have a leader and thinker to match the complexity of that mission. I'm looking forward to meaningful results.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Are you folks thinking like Y2Y, The North American Wildlands Network, Freedom to Roam and such?

  • Big Bend National Park: Is It Ready For A Mountain Bike Trail?   5 years 46 weeks ago

    First, I haven't been to Big Bend yet, so please take that into account for the following comment:

    On principle, I'm fine with mountain biking trails in the parks. Although they are imperfect (meaning they do create ruts in the ground), at least they are less intrusive than motorized vehicles, provide exercise for park goers, and enable people to go deeper into a park than normally would be allowed. I equate this activity to rock climbing and other activities that aren't necessarily unobtrusive but are relatively low-impact.

    Having said that, mountain biking can be hazardous in slow-growth areas (deserts, for example, where cacti and other plants can take years to seed and flourish). So I don't want mountain biking where they can clearly destroy the environment.

    But biking, in general, is better than a lot of alternatives. If good trails can be created & maintained that don't screw up the environment, then hurray for mountain biking!

    =======================================================================

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • A View from Abroad: Don't Let Tourism Overwhelm Our National Parks   5 years 46 weeks ago

    I really like this article from Australia. I especially like this part:

    National parks offer a special tourist experience, but not the full range of tourist experiences. The extra bits of a tourist's time in an area - the accommodation, the fun parks, evening entertainment, restaurants and takeaway joints - belong in the neighbouring towns.

    This is where they will generate the most jobs, have the lowest environmental impacts and best spread the benefits.

    This is brilliant, and something so often neglected in the comments on NPT. The communities around the parks really need to be able to benefit from park tourism. Those who advocate more "touristy" parks should take this track instead: let the surrounding communities do the touristy stuff, and leave the parks themselves as unscathed as possible.

    ========================================================================

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Kurt et al,

    Europe's Green Belt Initiative concept is exciting and their website is a good resource; I look forward to reading more. Especially, they offer under Database > Publications, The Green Belt Book. Though of course centered on their particular project & setting, the book's table of contents sketches out a good start for others with similar aims.

    I have to think that a crucial, perhaps the central element on which the success of such a project would depend & revolve, is to bring the human inhabitants of a region being considered as a biome-scale habitat or ecosystem preserve willingly & enthusiastically on-side. Furthermore, they will be powerful allies, if their fears are laid to rest and the future of their culture can be seen as secured.

    Getting it right with the locals may well be Job One.

    In the late 1990s, there was an intense & highly scientific public input process executed on the Olympic Peninsula to evaluate the proposal to reintroduce gray wolves at the Olympic National Park. This process was really quite extraordinary, and I never felt that the question, "Why was the process conducted in such an unusual way?", was realistically addressed. On the other hand, had that study been conducted to document the existing social & cultural bases of the communities surrounding the ONP on the OP ... then it would strike me as being much easier to understand.

    I.e., if the wolf-idea was used as an excuse to study the locals, then it makes better sense.

    (The methodology ensured that the resulting data was actually real, objective, scientific data, not a transcript of disputing viewpoints. In fact, many participants objected, because what they wanted was a better forum for engaging in dispute.)

    There is of course a very old, now-marginalized but entrenched meme among preservationists, that the Olympic Peninsula offers our best hope for the protection of a complete, intact habitat. (As Kurt points out, even our biggest Parks were poorly-selected to serve as habitat; Yellowstone being Exhibit A.)

    The wolf-study was thoroughly documented and is available. It dramatically emphasized the local's interpretation & impression of 'outsiders' attempting to make decisions for them, that affected them, without their own positions being important. Gaging & addressing this particular type of concern really seems like the core to a successful regional eco-preserve project ... and that's what they did here on Olympic Peninsula.

    Congress had the study done. Was it a sign that they are thinking in terms of eco-regions?

    As Kurt mentions, there are other settings in North America that suggest themselves as candidates for extended habitat protection projects.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    MRC,

    Yes, I'm well aware of the Yosemite Valley infrastructure and Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. However, the European models I refer to operate on a much, much larger scale.

    For instance, in Lake District National Park there are more than 42,000 year-round residents and nearly 23,000 "dwellings".

    Kinda makes Yosemite Valley look like a backwater.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Kurt: "How could you have villages within a national park's boundaries?" Ever been to Yosemite? Seen Wawona? Yosemite Village in the valley? Do you know how many primary schools exist in NPS units, because so many families live there? How about Jasper National Park in Canada? Or Banff? The villages and the people were there before the park was dedicated - or they grew with the staff of the parks. Of course the first explanation is more relevant in Europe, but examples exist in North America as well.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Ted, you raise an interesting prospect, that of borrowing the European model of mixed-use national parks. I've in the past been somewhat befuddled by that model in say, England's Lake District. How could you have villages within a national park's boundaries?

    But in these times, perhaps that model, with a few tweaks, could be a viable solution to genetic bottlenecks in the National Park System. By creating different zones of use -- from official wilderness to economic centers -- perhaps wilderness, wildlife, and ways of life could be better preserved than via the process we now employ to confront these issues. To a certain extent that's what some Rocky Mountain resort towns, such as Park City, Aspen, Boulder, Jackson and Sun Valley, are achieving through the purchase of open space.

    Even more ambitious than what's transpiring in the Lake District is the European Green Belt project, which aims to "create the backbone of an ecological network that runs from the Barents to the Black sea, spanning some of the most important habitats for biodiversity and almost all distinct biogeographical regions in Europe."

    While there long has been talk of creating the Yellowstone-to-Yukon corridor, it seems to have languished. Perhaps by borrowing some of these European ideas progress can be made. Of course, convincing cities and towns that might be involved to go along could be tricky. Or they could see it as sound economic development.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Kurt,

    Yes, I was also surprised at some of the points that came up in a quick read of the prominent sources on Brucellosis.

    Wikipedia begins their Brucellosis article with the passage:

    "Brucellosis, also called undulant fever, or Malta fever, in humans is a highly contagious zoonosis (infectious disease transmitted from animals to humans) caused by eating of raw minced meat is also a common cause of the infection Brucella." (emph. added)
    Relevant exerpts from Federal Centers for Disease Control ("CDC"):
    "Various Brucella species affect sheep, goats, cattle, deer, elk, pigs, dogs, and several other animals. Humans become infected by coming in contact with animals or animal products that are contaminated with these bacteria. In humans brucellosis can cause a range of symptoms that are similar to the flu and may include fever, sweats, headaches, back pains, and physical weakness. Severe infections of the central nervous systems or lining of the heart may occur. Brucellosis can also cause long-lasting or chronic symptoms that include recurrent fevers, joint pain, and fatigue."

    "Brucellosis is not very common in the United States, where100 to 200 cases occur each year. But brucellosis can be very common in countries where animal disease control programs have not reduced the amount of disease among animals." (emph. added)

    "Brucella abortus is a bacterium that causes disease in cattle (and other animals), and also in humans."

    "Humans are generally infected in one of three ways: eating or drinking something that is contaminated with Brucella, breathing in the organism (inhalation), or having the bacteria enter the body through skin wounds. The most common way to be infected is by eating or drinking contaminated milk products. When sheep, goats, cows, or camels are infected, their milk is contaminated with the bacteria. If the milk is not pasteurized, these bacteria can be transmitted to persons who drink the milk or eat cheeses made it. Inhalation of Brucella organisms is not a common route of infection, but it can be a significant hazard for people in certain occupations, such as those working in laboratories where the organism is cultured. Inhalation is often responsible for a significant percentage of cases in abattoir employees. Contamination of skin wounds may be a problem for persons working in slaughterhouses or meat packing plants or for veterinarians. Hunters may be infected through skin wounds or by accidentally ingesting the bacteria after cleaning deer, elk, moose, or wild pigs that they have killed."

    "Direct person-to-person spread of brucellosis is extremely rare. Mothers who are breast-feeding may transmit the infection to their infants. Sexual transmission has also been reported. For both sexual and breast-feeding transmission, if the infant or person at risk is treated for brucellosis, their risk of becoming infected will probably be eliminated within 3 days. Although uncommon, transmission may also occur via contaminated tissue transplantation."

    The upshot of the most authoritative source available (the CDC) seems to be that although brucellosis in humans in our country is rare at this time, that status is thanks to the effort to suppress the disease in wild & domestic animals, and that in the event we allowed those safeguards to lapse, we could indeed see widespread, serious disease in humans in this country.

    The Wikipedia reference also contains a section titled "Brucellosis in humans".



    The newly-reintroduced wolves are willing & qualified, no doubt, but they are also easily distracted and (ahem) find the limited size of Yellowstone even more chaffing, and dispersal a lot easier, than do the big herds.

    The solution that will allow the larger, more-complete habitats that many of us would like to see our National Parks encompass may be to accept a 'mixed-use' and possibly 'mixed-jurisdiction' format. "Impure" Parks in the model of Europe and Alaska could lead to the habitat-preservation and restoration we want. Entities in this form may not offer a uniform or guaranteed 'wilderness experience', but they could enable us to manage very large integrated habitats.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    Ted,

    It's been a while since I really delved deep into the brucellosis issue, but as I recall it's pretty hard for humans to contract the disease -- which is called "Bangs Disease" in humans. If memory serves me right, they'd have to be exposed to the blood of an infected animal. Its been years since the last case of human infection in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem involving wildlife, and the instance I remember involved an elk hunter who became infected while dressing out his kill.

    Your mention of the "halo" idea could spur a thread of its very own, one I'm sure that would quickly grow lengthy. As you and many others know, Yellowstone's boundaries were politically set, not biologically, and therein lies the conflict between wildlife and livestock. The same problem can be cited at many other parks.

    In effect, the National Park System is turning into a collection of islands that one day will be genetically isolated if nothing is done to curb sprawl and ensure wildlife corridors.

    As for the size of Yellowstone's elk and bison herds, the wolves are working as hard as they can;-)

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    How many of those cattle are grazing on federal lands which are leased at a ridiculously low price? It seems to me that those ranchers don't have much to complain about.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 weeks ago

    It's tricky to be sure what we are actually dealing with, and what the possible choices are with regard to Brucellosis in Yellowstone, because both sides in the debate are untrustworthy & devious on the topic.

    Wikipedia's Brucellosis entry emphasizes that the disease transmits to humans and is serious. By inference, the more-fundamental threat to the cattle industry than the direct effects of the disease on cattle, is that infected herds would have to be destroyed, to forestall the threat of transmission to consumers.

    There is a large U.S. Centers for Disease Control Brucellosis FAQ, which shows that the situation with this disease is broader & more complex than the Yellowstone Park dispute.

    Will killing all elk & buffalo in Yellowstone free humanity (or even America) from the Brucella germ? No. It is a diverse problem, and global.

    Are the herds of Yellowstone too large? By a large margin. "Ridiculous", if the mission is to preserve a 'natural habitat'. Instead, we have effectively the "Yellowstone Elk & Buffalo Ranch".

    Would some like to see the ranching outside Yellowstone reduced or ended, so that overly-large populations of animals can be better-supported by having exclusive access to non-Park grazing lands? It does seem so.

    Are the picturesque buffalo & elk herds being managed with a view firstly to tourism-values, and only secondarily in accordance with solid wildlife science? Sure. Many visitors report that their priority in coming to the Park, is to see the elk & buffalo. More normal population levels would be more-dispersed and much less visible. People see them readily, only because they are over-crowded.

    The dominant token on this game-board appears to be the hope that by having over-large populations of these major herbivores, the chronic feed-shortage will disperse them seasonally into more & larger areas surrounding the Park, maintaining an implied pressure to treat regions surround the Park as though they are extensions of the Park ... when actually, they're not.

    This is an example of the 'halo' idea - that Parks need to be surrounded by an ever-widening 'halo'-zone which falls effectively under Park-management, even though they are not Park and may actually have long histories of other usage.

    The herds of Yellowstone ought to be a lot smaller than they are. That would greatly reduce the risk that diseased animals would travel far and thus expose domestic livestock to their disease. It would also take away a tourist-attraction (great masses of large animals in plain view), and disarm those who aim to use elk & bison to create an enlarged 'virtual' Yellowstone Park.

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 46 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 46 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 46 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 46 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 46 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 47 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.