Recent comments

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Yeah you are so right! Hiking is such a better activity that we should discriminate against all other users, horses included. Give me a break! The image you create in your post above is so incorrect and based solely in Sierra Club religious dogma its sickening.

    Boulder has the least amount of trail open to bikes of any area I have ridden. The trails in Boulder were laid out and designed poorly and that is why they are wide. Mountain bikers did not build theses trails but they have been repairing and rerouting them. In fact the Boulder area now has some trails that were rebuilt by IMBA and the new sections are great for running, hiking, and cycling.

    You have seen elderly folks knocked over by cyclists, more than once? WOW! I have only once seen a cyclist hit a fellow cyclist head on and I have been riding for over 20 years. I have never even heard of a fellow cyclist tell me that they hit a hiker? We don't knock over hikers because we are very focused on staying upright on our bikes. Again this is a typical mantra of the Sierra Club to scare everyone.

    Actually the impact of cyclists on a trail network will improve the condition of the trails because unlike the Sierra Club, or most other hiking groups, cyclists put time into the trail networks through hundreds of thousands of hours of stewardship each year.

    The only correct quote in the post:
    "And, if you have 10 hikers spaced out on a 5 mile trail, chances are you might see one or two of them on your hike. But if you are hiking and have 10 bikers, it is sure that you will see every one of them."
    That's because its a shared use trail and we all have a right to ride there.

    We have a overweight epidemic going on in this country and promoting cycling in National Parks will help expand the non-motorized use of the park system. You would think that would make the poster happy?

    Enough dogma! More trails means better lives for all users! Stop pandering to the Sierra Club and be reasonable in your views since we all want the same thing, except I want to ride there.

    The bottom line is that National Parks need to open areas to cycling. This holier than thou bias needs to go away as soon as possible.

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    That's what the majority of protection rangers say

    I would like some empirical evidence for this claim, please. The above non-statistical survey does not indicate whether the employees surveyed were protection rangers, interpretive rangers, plumbers, janitors, computer techs, desk jockeys, scientists, etc.

    If the majority of protection rangers do, in fact, believe that parks are safer when they have the monopoly on weapons, then I would refer them to the founders who wrote statements such as:

    ". . . all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves in all cases to which they think themselves competent. . . that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed." --Thomas Jefferson

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    ...anyone who has a concealed carry permit has ... had the proper training to carry a concealed handgun.

    I'd feel a lot better about this issue if that were true. Unfortunately, it is not correct.

    I'd ask those who think adequate training is required to obtain a CCW permit to read the comment posted on Sept. 29, 2008 at http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2008/09/trigger-happy-man-shoots-another-rustling-brush#comment-8646 . I won't repeat, except to say that too many states require no training at all to obtain a permit – and under reciprocal agreements, they can "carry" in many other states as well. In states that do require training, it is often minimal. We can debate forever how much is "adequate."

    With minimal or no training requirements in mind, here are a few comments by Massad F. Ayoob, an internationally-known pro-gun writer, firearms and self-defense instructor and Director of the Lethal Force Institute. He has authored several books and over one thousand articles on firearms, combat techniques and self-defense:

    "Too many people are incapable of using their guns in a combat situation with sufficient expertise to either prevent an armed criminal from taking innocent lives, or to be sure of not hitting bystanders with their own stray bullets. Both knowledge and ability should be pre-requisites for the privilege of carrying a gun in public."

    "The handgun is the most difficult firearm to shoot accurately and rapidly; skill comes only with practice."

    "There are too many people carrying guns they don't know how to shoot straight, guns they haven't fired in ten years."

    " ...the license to carry concealed, deadly weapons in public is not a right but a privilege. To be worthy of this privilege, one must be both discreet and competent with the weapon. The gun-carrying man who lacks either attribute is a walking time bomb."

    A lot of the concern about concealed carry would be eased if proponents of those programs would support reasonable requirements for training – and regular live-fire qualification to prove the permit holder has at least a chance to hit his intended target – as part of CHL programs in all states.

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    This will be my last comment on this thread because I think we have explored all the angles. There are people who feel that they cannot be safe without carrying. Fine. All I say is that the parks are safer without a lot of guns than with lots of them. That's what the majority of protection rangers say and I think we should pay some attention to their point of view.

    Rick Smith

  • Sky-High Ginseng Prices Boost Illegal Harvest in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    dont know of anyone growing it in this area but i hear that some have..i do harvest some blood root and wild yam,and wish ginseng was bringing 900 or better a pound as of 10/19 /08 try about 265 dollars a pound lot of work for that kind of money

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    As a former Ohio police officer and deputy sheriff, I find some of the comments about concealed carry in our national parks very offensive. First of all anyone who has a concealed carry permit has undergone an extensive background investigation. These people are responsible ones and have had the proper training to carry a concealed handgun. In my 8 years as a police officer I can tell you if you think the police can protect you, think again. This is the mindset of ignorance. If the police are doing such a great job why are there over 20,000 murders in this country every year ? I do not blame the police and believe me I am still a police officer at heart. In my 8 years of law enforcement I have seen it all. Rape, torture, and murder, violent beatings, you name it. The criminal mind has no sympathy for human beings or for anything for that matter, and they do not have established guidelines for where they commit crimes. You are not safe anyplace in this country today. The fact that the national park service officers are against concealed carry is disheartening to me because you know you cannot protect anyone in you parks as well as I do. And the thought that anyone with a gun is a threat to you is pathetic. Just ask any number of police officers across this country how many of them would be dead if not for armed citizens. For you park rangers to tell people they are safe in our national parks without personal protection is a discrace and you should be ashamed. Maybe you should turn in your guns as law enforcement officers. (Since the parks are so safe) maybe you rangers are right though. Maybe there will come a day when you are the victim of a violent crime in one of your parks, and since no one will be able to come to your aid, maybe Smokey the Bear can assist you.

    Respectfully
    Richard Lemay
    former Swanton Police Officer
    and Lucas County Deputy Sheriff

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Mountain bikes in national parks are totally inappropriate, other than on carriage roads and other wide and heavily used areas. If you want to see the environmental damage caused by large numbers of mountain bikes, simply go to Boulder, CO, where IMBAs headquarters are. Miles and miles of trails there are heavily eroded, extensively widened, muddied, and otherwise destroyed by mountain bikes. The hiking experience is degraded to the point that most people won't even hike on the trails that allow mountain bikes - bikes whizzing by are both scary and unappealing. I have several times seen older folks knocked over by mountain bikers. And, if you have 10 hikers spaced out on a 5 mile trail, chances are you might see one or two of them on your hike. But if you are hiking and have 10 bikers, it is sure that you will see every one of them.

    There is no way that bikes should be allowed in National Parks!

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    The vandalism of signs and such is a direct result of public ownership. When land is privately owned there are well constructed fences, security and self-interested owners who have a vested stake in patrolling and safeguarding their property. Public land, on the other hand, is overseen by tax payer funded bureaucrats, most with lifetime jobs and pensions, who have much less incentive to protect as thoroughly the domain under their purview from the multitude of users who freely access and often abuse it.

    Much like private home ownership versus public housing the contrast in care and investment is stark. Or as they used to say in Georgia, "It's a case of mine over matter----if ain't mine it don't matter."

    To try and blame the bullet holes found in remote governmental signs on concealed carry permit holders is to miss the point entirely and heap scorn on the wrong group. This is a governmental ownership problem rather than a gun problem. Just go visit a public housing project near you for some real illumination.

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Rick is exactly correct about the much higher incidence of vandalism from gunfire in areas outside of national parks as compared to inside the parks themselves.

    Great red herring here. Also unsupported. Show me a scrap of evidence that vandalism is being caused by citizens with a permit to carry a concealed handgun. I'd like to see a study on the types of weapons people use to shoot signs. Are they using handguns, which this rule change affects, or shotguns/rifles/assault weapons? I'm also confused as to why the NPS considers protecting road signs more important than protecting civil liberties.

    In addition to the previously covered dismal or non-existent requirements for training for CHL holders

    Some states require rather extensive training, but training is not a constitutional requisite for this civil right.

    Most law enforcement officers I know . . .

    More anecdote. Does anyone have any empirical evidence, not just opinion polls, to justify the NPS's violating civil rights of law abiding CCW permit holders?

    I haven't tried to locate data on situations where officers arrive on scene to find an unidentified armed citizen, and the result is a terrible outcome - I doubt that there is a good database of such situations, but I certainly recall having heard about them.

    Hearsay is not evidence. I find it laughable that some people use the argument of statistics to say people don't need to carry weapons in national parks (because chances of being attacked are slim), but in the next breath invent some situation that is probably even more statistically unlikely and use that near impossibility as justification for violating civil rights.

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I WAS a law enforcement officer and Ranger. I also spent 23 years at BLM, documenting HUNDREDS of cases of TOO (Target OF Opportunity) damage to public lands outside National Parks. The issue is NOT just licensed and concealed, but LOADED weapons in the parks and refuges, with free access, outside legitimate hunting areas and seasons.

    I am a member of the Oregon Gun Owners Caucus, and a gun owner, and concealed weapons permit holder. Over thirty years experience should make mine, or any other professional's, experience and opinion somewhat more relevant than that of someone who's experience consists of playing video games, target shooting, or even PETA membership.

    The Supreme Court D. C. decision said no to banning gun ownership. AT THE SAME TIME the Justices clearly stated that REASONABLE regulations to control firearms use and possession IS WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT!

    I have a ton of photographic evidence and proofs (damage reports et al) that unrestricted firearms use DOES lead to irresponsible firearms use.

    I've seen grizzlies doing what grizzlies do, but never seen a "psycho" one. I've seen LOTS of "psycho" human beings doing what they do. Some I put in jail, some I shot at, and didn't miss(ode to Winston Churchill). PETA likes to anthropomorphize chickens, cows, dogs, and elephants in zoos, I would never do the same to a wolf, coyote, mountain lion, tiger or other predator in the wild- they are far too "civilized" to equate them to human behaviors.

    Limiting guns to CURRENT RULES in National Parks and Refuges is merely a common sense application of the Supreme Court's own determination, and DOES protect our Constitutional right to BEAR arms, without abusing that right. It also protects my right to enjoy my national parks without fear of gun owners, when bears and lions have NEVER REALLY BOTHERED ME!

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    As a follow-up to Rick Smith's accurate observation, and as requested by several posters, here's some additional perspective from the standpoint of someone who performed law enforcement in parks for 3 decades:

    1. Rick is exactly correct about the much higher incidence of vandalism from gunfire in areas outside of national parks as compared to inside the parks themselves. Furthermore, in NPS areas such as national preserves where hunting is allowed, my experience is that weapons-related vandalism is definitely a greater problem than in parks where loaded weapons are prohibited.

    2. Most law enforcement officers I know are very uneasy about people carrying concealed weapons in crowded public places. It has nothing to do with "power," but visitor and officer safety. In addition to the previously covered dismal or non-existent requirements for training for CHL holders, here's one example of scenarios that concerns officers:

    If an officer arrives at the scene of an incident and finds one or more people dressed in civilian clothes holding a weapon, the office has to make a split-second decision about whether this person is a threat to the officer and to any citizens in the vicinity. It becomes even worse if the officer finds two or more armed civilians in a stand-off or a "shots fired" situation – which one is the victim and which one the bad guy?

    I hope no one will make the laughable claim that CHL holders are adequately trained to know how to respond in such situations, especially when the adrenalin is running wide open. Case in point: I've spent a lot of hours on firing ranges: military, law enforcement and civilian/public ranges. A cardinal rule on the range is "keep unholstered weapons pointed down range at all times." If I had a dollar for every time the rangemaster had to remind people about that rule - in that carefully controlled, low-stress situation - I could enjoy several nice steak dinners. The point is that when people are spoken to, their tendency is to turn toward the speaker. If they're holding a loaded weapon, that's not good! If this occurs in the midst of the scenario described above, that's potentially tragic.

    I haven't tried to locate data on situations where officers arrive on scene to find an unidentified armed citizen, and the result is a terrible outcome - I doubt that there is a good database of such situations, but I certainly recall having heard about them. One is certainly too many.

    Current regulations for national parks make such potential tragedies very unlikely. If rules are relaxed to allow citizens to carry concealed weapons in national parks, only time will tell if my concerns on this issue are correct.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I went from Zion today. I thout it would be cool to hike up Angels Landing. But, on the bus they taked about the trail, and now I never want to go on angel landing hike. I have very good balance but i'm clumsy i have been ever sence I was little.
    Hearing about all the people who died did not make me more scared, It made me sad but they knew the risk.
    When i heard that some one took there baby up on the trail that made me mad. Who would put there kids, there baby in that risk. It sounds like to me theydon't care about there baby safty. There stupid but, it was there choose, stupid but it was up to them it is there kid and always will be.
    I will never do that take my kid on that trail, and you who all that are reading this i hope you dont neather.
    Remember be careful waer the right shoes, have every thing that you need, and lots and lots of water.

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Let's be clear: wilderness should be open to bikes as Congress contemplated it when it passed the act over 40 years ago (look it up... it's in the notes). Bikes are no more mechanized than carbon fiber hiking poles and do less damage than horses. The number of visitors to the parks is dwindling every year. Opening wilderness to biking makes logical senses and would bring back people to their parks. The banning of bikes from wilderness is not based on objective science but rather some illogical reasoning. The pseudo environmentalists hang on to the ban as a way to appropriate to themselves a public good. Get used to it, at some point, reason will prevail and bikes will be allowed in wilderness once again.

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Frank C--

    I am not providing a study, only speaking from personal experience. Every time I visit a USFS area in NM to camp or hike, I see signs that are shot up. I have seen similar shot up signs on BLM and USFS lands in other states. One sees little of this kind of thing in the weapons-free national parks. I think there is a relationship.

    Someone in the above posts mentioned the fact that most law enforcement organizations oppose concealed weapon regulations. He or she claimed they did so because of a question of power. I think that is a bogus argument. They oppose concealed weapon regs because they know that the more guns there are, the more dangerous their jobs are. That's why both the organizations that represent rangeers in the NPS, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge and tha Association of National Park Rangers (of which I am a member even though retired) oppose the proposed new NPS reg. I kinow you think that their views are irrelevant. I don't.

    Rick Smith

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    It seems all we're getting are slippery slope arguments and straw men.

    Arguers also often link the slippery slope fallacy to the straw man fallacy in order to attack the initial position:

    1. A has occurred (or will or might occur); therefore
    2. B will inevitably happen. (slippery slope)
    3. B is wrong; therefore
    4. A is wrong. (straw man)

    This form of argument often provides evaluative judgments on social change: once an exception is made to some rule, nothing will hold back further, more egregious exceptions to that rule.

    Note that these arguments may indeed have validity, but they require some independent justification of the connection between their terms: otherwise the argument (as a logical tool) remains fallacious.

    A is the change in concealed carry permit rules.
    B is the killing of people, wildlife, signs, and windows.

    Unless someone can show a valid study of concealed weapons permit holders in a comparable environment, say in Forest Service land, that shows that allowing people to carry concealed weapons in these areas leads to a higher incident of people, wildlife, sings, and windows being shot, these arguments remain fallacious.

    I look forward to reviewing some facts.

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Dave, unlike IMBA's track record on this issue, in which, once they got their feet in the door, they slowly expanded what they really seem to want from the National Park Service, I think the Traveler's position has been clear from the get-go, as I previously noted.

    That said, as to your concerns:

    * The photo was taken of IMBA riders at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It was an IMBA event and so I thought representative of the vision IMBA had of riding in the parks. It certainly seems to mesh with Jenn Dice's thoughts on what mountain bikers want.

    * You're absolutely right, of course, about hikers being just as likely to bring invasive species into parks as cyclists.

    * As I mentioned, "cut" is vernacular for trail building, whether for hikers, cyclists or equestrians.

    * I'll let Jenn Dice's words speak for themselves. I think she made herself clear.

    * I, too, have been known to ride mountain bikes. Got one in my garage, as a matter of fact. I've also been known to water ski. But I don't think all national parks should be open for water skiing and power boating. Ditto for snowmobiling.

    Finally, watch for a piece Sunday on IMBA and their views on wilderness areas.

    And, as D-2 and Bob have already pointed out, I don't get paid a dime for this website.

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    You are quite correct, d-2. Dave's remark is way out of line. Everyone who writes for Traveler is an unpaid volunteer. Kurt also has significant out-of-pocket expenses that aren't reimbursed.

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago


    Dave, I don't think it is correct to say Kurt gets paid. My understanding is this is a webside serviced by volunteers. To be fair.

  • "Talking" Buoys Deployed Along Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Given the unique nature of the trail, it seems like this buoy project is a form of "cell phone interpretation" that most Park advocates can all agree on. It looks like an innovative approach to tell this important story in a very unique sort of Park...

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Kurt,

    I find it disappointing that you don't respond to any of the substantive criticisms from the posts above mine, nor the points I made, but chose to respond by going off on my use of the word disingenuous. I don't expect to change your point of view, but I hope you'll hear me out, and then maybe respond thoughtfully to my comments and those that preceded mine.

    First, let me stipulate some things. I'm a backpacker, as well as a cyclist. I work in an environmental field that requires education and persuasion.
    I don't want to see bicycles on the John Muir trail or riding through the Gettysburg Battlefield or the like, and I can't help but see this move from the White House as a somewhat self-serving gesture. I also understand the difference between the NPS mission and that of the other agencies.

    That said, I do think that on a case by case basis, park managers could establish a very clear set of guidelines, then look at fire roads and yes, trails, using those guidelines, to see if some bicycle traffic could be compatible with that trail, it's surrounding, and the overall use of that trail. Criteria would include topography, degree of use, soil types, potential conflicts with other users, whatever was really relevant to the issue at hand. There are trail quotas and permits already required in some situations, and this could be a way to manage bikes, again, on very specific routes. With a careful process, you could pick trails that would still allow for quiet contemplation of nature.

    When I used the word "disingenuous in regards to your opinion piece, I did it for some very specific reasons. It's not that you weren't clear where you stood. You are. But even with the opinion writer's option to cherry-pick your facts, you resorted to a series of emotionally loaded devices to get your point across. Here are a few:
    - The use of the photo at the top, of speeding bikers kicking up dust on a dirt road, is visually loaded. Consider the different image that would be projected by a photo of cyclists climbing towards beautiful scenery or looking at a view.
    - Your repeated use of the word "cut" when discussing whether a given existing route could be administratively opened to a new use;
    - Your comparison of IMBA to the NRA; I don't know about you, but the two organizations couldn't be much more different in my mind, and Jenn Dice sure has a different style of communication from the NRA's Wayne LaPierre;
    - Your singling out bike tire and gear cleaning in Hawaii, as if those same risks of non-native plants didn't exist from hiker's shoes and equipment;

    I could go on, but I won't. You get paid for this and I don't. I'm a supporter of National Parks. I also believe in reasonable regulations based on transparent, objective criteria. I don't see a compatibility problem with those two sets of values.

    --Dave

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    The opponents to opening trails to mountain bikers never talk about their real motivation: selfishness. They just don't want to share the trails with other users. The arguments about safety, erosion, sense of belonging, and whatever else one comes up with is utter nonsense. The real motivation here is that established users just don't want to share their recreational areas with others. These national parks belong to all of us, and as such, should be shared with as many people as possible, as long the usage is appropriate. Mountain biking is a low impact environmentally friendly mode of recreation, just like hiking. Most of the backcountry is completely empty anyway, as few people ever venture more than a few miles from the trailhead. Let's open the backcountry to mountain bikers for all of us to enjoy our national parks.

  • How to Hijack a National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Jim and MRC, I can agree that the momument belongs to the nation - because, by definition, all units of the NPS belong to the nation. The question is - should it? What about other monuments like George Rogers Clark and Perry's Victory? NPS gets these places, like JNEM, because a local government started in and then could not afford to finish it or operate it. Even Mount Rushmore came to the NPS this way. The Arch is a beautiful piece of engineering and fantastic icon - but so is the Empire State Building and Golden Gate Bridge. They are symbols of America. Doesn't mean the citizens of America have to run them.

  • How to Hijack a National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Recall that whole blocks of historically buildings on the waterfront were destroyed so that arch could be built. Filling in the open space with crap would be the ultimate insult.

  • Imagine the Impacts of Climate Change on the National Park System   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Frank C., I think there's a similar report to yours (loose in facts) that was put out sometime ago by Exxon...and like oil companies. I don't put much credence in oil company research teams, especially when they exploit the motto:Drill baby drill! This very idea that we're playing Russian roulette with our global environment, I can only foresee terrible and dire consequences for are stupidity...especially what has transcended down from this present lame and duck administration. Being a backpacker throughout the Sierra Mountains for the past 30 years, I can honestly say there has been some abrupt and subtle changes in the terrestrial environment surrounding Yosemite National Park. The famed plant ecologist and naturalist ranger from Yosemite, Carl Sharsmith once told me (some 20 years ago, to paraphrase) I no longer hear the chorus of song birds at different intervals of the day...as I did so many, many years ago. And, today I stretch my ears just to hear a simple warbler sing...so sad! I guess this wouldn't rile the oil industry one bit, despite all the effects of global warming on our floral and fauna in our National Parks. What lies ahead for the next generation in this country...I'm not sure. Perhaps and most likely a wilted and dying natural heritage exploited for greed, rape and pillage. This should be one of the most critical topics to be pressing on Kurt's blog...not meaningless drivel over hand guns in the National Parks.

  • Longtime Yosemite Wilderness Ranger Retires   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I volunteered in her department the summer of 2001 when she led Laura Bush through the High Sierra Camps with her friends. I dropped off her Dodge at the Cathedral Lakes Trail head and then hiked in on a Wilderness Technician patrol that did a big loop from there to Merced Lake and then back to Tuolumne Meadows. I met the party during my hike, and forgot to get a picture! Partisanship aside, a first lady is a first lady! Laurel did a great job of training me for my job, and it was really neat to see her guiding Laura.

    --Nora Curiel