Recent comments

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Regarding Beamis' idea to move parks from the US government to non-profit control is laughable. There would be less money available for maintenance if that happened. Interior is moving forward in all agencies to improve safety and facility maintenance. Since we the people are the government we need to keep talking this up to our representatives and voting for people who will spend money to rebuild America first instead of wasting money on massive military programs and overseas adventures. Read the news for the evidence of massive war profiteering and waste in the Defense Dept. It takes our collective attention and agitation before we'll see an improvement.

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    As an Interior employee for some decades (I am not speaking as an official however) I have seen firsthand this issue and the root cause as always is lack of money and direction from administrators, Congress and the White House! It appears politicians love spending money on the new (Steamtown) but fail to maintain the old (Wawona tunnel). No glory in maintenance compared to the nice shiny visitor centers we're building at some parks and refuges. Until America realizes that it takes money to maintain our infrastructure you can expect to see more deterioration and closing of facilities.

  • Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Very nice picture

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    My personal opinion is to De-Centralize... more would be done and our national treasures would be in better hands. I believe that you are on the right track and hang in there... There is more support than is realized. Thank you for bringing the report to life!

  • Segways in the National Parks: Do We Really Need Them?   5 years 50 weeks ago

    This method of conveyance adds nothing to the NPS. As is currently stands, the vast majority of visitors come only to "see" the parks, and if that is to be ones specific intent, the Segways might have a limited market. However, the real pleasure and benefit of visitiing any NPS unit is the "experience" one gains from explorations beyond the parking lots and campgrounds, to which these vehicles are impractical, ill-equipped and dangerous. I don't think you can adequately outfit the current version of this contraption, as engineered, and have any hope for successful navigation on the vast majority of current hiking trails Kurt. If that is indeed the intent of the promoters, to have their units traversing the South Kaibab, etc. then the Apocalypse is indeed at hand. I sincerely hope whoever might be the test pilot for such a lame-brained stunt has their life insurance paid in full by these same promoters in advance. And if we get to the point where "Segway Trails" are to be built, and my tax dollars are involved, somebody's in for the legal battle of their life.

  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore Settlement Won't Ban ORV Use, But Will Restrict Travel   5 years 50 weeks ago

    The settlement to protect bird habitat is an excellent measure and long overdue. I went to Cape Hatteras once and never went back because the beach buggies had the run of the beaches. It wasn't safe to lie down and enjoy the wind, the waves and the sun, unless you went to the few miles that were then closed to ORVs. Thanks to the Audubon Society and their allies.

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I remember times over three decades ago when the fans in the Wawona tunnel would go pffffttt, CO would build up, and the sensors would fail. Maintenance backlogs in the billions Interior wide, and a "Centennial Initiative" to privatize National Parks through "partnerships", to build more stuff we can't get budgets to maintain in the long term, do NOT seem to be lights in the tunnel, Wawona or otherwise.

    I watched "safety" programs change in government, and one aspect in Interior is that people work outdoors and where things go bump in the night. The other is that ncreasing REPORTING procedures for ANY incident also accumulate "statistics" to make things appear more dangerous than the real world impacts show with regard to personal injuries.

    Yes, there is a HUGE job to be done, no question about it. But to put incompetents in charge of "safety" and gesticulate before the public waving flags and screaming, instead of actually DOING anything constructive, is just one more step on the "path to terror" ANY public relations effort this administration follows.

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Kurt----I understood and respected your position. My hiatus had more to do with a lack of interest in continuing to comment since, as you noted, I had made my point about the bureaucratic mismanagement of the parks quite clear.

    Once the discussion of what I feel is the most compelling problem facing the parks, the structure and management of the NPS, was off the table I knew that this forum was not the place to advance my agenda of reform. I have commented most recently due to the fact that other readers of your site have forwarded links to some of your articles which they thought I might wish to comment on. So I have.

    I do not plan to become a regular or vociferous contributor once again but am grateful to have added my two cents to a couple of recent articles on subjects near and dear to my heart.

    On another note I found it interesting that Bob Janiskee, a loyal and dedicated defender of the agency, had this to say about NPS managers in his piece on Nevada Barr's character Anna Pigeon: "Anna will cope with a maddeningly unresponsive bureaucracy. Any supervisors and up-the-line functionaries that Anna encounters in #15 will be part of the problem, not part of the solution. Anna knows that the Park Service is fundamentally a bureaucracy like any other, and her experiences with higher-ups have convinced her that these men and women are consummate CYA specialists. What’s a ranger to do when the people she answers to are spineless and clueless? Why, fend for herself, of course!"

    I suppose that's as strong a condemnation of the status quo in the NPS as any that either Frank or I ever uttered in any of our previous posts, but coming from Bob it's merely an astute observation. I applaud him for his insight as it is right on the money.

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Frank and Beamis,

    First of all, welcome back.

    Now, in light of Frank's contention that the two of you were asked to stop commenting at the Traveler, let me set the record straight by pulling from the email I sent you both last December:


    I don't think there's any question that you ... have commented more on the Traveler than anyone else. At times your comments have provided valuable insight into the machinations of the NPS and contributions to the overall dialog. However, there are times when your comments have been overly negative, to the point that not only do they drown out others but, as has been noted twice publicly in the past 24 hours and a number of times privately, have others deciding not to comment, and that's a problem.

    In extreme cases, folks simply are not returning to the Traveler.

    As you know, one of our goals at the Traveler is to spur discussion and debate of the National Park Service and the national park system with hopes of exploring solutions to ongoing problems as well as spawn more advocates for the system. And, judging from the overall tenor of your comments, you both share this mission in some form.

    And that's where an irony strikes. While you want to change the Park Service, your at-times-overly-strident comments are actually muffling debate on the site and, in effect, preventing dialog that just might have some small impact from continuing and evolving. As ardent supporters of the park SYSTEM, I'm sure this is not your intent.

    The Traveler's mission is not to tear down the Park Service, and, unfortunately, that's the stance you both seem to have chosen. We do not disagree that work needs to be done within the agency, but we do believe change can come from within. Are we overly optimistic? Perhaps. But if so, then perhaps you're overly pessimistic.

    ...

    If there is to be change from within, the Park Service needs to attract employees and managers who embrace the agency's mission and want to make a change in the culture. Indeed, surveys -- both those from within the NPS and external sources -- indicate that a strong majority (80-85 percent, I believe) of the agency's roughly 20,000 employees already support that mission. But turnover is growing as more and more employees approach retirement. Attracting new employees dedicated to the mission and a healthy culture can be difficult when they constantly read that the Park Service is a dead-end agency.

    We don't want you to stop commenting.
    (my emphasis) But we think you've more than made your feelings known about what you think of the Park Service and its employees. The Traveler is not the forum for this continued condemnation.

    You both have spoken highly of the Traveler in the past and the role it serves, and we certainly appreciate your support. But if we're to have any chance of changing the NPS culture and improving the park system, we need to build the audience and the dialog, not scare it away. Along that line, your input will do little good if the audience does not grow or if folks decide not to comment because they are weary of your criticisms.

    That said, yes, Frank, your IP address was banned because you ignored the above-cited email and were trying to make a mockery out of the Traveler. While you certainly have a First Amendment right to vent your spleen, that right does not allow you to post whatever you wish within the cyber walls of the Traveler.

    Again, as I noted in December, the Traveler is not the forum for continued condemnation of the National Park Service. If that's your goal, I wish you well in a forum of your own.

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Mr. Longstreet my suggestion is the same as it has always been: DECENTRALIZE! Start with a commission to determine which parks are essentially political pork (the Steamtowns and such) and find out if there are any municipalities, private non-profit trusts or subject focused preservation societies that would be interested in taking over those sites identified for transition out of the NPS. Believe me there are many such areas that are bleeding the agency dry and depriving more worthy parks of much needed care.

    This process, once begun, would gradually free up money for more important and substantial parks (places like Yosemite and Yellowstone) that could start to address some of the less glamorous tasks of park management such as physical infrastructure and routine maintenance.

    Ultimately I, and many others, would like to see the U.S. government get out of the park business entirely and gradually turn these areas over to non-profit and smaller more regionally focused governmental entities. The politics of Washington is not at all conducive to the orderly and efficient function of much, including the administering of wild and historic properties.

    Do you really think that the average American would actually care if the Grand Canyon had Arizona state park rangers leading hikes and collecting entrance fees instead of the green and gray? Would vast numbers of people stop visiting just because the current Secretary of the Interior's picture no longer adorned the walls of the park HQ? I submit that the answer is an emphatic no.

    Good luck on your journey Druid. Maybe I'll run into you this summer somewhere between Moab and Kings Canyon.

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    J Longstreet,

    Both Beamis and I were asked to stop posting on the site. For me the asking was a bit stronger; my user account was deleted for me. As I write these words, I have a feeling they may just be deleted, even though there is no profanity or personal attacks contained therein.

    I think people have mistaken our disdain for bureaucracy--accompanied by a passion for preserving nature--as personal attack. My vitriol is aimed not at individuals, but at the bureaucratic, self-perpetuating system that threatens the preservation of national parks.

    "The Department faces the difficult challenge of maintaining an infrastructure valued at over $65 billion and spread over 500 million acres. The ability to adequately maintain this infrastructure is hampered by limited resources and the aging of the facilities."

    What's your simple answer?

    My simple answer is that the DOI infrastructure is too large to maintain, and like Rome's empire, our federal empire faces collapse under its own weight. We should be asking ourselves why we've developed nature to the point that it--which should be self-perpetuating--can't do without us. National parks were supposed to be left unimpaired; $65 billion in infrastructure seems a huge, and hugely expensive, impairment. Printing more money to feed the every-hungry bureaucracy seems like an effective quick fix, but it will only harm national parks in the long term.

    And long-term sustainability is what we should be thinking about.

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Beamis,

    I thought you'd decided not to participate in Traveler any more... it's sad that no matter what the problem in the national parks, you always find a way to blame the "top-heavy" "befuddled" managers of the NPS. I'm not suggesting managers are blameless, but did you note that a significant finding of the report was that:

    "The Department faces the difficult challenge of maintaining an infrastructure valued at over $65 billion and spread over 500 million acres. The ability to adequately maintain this infrastructure is hampered by limited resources and the aging of the facilities."

    What's your simple answer?

    JLongstreet

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I'm going to be spending the next 4 years travelling the US's National Park system as well as several State Parks (not to be named for obvious reasons). We will be documenting ALL issues that we find in ALL parks and will make them publically, and hopefully nationally, known.

    Pray for us. Please. I'm not a religious person, but there are a lot of people who would go to great lengths to keep this from happening - especially in the form of a mini series, an investigative documentary, a movie, several books and a lecture tour - to start with.

    The Druid

  • Segways in the National Parks: Do We Really Need Them?   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I'm open to argument on the issue of persons with physical disabilities being allowed to use Segways in the national parks. That's why I used the word "perhaps" in my comment. Anon has made a strong case for it. I realize that dealing with ms is very difficult, and I do wish him the very best.

  • Segways in the National Parks: Do We Really Need Them?   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Well this "lardass" also happens to be diagnosed with ms.... So does my "lardass" status discount my disabled status????? Rude and tactless people like yourself make going out in public with obvious disabilities that much harder... You look and see a "lardass" and not a person who has been fighting ms and fatigue that continues to add to weight problems... Guess fat people should just stay at home or out of the national parks at least right? Traveling the national parks is a passion of mine and this disease has slowed me down... Segways would be rather helpful along with any other scooter/mobility device that could handle the long distances and cover rugged terrain.

  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore Settlement Won't Ban ORV Use, But Will Restrict Travel   5 years 50 weeks ago

    My parents live in the Outer Banks and have forever – at least as long as I can remember.
    Despite assertions to the contrary – the new rules and regulations will SIGNIFICANTLY and ADVERSELY impact fishermen (and fisherwomen).
    The new rules call for closing of the beaches between 10 pm and 6 am during the peak fishing season of May 1 – November 1. Miss the deadline by a minute and you are looking at a $5,000 fine and 6 months in jail. A bit extreme, don’t you think??? Particularly since the Drum (a species prized by the fishermen and fisherwomen) has a peak fishing time of midnight to 6 am. How do the retired, elderly, and handicapped fisherfolks fish? It is at least a 20 minute trek from the nearest parking lot to the desirable fishing areas – all through soft sand (except the last hundred feet) which is treacherous to those with handicaps or balance issues (like my parents). My dad lived for fishing – now he cannot do it. The Drum that he wants to fish are not accessible where the new rules and regulations allow him to be during the time that the Drum are striking.
    Wildlife has had over 13 miles of the island (6,000 acres) specifically set aside for them since 1937 in the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge. At the same time, an area was set aside for human recreation - the Cape Hatteras National Seashore RECREATIONAL Area. Unfortunately, due to politics it took until 1952 to formally institute the CHNS RECREATIONAL Area.
    Due to a glitch in the system (paperwork on behalf of CHNSRA submitted decades ago - but apparently lost in the bureaucracy in Atlanta and/or DC) the final plan was not implemented. However, the interim plan has been in place since the submission of the paperwork and has worked well as I (and a host of others) can personally attest to.
    The local National Park Service, and Superintendent of the CHNSRA Mike Murray, has done a fantastic job of balancing preserving wildlife and human recreational uses in this Recreational Area.
    The Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife took advantage of this glitch to sue to deny citizens of the United States of America access to the Recreational Area set aside for their use over 50 years ago. The guise they used to sue under was the “plight of the piping plover” – which is not even an endangered species!!
    Unfortunately, the beach area that the Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife, want to restrict access to is not the desirable area for nesting and/or wintering of the piping plover – sand bars (NOT dunes) are the desired areas. “See Species of Common Conservation Concern in North America”, Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Montreal, Canada - http://www.cec.org/files/pdf/BIODIVERSITY/SCCC-Web-e_EN.PDF.
    There are a number of sandbars created from dredged sand (to keep the ferry channels open) that the birds have “taken to like a duck to water”. The bird population of these man-made sand bars is huge and was ignored by the Southern Environmental Law Center in its representation of the Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife in their lawsuit. I believe that it was a misrepresentation to the court and may have caused this mistaken decision. Sand bars have been repeatedly demonstrated to be the preferred bird habitat of the piping plover. See document above.
    In addition to the Atlantic coast from Canada to Mexico, the piping plover has a MAJOR area of nesting and wintering in the flyways of the Mississippi River.
    The nesting habitat of the piping plover extends from Canada as far south as NC. The wintering habitat extends from Mexico as far north as NC. The Outer Banks of NC is the extreme edge of the range, and accordingly not many piping plovers spend time here. According to government statistics, the piping plovers in the Outer Banks of NC account for less than 0.25% of the nesting pairs in the US – this is not counting the numbers in Canada and Mexico – which is a significant portion of their habitat. Treaties are in place to save the piping plovers and their habitat in both Canada and Mexico.
    For this, they are denying a livelihood to islanders who have been here for generations upon end. Some assert a ties to the island since the original colony settled in 1587. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roanoke_Island .
    People using Off Road Vehicle (OVR) access in the Outer Banks are careful stewards of the environment and true conservationists. The OVR users (fisherman that have NO other way to carry their gear to desirable fishing spots, the disabled, the young, and others) work hard to maintain the parks in a pristine state and step in to remind the weekly renters and occasional visitors to the beach to do the same (saving Park Service manpower).
    Unfortunately, on occasion, as with any area with drivers, there are those that overstep the rules. These are promptly dealt with and fined and/or jailed. Usually they are young idiots with more testosterone than brains. Finalists for the Darwin Awards.
    I have NEVER seen anyone (in over 40 plus years) do a doughnut on the beach. Frankly, how in the heck do you do this in SAND? I understand doughnuts in snow (and have tried it in my youth), but SAND???? You have got to be kidding!
    The only oil that I have seen on the beach has been that leaked from tankers. I saw lots in the 60’s and 70’s, with tapering off in the 80’s and 90’s. I am glad to report that I have not seen oil on the beaches this century.
    Anyone who drives on the beach would NOT EVEN CONSIDER taking out a vehicle that was leaking oil. It would destroy the environment – be it for fishing or simple enjoyment of the beach. Furthermore, it would ruin the vehicle and could strand the driver and passengers on the beach.
    Another major consideration is the impossibility to do a 20 minute or more trek with all the associated fishing gear. It is not a can of worms and a cane pole of Lassie’s time. What is essential for a stay on the sand is more than what can be carried by a single person – even 50 feet. The fishing gear includes coolers with 60-80 pounds of ice, bait, eight or so rods from 7' to 13' 3" and the reels that go with them, spools of line and leaders, hooks, hookouts, 10 o more pounds of lures and 20 pounds of sinkers, a beverage cooler, foul weather gear and waders, trash bags, sand spikes, etc., etc.
    I spent March on the beach. My tracks were OBLITERATED within 20 minutes from the blowing sand. The ramp area (the only access through the dunes to the beach) does have ruts – but ONLY until it rains or the wind blows hard enough. No permanent damage is done to the beach by ORV use. More damage occurs from the hurricanes. I have been evacuated numerous times and have been foolhardy enough (again in my youth) to ride out hurricanes.
    It simply is not possible for fisherfolk to use the beach during peak fishing times (particularly if they are disabled or elderly).
    PLEASE FIX THIS! At least make an accommodation for the handicapped!!

  • It's Time to Book Your Summer National Park Vacation   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I also like spontaneous trips, sometimes I don't even book in advance, but I do have a pretty good idea how many parks are within an hour's driving distance.

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    The real problem in a nutshell can be gleaned from a key quote in Kurt's article which strikes at the very heart of the problem: "When this report came out, the secretary deputized a deputy secretary to immediately create a task force to conduct an expedited review of its findings and recommendations."

    If simply creating yet more bureaucracy is the only response that the calcified and top-heavy NPS management team can come up with then it is not a hopeful sign that dramatic change is on the horizon for the proper maintenance of the parks or for the safety of staff and visitors.

    Though this is what we've come to expect it is nonetheless a sad statement on the "business as usual" response from the befuddled stewards of "America's special places".

  • Nevada Barr’s Next Park Novel: An Unauthorized Preview   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I am so glad to hear about her next book coming out! It has been too long since the last one...and with gas prices, that is probably the only way I can get to a national park this year!

    To answer your question about reading order, I only read the first two out of order then went back and re-read them in order. I would definitely recommend the order just because of the references to other parks and incidents. There aren't that many but it definitely keeps relationships in perspective as well.

    Thanks for the great article and the insight!

  • Report Shows Visiting National Parks Could be Hazardous to Your Health   5 years 50 weeks ago

    This is truly sad. I hope someone is going to come up with a sincere, effective plan to address these issues. I don't think another overpaid bureaucrat is the answer.

  • Critics: Changing Gun Laws in National Parks Would Open a "Pandora's Box" of Problems   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I live in Colorado and every time I cross NPS ground i do not unload my weapons because the criminals and drug addicts that frequent the road I travel and the the trails and canyons where they grow there crops do not unload theres. I love to sport hunt but i do understand that government land is off limits to any sort of hunting so any one shooting on government land is still prohibited. I want my hundred pound wife or my two daughters to feel like they can defend there persons against all threats that could cause injury or death. Any one carrying a gun on NPS or other wildlife refuge should have a permit to carry and keep it out of sight, if an incident happens and the party dose not have a permit there should be repercussions. The right to defend my self should not be an issue, the park service in my area is way under staffed and very young i think there are only two armed rangers on our 70 sq mile park, that to me is not vary comforting. I am a full supporter of being less dependent on someone else to save my life or my loved ones and more self reliant let us legally carry.

  • Groups Sue To Overturn Removal of Greater Yellowstone Wolves from Endangered Species List   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Hey Anonymous, you may call Mr Saunders a skilled hunter but he had a cheap shot. Another words, unethical kill! If you peacock ranchers allow wildlife to have it's natural space to roam and breed and just maybe there can be some natural balance between predator and prey ratio. NOoooooo, we need more happy cows and more range land and will just smother out the rest of wildlife with cheap gun smoke. Don't tell me differently, I've seen this kind of scenario played over for years with you yahoo cowboys. Good cowboys know the wisdom of wise ethical hunting and don't expound by cheap cow talk or brag about a easy slaughter of wildlife.

  • Groups Sue To Overturn Removal of Greater Yellowstone Wolves from Endangered Species List   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Those wolves are vicious...kill 'em before they get your pets or kids. Our ancestors killed 'em all off for good reason!

  • Groups Sue To Overturn Removal of Greater Yellowstone Wolves from Endangered Species List   5 years 50 weeks ago

    That there Tony Saunders in that picture is a killin' mochine! I know Tony...he is quite the skilled hunter. He's a good man!

  • Groups Sue To Overturn Removal of Greater Yellowstone Wolves from Endangered Species List   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I hope and pray that the removal of the wolves from The Endangered Species List is overturned.