Recent comments

  • Why You Should Not Store Food in Your Car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Whoever left the car was a jackarse. One should know you do not leave uncovered food out; and secondly, you should not have left the window cracked to make it easier for the critters. That food should have been kept in proper storage containers to help keep the smell down and the windows should have been up.

    As for all the people standing around, that was really dumb and a huge risk to them and their loved ones. The general public is just plain ignorant....

  • Decisions on Controlling Elk in Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Cave National Parks Likely to Linger Into 2009   5 years 50 weeks ago


    That is correct: the hunting, trapping, fishing, firewood-cutting and other patterns of usage in Alaska Parks take place under formal subsistence regulations (by Act of Congress). However, that such usage was traditional in the territory of the new sub-arctic Parks, and was not traditional in the territories of temperate-zone Parks in the conterminous States, would be incorrect.

    Subsistence lifestyles were dominant in all rural regions of the early United States, and persisted strongly after the advent of Industrialization and cash economies, in many areas both remote and merely rural. Individuals & communities made a conscious effort to retain the independence and self-reliance of what were in reality subsistence practices directly comparable to those of Alaska.

    Hunting today all across the United States is primarily the informal continuation of subsistence lifestyles. That is, hunting is not "sport" for most practitioners (though they certainly enjoy it), but rather is the preservation of the lifestyle and philosophy of our grandparents - same as has been codified as subsistence-law, in Alaska.

    Indeed, the reason why Parks banned hunting & firearms, is substantially that Park-territories were the accustomed hunting-grounds of residents of the territory, practically none of whom were 'sportsmen'. They simply continued to hunt, as generations before them had, and came into conflict with the authorities.

    Take for example Olympic National Park, established in 1938. In recent months, fisher (a fur-bearer of the weasel family) have been reintroduced there. Pre-Park trapping pressure was sufficiently heavy & thorough, that fisher had been extirpated. The Olympic Mountains were not a rarely-visited, virtually untouched wilderness. It was a wilderness, but one under intensive subsistence use.

    No, it really is not the case that a unique & special pattern of usage in Alaska creates a justification for subsistence provisions that pertains only in their case, and that these patterns of usage and lifestyle-values were not present in the southern States when Parks were instituted. Actually, they were, and there remains a potent component of them even today.

    Gut-piles from hunting are rarely encountered, because they are consumed very rapidly. When a hunter removes the entrails, the animal is healthy and the offal is fresh and of peak value to wild animals. Conversely, when a large animal dies near the end of a hard winter (or more often, during the beautiful spring) or of old age, it is emaciated and the guts tend to spoil in the carcass, both of which reduce their value for scavenging.

    (Entrails are the choice component for predators, and are the first part eaten. Dominant wolves eat into the belly first, while lesser individuals chew on other parts (and shift to the guts at the earliest opportunity). Gut-piles are not after-thoughts, but are the prefered & best part, in the view of carnivores & omnivores.)

    Actually, in terms of distress to visitors & hikers, it is the 'natural' death that creates the greater visual impact, and remains conspicuous for a much longer period of time. When over-populated or over-aged elk expire, the carcass is of low value, may decompose too much before it is scavenged, and offers a visual and olfactory impact much larger than an excised gut-ball.

    Wolves would be the perfect solution for many wildlife problems, if the circumstances were different. But a wolf-pack will not stay put and focus on a specific excess population. Instead they disperse rapidly (and the greater the excess of prey-food, the faster the reproduction & subsequent (forced) dispersal), and worse - turn their attention to other animals.

    Wolf-proponents advertise that a standing offer is available, to compensate a rancher for the loss of livestock. However, across much of the region where wolves are now becoming reestablished, ranching-country is heavily interspersed with rural residences (long has been), and much of the livestock on these holdings is recreational, rather than purely commercial.

    A horse, for example, can be very attractive to wolves. Often, it is owned by a youngster, who loves it. The flight-reflex of a horse under wolf-attack will often lead to grave injuries, even if the aftermath does not indicate predation. To reassure horse-owners that they will receive fair market value for the meat of their animal is a serious public relations error.

    This is probably the greatest downfall of wolf-introduction - and a serious oversight of advocates - that predators come onto private residences and attack pets and hand-raised ... members of the household. This is where wolves really lose support.

  • Commission Formed To Explore Future of National Parks   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I'm so tired of these commissions. Someone appoints a range of experts, they get together, and they write a report. However, those who are using the commission for their own purposes make sure that the report will be used for setting the agenda and moving the levers of power based on the desires of the people setting up the commission. We are still quoting the Leopold Report, and so there's no doubt that these commissions can be highly influential. However, I would argue that commissions are by and large set up as a vehicle toward some other pre-determined end. While there are no doubt results that sometimes challenge or inform the conventional wisdom of the group that sets up the commission, these end up being mere adjustments in a larger campaign. Of course, occasionally, the commission comes up with the wrong answer (like Bush's commission on the Iraq war), and then they are safely shelved.

    I've worked in nonprofits in different fields, and I can tell you that my bosses intentionally had outcomes in mind; they knew the point of a commission was to get buy in from the larger world of elites and perhaps an ear to potential problems with the agenda. Unfortunately, while it's important to build consensus across a spectrum of people, it perpetuates the cynical view that we can't build a real public advocacy in the population at large. Instead, we use the elites to meld public opinion rather than understanding the fundamental disconnect between people and the strange and overpayed land of think tank consultant-dom that comes up with these ideas.

    That's not to say that a lot of these elites aren't very smart people and that some of them don't have some grasp on the larger social implications (many are quite brilliant and sensitive); it is to say that the process is incomplete. It's as if there's a world where consensus is important and a world where telling the public what the world of experts thinks (that is, top down) is more important than consensus. That wouldn't be a problem where the subject really requires only expertise - like in medicine or any other scientific or technological field. You don't get consensus from the public before you agree on what is cancer and what is not. However, when you talk about parks and policy, this is primarily an issue of values first - the parks are set aside primarily first because of a value. So, since you are talking about values about governance and power and control (that is policy and its execution), you have to involve the public as a primary vehicle. So, I strongly object to the process of such a commission as a vehicle for change. It's inconsistent to work for consensus like this; it's not a question for a range of experts - it's a question for all people. And, the only hope of the commission is that it realizes its own shortcoming in being able to come up with recommendations for the parks and encourages an aggressive plan for people to have the opportunity to become not only advocates for parks but also to have a real say in what they are and what they should be.

    What I've said perhaps seems to be open to the criticism that leaving the public too much say and participation in the process will lead to the kind of mismanagement one would expect if for instance one let Cody and West Yellowstone determine Yellowstone snowmobile policy. However, first off, the public isn't really the owner of the processes even representing those towns; secondly, public isn't restricted to those towns. There's no reason why non-locals shouldn't have a say as well and be part of the process.

    Another objection is the sheer logistics of it all. That's no doubt an issue, but if we agree that it's the starting point, then the consequences of the mind-numbing logistics involved with true participatory involvement in considering parks issues should be met head on. If it's socially impossible to conceive of a coherent American parks system AND a truly participatory system in coming to terms with issues and management, then I'd argue that it's the former that needs to go, that the former must have been built on a fundamentally flawed process - and that we will be bound to be spinning in circles. And, really, that comes down to the main reason I'm so tired of these commissions. Because in the end, it's a lot of spinning. There are often some very good ideas, but ideas without the right process mean little. Since commissions are used in part to give process validation to the right ideas, it's all the more troubling in this case when we go down this route.

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • Sierra Club Caught Standing Atop Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Mesa Arch is almost certainly the most accessible arch to walk across anywhere on the Colorado Plateau. It takes no effort at all, with the top of the arch only about 10 feet or so high, and, frankly, it isn't terribly intimidating. There are no conspicuous signs warning people to stay off the arch, no serious attempt at educating the public about the dangers of climbing the arch or what damage may occur to the arch from doing so. The alternative would be to fence off Mesa Arch, but that would deface the it nearly as much as anything else. The staff at Arches and Canyonlands (both under the same management umbrella) generally do a great job, but they really need to illustrate for the public that climbing Mesa Arch isn't just dangerous, but will potentialy deface one of the most beautiful arches in North America.

  • Decisions on Controlling Elk in Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Cave National Parks Likely to Linger Into 2009   5 years 50 weeks ago


    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Alaska hunts you cite primarily are subsistence-based, no? It's been an ingrained way of life for long before the Park Service was even thought of, and many of those parks rose up in recent history around traditional hunting grounds for the locals, as opposed to parks in the Lower 48/conterminous states that long have existed and which long have been out-of-bounds for hunting.

    While I'm not so sure getting the general public to sign off on the hunts would be a big deal -- especially not in light of recent surveys that show 69% of those polled favor drilling for oil both in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off-shore -- I do wonder about the problems those gut piles you mention would create.

    Would hunters take their elk deep in the backcountry and leave the gut piles there, away from hiking trails? Doubtful, I'd think.

    As a result, would you have to close parks to the general public during and for a period of time following hunts to allow bears to clean up the gut piles? Or would they be largely inconsequential?

    I do wonder about the feasibility of returning wolves into some of these parks to control the ungulate populations. They've seemed to do a reasonable job in Yellowstone, although elk numbers are probably still too high.

  • Sierra Club Caught Standing Atop Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    My husband and I attended a photo workshop at Mesa Arch and have beautiful photos to prove it. All I can say is, "What were they thinking?" Isn't the beauty of the arch enough to encourage preservation? Who needs a human to mess up the scene?

  • Accidents Happen at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Usually Because People Break Commonsense Water Safety Rules   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Interesting question, Frank. The National Park Service considers LAME's birthday to be August 11, 1947, just as it is indicated in Wikipedia. If you'd like to see the NPS list of national park birthdays, see this site. The NPS considers the park birthdates to be the dates "... of the earliest legislative or executive actions authorizing or establishing the park areas." There are some inconsistencies here and there, mostly due to name-change redesignations.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Hopefully the boy will mend fine and not be too traumatized by the attack. Unfortunately a bear – the assumed attacker - was destroyed.

    In May my son came home from his university for the weekend. As always, he came in to the house said hello, stretched, drank some water and went back out to get his bags. He came back in real quick telling me a young black bear was out on the driveway.

    I snuck out and snap a few pictures of a “curious” 18-24 month old black bear looking at me from around the corner. I then called our state game and fish people (no easy task though thanks to a professional 911 county operator we finally got hold of someone that night). Ultimately, the young bear was captured and relocated. We live in rural Washington State.

    With nearly 35 years in the NPS I only head one close encounter with black bears. I worked a bear jams in South Yellowstone NP in the early ‘70’s. A lot of the people exhibited some really strange and dangerous “behavior.” People, way too many people, lack a general awareness of what’s going on around them. The parks are not unfenced, open air zoos.

  • Sierra Club Caught Standing Atop Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Frank, the Sierra Club is a nonprofit group, and though it's no longer a 501c3 (the club lost its charitable status during its battle to stop the Bureau of Reclamation from damning the Colorado and flooding the Grand Canyon), it still conducts many c3 activities and is supported by its sister 501c3 organization, the Sierra Club Foundation. It's definitely a grassroots group, local members hold much of the decision making power, for better or for worse. Of course, many National Parks might not be protected today without the efforts of the club; and no matter how you feel about the organization, it's clear that the National Park System has greatly benefited from the Sierra Club.

  • Decisions on Controlling Elk in Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Cave National Parks Likely to Linger Into 2009   5 years 50 weeks ago


    To look at hunting as a tool for Park-management is an intriguing if elusive proposition. It obviously has considerable potential, but thorny problems. It is laudable that you take on this challenging topic.

    I also read your previous somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion to charge high fees for in-Park hunts .

    To put the hunting-idea into action will take a change in the conditioning of the public, and it will take a similar change in Park officialdom. The first might be both the more important and the more practical. (The second can be done by fiat.)

    This might be the place to note, that rural residents in or near Parks in Alaska are allowed to hunt (and trap) Park animal populations. This is a base of experience that could serve as a valuable reference.

    It is noteworthy that we so readily look upon these two particular excess-elk situations, as a context to explore the question of hunting as a policy-consideration applicable to Parks in general.

    If the ice is broken in some places for certain reasons, then it should become easier to use hunting under other circumstances.

    Hunters dress the carcass and leave the high-quality "gut-ball" on the site. These are a bonanza for a variety of wildlife, but bears especially benefit. Wildlife populations quickly learn the timing of hunting seasons, and integrate the offal into their annual cycle.

    Few hunters in the conterminous States are accustomed to hunting in off-road situations. Large game is carefully brought down reasonably near a road. (Shooting a 500 pound animal in a location where it will have to be backpacked many miles is a mistake one rarely repeats.) To hunt the backcountry of our larger Parks will require other methods. Snowmobiles or ATVs might be recommended.

    It is common that 'Park animals' are actually partly Park-residents, and partly reside in State or Forest Service or Private lands. This is acknowledged in discussing the present elk-problems. Less directly acknowledged, is that combining the wildlife management agencies of the extra-Park component, with the Park management would be more ecologically valid that assigning animals to one or another based on an arbitrary (and usually invisible) line in the woods.

    I would be doubtful of the prospect for wider use of hunting in the Parks, but we do live in exciting times: changes are taking place, and it is possible that some of these could include the many hunters of our nation.

  • Sierra Club Caught Standing Atop Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    weird that they would even CONSIDER such a stunt. I'm headed to that area in November myself for a photo trip--did they not just see that an entire arch collapsed in Arches?

  • Accidents Happen at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Usually Because People Break Commonsense Water Safety Rules   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Trivial point of clarification requested:

    "On October 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the act that formally established the "Lake Mead National Recreation Area." This act redesignated the old Boulder Dam Recreation Area, whose boundaries had been substantially enlarged in 1947 to include the yet-to-be-filled Lake Mohave, in recognition of its equally significant recreational opportunities." Source:

    So is this the date it was first called Lake Mead National Recreation Area (LAME to use the NPS abbrev.)? Or is it the one listed at Wikipedia: "The name was changed to Lake Mead National Recreation Area on August 11, 1947."?

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I wanted to do that Fiery Furnace walk but was too chicken when they showed me the pics of it. Was it scary or fantastically worth it? I love that park so much. Wish I were there right now for the Perseid.

  • Why You Should Not Store Food in Your Car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    So the first lesson, honestly, is not too obvious to visitors who haven't seen this video. Who'd think a black bear could do this to a car? I don't begrudge the owners of that car, they made an uninformed mistake, and that's that. Live and learn, and people who see this should learn.

    But the folks just standing around while it happened, then getting close to the bear when it had food. How selfish and idiotic! I'd have bought that bear a cheeseburger if he chased down that woman in pink ...

    There's stupidity through ignorance, and then there's just plain assininity.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    The entire Colorado Basin is eroding at about the rate Lake Powell is filling up with mud, or formerly, at the rate the Bay of California was filling up--slower than Baja is pulling away. Sandstone buildings erode less than an inch per century. Rainbow Bridge had a stream that flowed around it till the hole broke through; then the stream flowed through the hole, so a narrower gulch formed within a wider gulch. Both gulches help to give us an idea of the Bridge's erosion rates. The rocks that have broken off over the tens or hundreds of thousands of years have turned back to sand, and washed into the sea. It's a pretty slow process. --AGF

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Their are many arches in Arches National Park that you can walk under and a few that you actually can walk on.
    It is amazing that no one was hurt when this arch fell.
    The Park service needs to have engineers study the arches that are accessible to insure their safety.

    This park is one of the most beautiful areas in the United States.

    PS It didn't take eons to form the arches. Arches are formed all over the world over a few centuries of wind, flfash flooding rain and weathering.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Wow, this is two McInnis Canyons NCA references on NPT in about a week - that's got to be a record! Here is one of the more notable arches in the Rattlesnake Canyon area, folks climb through it though it is not an official BLM trail.

    Cedar Tree Arch from a distance, McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area

    Some more photos of the Rattlesnake Arches area of McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area are located here:

  • Sierra Club Caught Standing Atop Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    The Sierra Club's claim that it is a "grassroots environmental organization" is laughable. The Sierra Club is not a nonprofit organization. It is a lobbying group. Lobbying groups need lots of money, so they'll do anything to raise the money they need, including profiting from national parks. This is yet another influence of lobbyists in national parks. Oh, and that free rucksack? I'll bet it's made in China.

  • Why You Should Not Store Food in Your Car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Where does one should store his food on a camping trip, while stopping in a day use area, if not in the car? In this case the driver left his side window open enough for the bear to get a grip. That was his mistake. But having food in the car is not a fault in itself.

    But the stupidity of all those people still buffles me. They aproach a bear to a few yards (in Yellowstone there is a 100 yards rule), they get between a bear and his retreat route. In the early stages it might have been smat to scare him away. But that wasn't an option anymore once he was in the car and got the food.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I recant. But it will be a few days before that raven sets down on another arch in slickrock country. --AGF

  • Why You Should Not Store Food in Your Car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    You hit the nail on the head, Kim. Not only shouldn't you store food in your rig in bear country, but you certainly shouldn't go running up to a bear for a photo op, unless you want to be in it when the bruin turns on you.

    And, of course, the others watching this show should have, as others have pointed out, tried to drive off the bear in some fashion.

  • Why You Should Not Store Food in Your Car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    I have to say that I saw a lot of candidates for the Darwin award! Did not one of those folks think this was not for their entertainment and that bear was a wild animal? Many of them were 'lucky' the bear didn't realize they were meat in sneakers.

  • Sierra Club Caught Standing Atop Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    National Geographic Adventure magazine had a cover earlier this year with a woman doing yoga on top of Mesa Arch. They got a lot of criticism for that, and I remember the editors responding that while it probably wasn't the safest/smartest thing in the world to do, they didn't break any NPS or Canyonlands laws/rules in getting the photo shot. Page down to the March 2008 issue to see the cover:

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    AGF - I like to think that a canyon raven, a crafty bird in all environments, landed atop the arch thus providing the last few ounces of downward stress causing this immense collapse. Amidst the din and dust the raven was surprised as his footing disappeared. No problem his black wings spread, caught the breeze, and lifted him into the blue sky. Another day in slickrock country.

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   5 years 50 weeks ago

    Two witnesses to the collapse have come forward.