Recent comments

  • Centennial Projects: Mountain Biking in Big Bend National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Many national parks do allow mountain biking on narrow, single-track trails. One recent trial conducted in Kentucky concluded that shared-use trails for hikers and mountain bikers have few problems.

    Shared-use Big South Fork trail deemed a success

    By Morgan Simmons
    Knoxville News Sentinel
    October 7, 2007

    An experiment to permit mountain biking on a trail in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area previously designated as hiking-only has come to a close, and the result is good news for mountain bikers.

    For the past year, the National Park Service has used the Grand Gap Loop Trail to test a shared-use management strategy that allows mountain biking and hiking during the week, and only hiking on weekends.

    Big South Fork spokesman Steve Seven said the pilot project brought no negative comments from hikers, and that the only complaint from mountain bikers was that the trail was closed to them on weekends.

    "Based on the feedback we received from hikers and mountain bikers, we made the decision that the testing phase was over, and that the project was successful," Seven said.

    The Grand Gap Loop Trail, in the heart of the 125,000-acre park, is seven miles long and features numerous dramatic overlooks into the main river gorge. The trail is single-track, and rated moderately difficult for mountain biking. Some sections of the Grand Gap Look trail skirt the edge of the bluff line, while others pass through boulder gardens and rock shelters carved out of sandstone.

    While "user-sharing" trails are not new - the Tsali Trail system along North Carolina's Fontana Lake designates alternate days for mountain biking and horseback riding - this is the first time the Big South Fork has put the concept to the test.

    Now that Grand Gap Loop has passed the experimental phase, managers at Big South Fork can designate more trails as shared use between mountain bikers and hikers as directed in the park's new general management plan.

    One candidate for inclusion into the time-share system is an extension off the Grand Gap Loop that leads to Station Camp, along the Big South Fork River. When this trail opens, the seven-mile Grand Gap would expand into a 16-mile loop, with 13 miles of that being single-track.

    The park's general management plan also calls for portions of the John Muir Trail and the Rock Creek Trail to be opened to hiking and mountain biking on a time-share basis.

    Big South Fork is one of the few national park units that allow mountain biking. Congress authorized the park in 1974 to protect the Big South Fork and its tributaries and to provide a variety of recreation opportunities ranging from hunting and fishing to hiking and horseback riding.

    A key player in promoting mountain biking at Big South Fork is the Big South Fork Mountain Bike Club. In addition to building and maintaining mountain bike trails, the club patrols the park to aid and assist mountain bikers. The Big South Fork has about 400 miles of trail overall - 130 miles for hiking, and about 160 miles of multiple-use trails that allow horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking.

    In addition, the park has three dedicated mountain-biking trails (open to mountain bikers and hikers but not horseback riders) near the Bandy Creek Visitors Center. These are the Collier Ridge Trail, West Bandy Trail and the Duncan Hollow Loop.

    The park's new management plan calls for the mountain-biking trail system to expand from eight to 24 miles, with the potential for more trails in the future.

  • Kids Detached From Nature? Here's One Example   6 years 25 weeks ago

    It seems important in discussions like this to try and remember what it's like to be a kid. Trees are, to nearly all kids, really pretty boring. It's not until later in life that the subtle appeal of passively studying the natural world holds much appeal. But kids do love to explore, ride bikes, play in the woods when they're given opportunities. Recreation builds an affinity for natural places, which later in life translates into respect and interest in the subtlities of natural landscapes. Remember that most of the great naturalists of the 20th century -- Muir, Brower, etc. -- started out as climbers, hikers, explorers. The reason, in my view, kids are often turned off by national parks is that they're presented as cathedrals, and not as playgrounds.

  • Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    When an attack happens in a National Park it is guaranteed to make national headlines. Yet we only read about one or two every year. But as our example of Googling "deer attacks" illustrated, far more attacks happen outside of parks. Many of these attacks, as well as bear, elk, moose etc. happen to hunters. Your point about acreage is very valid, but my whole point is that whether or not a population is hunted has nothing to do with the frequency of attacks on human beings. Now, clearly, habituated animals are far more dangerous (inside or outside a park), this has been demonstrated over and over. The deer that you speak of in campgrounds in Zion (or CR) are obviously habituated. I don't know if anyone has been injured or not, but, if not, it is only a matter of time. The National Park Service (or Forest Service if occurring in Forest Service campgrounds...which a friend told me the other day he has seen as well....which shows that even this isn't exclusive to parks) have a responsibility to do something about it. They need to do averse training and they need to HEAVILY FINE individuals who are contributing to the problem by feeding them. They don't need to shoot these deer, though shooting AT them with cracker rounds etc. might be beneficial. BTW, compare these deer to the elk wondering around the Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone, which will move away as you approach them. I will repeat one last time: There is a difference between animals that are used to seeing people and those who are habituated. I spend thousands of hours in the Yellowstone back country and constantly see animals that I guarantee you are not habituated. (Most even run away as I approach, which should make you happy). Animals in campgrounds (both inside and outside National Parks) sometimes are; because people feed them, or leave food out for them.
    Regarding your point about man being part of the natural "processes", I have not addressed it because I agree with it. For 30,000 years or more man WAS a part of the natural process. When man started building cities, machines and modern weapons, and when he started playing God by setting arbitrary wildlife "population goals", and started deciding what species have a right to exist at all; then he removed himself from the "natural processes". In nature man is about on equal footing with the grizzly bear. Throughout those thousands of years, he spent as much time being hunted by the bear as hunting it. Strip naked and take a walk in the woods with only what God gave you, and see where man fits in the "natural processes". One of the great fallacies is that man is at the top of the food chain. He has artificially made himself the top predator, but he will never be at the top of the food chain (anyone who doesn't believe this should look up what a food chain is).
    It may be far from perfect....in fact I know that it is....but I submit that Yellowstone National Park is far closer to a "natural" ecosystem (intact and similar to what the area was like before the arrival of white men) than most anywhere else in the lower 48. And as such, as I said, is a tremendous educational tool. For many people, it is the only opportunity they will ever have to see many of these animals in the WILD. And yes! I'll say it! Dang gone it! We uneducated, naive, uninformed wimps think some of those critters are down right cute!!! (OK! Are ya happy....I said it!) What I don't think is that they are not still WILD, because folks who believe that ARE the ones who end up getting hurt.
    Thanks for the discussion.

  • Lyle Laverty Confirmed as Assistant Interior Secretary Over National Parks   6 years 25 weeks ago

    As long as the parks are administered by the Executive Branch of the federal government you should expect to see these types of political appointees slip in and out of power with the greatest of ease. That they bring their own agendas and legacies, that often have little to do with solving the current issues facing the parks, is the way that the system operates. In a few years Mr. Laverty will be gone and a new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will do the same thing all over again.

    A patronage based spoils system is no way to operate natural areas. What advantages are realized by this political revolving door when it comes to resource management?

    Or as Frank Zappa once asked "What is your conceptual continuity?"

    In the politically charged atmosphere of the Dept. of Interior it is practically zilch.

  • Letter from Congress Urges Director Bomar To Ban Snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    I'm not sure the U.S. Congress has any credibility when it comes to living up to commitments.

  • Letter from Congress Urges Director Bomar To Ban Snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    First, I've got to say that picture of Bomar's torso-less figure with snowmobiles underneath is downright creepy. Fits Halloween, though.

    Secondly, it's unfortunate that only 14% - 17% of congressional representatives signed the letter. That's a small minority. I like how the letter ends: "We expect you to live up to your commitment." I'd suggest adding: "And if you don't, we will hunt you down and shoot you like a bison or a Katmai grizzly!"

  • Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    why do FAR MORE ANIMAL ATTACKS HAPPEN OUTSIDE OF OUR PARKS THAN INSIDE

    What evidence do you have that this is an accurate statement? Has some kind of systematic comparative study been done on animal attacks in and out of parks?

    Should you be able to find a statistical study that demonstrates that the numbers of attacks are higher outside of parks, I'd hypothesize it could be related to the fact that NPS lands cover a very small minority of the total acreage of land in the United States; Forest Service, BLM, Fish and Wildlife, and private lands are far more vast, so I would expect to see a higher incident of attacks on those lands.

    And you have failed to address the issue that I've pointed out above:

    For 15000 to 30000 years in North America, humans WERE part of the natural predation that controlled animal populations. Human predation, along with other predation (fire, cougars, wolves, brown bears), has been removed from the equation, and a completely different system (which I'm arguing is not better than the former system) was born in the last century.

  • Is the Bear "Hunt" in Katmai National Preserve Sporting or Ethical?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Please look at this year's Katmai bear hunt photos at www.scottdickerson.com he's a photographer that took several still images of the bear hunt out on Katmai. I think it further drives home jsut how simple it was for these guys to walk up too or for the animals to walk up to them before being shot!!!

  • Katmai Bear Hunt: Outfitter Says It's No Walk in the Woods   6 years 25 weeks ago

    For anyone who would like a better visual of this year's bear hunt out on Katmai go to www.scottdickerson.com he's a photographer that took many still images of the bears milling around the hunters plane and camps. I think it further drives home just how simple it was for these guys to walk up to their animals and shoot!!

  • Alaska Regional Director Responds To Outrage Over Katmai Preserve Bear Hunt   6 years 25 weeks ago

    For anyone who would like to get a better visual of the bears milling around the lake and camps where the hunters are set-up go to www.scottdickerson.com he's a photographer that took many still images of the so-called bear hunt on Katmai. I think his images help to further drive home how simple it was for the hunters to walk up to the bears and shoot!!

  • Letter from Congress Urges Director Bomar To Ban Snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Director, Terry and Brenda just want to say hi and that we are proud of your work!

  • Museum of the National Park Service Will be Built in West Virginia   6 years 25 weeks ago

    You're dead on target Jon. Any reader of those captions would be hard pressed to find even one that didn't apply across the board to what we're discussing on most every issue. Kurt should feature a link......

  • Letter from Congress Urges Director Bomar To Ban Snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Not only the overflights, but the "underflights" at the Grand Canyon as well -- those military jets whose pilots that think it's some yukkity yuk rite of passage to break the law and fly through the lower gorge -- they should be stopped as well. Oh and the mother screaming across the campground to her son fishing in the nearby creek about what time he needs to be back at the campsite for dinner, oh and the hog riders crusing through the Badlands and Devils Tower, and the diesel engine tour buses that run their engines for an hour while the nametagged crew peruses the gift shop...

  • Museum of the National Park Service Will be Built in West Virginia   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Thanks, Frank, for you positive feedback. Back at ya!

    Good to hear you had an independent thinking supervisor at Zion. Truthfully, I believe most NPS employees know the difference between logic and absurdity...but we exist in a culture where daring to speak common sense, for some obscure reason, seems "dangerous" and "revolutionary".

    This will be the topic of a future Simple Proposal.

    Bart

  • Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    "*ONE QUICK REQUEST: Can we stop using the phrase "the rangers?!?""
    The answer to that would be: NO. While I would agree that rangers have as many different opinions as any other group of people, and I certainly have not spoken to every ranger in Yellowstone, the opinions that I wrote of above are pretty much universal among those that I have spoken to. I could give you a list of at least a dozen names, but don't feel that would be appropriate. My speaking to these individuals is as valid a "personal experience" as your reading a book. And as easily verifiable by anyone traveling to Yellowstone and speaking to them themselves (especially those on the front lines...working bear jams etc.) Indeed, I could just as easily quote a dozen books of my own, they are merely so many more opinions.
    I really don't understand this: if an animal doesn't run in terror the moment that it sees a human being it is not wild thing. I think that it must just make some people feel macho or something to have animals run instantly. Have you ever heard of "flight or fight"? It is an instinct as old as creation. Every animal has it. Some, such as the elk that hang out among the buildings in Mammoth Hot Springs may have smaller personal spaces (flight or fight spaces) but I guarantee you it is still there. Other elk in Yellowstone, for example those you meet on a trail, have larger spaces and will run immediately. I don't know when you were in Yellowstone last (as I said, I spend 3-5 days a week every week of the year there), but the elk are not like cows there any more since wolves were re-introduced. From about the 1930's until the 1960's elk herds were artificially reduced by man in Yellowstone (by sharpshooters), yet they continued to act like cows, continued to hang out in riparian habitat destroying the willow and aspen and as a consequence beaver and songbird habitat. It took the return of the wolf to change their habits. Man with his rifles didn't scare them (sorry), the wolves do.
    This flight or fight instinct is in every animal every where. Because a bear decides to maul a hunter rather than run from him does NOT mean that it is "domesticated". Every animal will act differently.
    What no one seems able to address is what I pointed out above: why do FAR MORE ANIMAL ATTACKS HAPPEN OUTSIDE OF OUR PARKS THAN INSIDE. They are in fact relatively rare in our parks.

  • Letter from Congress Urges Director Bomar To Ban Snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it appears that now it's Congress turn to do the about-face double talk. I guess that since we're dealing with a current issue, the statement about "preserving the soundscape" is all well and good. But shouldn't that same logic apply to the over-flights at the South Rim? Or are the operators in Arizona too politically entrenched and making too much money for the same standard to apply?

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: The Latest Battleground Over ORVs in the Parks   6 years 25 weeks ago

    What is Superintendant Gustin thinking? Opening more trails for ORV's will have a negative impact on the environment and wildlife. This is just another example of people selfishly taking more land away from animals that were there first and we need to speak up for them. I'm just wondering if Gustin has some ulterior motive?

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: The Latest Battleground Over ORVs in the Parks   6 years 25 weeks ago

    So much for preserving the integrity of the pride. By introduction of an exotic species to artificially raise the population you have committed the worst type of biological atrocity. You have effectively brought the Florida line to extinction by introducing genetic mutation, thereby forever altering the bloodline. This is a textbook example of the "bad science" that demonstrates the ignorance, arrogance and short-sighted nature of modern man, and is irreversible. Congrats to the wildlife biologists that concocted and engineered this brilliant scheme, and the NPS for ushering another species to the ranks of the extinct. You should be SO proud of yourselves!

    Hum, about 30 thought to be living in a specific region prior to the breeding program and about 30 thought to still be in the area 10 or so years after. If they had been tagged and tracked, I'll bet you the 30 that chose to remain in their original habitat are comprised of original pride members and their 1st generation offspring, with the 2F and exotics to be found elsewhere throughout the preserve and local region. The learned behavior hasn't been bred out yet, but not to worry, the remainder of the population will most certainly, in another couple of generations, be utilizing the entire of south Florida just as effectively as the estimated 70% of the "other" population is currently. Then as Merryland intimated, the hunt will be on. Just wait until the first dog, or kid, comes up missing.

  • Museum of the National Park Service Will be Built in West Virginia   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Has everyone seen the demotivational posters and calendars at despair.com? They're hilarious and they poke fun at those beautiful posters with inspirational messages. There's one with a picture of an eagle soaring above some snow-capped mountains and the caption at the bottom reads:

    "Leaders are like eagles. We don't have either of them here."

    If you've never seen this site before, bring your hanky and be prepared to cry from laughing so hard.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: The Latest Battleground Over ORVs in the Parks   6 years 25 weeks ago

    While working at the Everglades back in '86 I visited all the surrounding parks including the Big C. It was a very sad place -- kinda like the Lorax story with trees splintered up, tire tracks everywhere... you could tell recreational vehicles of all kinds were king there. And amazingly -- at the time -- it was thought that the 30 or so remaining panthers were all holed up in there somewhere, with occasional visits to the wetter Everglades NP. We all know how National Preserves are a farce when it comes to "preservation"... and I wonder how long before some idiot says "Hey let's shoot panthers, we've got more than a hundred of 'em now..." I'm sure Marjory Stoneman Douglas is stirring in her grave.

  • Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    I'm fine with not having hunting as long as we don't pretend we're not then moving into gardening the landscape on a mass scale and that we're permanently altering the park's ecosystem into something different than what was there.

    I agree with Frank's assertion, while I am sure I am going to mess up in paraphrasing, the inherent fallacy of removing humans from the ecosystem ala our beloved NPS system is definitely a human construct.

    As an example, from what I remember of Alston Chase's "Playing God in Yellowstone," wildlife herds in Yellowstone were never that abundant as they are today. Add that to the fact that the the fire regime has been changed (thanks Smokey!) and you don't really have what was there as original landscape or ecosystem. Even if you don't like the book, you can't argue with the fact that humans have been part of the North American ecosystem since somewhere around the end of (at least) the Pleistocene and taking us (hunting, living, etc.) out of the equation does create some sort of construct.

    NPT should revisit that book as well as some of William Cronon's stirring of the pot. Humans are part of the game. In the NPS system, the animals act like the characters from Bambi or something, no fear, nothing. Since when should an elk not be afraid of a human? At Yellowstone, so you can put your tripod up and snap a photo so it doesn't charge?

    While I can't say that modern hunting is the solution or the same as someone hurling an atlatl, to say that we need to preserve the BS false nature worship of Mangelsen's photos (they are beautiful, however) or the expensive classes in the Yellowstone Institute affordable to only the wealthy is absurd. The herds of begging muleys walking without fear through the Fruita CG at Capitol Reef are lame, same with anything similar in the NPS system.

    *ONE QUICK REQUEST: Can we stop using the phrase "the rangers?!?" It's too vague and always invokes some sort of perceived authority, I'm calling BS. Rangers are a finnicky and odd bunch of people and they have as many opinions as shows up on this commenting board. You can't use that phrase to imply that they all stand behind whatever it is you're typing. Personal experience is preferred, anecdotally relaying information from friends or whatever isn't as reliable! ;) And besides, they are public servants anyway and should be paying attention to our opinions. WE pay their salaries, afterall...

  • Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker, in part your right, but the natives also stampeded hundreds of buffalo over huge gullies and high cliffs, with intentions for a mass kill, in order to have plenty of meat for the winter months and heavy warm hides to bear the bitter cold on the Dakota plains. There were excesses by the natives but not much waste! Your blogs and comments add much depth to many of the subjects presented by NPT. Good in put!

  • Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Anonymous asks if I believe that Katmai National Preserve's bear hunt is being managed appropriately. I don't profess to know everything that I would like to about this situation, but what I know makes me as uncomfortable as most of you are.

    No reason to be uncomfortable, though, with NRA v. Potter. The NRA lost big here, and NPS resources won big. That's not negotiable. You don't have to like the NRA to like the results of the court case.

    Any weakening amendments to the Organic Act require Congress to act, and amending the Orgaqnic Act is almost as unlikely as a constitutional convention. But as Kurt has written many times, the critical issues right now are at Rocky Mountain, Theodore Roosevelt, and Wind Cave. Park managers, who have done the right thing, in my view, by using scientific monitoring data to determine that it is necessary and appropriate to reduce elk populations, are under tremendous pressure by state governments (and even Cong. Mark Udall, who is running for Senate in Colorado and clearly grandstanding on this issue) to open these parks to recreational hunting (under the guise of using "qualified hunters" as park volunteers). That's a very slippery slope and one that could create a lot of damage to the integrity of the National Park System.

    J Longstreet
    A National Park Superintendent

  • Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    I don't think Frank's point about the alteration of the ecosystem can be ignored. The lands that the parks encompass are simply not the same ecosystem that was so masterfully managed by the Natives centuries ago, or even the same that Powell, et.al. "discovered" in the late 19th century. It is an artificial preserve, with selected predation and prey as deemed fit by human "stewards". Granted, the portion of the equation dealing with human predators can no longer exist due to the dramatic increase in the human animal and his "freedom" to do as others of his species will, and this ridiculous notion of sport hunting. Sport hunting virtually exterminated the buffalo, among other North American species, in the past two centuries. That manner of hunting cannot be allowed on public lands due to the extreme detrimental impact on what we deem as acceptable "prey", which is basically anything that finds it way into the cross-hairs, edible or otherwise. That's why the earliest inhabitants of this land were successful in "maintaining" the herds and their populations; the entire philosophy was centered around taking only enough to sustain the village, not taking enough to satisfy the world market. That notion was solely the responsibility of the Europeans.

  • Museum of the National Park Service Will be Built in West Virginia   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Bart, you advance a concise argument. It's also humorous. (You remind me of a supervisor I had at Zion.) Thanks for sharing your comments. I think the editors should grant you a weekly spot on the front page with your Simple Proposals. They're grrrrreat!