Recent comments

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 8 hours ago

    Michael -

    Two big differences between us. First, I don't share your pessimism. I think man can exploit the earth for his own good without long term negative impacts. As you yourself noted several of today's parks are "restoration" parks. Parks that in a hundred years or less have erased the "scars" of man.

    Second, I understand how small man is in the scheme of things. Over billions of years massive changes have occured to the climate, the soils, the geography et al. None of that had anything to do with man. Man is but a flea on the butt of the elephant. If we end a species is that earth shattering? Over time, billions of species have come and gone and we had nothing to do with that. Were those changes "bad"? Is change necessarily "bad"? As "man" should we work to stop naturally occuring die offs of a species?

    You are absolutely right "reality will prevail" and in the grand scheme of things, we won't have a single thing to do with it.

  • Traveler's View: Really, Aren't The National Parks Worth More Than $2.5 Million?   2 weeks 12 hours ago

    Dr. Runte, this is one of your finest posts, exactly the issue here. Thank you. I also appreciated the post of M. Kellett and yourself on "addressing the backlog". It is stretch to me that we cannot find common ground on "man" contributing to climate change. From deforestation, fossil feuls, yes giant wind and solar farms, well the list is quite lengthly, the evidence is building that we are having an influence. An issue on population as simple as not having enough respect for women to stay out of the conversation regarding their personal reproductive health care decisions is quite troubling. Thanks again

  • Traveler's View: Really, Aren't The National Parks Worth More Than $2.5 Million?   2 weeks 13 hours ago

    I don't think "price" is the point being made here at all. Sometimes, a writer has to resort to irony or sarcasm before anyone can see the point. And the point is: The government, having presented the national parks as a gold mine, turns around and sells them as if they were tin.

    Again, it's happening all across our public lands. Who's minding the store here? If the national parks are worth $30 billion to the economy, I expect a commensurate return to the taxpayers. If that is going to be the standard from now on, I expect the standard to pay its way. More likely, the Park Service will be right back in Congress next year pleading they haven't got any money.

    This is the problem with every privatization argument. Those who want the parks to be privatized don't want to pay. They still want the taxpayers to pay, and know how to get them to pay. They keep the government suspended between morality and immorality, knowing that immorality is always the stronger "sale." Why? Becomes it comes with a price--something that everyone can "understand."

    The National Park Foundation is supposed to know this and never let money into it. You want to contribute to the parks? Fine. But you get NOTHING in return. That is philanthropy. Everything else is a sellout. When I contribute to Jerry's kids, I don't expect to see them working in my yard. When I give to St. Jude's Hospital, I expect them to be treating cancer without any "banners." A credit? Sure. We all want people to know what we're doing. An awards dinner and a formal thank you? Yes again. People who give deserve to be honored, and in honoring them we honor the cause. But that's it, if you are a true philanthropist. That is the point Kurt is making.

    Fortunately, and wonderfully, the history of our national parks is full of philanthropy of the kind I am defining here. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., gave and gave. So did Lawrence Rockefeller and the late L. W. "Bill" Lane, Jr. I remember when Bill Lane told me, in Yosemite Valley, that Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt had just "hit him up" for $200,000 to help make repairs after the 1997 floods. "And you were glad to do it, Bill, weren't you?" I replied. "Glad, Al? I was thrilled. As you know, Jean and I absolutely love this place."

    Does Budweiser love the national parks? We'll see. That history has yet to evolve. However, if they do, they will express their love as Bill expressed it--quietly and honorably behind the scenes. So far, now that the Clydesdales have left the starting gate, I think the horses are still smarter than their owners. But as I said, we'll have to wait for the end of the race.

  • Acadia Then And Now: 40 Years Is Too Long Between Visits   2 weeks 14 hours ago

    Happy birthday, Acadia NP! It has been about 20 years since I last visited, and this article reminds me I shouldn't let too many more years go by. Acadia is an enchanting park, and I loved my first few visits, then moved from New Englad so it is not as easy to get back! I have some very fond memories of times in Acadia with several different family members.

  • Critics Say Legislation Penned In The Name Of Homeland Security Could Trample National Parks, Other Federal Lands   2 weeks 14 hours ago

    So they can use motorized vehicles in wilderness. That will be great for cryptogramic soils.

  • Girl Scouts Getting More Involved With National Parks   2 weeks 15 hours ago

    Agreed, Jim. Programs to get more girls, more boys, more kids in general, as well as any other demographic. Getting them hooked young, on something healthy, is a Good Thing.

  • Glacier National Park Officials Working To Craft Going-To-The-Sun Road Plan To Ease Congestion   2 weeks 15 hours ago

    I was there last summer at the start of the season. Opening of the "Sun Road" to private vehicles was delayed due to a late snowstorm, but we were able to ride the free shuttle from the west side most of the way to Logan Pass, and then walk along the road for several miles. It was a great way to enjoy the area without traffic. A crowd of about 200 people waited quite a while to start their ride due to insufficient shuttle capacity, and I heard quite a few conversations that people would be willing to pay a reasonable fee if it was used to fund more shuttles.

    Five days later we drove most of the same route, starting on the east side, the first day the entire road was open. The shuttle trip was definitely more pleasant - no hunting for a parking spot and I was able to keep my eyes on the road instead of the scenery.

    The trade-off with our our vehicle was the ability to stop at more locations than the shuttle, and travel on our own schedule, but since we were there for the first day of the season, things were not completely jammed. If we had been there a week or two later, at "peak" season, the shuttle would absolutely be preferable for me - especially for anyone who wanted to spend some time at Logan Pass.

    Summary: Expand the shuttle during peak season, even if it requires a modest fee to pay for the service - and then try make sure people understand the challenges of trying to enjoy the trip via your own car.

    Would this concept work for a peak season of only about 2 months? I don't know. Staffing and equipment for that short time could be a hurdle.

  • Girl Scouts Getting More Involved With National Parks   2 weeks 15 hours ago

    Absolutely an example of a much better way to introduce young people to our parks - as opposed to Anheuser-Busch's goal of "introducing a new generation of beer drinkers" to those areas!

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 16 hours ago

    Some really good comments here, some of them even worthy of an article or two. First, about Yosemite. Once the federal government had completed the surveys of the high country, the handwriting was on the wall. Settlement claims under the Homestead Act, etc., then proliferated, culminating in the late 1880s. The park of 1890 was already hamstrung by 65,000 acres of private inholdings--or more. The sugar pine stands were the real prize, and indeed the target of the boundary reductions of 1905. As for "accepting" those private inholdings--and resource extraction--there was little leadership around TO accept it. No Park Service for another 11 years, certainly, and Interior still ruled by the General Land Office, still rapidly giving the public lands away. And of course, that was the law of the time. Gifford Pinchot's U.S. Forest Service was meant to halt the giveaways by including huge swaths of the public domain in forest reserves. Theodore Roosevelt complied by adding enormously to those reserves, but himself left office in 1909.

    This is to reemphasize the battle of today. It's over the public lands, not just the national parks. How much of the public lands do we want to keep--as in should keep? Right now, there is a fire sale on public lands in the desert for wind and solar installations. The lands are "leased," not sold, but the lessors scrape them bare. They won't be desert again for centuries, whether as carbon sinks or habitat. How much of the rise in CO2 is due to the millions of acres either deforested or paved every year? Ah, but your government isn't telling you that, is it? It is only talking about emissions needing technology-based controls, i.e., corporate "solutions" again.

    Our national parks are caught in the middle, and yes, this is to explain Owen Hoffman's point. How can we feel like "celebrating" when we don't even know what will be left to celebrate? That again is where history comes in. We've been on the decks of this ship before, even if some people don't like that analogy. Our only advantage in the past was to have a smaller country with still enough open space to feel "open." That said, we were tearing it apart even then, only now to see its actual limits.

    I disagree with E. O. Wilson that expanding parks will solve the problem. Only limiting population will solve the problem, but you dare not say that at Harvard and Berkeley, lest you rattle the windows of political correctness. And so you say climate change, whose PC code is "acceptable." We can do something. . . We are not bound by limits. . . With human ingenuity, we can make the desert bloom and the problem "go away." You have to give them an A for trying, but seriously, does anyone believe that is how Mother Nature works?

    Good thoughts, people. Keep them coming. This is the only site I know asking through history how to make 2016 both meaningful and "relevant." Yes, a new word from our friends in the Park Service! Are we relevant? Just last week wasn't the word diverse? History, good people. All of this is meaningless unless you know the real forces from whence you came.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 17 hours ago

    EC and beachdumb,

    No use in arguing about climate change. Reality will prevail, regardless of what we say.

    EC,

    You should read Runte's book about Yosemite. It notes how the Park had its boarders reduced because of its demands for purity. If it had been more willing to accept resource exploitation, more of the lands around the park would have been under its control. Instead, these lands were removed and the NPS lost total control.

    I think the National Park Service's obsession with "purity" in the past was an egregious mistake. For example, turning down proposals to add Mount Baker, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and Mount Shasta to the National Park System because we already had a Cascade volcano in Mount Rainier National Park has proven to be extremely short-sighted, in light of the damage done to all of them by industrial exploitation.

    I agree that limiting Yosemite National Park's boundaries was another example of a lack of vision. Adjacent lands have been degraded by Forest Service mismanagement since 1890. For example, the recent Rim Fire burned in both Yosemite and the Stanislaus National Forest. The National Park Service's post-fire restoration program for Yosemite has been mainly to stabilize erosion, repair roads and trails, and cut a few hazard trees. The estimated cost: $386 million. In jarring contrast, the U.S. Forest Service's post-fire "restoration" program for adjacent Stanislaus lands has included massive "salvage" logging and roadbuilding, estimated to cost taxpayers $15 million or more. Furthermore, there is serious concern about the harm this industrial logging will cause to native ecosystems and wildife, such as the imperiled spotted owl.

    However, it is not too late to add these lands to Yosemite National Park. Under National Park Service management, damage from past industrial uses can be allowed to heal. Some of our most beloved existing existing national parks, such as Great Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Cave, Big Bend, and Redwood are such restoration parks. There are many other significant places already under public ownership that are damaged, but needing National Park System protection to allow them to recover their natural integrity.

    One urgent example is the need to expand Theodore Roosevelt National Park to include the surrounding 1-million-acre Little Missouri National Grasslands. U.S. Forest Service "multiple-use" management has allowed this irreplaceable ecosystem to be harmed by a host of industrial uses. This exploitation has gotten so extreme that fracking is now a severe threat to much of the national park and even TR's beloved Elkhorn Ranch is threatened by road building and gravel mining. Some would say we cannot afford to expand Theodore Roosevelt National Park to include these already-public lands. I say we cannot afford not to do so.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 18 hours ago

    has reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in recorded history

    And so far there is zero evidence that this has caused any change in the environment. All prediction models have been completely incorrect when correlating the rise of CO2 to temperature change. The facts are that while there has been a steady rise of CO2, global temperatures have been flat for two decades. If rise of CO2 has some effect, no one has shown it yet.

  • Traveler's View: Really, Aren't The National Parks Worth More Than $2.5 Million?   2 weeks 18 hours ago

    Well said Kurt. This partnership with Budweiser is just not right for the NPS. The whole deal cries out for a congressional investigation. Even if the amount of money was $25 million it would still be wrong. Dan Wenk and Jarvis need to face reality. They made a mistake and just say no to Budweiser.

  • Traveler's View: Really, Aren't The National Parks Worth More Than $2.5 Million?   2 weeks 18 hours ago

    I agree with you Kurt, the price seems low. But I find it funny after all the indignation about the arrangement in the first place, now we are talking price. Reminds me of a joke that ends with the women asking "what do you think I am" and the man responds, "we have already established that, now we are just negotiating the price".

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 18 hours ago

    The global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – the primary driver of recent climate change – has reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in recorded history, according to data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

    And despite that the temperatures haven't risen for nearly two decades. Thanks for the evidence breaking the link.

    I have not been to a park that I believe should be removed from the National Park System

    So what is the justification for the GW and BW Parkways being in the system? What are the historical, scenic or recreational resources that are being protected in those "parks"?

    For places of national significance, National Park System designation is unsurpassed.

    We don't have much disagreement there except I am not as concerned about resource extraction. You should read Runte's book about Yosemite. It notes how the Park had its boarders reduced because of its demands for purity. If it had been more willing to accept resource exploitation, more of the lands around the park would have been under its control. Instead, these lands were removed and the NPS lost total control. Thats not the point Runte made in telling the story but it is the reality of what happened.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 19 hours ago

    EC,

    1. Regarding your denial of climate change, It is ironic that you made it the day after this announcement.

    The global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – the primary driver of recent climate change – has reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in recorded history, according to data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

    2. Regarding my solution for reversing short-term budget issues, the reality is that federal funds flow toward political influence. In recent years, overwhelming influence over government revenue and spending has been captured by anti-government Republicans, Wall Street and other special corporate interests, and the military-industrial complex. They have power, but they represent a tiny fraction of the American population. In contrast, the National Park System receives almost 300 million visitors a year. If only a small percentage of them are mobilized to demand adequate funding of existing parks and expansion of the system, they will shift the balance of power in that direction. What has been missing is the leadership needed to catalyze that mobilization.

    3. Regarding justification for keeping existing units of the National Park System, I have — thus far — visited 248 of these units in 45 states, DC, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands. That includes the George Washington and Blue Ridge Parkways, Steamtown, and most other areas often cited as unworthy of national park status. To date, I have not been to a park that I believe should be removed from the National Park System. I think most Americans would agree with me.

    4. Regarding additions to the National Park System, I am glad that you would support some additions. But, it should be noted that we cannot depend on other land designations to ensure the same level of protection or permanence as National Park System designation. BLM and U.S. Forest Service special management areas offer considerably weaker protection and much smaller management budgets. Some state parks provide robust safeguards and excellent programs, yet most allow damaging uses that would not be allowed in national parks and they suffer from far more limited budgets. Private landowners and nonprofit organizations have preserved many important places, but they cannot offer the permanency of public ownership. For places of national significance, National Park System designation is unsurpassed.

  • Traveler's View: Really, Aren't The National Parks Worth More Than $2.5 Million?   2 weeks 20 hours ago
    One thing I don't get about this is they say the partnership with Budweiser will attract more of the kinds of people they want to come to NPS sites. But as far as I know Budweiser isn't exactly the brand of "millennials" or most minorities.
  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 1 day ago

    Thanks, Michael Kellett. Be warned there are a handful of climate change deniers here that make a lot of noise, and try to make it look like they're the only ones in the room.

    Most of us have just decided not to wrestle in the mud with them any more.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 1 day ago

    Thank you Michael Kellett and thanks for E.O. Lewis quote.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 1 day ago

    We should think about the use of national parks in mitigating the effects of climate change, promoting science and science education,.....

    An oxymoron in the first sentence.

    Michael - what is your solution for reversing these "short-term" budget issues? Can you justify the inclusion of such units as the GW, BW Parkways? Sure, there may be some areas that would qualify to be added but there are many that don't warrant or don't require NPS status for protection.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 1 day ago

    To quote E.O. Wilson, the eminent biologist and membert of the National Parks Second Century Commission:

    We should think about the use of national parks in mitigating the effects of climate change, promoting science and science education, saving endangered species, and increasing the quality of life in America by growing the parks in number, in total area, and accessibility to the American people…. We should be talking about expanding the National Park System, not scrambling for crumbs to keep it going. It should be part of the national vision of what will make America great.

    We a much bigger National Park System, not a smaller one. Dozens of areas of national park quality across the country are being damaged or destroyed by logging, grazing, fracking, mining, ORV abuse, or commercial development. Those who want to freeze or shrink our National Park System are relegating those areas to being ruined because of short-term budget priorities. I don't think future generations will consider that to be an acceptable reason.

    The new national parks movement is thriving around the world, but it has been stalled here in the United States since the Reagan era. Political leaders and conservationists have all but abandoned advocacy for new national parks and support for the existing National Park System. We are seeing the results of three decades of neglect.

    We need to shift from a losing and endless defensive position and to go on the offensive to protect America's greatest natural and cultural treasures. The National Park System is the gold standard for such protection. We need a positive and inspiring vision for expanding the system and funding the parks we now have. We need to create the same kind of broad conservation coalition that resulted saved millions of acres through the Alaskan Lands Act. When we do, the American people will be behind us.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 1 day ago

    CHNSRA used to be a state park, no one with a grasp of reality is happy with the way it is being managed recently. Many are calling for it to be returned to state control, I can only hope that it does.

    Owen, your anonymous post mirrors what I've heard from the NPS at CHNSRA. They don't enjoy the job because they are so disliked, banned from local businesses, called names, flipped off, ignored, and afraid to approach visitors for fear of negative confrontation.

    The enviromental extremist left have poisoned the parks and its leadership. You guys have made your bed, enjoy it.

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 1 day ago

    I have been in communication concerning Harry Butowsky's recent op-ed article in National Parks Traveler with a few NPS'ers who are still in the field. In general, most agree with Harry's point of view. The major point of contention has to do with whether or not the NPS maintenance backlog would be better addressed if the number of park units within the NPS system of parks were increased, kept the same at present, or somehow decreased as recommended in the main article by by Harry.

    However, here is one comment that I received today that I found worthy of forwarding (with permission of the commenter, but withholding both the name of the commenter and the park ):

    << I agree with Butowsky's assessment and recommendations, especially the one that Directors need to read Runte's book. I have not been impressed with our current director. He should be spending the year on the road visiting all the parks and meeting with frontline staff to get a grip on the realities they experience today in preparation for the real Centennial next year. Interestingly, my park is having problems getting staff involved in the Centennial. There's little interest. Here's my assessment of this problem: no one is in a celebratory mood! Everyone is overworked an not getting what they need on many levels to get their jobs done effectively. The reality at my park is that the Emperor has no clothes.>>

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 1 day ago

    Ok I will accept the dunce cap. So now that I have it on, I am going back through the article carefully. I can't respond to it all at once, so in pieces:

    Part 1 is an introduction using an analogy. Analogies are cute but I don't really buy them for serious consideration anymore. They are extremely fun when used in John Oliver's show on HBO, but kind of a waste in serious discussion. So enough said about part 1...

    Part 2 is the Priorty 1 Backlog. Indeed a very real issue. My question at this point is regarding the NPS Urban Agenda example. If I am understanding Harry' point clearly, it's that there is no funding for new projects, so trotting them out as "getting something done" is really just a dog and pony show. OK I am paying attention because that seems pretty legit. I could use some help and clarification though. First, the link Harry provided says exactly where the funding would come from for the NPS Urban Agenda:

    "Importantly, the NPS Urban Agenda is supported by the President’s 21st Century Conservation agenda that calls for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and a $326 million NPS Centennial Fund. If enacted by Congress, this would provide an additional $107 million for federal land acquisition, $47 million for state grants, and $25 million for the Urban Parks and Recreation Fund....."

    So is the point that such funding will never happen? Or is there some other point being made here?

    Second, I live in the St. Louis area so see firsthand what is going on with the arch. The project is in full swing. It will make for a much better experience for visitors. The Arch, whatever your personal opinion of it is, has a very real economic impact on the city. So using one of the specific examples from the article, is Harry's point that the Arch grounds improvement is not funded? Or that it will never happen due to budget constraints? Or that it is money that should be spent elsewhere on the NPS system? A combination of all of the above? Something else?

    thanks

  • Op-Ed| Addressing The Backlog With New Backbone: History And The National Park Service Centennial   2 weeks 2 days ago

    The park service now has an "Office of Relevancy, Diversity and Inclusion." It is busy issuing memos, training and goals for, well, relevancy. I'm not sure what relevancy is. Probably something like relevance but squishier. As in "No, it's not actually relevant, but it has the aroma of relevancy."

    Inclusion and diversity are, of course, redundant. If an organization were inclusive the results would be diverse and vice versa. But never mind.

    The Office of Relevancy. Does this imply that the park service can not identify its relevancy? Or do recalcitrant taxpayers need convincing of its relevancy?

    Does Apple have an office of relevancy? FedEx? Disney? I suspect not. They spend their money efficiently making products people want.

    What other government agencies have an Office of Relevancy? Immigration? Nuclear Regulatory Commission?

    I am not convinced that an organization that reduces it's customer service staff from 75 to 16 while larding headquarters with relevancy czars needs more money.

  • Critics Say Legislation Penned In The Name Of Homeland Security Could Trample National Parks, Other Federal Lands   2 weeks 2 days ago

    Unreasonable? No more unreasonable than Bishop's bulloney.

    The siesure of private land is no more unreasonable than asking the feds to use their own to protect the county? Certainly not in my world, nor in that of Jefferson, Madison et al.

    That said. Border patrols will never be effective in stopping illegal immigration as long as we are giving them the incentives to illegally immigrate. No free health care, no free food stamps, driver licenses, schooling and fine every business that hires them $500 per day per illegal laborer and the problem will be over.