Recent comments

  • Essential Paddling Guide: Olympic National Park’s Elwha River Running Wild Again   1 week 5 days ago

    What great news. Hopefully, publicizing the Elwha restoration (through articles like this one) will draw the public's attention to (and support of) the other projects mentioned above.

  • Looking Back At Lake Clark National Park Pioneer Dick Proenneke   1 week 5 days ago

    I saw that film, right around the time I was first learning about the parks. It was indeed fantastic.

  • Looking Back At Lake Clark National Park Pioneer Dick Proenneke   1 week 5 days ago

    PBS aired a film about him a while back that he created himself, about how he built his cabin and lived his life. It was fantastic.

  • Quote Of The Day: Wendell Berry On Land Ethics   1 week 5 days ago

    A couple more from Wendell:

    "What I stand for is what I stand on."

    and

    "You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it."

  • $10 Million In Renovations To Yosemite Lodge At The Falls Completed   1 week 5 days ago

    Usually, NPS contracts call for the concessionaire to plow a very large percentage back into renovations and maintenance. See the recent article on renewal of Yellowstone's contract with Xanterra.

    Given the fact that many of these buildings are historic structures, upkeep is very expensive. Having the concessionaire pay for maintaining places like the Ahwanee, the Yosemite Lodge or the Old Faithful Inn, Lake and Mammoth Hotels in Yellowstone and other similar things takes a large burden off the NPS.

  • $10 Million In Renovations To Yosemite Lodge At The Falls Completed   1 week 5 days ago

    Wonder what the NPS's cut is on this Yosemite lodge...?

  • Jewel Of Belize's National Park System Tarnished By Poaching, Gold Seekers, Border Strife   1 week 5 days ago


    I agree with the content of this article, and most certainly the comments of FCD chief Raphael Manzanero and my friend Roni Martinez. But although I agree the Chiquibul is a jewel in Belize, it is certainly not the only one. Other "protected areas" are facing similar illegal threats, often by Guatemalan interests, far from the Belize-Guatemala border. But even beyond the "illegal" threats, there are many "legal" ones as well. For example in areas immediately adjacent to CNP, and I am guessing sometimes within the CNP area, there is both legal logging and gold mining. I don't know if it is still in existence but for a time there was even legal commercial harvesting of Xate, the illegal harvesting of which was the original cause of much of the Guatemalan incursions.

    Legal loggng and mining are not only threats affecting habitats and wildlife populations within, and downstream of, reserves but also throughout the area in the transport of logs, extracted minerals and toxic substances resulting from extraction. A road into the heart of the Chiquibul, the one leading to a true natural wonder - Natural Arch, is generally impassable throughout the year due in large part to the passage of heavy mining equipment. This makes enforcement and patrol efforts by FCD, BDF and others virtually impossible.

    In the dry (i.e. logging) season, using the road to Las Cuevas and even the Caracol Road from that junction all the way to Georgeville, is often worth one's life to travel due to logging trucks which would just as soon drive right over you than exercise any caution or respect for other travelers. All we get is a sign at the junction – “Warning Logging Trucks”. Other than that, you are on your own.

    In the prospects for Elijio Panti National Park adjacent to the Chiquibul, we have also been recently reminded of the Belize process of “de-reserving” protected areas with the stroke of a pen on a “Statutory Instrument” with no public involvement or notice. Just like that, a national park can disappear entirely and be opened for a variety of destructive activities.

    Then there is the logging and large-scale agriculture happening all over Belize. Right now, trees are being cut on steep hillsides and along watersheds immediately adjacent to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary boundaries. Trees have even been felled right onto the CBWS access road. A palm oil plantation between Maya Centre and CBWS will level thousands of acres of previously untouched forest with a processing factory thrown in for good measure.

    Expansion of the cruise ship industry with its development of Harvest Caye just south of Placencia will have significant impacts throughout the region dumping thousands of cruise tourists onto a small caye and then into nearby protected areas totally unprepared for the onslaught of people, their activities and the garbage and waste they leave behind.

    I’ll stop there but the list could go on. So again, while I agree with the article as far as it goes, the reader should not get the impression that the covered illegal threats to the Chiquibul are the only ones or that the Chiquibul is the only threatened protected area in Belize. While it is certainly not unique to Belize (my own country is another example), the threats to its protected areas and environment are much broader and more widespread.

  • $10 Million In Renovations To Yosemite Lodge At The Falls Completed   1 week 5 days ago

    There are only 13 days between now and Labor Day available for reservation at Yosemite Lodge on DNC's website.

  • $10 Million In Renovations To Yosemite Lodge At The Falls Completed   1 week 6 days ago

    Yes, but will anyone be able to afford to stay there now? I couldn't before.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   1 week 6 days ago

    Rick is exactly correct. Our state legislators and U.S. Congresscritters are experts at backroom, under the table, hidden dealings that will never see the light of day unless someone has the courage to shine a spotlight on them. They are sneaky as sneaky can be.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   1 week 6 days ago

    You have to keep paying attention. For example, here in Alaska we have a governor, Parnell - Sarah Palin's hand-picked choice- who is totally bought and paid for by the oil companies. Once that is identified, you have to look into everything he does and look for the little things. For example, he recently tried to appoint a former oil company executive from California to the board that determines the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline for taxation purposes. Public outcry daylighted the fact that it was constitutionally required that the appointment be an Alaskan. Oops!

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   1 week 6 days ago

    If we put aside the incoherent nonsense about the U.N., etc., and have a serious conversation, there's an important subtext to Jim's narrative, which I think retrieves one of the main points of the article. If polled, most Americans are opposed (I imagine) to turning their national parks into oil fields, but to what extent are they aware of ongoing efforts to do just that? For example, I spent New Year's paddling through the Everglades but am just now learning of renewed pressures to open the park and Big Cypress to extensive oil exploration. And how widespread and serious are these pressures, beyond just a rep from TX-22 telling a room full of oil producers what they want to hear?

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   1 week 6 days ago

    Mtnliving--

    Don't hold your breath.

    Rick

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 1 hour ago

    I would be interested in hearing in how ec would define "long term" in the context of our national energy strategy - and how allowing drilling in NPS areas currently closed to that activity would fit into that equation.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 2 hours ago

    Jim is exactly correct -- and drilling in national parks would produce only an "insignificant" amount of oil. Perhaps a better word, however, would be "infinitesimal."

    If drilling in the huge Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska (19 million acres) would produce enough oil to sate the United States' oil gluttony for only 836 days (less than 2-1/2 years), and might reduce oil prices by a whopping 75 cents per barrel (less than 1 percent), only a fool would argue that drilling for oil in the small number of acres in parks that MIGHT overlie oil deposits would provide any positive effect at all.

    The numbers given above come from a report specially prepared for Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. We might note that following release of this report, Stevens' propaganda machine shifted its emphasis from reduced oil prices to creation of a few hundred temporary jobs as the primary benefit of drilling ANWR.

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/technologyandresearch/a/Can-ANWR-Oil-Lower-Gas-Prices.htm

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 14 hours ago

    I won't presume to debate economics with a Wall Streeter, but will note that oil and gas prices often seem to operate independent of many principles of economics. Just one example: during several recent periods of reduced domestic demand and increased domestic production, prices at the pump continued to rise. The reason cited by the industry was that oil prices are set on a "global level," and changes in domestic demand and production weren't big enough to have an impact.

    If that's the case, the same "big picture" argument would certainly apply to any small increases on royalties paid on oil and gas from public lands, and the result on world oil prices would be the same as you recently described efforts to save some oil via conservation efforts: "insignificant." The added revenue, however, could certainly be put to good use given our current federal budget situation.

    Here's an interesting question: After Congress decided to bail out the industry and waive royalties for those offshore wells, industry costs went down, but did prices to consumers drop? "Economic principles" would suggest that should occur, but perhaps you could cite some evidence that prices fell as a result.

    As to concerns about a "long-term" supply of domestic oil and gas, all the more reason to bankroll any reserves under NPS lands and similar protected sites for future urgent needs. Perhaps someday they'll be needed once other sources have been exhausted, but since you've previously said that won't happen for a very long time, there's no rush.

    Perhaps you can cite some figures on how much oil and gas could be added to domestic supplies by drilling in NPS areas currently closed to such use - and how that would in turn impact the overall cost of oil and gas for consumers. To use an economic term, I'd predict the benefits to Americans would be marginal, but the costs in terms of loss of values in those special places would be enormous.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 14 hours ago

    Energy security, jobs, balance of trade, national security become paranoid fantasies any time they are coupled with "ceding our soverienty (sic) to the U.N."

    You just proved the legitimacy of my comments.

    Watch out for those guys wearing blue helmets, though. They're everywhere!

    Oh, sorry. It was just spring football practice at BYU.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 14 hours ago

    Guess you're right, Lee. Pandering to the most rabid supporters. Even to the degree of invoking black helicopters from the UN.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 15 hours ago

    Conspiracy laced paranoid fantasy? Energy security, jobs, balance of trade, national security is a "conspiracy laced paranoid fantasy?

    But of course, your revert to your insults ("whose gullible myopia distorts reality") when you can't legitimately participate in the discussion.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 16 hours ago

    Our national interest does not lie is some sort of conspiracy laced paranoid fantasy ala LaVerkin Utah. Our national interest lies in carefully considering, realistically and clearly, what is best for our nation, for its future, for all of us and not just the big money interests.

    Unfortunately, that entire concept escapes many whose gullible myopia distorts reality for them.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 16 hours ago

    Jim,

    It may very well be the case that we need to review what we charge for royalties on public lands. But, if you had any understanding in economics you would recognize that the end result would not be lower oil company profits but rather higher energy prices. If anyone is getting a subsidy, it is the end users not the producers.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 16 hours ago

    I said there was no demonstrated need in terms on national interests, for the reasons I cited above.

    No need in "national interests"? Its not in our national interest to have a LONG TERM secure source of energy? In not in our national interest to create thousands of jobs? Its not in our national interest to improve our balance of trade? Its not in our national interest to lower the worldwide cost of oil? Its not in our national interest to have countries reliant on us rather than the other way around?

    What exactly do you call "in our national interest"? Ceding our sovereinty to the UN?

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 16 hours ago

    Speaking of gullible . . . . and unable to THINK beyond a myopic agenda.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 16 hours ago

    As a followup, why do companies want to lease public vs. private land—even if they don't expect to actually drill soon? Lease values vary widely based on current and estimated activity, but costs for leases on public land can be a bargain. In the past three years, the average price for a BLM lease in Montana and the Dakotas was $210 per acre.

    State-owned land can also be a bargain. In one area in Michigan in 2012, a "signing bonus of $35 to $200 per acre was common for private land, but the average paid to lease state-owned land in that area at that time ranged from $17 to $54 per acre. One article cites private land lease payments in a "hot" area of PA of $7,000 per acre; they've been known to get into six-figures for a 100-acre tract.

    BLM leases on federal land "are valid for 10 years or as long as there is at least one producing well," so a single well can extend a lease on thousands of acres of public land for many years. It's a great hedge for producers, who can reasonably expect to see higher prices for oil in the future...and in the meantime, they can deduct the lease payments as expenses. By contrast, quick research indicates leases on private land, which are almost always much smaller parcels, often run for 3 to 5 years.

    An even bigger incentive for production from public lands is the royalty paid on production. On federal land, the royalty is 12.5 percent—and it's shared with the state where the well is located. Most private landowners are understandably reluctant to discuss what they earn from leases and from royalties, but a study cited here estimates the average royalty paid in PA for natural gas is 18.75%, and runs as high as 20%.

    No wonder the industry loves the long-term leases on public land. If they can cut their royalty expenses by 6 to 8% as compared to private land, we're talking about some serious money. And, it get's even better for the companies. Congress even cut royalties for some offshore wells (on public land) to zero for wells drilled between 1996 and 2000. One estimate is a loss to the taxpayers of $26 billion in royalties on those wells, and that's just through the next 10 years. Another estimate places the total cost to taxpayers at up to $53 billion in the next 25 years. Do we "subsidize" big oil? There's one answer, and try to get that kind of deal from a private landowner.

    The feds need to have more flexibility on negotiations for royalty income from public land, but of course that's a decision subject to congressional control... and we know they always base their decisions strictly on the public interest.

  • Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling   2 weeks 19 hours ago

    Nope, I didn't say there was "no demand for additional energy sources." The demand by producers for cheap new energy sources, such as public land, is insatiable, especially if they gain approval for increasing exports to overseas markets. I said there was no demonstrated need in terms on national interests, for the reasons I cited above.

    re: "The Senator was looking forward to future needs."

    The subject of the discussion was Representative Pete Olson, but heck, with all the potential new campaign contributions from the oil lobby, maybe he got his "promotion" even faster than he hoped :-)