Monday, July 31, 2006




Budget Shortfalls Reign
.. What will the National Park Service do in the face of a diminished money supply? The topic is not new. The question remains. How can the parks operate with a $800,000,000.00 shortfall?

<- Fran The Civilian

nps photo

.. With the resignation of Fran, and Dirk in place; what's the outlook? Sean Smith (who knows about these things,) has a note in The Oregonian and presents some of his thoughts.
.. The NPS has already sold advertising. They have already increased fees. They have cut staff. What's next?
.. The continued exclusivity policies of the National Park Service are, in part, responsible for the current budget crunch. By raising fees, encouraging guided tours, and cutting staff, the NPS is allowing only the wealthy to visit the parks.
.. The wealthy don't make good friends of the parks. They don't need services - they bring them with them. They don't need interpretation - they buy it. They don't blink at raised fees - it keeps the riff-raff out. They encourage buildings rather than services. Buildings are visable, can have a plaque on them and last for the donor's lifetime. Let the NPS maintain them.
.. The trend will continue, and commercialization will continue. Just how objective can guides and interpreters be when they are hired by concessionairs? There will be more. Just wait and see.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


.. again
.. As Usual
nps photo - Back 1
<- nps photo

.. Once again people in the news business, the blog business, the tourism industry, the postcard industry, the photography industry, and the environmental movement are pretending that a fire in Yellowstone National Park is news worthy and note worthy.
.. It may be note worthy - but just barely. It is no more unusual than pine trees growing. How many blogs about pine tree growth in Yellowstone are there? How many headlines are generated because water is running downhill in Yellowstone?

<- Water Running Downhill

.. The Magpie Fire is generating print as if this was the end of the world. It's not. Fires are one of the last bits of wilderness left in Yellowstone. They are to be cherished as the creators that they are.
.. They build a vegetative mosaic that is healthy and necessary for the diversity that Yellowstone is known for. They poke holes in the "Lodgepole Desert," that dominates the park. They let in light for grasses and bushes and flowers. They provide for a rejuvenated ecosystem. They don't sell postcards.

<- nps photo

.. Fires should be celebrated rather than decried in print. The administrators of Yellowstone National Park have fallen prey to the panic mentality too. They issue daily press releases as if the little fire was news. Imagine the following as a press release: "Water still flowing downhill in Yellowstone Rivers." That should make the wire services!
.. There is a fine map of the location of the Magpie Fire, HERE, if you are interested. Yellowstone has produced a Wildland Fire Document. And, References & Links for those people interested.
.. When fires occur in Yellowstone, people want to talk about 1988. If you are one of those folks, there is a giant body of information about that regeneration event HERE.
.. With all the wailing and gnashing of teeth; we are reminded of a guest editorial on a related topic in New West. The editorial pointed out how neo-environmentalists unthinkingly embrace science for some things and not others. The quote that sticks in our mind is: "Their angst is a mix of neo-Luddism, Marxism, and ascetic environmentalism."
.. These are the same folks that hate snowmobiles and love diesel tour busses. These are the same folks that believe the National Park Service should concentrate on the exclusion of people rather than the inclusion of people. These are the same people who don't understand the difference between a wilderness area, a national park, and a national forest - and the function of each in our society. These people want to visit a postcard. They also want to own the postcard.
.. Fire is important to The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It rejuvenates and cleanses the system. It needs a social equivalent in the National Park Service & the Emotive Environmentalist movement.
.. FAA no fly zone for Magpie Fire
.. Northern Rockies Fire Coordinating Group
.. MODIS Large Incidents Map
.. MODIS Web Mapping (find your fire)
.. National Fire News
.. NASA Earth Observatory
.. The world is always on fire,
MODIS Rapid Response System

.. Forest Fire Screen Saver

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Can This Be True?

.. A note in the Jackson Hole News & Guide suggests that global warming will affect America's first National Park in devastating ways. The governmental response to this, and the population response, as well, will be something that our grandchildren will know by rote.
.. Then, again, it might not be such a bad thing; after all video games are impacting the parks almost as badly as 30' motor homes and non-English-speaking concessionaire employees. Statistical analysis suggests that per capita park attendance is down, and that interest in national parks is waning.
.. Even so, the parks will all burn down and make way for alpine meadows and steppes similar to those in central Asia. Global warming will contribute to more fires, larger fires, longer burning fires, and an increase in viewscapes from roads. This will allow the visitors that are left to see more of the park from their giant motor home and use their towed SUV less. Obviously a conservation trend in the making.
.. At least the elk and bison that are eating the park down to the dirt will have some more fodder. Then, the hunters who use Yellowstone as an incubator for semi-domesticated elk, and genetically selected docile bison will have easier targets.
.. Maybe the Yellowstone Park Foundation, ConnocoPhillips, and the NPS can step in and build a hermetically sealed dome to protect the park. Funding would be a snap. Maintainance would be the problem; what - with diminishing budgets and all.
.. The good news is that the international community still sees Yellowstone as a news worthy and valuable place.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mammoth Terraces Are Growing

The Mystery Is Solved

.. Want to know how the magnificant terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs are formed?
.. Read about it HERE.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006



... Our Favorite ...

Sunday, July 16, 2006


not just cell phones
Walkie Talkie's
Radio & T.V. Too

.. Yellowstone National Park has announced the public comment period for the environmental assessment, (EA,) for the park policy on wireless communication.
.. The YNP Press Release notes that the park will look at a wide range of current and future technologies, and their appropriate use in Yellowstone.
.. A newsletter with some of the services to be considered is published at the Planning Environment & Public Comment, (PEPC,) site HERE. The specific project is HERE, & HERE.
.. Of course you cannot comment by email, phone, or fax. You must take the time to visit in person, write a snail mail letter or wend your way through the PEPC site to discover the other ways that the NPS has made it hard to comment.
Public open house will be held at three places:
Idaho Falls, ID: Tuesday, August 8, from 6-8 p.m., at the Best Western Cotton Tree Inn, 900 Lindsay Blvd.
Bozeman, MT: Wednesday, August 9, from 6-8 p.m., at the Comfort Inn, 1370 North 7th Avenue.
Cody, WY: Tuesday, August 15, from 6-8 p.m., at the Park County Courthouse, 1501 Stampede Avenue.

The entire press release is reproduced below:

Yellowstone National Park News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (307) 344-2010 or 344-2012
July 13, 2006 06-44

Yellowstone National Park Seeks Public Input on the Future of Wireless Communications

Wireless e-mail, internet and cell phones are an everyday part of many people├é’s lives. Yellowstone National Park will examine and address the impacts and suitability of these and other services in the park as it begins preparing a Wireless Communication Services Plan Environmental Assessment.

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the park will prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to guide decisions concerning developing technologies and changing expectations while protecting park resources. The EA will look at a wide range of current and future wireless communications that require permanent infrastructure, including two-way radios, public health and safety monitoring and alert systems, and research related data transmission systems.

The first step is to solicit public input during what is known as the scoping period. This is the time when any interested individual, organization or agency can provide thoughtful, relevant information or suggestions for consideration by park managers before alternatives are developed and analyzed and an EA is prepared and made available for public review and comment.

Three open houses have been scheduled to help the public learn more about the process and issues the plan is expected to address. The open houses will begin with a short presentation, followed by an opportunity to meet with park staff. The open houses are scheduled as follows:

Idaho Falls, ID: Tuesday, August 8, from 6-8 p.m., at the Best Western Cotton Tree Inn, 900 Lindsay Blvd.
Bozeman, MT: Wednesday, August 9, from 6-8 p.m., at the Comfort Inn, 1370 North 7th Avenue
Cody, WY: Tuesday, August 15, from 6-8 p.m., at the Park County Courthouse, 1501 Stampede Avenue

A newsletter with information on some of the services, issues and impacts to be considered in the EA, and an electronic form to submit comments on the internet can be found at the National Park Service├é’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at The newsletter is also available by writing the Planning, Compliance and Landscape Architecture Office, Wireless Communication Services Plan EA Scoping, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.

Written comments may be submitted through the PEPC website, in person, or by mail. Comments will not be accepted by phone, fax, or e-mail. All public comments must be received or postmarked by midnight, August 31, 2006. -

.. Some of the service types include:
• Public health and safety monitoring and alert systems
• NPS two-way land mobile radio systems
• Cooperating/partnering agencies radio systems (local law enforcement, wildland fire, concessioners, and outfitters)
• Contractor radio systems (e.g. road work)
• Cellular phone service
• Internet services
• Wireless internet services (WiFi)
• Web cams
• Research-related data transmitters (Natural & Cultural Resources)
• Geothermal and seismic monitoring
• Weather information data transmitters and weather band radio service

.. Potential impact topics to be addressed include but are not limited to the following:
• Health and human safety
• Visitor use and experience
• Park operations
• Commercial services
• Research permittees
• Wilderness
• Viewsheds/visual impacts
• Natural resources
• Cultural resources

Saturday, July 15, 2006


federal inaction spurs state's action
Current Plans Are Failing
(P.S. road delays, new book, wolves)

.. Brucellosis is a menace to domestic livestock. It causes spontaneous abortion and increases the cost of beef. Cattle herds in Wyoming & Idaho have lost their Brucellosis-free status because of infected cattle herds. Montana will lose it's brucellosis-free status if only two herds show an infection.
.. Elk & bison carry the disease. Elk and bison carry the disease out of Yellowstone during their seasonal migrations. Wyoming & Montana are finally stepping forward with commitments to providing long-term solutions rather than hodge-podge responses.
.. The Helena Independent Record published an article detailing the Wyoming approach to controlling the elk herd near Jackson. The herd migrates out of Yellowstone in the winter and is artificially maintained as a tourist attraction through winter feeding. The close confinement encourages the transmission of disease. Culling of the herd to manageable numbers is finally being considered. The trial plan was expensive - the implementation of the full response will also cost quite a lot of money. However, this will result in healthier elk and less threat to cattle.
.. Montana's Gov. Brian Schweitzer has taken on this issue with the wandering, brucellosis-laden, bison. He proposes a solution through mapping and grazing restrictions. The Great Falls Tribune details the Montana response and proposed solution.
.. When the current bison plan was implemented there were about 2,300 bison in Yellowstone. The estimate of the herd size this year is about 5,000. Just like the elk in Jackson, crowding in the low valleys during winter encourages the spread of disease and over-grazing. No one wants to see the bison fed for the winter. Nor, do they want Yellowstone to lose it's ground cover and erode away down the rivers.
.. No single plan is going to satisfy all parties and all points of view. However, these steps by Wyoming & Montana are positive and forward looking. Unlike the "Management by Litigation" attitude used by Yellowstone National Park, these responses show promise for a long-term solution.
.. Some routine road maintenance will cause delays in Yellowstone next week. Read about it HERE.
.. "GAMBLE" a new book about Jay Cooke and the Northern Pacific Railway has been published. The story of robber barons, slaughtered bison, "owning Yellowstone," and the Custer connection make for interesting reading. The Ashland Daily Press has a review of the book.
.. The introduction of wolves over a decade ago is still making news. Read about one rancher's efforts to live with the wolves as a part of a complete ecosystem.
.. This rancher wants wolves, healthy elk, and cattle on his ranch. The innovative approach to grazing rotation and elk husbandry seems to be working - for now.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


They Didn't Discover Yellowstone,
But, Folks Knew That They Could Get Here.

As Close as Lewis & Clark got to Yellowstone National Park; they missed it.

<- nps photo

.. They had a different mission.
.. They went to the Pacific.
.. They let the British know we could get there.
.. They returned.
.. They came close to the park.
.. Today - 200 years ago - they discovered trout.
.. Read how close they came,

** Joan's Lewis & Clark Geek Page

Monday, July 10, 2006


Not Bison,
not Grizzly Bears,
not Bald Eagles, but:

.. They migrate for 400 miles each year. They travel the same routes. They are dwindling in numbers.
.. Six of their eight migration routes have been lost to the encroaching development. One part of their current route is just barely as wide as a football field; due to residential development. They are in danger of vanishing because further development is about to wipe out the routes between summer and winter ranges.
.. If they go -- -- there will be one less prey species for the wolves, the bears, the coyotes, the cougars, and less carrion for the other critters like eagles, hawks, ravens, beetles, etc.
.. reported on a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and National Park Service.
.. The study is encapsulated HERE.
.. This could be the least publicised & most important eclogical issue facing Yellowstone this decade. Could the elk be next?

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Energy Corridors
waste disposal

.. A recent article by Todd Wilkenson in NEW WEST is being widely circulated and cited as a comprehensive statement of the real and potential changes that are in the near and distant future for Yellowstone and the surrounding area. The article is authoritative and exhaustive.
.. Current climate changes result in shrinking glaciers, lowered water tables, lower lake levels, higher mean temperatures and political strife: among other things.
.. The details are yet to be worked out but Yellowstone National Park figures prominently in the prognosis & as a 'mine canary.'
.. Lisa Graumlich, world renowned planetary ecologist At Montana State University was asked what Montana would be like in 2056:"By then, we may be well on our way to experiencing dramatic changes in the landscape and we will likely lose the kind of stability we have known in Montana throughout the 20th century," Graumlich says. "Because of climate, it will be a lot different around here."
.. Graumlich is director of the Big Sky Institute and is editor of a regional science blog. She is currently developing an authoritative blog about Yellowstone with a panel of respected scientists. Look For It Here.
.. Wilkenson also asks the question "Where are Bush, Cheney on the science of climate change?" Well worth reading.
.. Ron Gillett wants to kill wolves. Any where, any time, any way! He is leading a campaign to get a "Kill Wolves" initiative on the Idaho ballot for 2008. He failed in a similar attempt for 2006.
.. Surely the folks in Idaho will have nothing to do with this movement! Or will they?
.. Gillette owns a hunting lodge and says the elk are being removed by wolves to the detriment of his business. He also fears for the live of his grandchildren.
.. Read about it HERE.
.. Read more about it HERE.

.. After over twenty years of discussion and more than ten years in planning the federal West-Wide Energy Corridor plan has reached the public comment period.
.. These corridors will be based on efficiency of distributing energy in "THE WEST." Electrical, fuel, oil, coal slurry, etc. Wyoming is taking the lead in involving citizens in drafting the state's response policy.
.. An article at Casper summarizes the concerns of citizens. The concerns include 'ugly pylons,' 'scarred landscapes,' & 'explosions.'
.. Other Wyoming residents have these concerns and other ones as reported at The Many businesses and individuals are concerned about the rights of land owners and the question of eminent domain laws.
.. Groups including the Landowners Association of Wyoming continue to push for eminent domain reform. The citizens, as reported, expressed their desire to have eminent domain laws changed to protect property owners rights.
.. Many of the proposed corridors come close to Yellowstone National Park. There is also some concern that these will become new migration routes for animals as well. The current push is the result of a congressional action.
.. Acting at the behest of the nation's largest utilities, Congress in its 2005 Energy Policy Act gave federal agencies until August 2007 to review and adopt major energy corridors across 11 states. Most of the energy from oil, gas, coal, and wind farms in Montana & Wyoming will go to the exploding population centers of the Southwest.
.. A large percentage of the energy distributed by the new corridors will go to California.
Sen. Conrad Burns
.. Senator Conrad Burns Of Montana has included funds for trash removal from Yellowstone in the Senate Interior Appropriations bill, which was passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 30.
.. The recent provision will authorize funds for the NPS's proportionate cost of upgrading the West Yellowstone/Hebgen Basin municipal solid waste disposal system for the processing and disposal of municipal solid waste generated within Yellowstone National Park.
.. A less touted measure in the bill will authorize the use of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park: this use will be protected for three years, during the phase-out period and transition to snow vans.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006



<- nps photo

.. An Associated Press news release in the Helena Independent Record notes the naming of Frank & John Craighead to the Wyoming Outdoor Hall Of Fame. The twins arrived in Jackson in 1934, and made their mark as pioneering ecologists with their 12 year study of the grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park.
.. The pair pioneered the use of radio collars in the study of mammalian ecology, and established standards for excellence in wildlife research that continue to this day. The bears of Yellowstone had then, & have now a documented life style second to none because of this pioneering research,
.. Having scientific integrity of the highest order has always characterized the work of the Craighead's. In the 60's the National Park Service began to wean bears from feeding at dumps. This action precipitated a rift in the relationship between the research team and the NPS. The history of this difference can be found in chapter 5 of "PRESERVING YELLOWSTONE'S NATURAL CONDITIONS; Science and the Perception of Nature" by James A. Pritchard, University of Nebraska Press.

Grizzly fishing in Trout Creek

<- nps photo

.. The Craighead Environmental Research Institute is the result of the continuing efforts of these pioneers. It is the leading scientific advocate for the Yellowstone to Yukon initiative. Their work with the ecology of predators in the Rocky Mountains and the coastal rain forests has continued to engender results that argue for preservation of large areas of habitat for the continued existence of our native wildlife.
.. It is largely due to the efforts of the Craighead twins that the grizzly now faces the prospect of delisting. The delisting debate & controversy has been in discussion since at least 2004, and the National Geographic Society documented the status of the concerns in 2005.

Grizzly bear on snow field

<-nps photo

.. The population of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is large and growing. The total number of grizzly bears is unknown; however the results of the population growth are seen in the displacement and redistribution of other competing predators. It is also seen in the increased number of confrontations with humans.
.. A news report of a human/grizzly encounter just outside of Yellowstone National Park, near the town of West Yellowstone has received wide press coverage -Here & Here. The displacement of black bears has also received coverage because of their greater visibility and their population increase as well.
.. Two weeks ago a black bear was run down by a vehicle in an area not known for bear activity. And a black bear was disposed of by Yellowstone Rangers because it had been forced into close contact with humans & was aggressively seeking food.
.. The ongoing study of bears, and their territorial expansion is expertly covered in the weblog of Bearman. The discussion of population growth, habitat availability, and human conflict will only grow more heated over the next few months and years. It will ultimately determine the fate of both humans and bears.
John Craighead currently lives in Livingston, Mont. Frank Craighead died in Jackson in 2001.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Return Of Beavers
Bison Glut
hybrid cars
the amazing race

-- Diversity takes many forms in Yellowstone National Park. An article in DISCOVERY , the publication of the Yellowstone Association, about the reintroduction of wolves suggests that the resulting trophic cascade has helped the northern range, and helped return the ecosystem to a semblance of it's balance, which was destroyed by park managers in the 19th and 20th centuries.
-- With the wolves producing more dead things to eat, ravens, bears, and beetles all are showing a population explosion. The aspen trees are stabilizing because elk are a bit more 'edgy' and have less time to leisurely graze in the groves where their vision is inhibited. And antelope are a bit more relaxed because the coyotes are a bit more nervous. Thank you Mr. & Mrs. wolf.

-- Some have taken issue with this analysis, and the debate continues about the possibility of doing nothing to manage the park, or about the need to actively manage the grass eaters.
-- Changing hydrology, drought, visitation, development, and benign neglect are all food for thought in the mix.
-- The continued expansion of both the Bison & Elk herds, in the face of the wolf reintroduction, has also brought to light a theological debate about whether humans are "a part OF nature," or, if they are "apart FROM nature." Hunting the bison & elk is a practice that is more than 10,000 years old. This is being considered by the state of Montana, and is a discussion topic at Yellowstone as well.
-- An interesting, (spurious?,) coincidence has been noted by biologists - since the reduction of snowmobile traffic in the winter, both herds have shown rapid population increase. This is also coincident with the introduction of the wolves. It seems that the wolves have a ways to go if they are to keep up with the snowmobiles as a population control measure.
-- If the ecosystem is in a state of recovery, we can anticipate the disappearance of noxious fumes from tour busses, monster motor homes, and advertising vehicles. All thanks to the wolves.

-- The types vehicles in Yellowstone are becoming more diverse this year too. There is about be an "advertisement on wheels" entering the park. The Amazing Race, a CBS television production, is touted as some sort of "reality" & is adding a bit of spice to the vehicle mix in the nation's first park.
-- The reality, of course, is that this is just one more outsized vehicle on the narrow roads of Yellowstone. The continued population growth of outsized vehicles is encouraged by the NPS, as they continue to design parking lots for the beasts. This is an historical problem that was started by the early railroads. The railroads subsidized the hotels "in the park" to avoid having to build hotels "outside the park." What kind of place would Yellowstone be without 'camper grounds' and hotels?

<- nps photo

-- Of course, Toyota is not to be outdone; and, their Prius, donated to the NPS, is also visible. The 'ranger duty' of driving and explaining is great duty, and costs the taxpayer a little bit of money in these lean times of diminishing budgets.
-- Currently there are more than five rangers participating in the "duty" at an undisclosed cost to the taxpayer. The explanation that the park officials use is that, "they need the transportation anyway." Let's hope that they don't have to chase a rampaging motorcycle in the little car.