Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reader Question About Bears

I got this question from a Facebook Fan in Germany:

Unfortunately the book is not available in germany, cause I´m looking for "park-ranger-literature" at the moment. Anyway I hope I can find help here. 

Can anybody, maybe you Mr.Bytnar, help me finding literature/docus about the live of park rangers especially working in blackbear-management? Hard to find what I need: Documentary about legal black bear hunting and the fight against illegal black-bear hunting, for fun, medical products, etc. in the states, problems with increasing blackbearpopulation near towns, and so on.

Thanks a lot and much more success for the book

You can order the book on and other internet sources. It is only available in English at this time.

Here are some links to learn a bit more about bears and bear management in parks:,

 Hopefully these may lead you to more information sources.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Article On Plant Poaching On The Blue Ridge Parkway

Here is at link to an article in the Asheville Citizen Times on the illegal harvesting of galax leaves on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.  I have written on this same subject before in this blog and in my book, "A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks."  Types "plants" into the search window in the right hand column to access past stories on this subject.

The illegal theft of plants from our National Parks are devastating native populations.  There are many connections between this crime and international trade.

Photo from the Asheville Citizen Times|head

Book Review; "Uncertain Path: A Search for the Future of National Parks" by William Tweed

I found this book to be informative, thought provoking, and a good read.  The author eloquently describes his hike of the Muir Trail in the Nevada Sierra Mountains in a way that makes you feel that you are walking right along with him.  I know it inspired me to hope to retrace his steps some day. 

William Tweed creatively and vividly intertwines his observations during this hike with the confirmation of lessons he learned during a career with the National Park Service causing him to question the foundation and purpose of our National Park System.  Mr. Tweed and I never worked together, but I found that I share many of his insights and concerns for our parks.

Uncertain Path relates to the reader the affects global changes that are impacting the habitats of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  Issues of air quality and climate change are two that are well beyond the control of the National Park Service.  Mr. Tweed then explains how these issues challenge what is becoming the impossible mission of the National Park Service to preserve our parks in the same condition for all future generations.

Although Mr. Tweed focuses on the Western United States, reading this book caused me to look back at my own experience as a National Park Ranger and the increasingly impossible task of preserving parks in the East.  As an example the Southern Appalachians and the parks found there are under constant attack from decreasing air quality, invasive species of flora and fauna, and encroachment of human development.

Anyone who has an interest in the physical future and relevancy of our National Park System to our changing society should read this book. 

This book can be found at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Documents From Acadia National Park Incident Released To The Public

During the summer of 2008 an incident at Acadia National Park resulted in accusations of excessive force being used by a park ranger while attempting to handcuff a suspect.  The suspect fell and fractured bones in his facial area.  Since that time the Government has awarded the injured party $45,000 in settlement of a law suit and $23,000 to cover his legal expenses.
The park ranger involved was found not to be culpable or have used excessive force following investigation by the National Park Service’s Office of Professional Services and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In a new development, following a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) suit filed in Federal Court by the injured person’s lawyer all the investigative documents and reports have been released to the public.  All these documents are now posted on the Internet for all to review and come to their own conclusions.

You can read more about the incident and access a link to the investigative document on the Internet at:

This should serve as a reminder to all park rangers of the importance of writing accurate, concise, and readable reports no matter what the incident being documented.  You never know where your work may appear.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"A Park Ranger's Life" Reflects Trends In Ebook Sales

An industry report released on April 15th shows that for the first time Ebook sales have been higher than print books.  This new trend happened for the first time in February.  Overall Ebook sales are up more than 20% over February 2010.

In looking at sales for "A Park Ranger's Life" through Amazon for the month of February there were more digital Kindle sales than traditional paper editions sold reflecting the findings of the Association of American Publishers report.

Although this report does not include data from all retailers of books, it does indicate a strong movement of readers toward digital reading formats.

As more of a traditionalist reader of printed books, I have to admit that I received a Kindle for Christmas and have surprisingly found that I enjoy reading with this device.  I have not yet become a true convert as yet.  How do you feel about digital books as apposed to printed paperbacks and hardbound books?

You can read more at:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Author of "A Park Ranger's Life" Quoted in the New York Times

I am not sure how this one got past me, but I just discovered that I was quoted in an article that appeared in the New York Times dated February 23.  The article was written by Phil Taylor of Greenwire.  The story focuses in what was then an impending shut down of the Federal Government.

 I found the article on line in the New York Times Energy and Environment section.  Here is a link to the story.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Government Shutdown Avoided - Congressional Requests For Exceptions

As I wrote on April 7th, should there be a Government Shutdown individual Congressional Representatives would start to seek exceptions for their constituents once economic impacts were felt in their voting districts.

Even thought the Shutdown has now been avoided, some Congressional Leaders were looking ahead to prevent negative impacts on the economies at home.  One example was Representative Heath Shuler from North Carolina who wrote a letter to National Park Service Director John Jarvis to keep the Blue Ridge Parkway open.

Here is the body of Representative Shuler's letter as released to the media by his office:

Given the likelihood of a federal shutdown in the coming days, I have great concern about the potential closure of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I understand that each agency will need to make difficult decisions during this period. However, I am hopeful that the National Park Service will be able to keep the Parkway open as a thruway despite the closure of concessions and other offerings along the road.
Guidance issued by the Department of Interior today indicates that the Park Service may keep roads in Park units open if they are “necessary” as thruways. As you are aware, this road is commonly used by hundreds of thousands of visitors and local residents each year, both for tourism and transit purposes. As such, I am hopeful that the Blue Ridge Parkway will meet the guidelines that exempt it from closure during a federal government shutdown.
In addition, I urge you to take into account the tremendous economic impact that the closure of this road will have on local communities in North Carolina and Virginia. Businesses in these communities have struggled to keep their doors open through the economic recession, and are relying heavily on the surge of tourism dollars that the warmer weather we are currently enjoying will bring to the area. The closure of the Parkway, even for a single weekend, will have an enormous affect on these local firms and the regional economy.
Again, I understand the limitations place upon the Park Service by the inability of Congress to maintain government operations. I am hopeful that my colleagues and I will quickly arrive at a compromise to avoid this shutdown. However, if a shutdown occurs, I ask that you do all that you can to allow the Parkway to be used as a thruway wherever it is safe and logical to do so.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. Should you wish to discuss this further, please contact Ryan Fitzpatrick in my Washington office.
Heath Shuler
Member of Congress
I do not find fault with Representative Shuler's looking ahead to provide for the safety and economic well being of communities located near the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I would not be surprised if there were not numerous such requests made of the National Park Service leading up to this latest possible Government Shutdown.  If not, many would have appeared on Director Jarvis' desk within days.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Standardized Testing’s Affects on Science Education Brings Home the Importance of Hands on Experiences in National Parks and Other Protected Areas

One of the most prominent figures in our Nation’s history that may have been destined in their youth to become a naturalist/scientist was Teddy Roosevelt.  His childhood was dominated by exploring and collecting specimens from the natural world around him for his personal museum.  When he entered Harvard in 1876 his intent was to study science.  Once there he found a program dictated by lecture, reading, and tests.  There were no field experiences and limited to no laboratory experimentation.  As a result of his disappointment Roosevelt lost interest in pursuing this academic course although he retained his avid pursuit of knowledge of the natural world.  The rest is history.

This same sense of disappointment faced by Roosevelt is affecting students in many of our public school systems today.  In a time when we hear that America is dropping further behind other countries in academic achievement in science and math we need to engage students’ interest.  Partially to answer these concerns politicians developed a solution requiring standardized testing to measure student knowledge and evaluate schools and teachers.

One of the consequences of these tests scenarios is that educators are forced to teach students what they need to know to pass the written or on line tests.  In the area of science this process has challenged time for laboratory and or field experiences where students have the opportunity to see the principles of science in real world situations.  The reduction or elimination of such experiences prevents students from learning to make connections and see the influences of causes and effects in life.

Add to these conditions cuts in educational budgets and the reductions in the numbers of teaching positions and I do not see our schools having the ability to provide future experiences to many students.
This is where the importance of National, State, and Local Parks, Nature Centers, and other Non Profit environmental education sources can fill the gap in this important aspect of our children’s education.  These special places and organizations provide an incubator to develop our future leaders in science, the environment, and leadership.  Experiences in the outdoors if even for short periods of time can serve as a catalyst for selection of careers and academic pursuits. 

All of these sources of experiential education are affected by the recent decline in the economy by the reduction of grants and government funding made available to keep their education programs going.

How are we to maintain or improve the science education of our next generation of citizens and leaders if we are not providing adequate hands on experiences?  Will we continue to turn kids off to science by making it more and more important to memorize a text book and pass a test?  Or should we get involved and support our schools and other organizations to provide opportunities for more practical interconnected science based experiences?

Past Government Shutdown Experience and Impacts

During one past Government shutdown the National Park Service followed the instructions of their politically appointed leaders and closed all facilities to the public.  One such location closed to public access was the Washington Monument.  Tax payers who had traveled to Washington, D.C. and local business owners immediately started complaining to their Congressional Representatives and the Park Service was ordered to immediately open the gates of the internationally recognized Monument.  It was public inconvenience and outrage that got this one specific location exempt from the closure order.

A Park Superintendent who I later worked for was reluctant to ever close any area or facility due to what he referred to as the "Washington Monument Syndrome."

What many people do not realize is the dependence of communities across the country on the dollars pumped into their economies by tourism to National Parks.   As an example academic studies have shown that approximately $2.3 billion are pumped annually into the communities on or near the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and North Carolina.  A cancellation of travel plans by visitors for any period of time will have a direct impact on hotels, stores, restaurants, private campgrounds, and their employees.

Should the Government Shutdown occur it may be interesting to see how long it takes for the "Washington Monument Syndrome" to take affect in individual Congressional Districts.

Here is a related article that outlines the possible impacts of a closure on businesses in the area of Yellowstone National Park:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How Will A Government Shutdown Affect National Park Visitors

It appears that the looming threat of a Government Shutdown is approaching this Friday.  As I have written previously, this is not the first time that the National Park Service has faced such political decisions.  In 1995 and 1996 there were shutdowns of as many as 27 days.

But how does this affect people planning trips to National Parks during a shutdown period?

Individual Parks vary as to access and facilities available to visitors.  Smaller Parks that have gated roads may be closed completely to the public.  Most certainly any facilities such as visitor centers, historic buildings, monuments, and most importantly bathrooms will be closed in most areas.  Picnic areas, campgrounds, boat launches, and some parking areas may also be closed.

Most employees in the Parks will be sent home.  Only those deemed as essential for public health and safety will be on duty.  The number of these employees actually in the Parks has also been greatly reduced in the past to keep spending down during these periods.

Another impact to the visitor that is often overlooked is that response times to emergencies such as lost persons, vehicle accidents, twisted ankles, fires, and such many be greatly increased.  During the shutdown in 1996 there were at least two days that I was the only Park Ranger on duty for 218 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

So here are some tips to keep in mind if you visit a National Park Service Area during a Government Shutdown:

Be even more cautious of your personal safety than normal.  Remember that help in any form may be delayed even beyond the normally lengthy responses in National Parks.

Bring extra food and water since facilities may be closed.

Do not come with your normal expectations of services or information available in the Park.  Get maps before your visit.

Be aware that you most likely will not find any open restrooms.  That is famously the most frequent first question visitors ask in any park.

Call ahead or check park websites before the shutdown occurs to find out what the affects of such actions will have on the area you are visiting.  You can find individual Park web sites by going:

If you unhappy with the circumstances and how a shutdown impacts you or your family, then write to your Congressional Representatives to let them know how you feel.