Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Tip Of The Hat To Law Enforcement Park Rangers- And A Few Info Tips Too

Pat Novesky has written an interesting article on "Police" on rural policing that specifically addresses the challenges faced by Park Rangers.  He is pretty well on target with his comments and even goes beyond that to point out several safety tips for park rangers and other offices working in rural or wilderness areas to keep in mind.

Check it out:

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Pressures of Running A National Park

Being a Superintendent of a National Park Service area can be extremely stressful and challenging.  The link below will take you to an interesting article about the new Superintendent of Mount Rainier where Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was murdered on New Years Day.  This may give you a bit of perspective that we often do not consider.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Crime On College Campuses

This is a bit off topic for the normal fare of this blog, but I found this link that was sent to me of interest.  It illustrates the levels of violent crime on college campuses in our country.  I do link this to National Parks in that both are places of learning and education as well as perceived as havens of safety and nurturing of our more peaceful soul.

As in nature, predators go where the prey are.

Check this out.  You may be surprised which campuses in the country are the most dangerous.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wild Shrubs Flowering on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I was pleased when my wife told me that she wanted to go for a hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway for mothers day.  We were privileged to enjoy the natural beauty of the wild shrubs that bloom every spring among the Southern Appalachians.  This is a must see annual event that should be on everyone's bucket list.

Catawba Rhododendron in full bloom

The deep rich color of a Catawba Rhododendron flower preparing to open for its brief but spectacular life.

Pinxter Flower Azalea

Mountain Laurel Opening as the next colorful show in the Blue Ridge
A gift of a little color added to the blog from Mother Nature on Mothers Day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Something For Wildness" Project In Our National Parks

Soon you may be seeing a visitor to National Parks that may appear a bit more inquisitive than those Park Rangers are accustomed to serving.  Lacey Dupre is launching what she calls her " Something For Wildness" Project that will explore and record stories from National Park Rangers across the U.S. to be included in a new book.

Lacey is planning on this project educating readers about parks and rangers in addition to providing real help for fellow park rangers in Africa who are literally risking their lives daily protecting endangered wildlife.  A portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the PAMS Foundation.

You can learn more about "Something For Wildness" and how you can make it happen through a "Kickstarter" grant by going to Lacey's web site at:

Here is a brief outline of the project sent to me by Lacey Dupre.

The Project: 

We are going to visit most of the National Parks in 2-3 months, interview and photograph the rangers and their parks, make art on the road, then compile it all into a art-photo book.  We'll donate a portion of each book sold to the PAMS Foundation in Tanzania, who support rangers at the forefront of conservation.  

Our Mission: 

To create a connection between rangers the world over and a passion for and awareness of the importance of stewardship worldwide via the National Park Rangers.

Why Are We doing this?

Climate Change, exploitation of land, animals, and resources, as well as diminished habitat are all realities.  Visibility and Awareness is urgent and important.  Let's all DO Something for Wildness.  The problem is now. If we all contribute just a little, and the word gets out and spreads, well then, we have done something! 
 'Be the Change you Want to See in the World' -Mahatma Gandhi.

Why, if we are successful, does a portion of book sales go to Tanzania?

This book is making a connection between rangers WORLDWIDE.  It's also an effort to give back to the many rangers the world over.  Tanzania is the birthplace of the African game ranger and the safari destination of the world.  YES.  A remarkable 40% of its land has been set aside for conservation.  Oh, and it's home to the Serengeti National Park.  The PAMS Foundation is there, supporting rangers at the forefront of conservation.  !!

Worker Killed On The Blue Ridge Parkway

Tragedy has struck the Blue Ridge Parkway in the form of the death of Maintenance Worker Dana Bruce.

This brings to mind the dangers faced by people working along the Parkway everyday.  Mowing along steep mountain slopes, cutting vistas along steep overlooks among loose footing and rocks, operating hazardous equipment, and vehicles.  All of this work continues so you can enjoy a safe visit to our parks.

Dana's death is a great loss to us all.

Below is taken from the National Park Service Morning Report for May 9, 2012.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Maintenance Worker Killed In Mowing Accident

Dana Bruce, 63, a seasonal maintenance worker with the Blue Ridge Parkway, was killed in an accident Monday while mowing vegetation at the Haw Creek Overlook on the parkway north of Asheville, North Carolina.  The accident is under investigation by Southeast Regional Office. Bruce is survived by his wife, Denise MacMillan, daughters Lorin Crowley and Alexandra Harrington, stepdaughter Stephanie Cohen, stepson Kevin Stevens, ten grandchildren, and his parents, Robert and Esther Bruce. Bruce was a Vietnam-era veteran who has worked for three seasons as a seasonal employee with Blue Ridge Parkway. “He was a great worker with a wonderful attitude, and was a friend to everyone he met,” said Superintendent Phil Francis. “This is a very sad day for his family and all of us at Blue Ridge Parkway.” A memorial service will be held in near his parents’ home in New Hampshire.  The details of the service are to be determined.  In lieu of flowers, family is requesting donations be made to the Nature Conservancy, [Bill Reynolds, SERO]

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

National Park Face Being Opened to Hunting and Recreational Shooting

In April the House passed H.R. 4089 The Sportsmen's Heritage Act.  This law would open many areas managed by the National Park Service to hunting and recreational shooting.  Only areas designated as National Parks would be exempt.  This would open places like The Blue Ridge Parkway, National and Scenic Rivers, National Seashores, Recreation Areas, National Monuments, and Historic Sites to hunting.

An amendment was introduced that would have exempted National Park areas from this bill, but it was defeated in the House.  I have chosen to contact my congressman who voted for the bill and against the amendment with the following email that was sent to me by the National Parks and Conservation Association.  I took the time to add more details about my personal concerns about this change of law that has been in affect since our National Park System was established.

After spending more than 32 years of my life protecting our National Parks I want to express my deep disappointment that you failed to support an amendment on April 17 that would have exempted national park system units from the Sportsmen's Heritage Act. By voting against Congressman Rush Holt's common sense amendment, you failed to appreciate why national park system units were set aside in the first place--for public enjoyment; where we go to relax, re-charge, and be inspired by the wonders of our natural and cultural heritage. Equally important, they were also created to protect and preserve wildlife and other superlative natural and cultural resources.

The Federal Government already manages millions of acres under the US Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and DOD where recreational shooting and hunting are permitted. This includes over a million acres in Virginia within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.   

Congress has already taken away the ability of the National Park Service to regulate the carrying of firearms in our parks.  Now this is to be expanded to allowing the taking of wildlife.  These are steps that continue to degrade the protection our nation has chosen to afford those areas that reflect our heritage and who we are as a people.

Why take away the protection and sanctuary of our National Parks to only add to what is already available.

I urge you to remember these things the next time you vote on an issue affecting our National Park System.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway Looking for Concessioners

The National Park Service has announced a process to find businesses interested in taking over the concessions facilities on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This is the result of the historic companies that have managed these facilities for years bowing out of renewing their contracts.  The locations up for contract are Otter Creek, the Peaks of Otter, Rocky Knob, and Doughton Park.  If there are no takers for these business opportunities all these facilities loved by visitors for 50 years or more will be closed.

Here is a link to an article about the process:

Our National Parks Are Being Remodeled By Invasives

An article appeared May 3rd on the website Tennessee Journalist a publication of the School of Journalism for the University of Tennessee.  The article written by Marion Kirkpatrick is entitled Great Smoky Mountains National Park due for a Facelift.  The reader will find an outline of some of the changes occurring in the Park due to the impact of invasive species such as the hemlock wooly adelgid and the great efforts that will be going into protecting stands of these magnificent trees in the Smokey Mountains.

The hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA) is a devastating insect that came to our country from East Asia.  These almost microscopic devils suck the sap from hemlock trees leaving them standing needless skeletons.  The HWA was first noted in Pennsylvania in 1967 and since that time has become well established in our Eastern forests where it is decimating both the Carolina and Canadian hemlock stands throughout the Southern Appalachians.  Just take a short trip along the Skyline Drive or Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia to see this devastation first hand.

Foam like residue of the hemlock wooly adelgid one fo the first signs visible of infestation

I first met the hemlock wooly adelgid in 1986 when a seasonal park ranger working for me in the James River area of the Blue Ridge Parkway found signs of the insect on several hemlock trees.  He had studied this pest in a forestry class at Virginia Tech.  We reported this information to our Park Headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina and to the local US Forest Service offices.  As the information went up the food chain it became quite apparent that no one was concerned about HWA along the Blue Ridge.  The US Forest Services Forest Health scientists at that time told us that since hemlock is not considered a cash producing tree there was little or no research or work being done to protect the species from HWA.

At the field level we were quite surprised and dismayed to see this reaction and it was not until entire stands of hemlocks, that prefer nice cool wet coves, started to die did people begin to realize the impact.  For today instead of seeing impressive groves of cathedral like ceilings of woven conifer shading meandering streams, people are finding the sun shining through naked limbs intertwined as if hoping to hold each other erect.  The result is a loss not only of beautiful views and setting for the human eye but a change in temperature of mountain streams once the home to trout and many other species.

I am disappointed that back in the mid ‘80s we could not get officials more concerned about the hemlock wooly adelgid.  Now knowing more about the insect and seeing the devastation it leaves behind I am not sure how much of a difference we could have made.  I am encouraged that at least an effort is going to be made to help protect the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and I wish them the very best of luck.  I hope that years from now although I may not be able to walk among hemlocks here in Virginia, but perhaps I can travel to the Smokey’s to relive the past.  

Link to Tennessee Journalist Article: