Joshua Tree National Park to close because Trump's shutdown led to damage

Trump's government shutdown, now on day 17 and counting, has led to the closure of Joshua Tree National Park. Read the rest

Government shutdown puts national parks in nightmare mode

I live in a small, grandfathered, community inside of the Golden Gate National Recreation area. The government shutdown is making parks scary for tourists and residents alike.

It is vacation time! People want to get out and enjoy nature! The weather is beautiful, the skies are super clear in the San Francisco Bay area, and the roads are completely jammed up with people unclear as to what is open and what is not. Encountering a mile long SNAFU of confused drivers will eat hours of your time.

Parking lots located at the end of narrow 2-way but 1-car wide 'roads' are locked with no warning. Giant SUVs illegally park in sensitive habitats, just off the roadway, or just choke narrow streets into unpassable nightmares. Confusion abounds. Cooperation disappears. Absolute proof American libertarianism is a farce.

I will spare you to stories of where people are leaving trash or the number of folks we've seen eliminating on the roadside. Those redwoods are majestic, must be interesting to crap on one.

NBC has more:

Unlike shutdowns in some previous administrations, the Trump administration was leaving parks open to visitors despite the staff furloughs, said John Garder, senior budget director of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association.

"We're afraid that we're going to start seeing significant damage to the natural resources in parks and potentially to historic and other cultural artifacts," Garder said. "We're concerned there'll be impacts to visitors' safety."

"It's really a nightmare scenario," Garder said.

Spokespeople with the Interior Department did not immediately return emails seeking comment on Monday.

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The National Park Service's version of the FBI is no joke

No, they aren't after people who litter. The National Park Service's Investigative Services Branch (ISB) of 33 special agents handle the rapes, murders, assaults, robberies, poaching, drug smuggling, and other big crimes that occur on the 85 million acres of United States parks, historical sites, monuments, and other NPS turf. From Outside:

) ISB agents are a strange breed. They require a high tolerance for time alone in the backcountry—but because solving crimes typically comes down to getting information from people, they also need social skills. “I look for people who can talk to anybody,” Sullivan told me. Each of the half-dozen agents in the office was drawn to the job for different reasons. Kristy McGee, a petite blonde wearing cowboy boots, specialized in violent crime. “I had a very chaotic childhood. I was exposed to a lot of adult-natured things—drugs, abuse,” she told me. “I found a place where I can use that to relate to people.”

Steve Kim, who has salt-and-pepper hair and a degree in wildlife ecology, told me about how he had spent the summer of 1995 living the life of a dirtbag climber, when Yosemite put out a call asking climbers to help with a death investigation. While rappelling off the east ledges of El Capitan, looking for clues, Kim discovered that ISB work suited him—“It’s probably my obsessive-compulsive tendencies”—and never looked back.

Cullen Tucker, the office’s youngest agent at age 30, was born into the business; his dad is a former deputy chief ranger at Yosemite, and his mom was one of the park’s first female investigators.

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On 'National Public Lands Day' all US National Parks are free (Saturday 9/22)

If you want to visit a National Park, and don't mind crowds, Saturday is the day for you.

Via the NPS:

There are many ways to participate in National Public Lands Day.

You can visit a national park for free. You can take part in a volunteer work project.If you volunteer on this day, you will receive a fee-free day coupon to be used on a future date. You can share your favorite outdoor activity on social media channel with the hashtag #NPSVolunteer, #FindYourPark and #NPLD!

National Public Lands Day is organized annually by the National Environmental Education Foundation, in cooperation with Department of the Interior, Department of the Army, and Department of Agriculture. The National Park Service is one of the event’s largest providers of sites and volunteers. Other participating federal agencies include the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, US Forest Service, and US Army Corps of Engineers.

Warning: Parking will be a disaster at many of our popular parks. Read the rest

100,000 Americans wrote to Trump's Park Service to protest national park service-fee hike, and the Park Service actually listened

Embattled Trump Secretary of the Interior chair Ryan Zinke (previously) unveiled a plan to raise the service charge for using our nation's parks to $70/day (it's currently $25/day), a move that would price access to national parks out of the budgets of 71% of working-class Americans. Read the rest

Art Rangers program helps save our National Parks

I've just learned about the Art Rangers program. It's a cool non-profit, founded by Oscar Nilsson and Alex Tatem, that allows artists to donate fine art photo prints inspired by the National Parks. Folks can then buy the prints to help save our park, as all of the proceeds benefit the National Park Foundation. You can look at the art here and you can become an Art Ranger yourself here.

(The listserve) Read the rest

Gorgeous high-def footage from Rocky Mountain National Park

More Than Just Parks is a wonderful channel that showcases the incredible natural beauty of America's national parks. Their latest video celebrates Rocky Mountain National Park. Read the rest

This moonlit Yosemite waterfall looks like a cascade of molten gold

The famed Yosemite Firefall (previously) is a rare phenomenon when the setting sun hits Horsetail Fall with its dying light. Rogelio Bernal Andreo just took it to next level, capturing the even more rare moonlight firefall. Read the rest

Spectacular timelapse of clouds filling the entire Grand Canyon

The latest stunning video from artistic collaborators in the dark sky movement is Kaibab Elegy by Harun Mehmedinovic, shot at the Grand Canyon. At about a minute in, there's a rare and hypnotic full cloud inversion worth the wait. Read the rest

America's National Parks are for sale

A point of American pride, our national park system, is sadly underfunded and lost. The Seattle Times shares one piece of the story, corporate sponsorship. Read the rest

Bear Belly Flop over Alaska waterfall

Captured at Katmai National Park in Alaska. Read the rest

RIP Number 10

Number 10 — a Yellowstone Park elk famous for fighting with other elk, grade-school volleyball nets, and R.V.s — has died. Estimated to have been between 15 and 18 years old, he apparently lost a battle with a vehicle. Read the rest

3 Facts about bears and lady business

Good news for ladies who like the woods—your period is (probably) not something that attracts (most) bears.

There are not a lot of studies addressing this particular topic, but a National Park Service paper published this year took a look at all of them and put the scattered pieces information together into a single puzzle. It's probably not a complete picture, but it's certainly better than hearsay and random, sexist stories you heard from your grandpa's drinking buddy. More importantly, even when there is a documented risk between menstrual blood and bears, that shouldn't be construed as a reason to keep women out of the wilderness. After all, bears are attracted to food, and we don't tell people they shouldn't eat while backpacking. Instead, we have practices that reduce risk. Same thing applies here.

Here's what we learn: 1) You can menstruate freely and without fear in the contiguous 48 United States. Grizzlies, and particularly black bears, don't seem to be interested in what's happening in your pants. Evaluating hundreds of grizzly attacks found no correlation between menstruation and risk of attack. In the case of black bears, this has actually been tested experimentally, with researchers leaving used tampons from various stages of menstruation out in the wilderness and watching how the bears respond. (Science!) The bears completely ignored the tampons.

2) Yellowstone data suggests food is a much bigger risk than menstruation. Analysis of bear attack data from Yellowstone National Park doesn't even consider attacks that happened before 1980. Why? Read the rest