Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dear Washington Senators

To the Honorable Senators Cantwell and Murray,

I would greatly appreciate it if either or both of you would propose, if not sponsor, legistlation to restore the ban on guns in National Parks to the former regulations where all guns must be stored without ammunition in a secure container, and where it is illegal to display or use a gun anywhere in a National Park, especially in the backcountry, except where allowed by permit from the NPS for the protection against wildlife while hiking, such as Alaska.

I ask this even though there are 290 bills passed by the House already waiting for deliberation vote. The lifting of the ban February 22nd endangers every visitor in every National Park where the carrying of a weapon, openly or concealed as defined by the laws of the state where the NP is located, is allowed and even expected. This is an absurb policy and now law.

There is no reason anyone should walk around in a National Park, and mostly visitor areas, with a loaded weapon(s) simply for the purposes of displaying it. It is illegal to use or discharge a weapon in a NP, so it's ridiculus to carry it. The NPS has described how few people were injured or killed in National Parks outside the activities where these activities are common (mountain climbing) where a weapon would have helped.

As a hiker and nature and landscape photographer working on a photography guide to Mount Rainier National Park, the last thing I need to encounter miles into the backcountry is someone with a weapon. I don't look forward to this coming hiking season when I have to now plan for when someone I might encounter has a weapon, whether it's for their own personal protection or wanting to use it.

And the NPS has said in press releases they are training rangers to plan to treat encounters with all visitors as if they have a concealed weapon if they don't see one openly displayed. Is this anyway to greet and treat visitors, many of whom are foreign visitors? Is this the view of America and our National Parks we want them to have?

So, please find a way to reverse this law and reinstate the old regulations as law. It's a fair compromise for everyone. Guns aren't necessary in National Parks except where a permit is available.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Guns in the NP

An article in today (2/14/10) Tacoma News Tribune by Jeff Mayor cites the rules effective February 22nd when it will be legal to possess and carry guns in Mt. Rainier NP. The law passed last fall required the NP's to follow the state laws which applies to the possession, carrying and use of weapons. The staff at the NP is still addressing the rules to develop public information about weapons in the NP.

The rule will be that weapons can be openly carried in the NP and concealed weapons can be carried with a permit, but this only applies to the land of the NP. You can not carrry a weapon in any government facility, meaning the visitors centers, office, mountain guide center, etc. You can carry a weapon in the Paradise Inn and the Longmire Inn, unless prohibited by the concessionaire.

But all this has a catch.


It is still illegal to unholster a weapon and use it, even in the defense of life and property or discharge it in the backcountry (hunting is illegal in the NP).

In addition, from now on, all rangers will approach and treat people in the NP as if they have a weapon. This has been the training and the approach sometimes but now it will be the basic rule. So, when a ranger approaches you, try to show you don't have a weapon and are not a threat to them or others.

I still hope Congress will overturn this law. It wasn't necessary and only endangers all the people in the NP as well as hinders the appreciation of the NP and people's experience. Everyone will have to equally be wary of others if it's possible they could be carrying a concealed weapon and especially if they're openly carrying a weapon.

Personally, you can bet I won't trust anyone beyond what I can see. As a photographer, carrying my camera equipment in the backcountry, I won't trust anyone who may have a weapon and can threaten or immidate me, or worse rob or injury me. This law makes the NP experience worse, not just everyone, but more so foreign visitors who could have a bad experience.

So, I still say, keep you gun at home. It's unnecessary and needlessly endangers others. The right to carry a weapon doesn't make it right to do so. Please respect others.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February Updates

I have updated the news and information, the access and conditions and the monthly prospects Web pages for February 2010. February is pretty much more of the same from January with more snow and cold temperatures. This will continue through March until the spring snowmelt starts in mid-late April. In short, it's winter and everything winter. The NP is in full winter operation mode with all snow activities available in all designated areas open, which includes snowshoers, skiers, snowboarders and the snowplay area.

Currently the road to Paradise is controlled at the gate east of Longmire. It opens daily, weather permitting, after the parking lot at Paradise and road between Longmire and the gate is checked and cleared of snow, usually between 9-10 am. It also closes every day to uphill traffic at 4:00 pm. In addition, the NPS requires all vehicles carry chains and may require the use for non-four wheel drive vehicles at the parking lot just west of the Nisqually Bridge to Paradise.

Through the winter the only facilities open every day are those at Longmire (hotel and visitors center) and the only facilities open on weekends is the Jackson Visitors at Paradise (10 am to 5 pm). Everything else is closed for the season. If you go you should be prepared for winter travel with a proper equipment in your car, with the right clothes for all visitors, and with the necessary emergency gear of clothes, food, water, blankets, etc. You should also be flexible with your plans and schedule in case the weather changes or the NPS folks instruct visitors.

There's lots of excellent photographic opportunities for winter and snow scenes. Just go and enjoy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Muir on Mt. Rainier

In 1901 Houghton Mifflin Company published the articles by Johh Muir originally published in the The Atlantic Monthly. In the January 1898 issue, just over a year before the designation of Mt. Rainier as a National Park in March 1899, Muir wrote the essay, "The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West", which included some impression from his visit to Mt. Rainier in 1888. And so here is the excerpt.

"The Mount Rainier Forest Reserve should be made a national park and guarded while yet its bloom is on; (1) for if in the making of the West Nature had what we call parks in mind,-- places for rest, inspiration, and prayers,-- this Rainier region must surely be one of them. In the centre of it there is a lonely mountain capped with ice, from the ice-cap glaciers radiate in every direction, and young rivers from the glaciers; while its flanks, sweeping down in beautiful curves, are clad with forests and gardens, and filled with birds and animals. Specimens of the best of Nature's treasures have been lovingly gathered here and arranged in simple symmetriical beauty with regular bunds.

"Of all the fire-mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest in form, has the most interesting forest cover, and, with perhaps the exception of Shasta, is the highest and most flowery. Its massive white dome rises out of its forests, like a world by itself, to a height of fourteen thousand to fifteen thousand feet.

"The forest reach to the height of a little over six thousand feet, and above the forests there is a zone of the loveliest flowers, fifty miles in circuit and nearly two miles wide, so closely planted and luxuriant that it seems as if Nature, glad to make on open space between woods so dense and ice so deep, were economizing the precious ground, and trying to see how many of her darlings she can get together in one mountain wreath,-- daises, anemones, geraniums, columbines, erythroniums, larkspurs, etc., amoung which we wade knee-deep and waist-deep the bright corollas in the myriads touching petal to petal.

"Picturesque detached groups of the spiry Abies lasiocarpa stand like islands along the lower margin of the garden zone, while on the upper margin there are extensive beds of bryanthus, Cassiope, Kalmia, and other heathworts, and higher still saxifrages and drabas, more and more lowly, reach up to the edge of the ice.

"Altogether this is the richest subalpine garden I ever found, a perfect floral elysium. The icy dome needs none of man's care, but the unless the reserve is guarded the flower bloom will soon be killed, and nothing of the forests will be left but black stump monuments."

"1. This was done shortly after the above was written. "One of the most important measures taken during the past year in connection wiht the forest reservations was the action by Congress in withdrawing from the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve a portion of the region immediately surrounding Mount Rainier and setting it apart as a national park." Report of Commissioner of General Land Office, for the year ended June, 1899. But the park as it now stands is far too small."

The footnote was added in the book publication of the article, and the land issue was resolved partially in 1926 and significantly in 1931 to near the present day boundaries with minor additions and adjustments since then.

While John Muir's contribution to the effort to designate Mt. Rainier a national park should not be understated, a national figure of his importance in the conservation and preservation movement then, his contribution can easily be overstated, as has occurred. There were far more important people who did the blue collar work in the effort for national park status.

John Muir's voice was helpful, and his words are, as they were, eloquent in his own right.