Oh The Joys of News Overload


The world is in a fine fit of chaos. I’ll never get any work done if I continue to read about what’s going on around me.news_overload.jpg I’m in a dither about the flood of disheartening and absolutely stupid news on my Bloglines page. Some bits, on the other hand demand my attention and are going to rattle around in my head for quite some time.

First off, The Yellowstone Newspaper is about as good as it gets when seeking information about Yellowstone National Park. This remote aggregation of information is full of recent information and is well worth looking at on a daily basis. Even at two million acres the park generates a disproportionate amount of news and it is well chronicled by Mr. Macdonald.

National Parks Traveler reports that the GAO is about to look at the bison management scheme in Yellowstone. It’s about time. Maybe they’ll look at the tame elk, winter access, commercialization, and cranky ex-rangers too. One can only hope.

The Casper Star Tribune has two articles on Wolves and the circus going on in Wyoming. One describes the first of a series of public hearings taking place, the other details how the split state senate ignores it’s own staff and voted to reduce the permanent management area in northwest Wyoming. These law makers just don’t get it.

An excellent review of the eminent domain issue is reported in New West. Many western states are reacting to the 2005 supreme court ruling that allows local governments to condemn and seize property for commercial development. This could mean that the cute little vacation cabin that you saved your whole life for will be gobbled up by a commercial trout fishing ranch.

A disturbing result of the push toward biofuels is reported by Grist. It seems that the biofuel feedstocks such as corn and soybeans and rape are such good money makers that barley is being neglected. The remaining barley being grown is so scarce that beer prices are liable to shoot up. This is truly disturbing news.

Little Sis reminds us all of the real problems in Missoula and elsewhere about the old bugaboo of the double standard. Not just in practice – but in conversation as well.

I’m relieved to discover that global warming is a myth. Thank god for Jerry Falwell. David Roberts reports about this wonderful reassurance and points us toward a revealing video. I’m so glad that I don’t have to be duped by the experts.

I’m disturbed to find out that honey bees are vanishing without any reason. The New York Times reports about the disappearing bees, and the mystery is about to threaten crops – including my beloved California almonds. This is a real tragedy.

Even more disturbing than the bees is the note about elderly poor women. A long and insightful article by Jeffrey Feldman in the Huffington Blog details how eating from garbage cans is a strategy for survival and not just for homeless people. The article contains many disturbing observations from a White House study (PDF) and consumed most of my morning blog-time. Read it and weep.

rangerhat-nps.jpgOn a light and genuinely entertaining note; visit the blogs of “OH, THE JOYS” (even the linked links are entertaining.)

From the deep south comes the voice of one who knows about fiber, enjoys fantasies about rangers, and other ‘joys’ such as: Santa can ride my duck, frying bacon (sans garments,) and ‘Mommy, why do you wear a bra?’ Bless her voice! (Try this for a mommy sample.)

Got to run. The snow of the last couple of days has turned the little burg into a white postcard and running in the snow does wonders for my legs.

Semper Fi

“FEB. 23, 1945 – ‘NUFF SAID!”




Review A Review


hooked-upooo.jpgMeghan O’Rourke in Slate gives us her take on the book “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both” by Laura Sessions Stepp.

Not to belabor the point here, (O’Rourke does it just fine,) it seems that the reviewer, the author, and the sample of women in the book have discovered Twentieth Century Anomie – alive and well today.

sartre.jpgEmile and Jean-Paul would enjoy the intellectual exercise of examining the behavior of college kids at Duke & George Washington as they take their camera-phone to the bar. The device is necessary to help remember who they went home with.

The need for love, frequently confused with the need for sex is often foisted upon us all. The tag for the review is well worth reprinting here:

“Buying into alarmism about women, Unhooked makes sex into a bigger, scarier, and more dangerous thing than it already is. The fact is, love is a messy arena, and in it most of us make both wise and foolish choices. C’est la vie, if not l’amour.”

Wine & Ego


wine_bottle.jpgCan it be true? Do women have taste buds? Is wine appreciation limited to men? How far does an insight go? ALL RHETORICAL!

Fine post today in VINOGRAPHY! Men can take note – women will understand!

” . . . over 35% of men refuse to let their partner choose wine in a restaurant because they do not trust them to make the appropriate choice.”

For more exciting snobbery visit THE WINE SNOB. OR, for a pleasant way to learn to be one visit LIFE IN ITALY. Let’s all get box wines.

A Wolf At The Door – Again


wolf2.jpgAccording to the Casper Star Tribune, Idaho is gaining another chapter of the IDAHO ANTI-WOLF COALITION.

The effort is aimed at bringing the official Idaho “wolf position” in line with the official Wyoming “wolf position.” As I understand it this means “KILL ‘EM ALL.”

Yellowstone, Global Warming & Chicken Little


As this gentle and snow-scarce winter winds down, I was checking the observed vs. expected data accumulation and began to worry that there was not enough cold – or snow to validate the models. Old Faithful experienced temperatures above 40 degrees on two days last week.

dancing-chicken.gifNot to worry, ancillary factors such as cloud cover, reduced visitation, (from 5 years ago,) in Yellowstone, increased NOx, and the robustness of the models have combined to make my ego expand. The models and data showed a gratifying coincidence. There is still a significant amount of pollution along the traffic corridors in the winter.

One byproduct of the current trend in commercialization for winter visitation is the increase in emissions from diesel engines and reduced efficiency of gasoline and diesel engines. This, combined with the near tripling of gasoline engine emissions has not reduced the pollution as much as anticipated by Chicken Little.

The use of tracked vehicles is inefficient and forces snoch-04.jpgthe engines to work harder than if they were propelling the same vehicles on wheels. One example will suffice to illustrate the point. A 15-passenger bus uses about five or six gallons of gasoline to make the 62-mile round trip between the west entrance and Old Faithful when on wheels.

snoch-new-00.jpgThe same vehicle with after-market devices for over-the-snow travel uses between 24 and 35 gallons of gasoline for the same trip, (depending on the condition of the snow and the right foot of the “guide”.) The emissions have to go somewhere.

yelcoach.jpgPushing skis is even less efficient and increases the workload of the engine. This is what the National Park Service sees as “Best Available Technology.”

All is not as simple or as clear cut as it seems. Yellowstone National Park is not going to be much cleaner under the new winter use plan than it was without a plan. It will be quieter for a while though, and the white plumes of 2 cycle exhaust won’t be seen. But, as they say in Los Angeles: “Don’t trust air that you can’t see.”


Global warming is a wonderful catch phrase. It is the ultimate simplistic semantic form for a complex situation. Of course the globe is warming. We know this by measurement and by observation. No longer is there a glacier a mile thick on top of Fountain Flats. Yet the globe is also cooling. It depends on one’s perspective and the time scale involved, and the forces at work. Ultimately this planet will be as dead and cold as the moon, (which is running away from us.)

glacier-gif.gifThe complexity of the situation is similar to, (and greater than,) the situation in Yellowstone Park with winter travel.

The Pliocene was warmer – generally – than now. The Pleistocene was colder – generally – than now. The Hypsithermal was warmer – persistently – than now. The Little Ice Age was colder – measurably – than now.

The warming and cooling cycles of the earth are fairly well known. Their causes are still subject to debate, conversation, investigation, and verification.

The impact on humans has varied from significant to negligible. Extinctions were coincident with parts of several different climatic periods. And, of course, we are beginning to understand that the changes are not uniform around the world in all places and most assuredly not synchronous.

I certainly don’t hear many folks talking about ‘Global Dimming,’ or ‘Darkening,’ or ‘Pollution Reflection,’ or preservation of ‘Angular Momentum(PDF)‘ and, certainly there is seldom heard “Geophysical Impacts of Earth’s Slowing Rotation on Climate.” Regarding our current warming trend: there is more than just a battle against simple foes.

ninonina.jpgWho is busy talking about the oceans & climate change? Try Barron & Thompson, or the American Geophysical Union (AGU), or Mark Powell.

NASA is leading the parade (el nino bibliography,) as is JPL. Of course there are other things to consider too – but you get my point.

The variables are many, and our understanding is just beginning to become clear. Will sea levels really rise 60 meters in New York, or will a bulge of ocean near the equator compensate and preserve the earth’s angular momentum? Will the aerosols really conspire to cook us all, or will the increased cloud cover reduce the absorption of the sun’s rays?

These kinds of questions occupy conscientious scientists – not Chicken Little. An interesting article by Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe points us toward some careful thinking, rather than alarmist arm waving. Simplistic thinking is always easier for politicians, journalists, bloggers, and activists. It’s the old “. . . Don’t confuse me with facts . . .” syndrome.

There are a few competent scientists and others that are not in the alarmist camp. Timothy Ball, (Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project,) writes in the Canadian Free Press that we had better get our facts straight before we act or react. Even the Wall Street Journal carried a piece by Richard S. Lindzen about the need for more facts and less lassitude in our popular perceptions of climatology.

Kevin Nelstead’s blog, The Earth Is Not Flat, has several posts that point to our responsibilities in thinking about this matter, (CLICK.)


So, what’s this have to do with Yellowstone? First off, The vegetation and rest of the biota in the park will change with warming; in ways that we may anticipate but cannot precisely predict.

desert-snow.jpgSecondly, the pollution problem in winter is more complex than the just the exhaust of snowmobiles would lead one to believe. The problem is one of constraint & logistics. Total emissions are a function of cubic inches, fuel consumed, and effeciency of transport, (among others.)

As warmer weather continues to make over-the-snow travel more problematic, increasing loads of hydrocarbons will accumulate. Snow packed roads in the ameliorating climate will produce more and more ice crystals as the freeze-thaw boundary gets crossed more frequently. Grooming will be harder, less efficient, and the road conditions will deteriorate more rapidly. (This grooming expense is 100% born by the NPS to subsidize commercial interests.)

Unanticipated factors will come to play in scenarios not yet fully understood. The burden on the National Park Service will grow as it continues to defend the novelty of over-the-snow travel. Snow making machines will be purchased to continue the ‘tradition.’ groomer.jpgAdditional staff and equipment will be required to appease the money hungry gateway concessionaires. Fewer visitors will be allowed in the park in order to “save the snow.”

The length of the ‘shoulder seasons’ will increase to the point that the park will stay open longer for the summer season and shorter for the winter season. Additional fees and higher prices will ensue for the winter season as the NPS allows the over-the-snow crowd to dictate operations.

Current snowmobile visitation is down, (though rebounding,) and only the most wealthy will be allowed into Yellowstone via bus and baby tank. Petroleum products will continue to provide unhealthy levels of pollution – but will be unseen and therefore unregulated.

Finally, by 2070, the park will close in winter – rather than admit that plowing of the roads will reduce pollution, reduce budgets, and enhance the visitor experience.

Yes, there is global warming, it will affect Yellowstone in very short order, and maybe Chicken Little was right.

What about the rest of the planet? We need to know considerably more than we do now. For instance; is it true, as suggested by the Financial Times that we only have 15 – 20 year’s worth of undiscovered oil reserves? Can we count on philanthropy to take up the slack? Will the SLATE 60 come to the rescue?

windy-plains.jpgCan we count on the private sector to rescue Yellowstone and the rest of the parks? Can the government continue to resist cogent planning in favor of novelty transportation? There’s much more to account for in the global arena than in Yellowstone National Park – and we can’t even get that right.

Should you be the sort of person that considers social action, I direct you to STEP IT UP. This grass roots movement has 687 rallies planned for April 14, 2007. A guest post by Cheryl Long, (editor of The Mother Earth News,) provides us with a perfect ending quote.

The Iraq war will cost American taxpayers $2,200,000,000,000—that’s 2.2 trillion dollars—according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. If instead, we had invested that $2.2 trillion in wind turbines, we would now have enough electricity to provide roughly 150 percent of total U.S. energy needs.


Who’s Got Paradise?



ourneighbordick.jpg With the disappearance of living space in Dick Cheney’s neighborhood wealthy pilgrims are seeking paradise in other parts of the west.

what-cheney-fishes-david-bohrer.jpg(Here’s an exclusive: the rig the veep fishes with!)

The migration of wealth is moving north from Jackson, and Big Sky, Montana is the latest “discovery.” For 15 years the escalation of prices has brought continued upscale migrants from around the world to the little ski resort on the Gallatin River. (Which is now not so little!) The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce loves it. The town is booming – if you can afford it. If you are lucky enough, you may just have a view of the Blixseth Monster – The world’s most expensive house.

bill-pie.jpgTed Turner & Bill Gates will be your neighbors if you can afford the price of admission. The dynamics of wealth and real estate are skirted in a Huffington Post piece from Friday. The struggle between ‘good’ exploiters and ‘bad’ exploiters is a circus to behold.

poor-ted.jpgTurner’s “Mean Greenie” stance has brought him fame and fortune for his insight into how to make money and stay green. In 1989, when he bought the Flying D ranch he noted that: “Up the road at the Big Sky resort, condos are sprouting faster than Montana wheat.”

In Jackson, Wyoming much of the labor force must cross Teton Pass to get to work and back home to Idaho. In Big Sky, Montana it’s either a 40 mile drive in the treacherous Gallatin Canyon, or company housing, (4 to a room,) in motels purchased by the mega developers. A summary of recent news about the boom has even made the pages of the New York Times.

wy-signs.jpgHere’s a hint: West Yellowstone is also wiping out slums and developing it’s sparse holdings. For 13 years the local, and international developers have discovered the unique land situation that exists.

The town is surrounded on three sides by the Gallatin National Forest and on the other by Yellowstone National Park. The USFS continues to grant land-exchanges to wealthy developers for fancy houses, and the Union Pacific Railroad made a sweetheart deal with developers for space for vacation time-share complexes and new retail space.

home-sweet-home.jpgThe Guest Workers in West Yellowstone, Montana live in ‘company housing’ usually consisting of ancient mobile homes, converted churches, and cribs in converted tin buildings. How’s $300/month sound – for 200 square feet and you pay the utilities? Maybe you’d rather have a family of four in 450 square feet for $500/month, and you pay the utilities – and repairs!

The boom is so important that construction continues in all weather and sometimes into the night. Get out your wallet – there’s more to come.



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