Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Privatization Threatens an Arizona National Forest

Tonto National Forest stretches from southeast of Phoenix to far in to the Northeast near Payson. Adventure Journal posted an article today about the privatization taking place in Tonto National Forest's Payson District. Basically, the NPS is selling out to private companies who will manage tourism. The problem is that, unlike the NPS, those private companies can charge what they want. They can charge whatever admission fees they want, set permit prices, even charge for parking! Handing over our federally funded land to private contractors who can make profits on land our tax money pays for is nothing but government sanctioned highway robbery on public land.

The article on A.J. explains the situation very well. Read it here - Privatization Threatens an Arizona National Park. It's written by Kitty Benzar of High Country News and the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition.

Here's few thoughts that Benzar doesn't mention. My first reaction to hearing the threat of private fees was "Screw 'em! I'll sneak in or go somewhere else!" I'm not going to get shaken down for some bullshit fees by corporate thugs on my way into a NATIONAL forest and I'm sure I'm not alone. Unlike the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, I don't completely object to small, moderate fees that help pay for the upkeep of the land and I think most people will pay them just to stay on the right side of the law. It's fair that if you use the parks, you help fund them a little more than folks who don't use them. But I'm not bowing to private companies if I want to use land my tax money pays for and shame on anyone who tries to use the law to force our money into private hands in order to access PUBLIC land.

Fee avoidance will likely hurt the visitation numbers in TNF's Payson district and will send people like me to Apache-Sitgreaves NF, Coronado NF, or others, putting more stress on the land in those forests. I don't encourage using the land illegally, as that opens the door for litter, fire danger, and other abuses, but if you can find a way around corporate fees, I simply ask you show the forest all the respect you would have had you paid. Whatever you do, don't pay private fees to use national land. Our best chance of squashing this stupid idea is to make it unprofitable to the contracted companies.

Benzar provides the following contact information in her article: Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell at RecreationFees@fs.fed.us. Please take a moment to write to Mr. Tidwell and tell him that under no circumstances will you accept private park fees in NATIONAL Forests.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

21st Anniversary - Hubble Telescope

Sure, today is Easter, but it's also the 21st anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Telescope. Launched on April 24, 1990 on the shuttle Discovery's STS-31 mission, the Hubble telescope lets us gaze into space without that pesky atmosphere getting in the way. Over the last two decades Hubble has been instrumental in expanding our understanding of the size and scope of the universe, as well as dazzling us with sights like the one pictured above.

This photo depicts Arp 273, a pair of interacting galaxies. The top galaxy is UGC 1810 and the bottom is UGC 1813. The photograph was taken to commemorate Hubble's 21st Anniversary.

Read more here about the Hubble Telescope anniversary and view more pictures here.

And...if you've never seen Hubble's Ultra Deep Field photo, it's time you checked this out...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

First off, I should apologize for being a negligent blogger lately. The ol' PhD is catching up with me and I've got tons of work to do. I have all sorts of good blogging ideas and no time to write them.

But today is Earth Day and even a lazy nature blogger cannot let a day specifically designed to remind us of the ecological and environmental needs of our planet pass without hopping online and writing a few lines in support of preserving our natural world.

When I think of Earth Day, I'm reminded of anthropomorphic ambassadors from my childhood. Woodsy Owl, Smokey the Bear, and Ranger Rick. Each spouted an easy-to-remember aphorism. "Give a hoot! Don't pollute. Plant a tree today" or "Only you can prevent forest fires." Yet, as one half of our government fights to destroy and exploit our natural environment and the other puts up a flaccid, lackluster defense (or outright caves), I can't help but think that all the logic, all the public relations campaigns mounted by environmental groups, all the cartoon animals giving sound advice, and all the anger of people like me and probably you can't compare for one second to nature's own ambassadors, the spectacular and sublime features of our planet.

So, for Earth Day, this humble blogger isn't asking you to vote, petition, go vegan, recycle, ride a bike, or change your lightbulbs. If you do those things, wonderful...I do too. But I would like to ask you to go outside. Take your kids for a walk in the woods. Visit a national park. Go to the beach. Hike up a mountain. Or just feed some birds in your yard. If you don't know what we're losing to greed and idiocy (idiocy means you, climate change deniers), then you had better find out before it's gone.

Oh, and when you get back inside, read Edward Abbey's account of Glen Canyon or John Muir's of Hetch Hetchy before they were dammed. You can't go to those places anymore. Both men are great writers, but neither provides a satisfying substitute for the reality of standing in a place, smelling the air, hearing the wind and the birds. I think you will agree that one visit would be worth all the descriptions, films, and photographs of each of these places that have been taken from us by our parents' and grandparents' generations. We can to better than that. Let's start now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Boards of Canada - Roygbiv

I found this video for the Boards of Canada song Roygbiv. It kicks ass. You should watch it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

More Bad News For Wolves

From the New York Times: "Wolf Delisting Survives Budget Fight, as Settlement Crumbles."

I've written here before that delisting wolves from protective status by legislative and not scientific means is as mean-spirited as it is stupid. If hunters want to hunt something cunning and cruel, give Democratic Sen. Jon Tester a five minute head start before you release the hounds. If there is justice in the universe, that guy will meet his ends in the jaws of the a hungry wolf pack. Instead, he's leading a nastier pack of confidence men in using their leverage as legislators to go around science and curb the great gains gray wolves have made in the last couple decades.

As an Arizonan, there is little I can do. The right thing to do is "contact your elected officials and tell them you oppose delisting wolves!" Who will listen in Arizona? John Kyl? John McCain? Any of the other clowns in the fundamentalist cabal that comprises Arizona's elected officials? I think not.

Well, truth be told, I have, many times, written to politicians about conservation issues only to get some boilerplate nonsense a couple days later.

That doesn't mean that all effort are futile, though! If you live in a sane state with some semi-reliable elected officials (yes, political action dialogue has been reduced to pleas for sanity directed at semi-reliable people), please write to them and stand on the side of science and wolves. Even one quick line is a constituent on the record stating an opinion. Something like this,

Dear Senator X,

This message is to inform you that I do not support delisting the gray wolf. Science, not special interests, should govern how we manage our American wildlife and wild places.


Find your senator here or representative here.

P.S. - Even if you don't love wolves or you think there are more pressing matters at hand than environmental issues, keep in mind that delisting endangered species by legislative means is one more instance of a concerted attack on science by American politicians. It's one scuffle in a battle to prevent meaningful action against climate change, keep us dependent on oil, get evolution out of the classroom, and myriad other instances where science comes into conflict with what's politically expedient or ideologically supposed. Deniers of science belong in history books, not legislative positions. They, not wolves, should be the endangered species worrying about going extinct. Fighting for wolves is fighting for science and fighting for science is fighting for our collective future.

P.S.S. - If that wolf pictured above doesn't look like a wolf you're used to seeing, that's because it's a Mexican wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf. They're very, very endangered. Delisting would likely spell extinction for this unique southwestern subspecies. Learn more at mexicanwolves.org.

This video from newsy.com gives a good synopsis of the issue.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Broome Review - Issue 4/ The Feathertale Review Issue 6

I've got a story in the current issue of The Broome Review. The story is called "Chips." It's about an old lady and her dog...sort of. You can get your copy via The Parlor City Press.

I've also had a funny little story called "Easter Vigil" published in The Feathertale Review a while back. That one is about a kid who doesn't want to go to church on Easter. It came out in September, but I figured I'd post about it here closer to Easter. Feathertale is Canadian, so they Canadianized all my spelling - i.e. color = colour.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools

For April Fools I pulled the most taboo prank of them all and told my wife I was pregnant. Just kidding. That joke was bad, I know, but I have noticed some good April Fools Day jokes around the Internet and I thought I'd take a quick second and share a few.

1. The editors of Scientific American Magazine agree to include Creationism and Intelligent Design in their articles. The post is called "Okay, We Give Up" and it's actually from April 1, 2005. Funny nonetheless.

2. Google introduces G-Mail Motion, a way to control G-Mail without using outdated technology, such as the mouse and keyboard.

3. In another Google prank, try search for "helvetica" in Google.

4.The American Spectator announces that PBS hired Anne Coulter to host a show. Lots of other fake PBS material too.

5. Hulu is in 1996.