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on June 27, 2011
How does the National Park Service protect official wilderness areas, let alone live up to its 1916 Organic Act in general, which calls on it to "preserve unimpaired for future generations America's great parks, in the face of declining visitation, budget cuts, an attempt to put a smiley face on parks' situation, and the 800-pound gorilla of global warming?

Species migration ... until a species can't migrate any more, species die-=off, and human change of nature in general, to a degree and in a way that wasn't recognized possible when the NPS was founded, are in this mix. So, too, is the recognition, part of modern studies of American Indians, that even places like the High Country of Kings Canyon, weren't "natural" before European arrival.

The story of Tweed hiking the John Muir and High Sierra trails through wilderness parts of Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, and intervening national forest, would be worth a five-star book by itself (with pictures!), but this hike is a reflective background for the issues that Tweed ruminates on throughout the book, and to which he offers tentative answers at the end.

He offers three options, which aren't exclusive of one another if practices within separate confines of larger national parks.

One is an ecology museum, which in Sequoia would naturally focus on protection of the sequoias in places like the Giants Grove. This might be something as basic as irrigation and fertilization. The museum angle is done already in Hawaii to protect against invasive species, but it's highly expensive.

The second is the "mitigation" angle ... helping sequoias, pikas and everything in between in size that needs to move .. move! But, Tweed asks, will the pubilc support Sequoia NP if most the sequoias aren't in park bou8ndaries any more?

That applies even more to option 3, which is ... "let nature adapt." This is the option with the least "management" involved, but the one that could wind up with the most drastic changes. That has its own problems, vis-a-vis the public relations mandate also part of the NPS's Organic Act.

For lovers of our national parks, for lovers of federal wilderness in general, and lovers of nature in general, this is a must read book.
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on March 25, 2011
Great book covering a complex subject. Tweed navigates his theme extremely well, delivering excellent descriptive writing of the scenery he walks through as he simultaneously discusses complicated park policies and the futures of the parks in language that is down to earth. I came away from this read ready to walk the John Muir Trail myself, and one day I will. Great book. Highly recommended.
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on April 26, 2011
I found this book to be informative, thought provoking, and a good read. The author eloquently describes his hike of the Muir Trail in the Nevada Sierra Mountains in a way that makes you feel that you are walking right along with him. I know it inspired me to hope to retrace his steps some day.

William Tweed creatively and vividly intertwines his observations during this hike with the confirmation of lessons he learned during a career with the National Park Service causing him to question the foundation and purpose of our National Park System. Mr. Tweed and I never worked together, but I found that I share many of his insights and concerns for our parks.

Uncertain Path relates to the reader the affects global changes that are impacting the habitats of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Issues of air quality and climate change are two that are well beyond the control of the National Park Service. Mr. Tweed then explains how these issues challenge what is becoming the impossible mission of the National Park Service to preserve our parks in the same condition for all future generations.

Although Mr. Tweed focuses on the Western United States, reading this book caused me to look back at my own experience as a National Park Ranger and the increasingly impossible task of preserving parks in the East. As an example the Southern Appalachians and the parks found there are under constant attack from decreasing air quality, invasive species of flora and fauna, and encroachment of human development.

Anyone who has an interest in the physical future and relevancy of our National Park System to our changing society should read this book.

Bruce W. Bytnar
Author of "A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks"
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on December 1, 2015
I knew things were not going to go well when, opening the second paragraph of the Foreword, Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director, National Park Service, attributed the quote "America's Best Idea" to filmmaker Ken Burns who was born over 30 years after Lord Bryce died. This is a little like Justice Scalia asserting that Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles.

As for the book, it is a fantasy of mine that somehow, someday, somewhere a ranger will step out from under the hat, stop speaking to me in condescending Sunday school parables, acknowledge that the NPS has been willfully parsing its mission for 100 years, and accept that the "public" is fully aware that stasis does not exist in the natural world.

More than ever, the NPS needs vision. A century of dragging its heels, protecting its turf, and pandering to an illusion does not qualify.

A perceptive and thoughtful reader would do better with an in-depth history of the NPS such as those by John C Miles or Richard West Sellars, as well as an online subscription to a reputable national newspaper.
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on May 18, 2013
Although now in Canada I was raised east of Ivanhoe with a clear view of the "Dog's Head" (Homer's Nose] up the Highway between Ivanhoe and Woodlake back in the days when you could see both the Sierra and Coast Range except when there was a fire.

Although aimed at hikers, the book contains lots of information about the area and was very informative and interesting.

Barb Beck
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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on July 27, 2013
I found the historical aspects of the Park Service to be the most interesting. There is an inherent love hate relationship between the Park Service and the people that use, support and help protect the parks. There are huge numbers of people who visit the park in their cars but they are not really connected to the issues or aware of the wilderness experiences. There is the ever present push to publicize the parks because advocacy is a product of awareness. Mismanagement of resources comes from two competing directions. Radical environmentalists would vastly limit access. On the other side there are those who would plunder the resources. The rivers that originate and flow through the California national parks are the life blood of the great central valley. My biggest concern is the lack of young people (this is noted in the book) on the trails. Only a few trails are maintained and the 'use trails' are disappearing in the Sierra National Forest. Humans are the endangered species in the wilderness. I liked the combination of a narrative of the pilgrimage on the JMT so in that sense, it is also a trip down memory lane for me. I worry that a few misguided elites will actually increase the restrictions on access through litigation and legislation. The declaration of a river as "Wild" increases the restrictions on access which is against the whole original philosophy of Muir, LeConte and Mather. Dale Matson author of "A Pilgrim's Progress and the John Muir Trail.
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on January 1, 2015
Anyone who has spent time in the Sierras or wants to will love this book...well written, colorful and very thought provoking.j
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on November 23, 2014
Thoughtful and easy to read.
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on January 5, 2013
a little slow but I liked it because I've backpacked in the Sierras, and worked for the National Park Service. Tweed raises several conflicts facing the park managers today. Obviously, climate change doesn't stop at park boundaries. Sometimes he sounds a bit superior to those other types of park users.
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