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Wine, Drilling, Interior Secretaries And The National Parks


Wine, drilling, Interior secretaries and the national parks. That's quite a collection of park-related topics. Let's take a look at what's going on.

Wine And The National Parks

"Borrowing" the names of national parks is not a new marketing strategy. Automobile manufacturers have been doing it for quite some time. Model names "Acadia," "Sequoia," and "Denali" are just a few of the examples that have shown up on rigs cruising the highways of America.

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Can labels with park photographs carry these wines?

There are air fresheners named after national parks, wool blankets, and even beers. And now, wines.

Ever on the lookout for ways to raise money for the national parks, the National Park Foundation is getting into the wine business. Kind of.

Under an arrangement with the Adler Fells Winery, a California winery that labels "custom wine brands" for clients, the Foundation is to receive $2 for every bottle of the "National Parks Wines Collection" sold.

This is just a trial balloon, as normally the Foundation doesn't get into deals around alcoholic beverages, and it needed an exception to the norm to run this pilot fund-raiser. 

Helping draw attention to the $17-a-bottle wines (including shipping), which the Foundation is scheduled to formally announce next month, is the photography of Mark Burns.

Now, another winery, Montana-based Ten Spoon, already has a national park line of wines (certified organic, no less!) available. These wines sell between $17 and $20 a bottle, with shipping added on top of that. These bottles also carry catchy artwork, and the descriptions are alluring:

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Montana-based Ten Spoon has some fetching artwork and intriguing descriptions.

Going to the Sun Sauvignon Blanc

Rich taste follows scents of rock jasmine and “the manic perfume of buffalo willow”, in this lively, sure-footed blend of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Made in Montana from Pinot Gris grapes from Pheasant Valley Vineyard in Hood River, or and Gewurztraminer grapes from Oak Ridge Vineyard in Husum, WA. Going to the Sun brings out the best of both topnotch varieties. Follow the goats for a cliffside picnic with crusty bread and, of course, goat cheese.

Unfortunately, Traveler is headquartered in Utah, which prohibits shipments of wine directly to the customer. As a result, we've been unable to sample either product. If anyone has and can offer an opinion, please do!

Drilling And The Parks

Running a national park lodging concession and an oil exploration company on the fringes of a national park doesn't seem to be a good business mix from a PR standpoint.

But whether that was the reason that Anschutz Exploration Co. pulled the plug on its exploration efforts just east of Glacier National Park is merely speculation.

Officially, the company announced last week that a decade of exploratory drilling on the Blackfeet Reservation that borders the park failed to find marketable reserves.

"Anschutz has drilled 14 exploratory wells, and analyzed multiple hydrocarbon-bearing reservoirs. Drilling and testing have located some resources, but not enough to support further exploration or development investment," the company announced last Tuesday.

Now, Philip Anschutz, the billionaire who owns the exploration company, also owns Xanterra Parks & Resorts. Xanterra, of course, is a concessionaire that runs lodges in Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Death Valley, Zion, and Grand Canyon national parks, and is thought to be bidding on the concession at Glacier.

Interestingly, a petition drive in the communities surrounding Glacier that opposed Xanterra's expected bid for the Glacier concessions in light of nearby drilling by Anschutz Exploration has gained at least 5,000 signatures. Kind'a drives home the point that drilling into the lodging side of our pristine national parks just might be better for our economy and environment than drilling near those parks for "resources..."

Sally Jewell's Nomination And Burying Beetles

The nomination of Ms. Jewell, the chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment, Inc., as Interior secretary was endorsed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this past Thursday, but not without some concerns and some horse-trading.

Three Republican senators -- John Barrasso of Wyoming, Mike Lee of Utah, and Tim Scott of South Carolina -- voted no, with Mr. Barrasso giving her an "incomplete" for failing to answer all his questions. 

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska had threatened to place a hold on the nomination, but relented after meeting with current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar over Interior's stance not to allow a road to be cut through official wilderness at the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Following that meeting, Mr. Salazar said he would review the matter.

Also threatening to stall Ms. Jewell's nomination was Senator James Inhofe, who hoped to gain some concessions from Interior in return for releasing his hold on a vote on her nomination. The Oklahoma Republican fretted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's adherence to the Endangered Species Act was standing in the way of oil and gas development in the eastern half of his state. At issue is the American Burying Beetle, an endangered species.

“This is hurting my state’s local economy and is preventing many well-paying jobs from being created,” Sen. Inhofe wrote in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that was obtained by Bloomburg News.

Imagine, here's a businesswoman set to bring a free-market perspective to the Interior Department—and this guy is thinking this small.


Ms. Jewell needs to be looking into the embattled Superintendent of the Great Smoky Mtns National Park. If confirmed, there will an immediate focus on how she handles the backcountry fee controversy there and a Superintendent that is becoming increasingly reviled for his deception on the issue. REI is a concessionnaire that runs backpacking trips and has been implicated in using their ground operator to pump up the fee plan with bogus and misleading information. She needs to make right and start off on an honest slate.

My understanding is that it would be illegal to even accept a gift of an alcoholic beverage brought into Utah by private vehicle. The laws might even make it illegal to transport alcohol through Utah even if unopened, although I have the feeling it's not terribly well enforced.

I've studied this pretty well, and apparently the only way a private citizen can bring a purchased alcoholic beverage into Utah is if it's purchased duty free overseas and brought in on the return trip. Another way is if they're left in someone's will.

I guess you're stuck with state liquor stores. Maybe they can work a deal with the distributor.

Living in CA, such rules around alcohol seem a bit dated. Of the distributors love it as they cank milk their monopolistic position.

Somehow I don't associate mountain goats with wine, even though it is a "sure-footed blend."

If you are in advertising, anything is possible. Just witness the current nauseating ads for laxatives that introduce the lady who stands up in a crowded airliner to ask "Are any of you constipated?"

This article made me curious to see if there are any wineries operating as NPS concessionaires. I found Sarah's Vineyard operating out of Cuyahoga Valley. Anybody know of any others?

Not necessarily a winery, but in Yosemite there's a weeks long wine tasting even at the Ahwahnee Hotel in late fall with some high end wineries. That's traditionally a low-traffic period.

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