Mutiny in the Parks 

Park Service employees are a typically loyal bunch who just want to work in nature and preserve national treasures. But as federal “outsourcing” begins in earnest, many retired Park Service employees are voicing concerns with the agency’s current leadership. One hundred and twenty-six Park Service retirees—former rangers, superintendents and regional directors—signed an Aug. 26 letter to current Park Service Director Fran Mainella condemning her support of Bush administration park initiatives in no uncertain terms.

“Today…the National Park Service is no longer being run ‘wholly in the interest of the public which it serves,’” the letter stated, citing an opinion piece in The Tennessean in which Mainella had argued that President Bush’s “‘Clear Skies’ plan is the affordable way to go.”

“Many…would have ascribed [the editorial] to…the power or coal industry,” the letter chided.

The retirees are also concerned that Mainella has placed economic growth and cost benefit ahead of land stewardship, citing snowmobile use in Yellowstone, expansion of drilling on Padre Island National Seashore into “critical habitat,” and the “bargaining away [of] historic water rights” in Colorado’s Gunnison National Park.

One letter signer is Bob Haraden, superintendent of Glacier National Park from 1981–86, who calls the National Park Service “the greatest idea the United States ever had.” Haraden says that Mainella has caved in to the Bush administration.

“[Mainella] tried to buck this outsourcing thing at one time, but she had to back off,” he says. “She’s beholden to the administration.”

Another signer is Charles Sigler, who served as chief ranger at Glacier in the ’80s.

Sigler says that in his day, the Park Service director was an environmental professional who rarely swayed from administration to administration, but no longer.

“Leaders of these retirees have discussed things with [Mainella], and she’s always very defensive, as if we don’t understand what they’re doing,” Sigler says. “They can spin anything like it’s better than ever.”

Park Service spokesman Dave Barna says it’s a “safe assumption” that none of the retirees’ requests will be acted upon.

Haraden thinks the current Park Service attitude amounts to thousands of years of combined park experience being tossed aside.

“I think it’s unprecedented that former directors have complained as a group about how the Park Service is being run,” Haraden says. “But I don’t think they’re listening.”

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