Survey Says National Park Service Is Far from the Best Government Agency to Work For

Employee survey shows there's a little tarnish on the NPS shield.

You'd think that waking up every day in places such as Yellowstone, Olympic, Acadia, Yosemite or Rocky Mountain national parks would be part of a dream job. But a survey of federal employees shows that those working for the National Park Service are far from being the most content with their jobs.

In fact, according to the 2009 Best Places to Work survey, the National Park Service ranks surprisingly close to the bottom of all federal agencies in terms of job satisfaction: out of 216 agencies, the Park Service stood 160th. Topping the list were the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Government Accountability Office.

Why? The respondents pointed to poor training and development, ineffective leaders, poor teamwork, a lack of strategic management, and poor quality of life when it comes to a work/life balance. Distressingly, the Park Service’s overall reputation as a good place to work has gotten worse in recent years, according to the survey, the fourth annual.

While the latest overall index score of 59.8 was a tad higher than last year's 58.2 overall score, it was down from 62.5 noted in 2005 and 64.1 recorded in 2003.

In some specific categories, the Park Service garnered a score of just 38.5 out of 200 on the question of effective leaders, 38.3 out of 185 in the "family friendly culture and benefits" category, and 40.1 out of 200 in "performance based rewards and advancement. While the highest score was a 78.3 out of 120 in "employee skills/mission match," that was down from both the 2005 score of 78.8 and the 2003 score of 81.0 in that category.

The Park Service's National Leadership Council, which is comprised of the agency's director, deputy directors, regional directors, associate directors and assistant directors, says it is working to reverse the trends, but that it won't happen overnight.

"A number of initiatives in the learning and development arena were initiated in 2008 in response to the 2007 ranking. We will continue to focus on carrying these through to completion, as well as identify further workplace enrichment initiatives in the coming months," the leadership council said. "Emphasis in areas such as communication, supervisory skills development, and work-life flexibilities will support the NPS goal of becoming a best place to work in the federal government.

"Combined with the prior survey results (we're having the analysis done right now that compares 2002 with 2004 with 2006 and now 2008), we take the trends seriously and the similarity of responses to certain questions seriously," added the council. "Our training and development revitalization efforts over the past year-and-a-half are a direct result of 2006 results and simply haven't had time to pay off yet in terms of morale impact.

"It is important to note that real change in morale takes sustained effort over a number of years to find out what are the biggest concerns among the large number identified and to come up with meaningful ways to redress those concerns that will result in noticeable differences in the way the workforce perceives the issue."

Some of the concerns, however, were pointed out to the agency back in 2006 when Julie Elmore, then a graduate student working on her master's degree at Duke University, did her thesis project on National Park Service Employee Satisfaction and Employee Retention. That project, in which Ms. Elmore received responses from more than 2,500 Park Service employees, pointed to a number of areas of employee discontent. Some of the comments were quite biting:

* "In my park, I've seen a job created to employ the girlfriend of upper management as well as to move her entire family stateside. ... I watched my former superintendent play solitaire on his office computer for hours as well as to print out reams of paper from the Internet on recipes and ads for buying a boat."

* "We continue to put out large fires but fail to prevent the fires or see the cause."

* "Today's reality is that NPS managers at all levels are forced to concentrate all their energies on 'putting out fires' all day, every day. 'Doing more with less' is no longer an option. If preservation and protection of park lands is still important to the American people, then the case must be made to increase budgets and to hire and retain quality personnel."

* "We need to show pride and recognition to those who do a good job. This motivation goes a long way. We need to build pride again in our mission and our agency. People will see the difference and want to be a part of it. We have to build it from within, person to person, not with a national campaign and button."

* "Quit pulling out leaders and filling with cronies. Hire good people and believe in them. Let them do their work without the fear that they could be removed if a stakeholder isn't happy."

* "I have a short time left before I am eligible for retirement, and cannot wait. I believe in the mission of the National Park Service and it is extremely difficult to watch how that mission has been purposely and effectively corrupted and derogated over the past six years. Ideologues have hired ideologies."

How might the Park Service improve its overall ranking? According to the Best Places to Work survey, effective leadership at the top of the agency is the ticket:

For the fourth time in a row, the primary driver of job satisfaction in the federal space is effective leadership. While this finding is no surprise, the reasons behind it are. In a first, the 2009 Best Places rankings break down which factors shape employees’ views of their leadership. Conventional wisdom holds that the greatest influence on an employee’s satisfaction is his or her immediate supervisor. However, the 2009 Best Places rankings reveal that it is actually the quality of an agency’s senior leadership that has the greatest bearing on employee views.

Comments

I'm sure the survey is correct but on a recent trip to Grand Canyon North Rim and Cedar Breaks parks I talked to two NPS employees who said this was their 'dream job'. And they were both working the fee stations at the time. One had been laid off in Ga. and the other had been a nurse. Both thought they now had the best job in the world.

My son and I were at Yellowstone and Grand Teton two weeks ago and every ranger and NPS employee we had contact with had wonderful attitudes and were extremely friendly and sure seemed as though they loved their jobs. Our first night at Yellowstone we went to the campfire program at Bridge Bay Campground. It was presented by a male and female ranger who were husband and wife. They explained that they had both quit their jobs at the same time to accept ranger positions at Yellowstone. They made a point of explaining how happy they were to have made that choice.

Maybe there are areas within the NPS that are more unpleasant to work at than others, but we sure did not get that impression from what we saw at Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Like my son said when I asked him if he noticed how friendly the employees were..."You would be friendly too if you got to live and work around here".

Stephen Hicks

I am noticing frequent problems accessing NPT in recent days, sometimes briefly, some lasting. As I submitted a commented a few minutes ago, I got the dreaded "Server Not Available" error, and my post was null-filed. After several more failures, the site came up again.

Haven't seen this before on NPT, and all other web-activities continue normally.

Terry, those kids were high on gas fumes. I don't know one out of hundreds of fee rangers I've ever worked with during my ten seasons who said working the fee booth is a "dream job". And if they weren't high on diesel fumes, then it must have been their first week on the job. Or they were just lying to the public, which is pretty much required of them on a daily basis.

Anyway, Kurt, isn't this story a re-run?

The NPS sucks and it's a horrible agency to work for...yada, yada, yada....nepotism...yada, yada, yada...cronyism...yada, yada, yada...

...how seasonals are treated...yada, yada, yada...

We rangers love our jobs - the actual job part and we won't tell a visitor we hate it (even if we did). The hard part is that mgmt doesn't care about seasonals, treats us like we are worthless and half the time won't bother to learn our names. Most of us aren't valued from within. As this story suggests, if my supervisor actually showed interest in me and my duties that would help a ton. Living conditions are poor at best and there is no training, incentives, or even opportunities to move up and stay with the agency. It's practically impossible to have a family and be in the service anymore.

I have been with the NPS for almost 10 years and I have seen many great rangers move on because of these reasons. We are filling positions with retired folks and vets - people that have had horrible jobs in the private sector - of course they love the NPS. They see it as a vacation, not a career. They don't have families and bills to worry about. I believe deeply in the mission and have struggled with all my heart and passion over the years to see it through. I have tried endlessly to get a perm job only to have nepotism, vet status and the glorious SKEP program move people ahead of me. You wonder why morale is low amonst the core career people....

The NPS has been in serious decline, some of it almost a free-fall, since its reorganization in 1995. That means almost fourteen years of erosion that will take some years to stop followed by several years of recovery. The good news is that I think the recovery may be underway, but I'm not sure how long it can be sustained. The economy, already large and increasing entitlements in the federal budget, and the potential for another reorganization or consolidation all threaten the Service. That doesn't mean we can't find bright spots. If there is much satisfaction out there, I would expect to find it in the parks where the idea of being "paid in sunsets," especially in the crown jewel parks and the West, is still very much alive. The reality is that the NPS is now much more than the lean, male ranger riding off into the Sierra alpenglow. Fewer and fewer employees get to work the so-called "dream" jobs. That "old" NPS eroded with the increasing crush of specialization, regulation and compliance that affected the organization dating from the late '60s, and with the Yosemite riot in 1970 that forced the Service to reexamine the park ranger concept.

Also, we should remember that all of what I mentioned above occurred at a time when the Service was marginally funded at the field level and undergoing rapid national expansion, both physical and ideological. It wasn't until the mid-'90s that we got several park rangers off food stamps by paying them a living wage. Then the Service proceeded to repair itself even though it wasn't broken. Several regional offices and centers paid dearly and several folks have the scars - and settlements - to prove it.

Today, the NPS has to own up to the fact, then convince Congress, that it is grossly overextended in terms of mission and facilities. Its central office experts often work at least one or two pay grades below their counterparts in other federal agencies. That needs to change in order to compete for expert employees. Its interpretive mission is now viewed through a politically correct, multicultural lens where moral equivalency sets a stage for visitors to reach their own conclusions. And, hopefully, narcissism and a host of non-merit factors no longer determine selections as they once did until recently in at least one regional office.

Indeed, repairing and restoring the NPS into even a mediocre place to work will be a serious challenge. I, for one, am glad that I'm out of it. I really love the park idea and am proud of my contributions to the mission over a long career. The NPS was a calling to me; however, it is no longer the noble organization I knew and loved and I have directed my children to avoid it as a career. Instead, I have encouraged them to follow the money, then volunteer because those folks really are the ones with the "dream" jobs.

I have only come across 1 individual who had a problem with her job, and she was in fact a fee booth employee at Cape Hatteras Light house. But as far as the 2 Grand Canyon fee booth employees, they may just have been referring to working in the Grand Canyon in any capacity as their dream job. I have visited many NP sites over the past 20 years and I have always found the rangers in all areas to appear to love what they are doing, but I am sure this survey is not wrong either. I just hope that things improve for everyone.

For me it was the lack of merit based advancement and too much emphasis on self-promotion and ladder climbing careerism that led me out the door. It was not possible to be a motivated and talented employee and then be advanced according to your talents and capacities. You had to sit and wait for the slugs in front of you that were content to polish a chair with their butts. I remember one chief ranger telling me that I had a good chance for a job once the guy in the current job retired. He said, "he's a short timer with only about six more years till he retires." Oh that's all huh?

Not an organization that rewards the go getters of this world. For many of the less talented it IS a nice place to wait out the time in tranquil anticipation of a generous retirement package.

For a humorous look at life in the rank & file my story blog on the NPS might bring a smile to those of you who have slogged through the musty halls of this myopic bureaucracy: www.parkcircus.blogspot.com

ask the ticket takers at the badlands national park?i worked at mt rushmore in 1997,and yes the perm. employees think their s--t dosent stink..i agree with the above statement..

Probably the worst thing about the NPS is the way our leadership just moves people around instead of disciplining them or firing them when they need to be. Heaven forbid someone took the time to manage people instead of working on a "business model", whatever that means. Since when was preservation of our natural resources a "business" anyway? We all need to be grateful and accountable to Congress and taxpayers but let's not try to emulate the private sector because I think we can all see how well that works! Finally, while the parks and the people who visit them are valuable beyond words, trying to pile on more and more expectations with less and less bodies is crushing us all. Someone throw me a life ring....

The National Park Service is still very much an elite agency in government, with all the modern challenges of a large organization. The NPS is trying to improve agency hiring, and in some quarters is gaining traction. The U.S. Park Police command under its current leadership is doing solid work. Yes our law enforcement rangers are still a closed and insular clique, but that too will change over time. I understand everything everyone else has said, it can be true at certain parks at certain times. But not everything is black and white. There is nuance, strengths and weaknesses even from those NPS leaders we see as being controversial. I was the biographer of many of the senior NPS leadership and saw what happened behind closed doors. It is a tough world for them too.

Well put RoadRanger and spot on as my British friends would say. The reorganization of 1995 was a joke in poor taste and completely ineffective. Just witness the fact that we have morphed back to essentially the same kind of organization that existed before 1995 just one with three fewer regional offices (in theory at least). As an agency we tried to reorganize without ever re-engineering the work and oh my, guess what, it was a failure. Roger Kennedy decried our militaristic command style of leadership so he crippled us with decisions by committees. The old guard has all retired and as an agency we did little to nothing to prepare future leaders based on merit. It comes as no surprise that the survey highlights the lack of effective leadership.

Our senior "leadership" is dismal. Never in a 30+ year career has there been such shallow field experience at both WASO and in most of the regional offices. Regions have reverted back to the bloated entities that they once were and yes, jobs still get created out of thin air for the spouses of regional office employees. In the Intermountain Region only one of the senior leaders has any kind of recent field experience and many of them fail to even get out to at least one park a year. Is it any wonder these people lack credibility among park staffs?

We have become an agency seemingly obsessed with process over progress, tethering our field employees to their computers in order to feed meaningless databases that force you to report the same information across several different platforms. Rather than expend the time and energy at central offices to extract the information that is already available in one system or another it's just easier to have the parks report on it again in some slightly modified form. The time wasted is incredible - especially since we fail to make the IT investments necessary to provide the field with the necessary bandwidth to feed these resource greedy computer applications - sure, they work well in central offices but please remember that in remote park areas the information highway often turns into a badly-rutted dirt road. We have nearly destroyed our contracting capabilities and are well on the way to doing the same with personnel. At times it seems as if we are consciously trying to make our administrative functions as ineffective as possible and as far removed from the parks as we can possibly get them.

So why do some of us old dogs still hang on? Because at the end of the day for us it's still about protecting park resources and serving park visitors. The mission of the agency hasn't changed and it's still an incredibly important mission. I wouldn't trade my career in the NPS for anything but I do long for the days of effective leaders that came up through the ranks and who actually did understand park operations. I long to have a Director like Geroge Hartzog again - someone who could and did walk the halls of Congress and be recognized and welcomed. Perhaps it's all just wishful thinking or wistful reminiscing - but please, give us our agency back.

Some great comments here folks. Thanks! I can understand how seasonals might feel like second class
citizens, but it's often almost as bad for rank & file permanents. Congress's capture of the NPS for its pork barrel schemes has evolved a class of managers more interested in agency growth and personal careers than
preserving the Parks or assisting their employees. Most of my supervisors were most talented at managing the
egos of those above them; some had only the vaguest idea what their employees did and what problems they
faced.

Anonymous of June 26 makes an important point about the lack of accountability of NPS management. Every Park I worked at seemed to have an Assistant Superintendent or three who had seriously screwed up at some other unit. The system for wayward managers seems remarkably similar to that of the Catholic church for pedophile priests.

Beamis hits the nail on the head, both with his comment and his wickedly funny and only slightly exaggerated
park circus site. I wish he'd resume work on it. He may be wrong about the lack of opportunity for 'the go getters of the world' though. Here's a snippet from http://www.doioig.gov/upload/APR2009SAR.txt , the most recent DOI Inspector General's Report to Congress:

"After a confidential source alleged a possible conflict of interest over a real estate transaction between a
park superintendent and a park concessioner, the OIG investigated the case. We determined that the
superintendent bought a parcel of land in 1992 for $84,000, sold it in December 2002 for $425,000, and
financed the sale of the property to a concessioner over the course of 63 months."

"Based on the appearance of a conflict-of-interest, we reviewed documents submitted by the superintendent.
This review determined that he made false statements or concealed material facts on his Office of Government
Ethics form 450, as well as in an e-mail he sent to the NPS reviewing official who had requested additional
information concerning the nature of the transaction. The superintendent also signed the conflict of interest
certification for the contract process, further complicating his position."

"Our findings were presented to the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, which declined to prosecute the NPS employee because his case did not meet its criminal threshold. Our office was notified in March 2009 that the superintendent had been transferred to another national park and given a Letter of Reprimand."

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Jarvis and the new team can turn this once proud agency around, or if Obama's talk of accountability and transparency are mere rhetoric.

With two wars, the economy, and instability in Iran, it's hard for me to see just how the White House will have time to focus on the plight of NPS employees.

I only worked seasonally for the NPS as a uniformed park ranger-naturalist (Crater Lake, Zion, and Yosemite 1966-71). During that time, I found myself to be a member of a highly motivated and respected organization. Many of my colleagues were university professors and professional educators. Some performed research while carrying out their duties presenting programs and engaging in visitor contact.

Our guided walks and evening programs were very well attended, and they were frequently audited by peers, supervisors, and park administrators (and their families). Sometimes, unannounced audits would be conducted by staff from the Regional Office.

My direct supervision was highly educated, trained and motivated. Many contributed to the overall knowledge base of the park through publications. Standards for performance of duty were set high. Recruiting and hiring of a professional, high-quality staff was taken seriously and given a very high priority. Most seasonal employees, who were not already employed full time during the off-season, aspired towards permanent NPS status.

In my day, the NPS was considered to be among the very best places to work within the Federal Government. How is it possible that today that the NPS now ranks much lower than other Federal Agencies, like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, EPA, or even the US Dept. of Commerce?

Given the recent history of depressing survey results as summarized in the article above, and the description of major employee morale issues confirmed by comments made by several with more recent NPS experience than I have had, I can only ask, what has changed? What are some of the root causes that have allowed the NPS to slip so dramatically from the organization I remember from my youth?

I look forward to reading more comments on this important topic.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

With all this negative flow about quality work issues regarding the NPS, I sure hope this doesn't deter the younger generation from going into resource management...especially when we need the very best and the brightest in the field of resource & wildlife management. Why does the NPS get the dipstick in the job pool with mediocre talent? Who's lowering the totem pole for supervisory talent? It's understandable, why the younger generation doesn't look towards the NPS as prestigious employment. The cronyism that forestalls the rewarding of those who display their intellectual mantle for a job well done, is a prime example of structural interdepartmental family nepotism that stifles the creativity of the best and the brightest. Yes, seasonal workers must earn those brownie points for advancement by doing the job of of a glorified custodian that wipes toilet bowl clean. You pay your dues college boy! There's a lot of blame to go around with the NPS and starts at the very top...the President and down. The last administration didn't give a living hoot how the NPS was run...as long as there was rape, greed and pillage on the drawing boards. Put the right people in who could careless about the proper direction of the NPS and it's natural resources and care, borderlines on defunct administration that's hell bent towards failure. Sure looked like it over the past eight years. A complete overhaul is needed and let's kick in some young talent for change. The old school is dead! Let's start afresh and it's NOW!

I agree with Tahoma. Beamis should write us another chapter of Park Circus! Because the NPS has a chronic disease and laughter is the best medicine.

Owen, be grateful for your memories. I'm not sure so much has changed. For example, Harry Yount resigned under pressure and frustration after only 14 months and a young Carl Sharsmith endured reassignment by managers jealous and threatened by his talents. Also, with all due respect, five summers in a short season park is a honeymoon.

Yes, it's true, there was a time when Dr. Carl Sharsmith was reassigned to a duty station other than Tuolumne Meadows. This was during the late 1950's. Carl had been working summers in Yosemite since 1931. He was the only naturalist at Tuolumne Meadows until 1946. Will Neely joined him at Tuolumne Meadows in 1950. By the late 1950's, he and Will had become very popular with return Tuolumne campers. Many of these return campers purposefully sought them out for walks and evening programs. Less experienced staff had difficulties competing. But, part of Carl's re-assignment was to perform a special ecological survey for the NPS on visitor impact of High Sierra lakes and meadows of Kings Canyon National Park. He and Will Neely were eventually reinstated at Tuolumne Meadows, and the ranger-naturalist programs there continued to prosper.

In the years prior to his "reassignment" Carl had been awarded the Department of Interior medal for meritorious service, after he had completed 25 seasons of service. He went on to serve the NPS each summer at Tuolumne for another three and one-half decades, completing his last season in 1994 at the age of 91.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Owen, don't forget the Stonemeadow Riots and the bigotry and corruption displayed by some NPS cops and their bosses. After reading my mentor's autobiography and accounts from the time period Owen referenced, it's clear that this proclaimed "Golden Age" wasn't entirely golden, especially when it came to bureaucratic management. Since then, the bureaucracy has only gotten bigger and badder, spurred on in part by the rash proclamation of national historic sites and other "lesser" parks, which the '60s Historical Perversion Act catalyzed.

But I do believe in other ways, things have changed drastically, especially in the quality and experience of naturalists. The agency is just another bureau now, and its ponderous weight stifles innovation and repels competent employees.

One commenter cautioned us "not try to emulate the private sector because I think we can all see how well that works." For thousands of conservation trusts, it works quite well.

Frank,

The Stoneman Meadow Riot of July 4, 1970 occurred long before the time of commissioned, professional-grade law enforcement rangers in the NPS. Prior to and during the riots, however, the NPS was being advised by the FBI. This event, which was perhaps the single most important event that spawned the law enforcement specialty in the NPS, is the subject of ongoing research by former NPS historians.

With respect to how the NPS compares with other government agencies, I wonder if it doesn't simply come down to average salary per person. I don't think the Nuclear Regulatory Agency has many lower-salaried "seasonal" employees. The highly specialized and technical nature of their work probably commands more highly-paid employees than any other branch of government. For example, I'm willing to bet that the Nuclear Regulatory Agency has more GS-14 to GS-18 salaried employees (per full-time equivalent employee) than any other Federal Agency. Each individual's job assignment and measures of performance would also be highly defined.

By contrast, I wonder how job definitions, assignments, and measures of performance are apportioned for seasonal and career NPS'ers? To what extent did the NPS survey even consider seasonal employees? To what extent is there a clear connection between excellence in performance of duty and salary/career advancement?

Unless this Federal employment survey is highly affected by salary per person, I cannot fathom how it is possible for the Nuclear Regulartory Commission to be ranked higher than the NPS.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Today, most Park Service superintendents come out of Washington. They are relatives of former Park Service managers or friends of, or friends of politicians. Two simple rules exist for Park Service managers to succeed and move up: 1) Do not do anything to any Park Service family members, those that have or have had family in the service, no matter how incompetent. And 2.), Do not do anything without calling the region first! I should add a third. 3) Before any hiring at the GS-11 level or above, one must check to see if there are any "NPS Family Members" or "Friends" out there who would like the job first.

Yours Truly,
Anonymous

This comment was edited--ed.

Wow, you guys have some interesting stories and experiences. If you don't mind I'll ask a question. I came out of undergrad with an Criminal Justice degree and knew that there was little chance that I'd actually be able to get hired on with NPS or any other federal agency. I didn't want to work with the local police stations (undergrad taught me that). So I joined the military so I could get my foot up on the other applicants. I don't see how being is a negative thing. I knew what it would take to get hired and have given years to my country to build my resume.

So now the question. For those of you who have worked for the NPS would you work for them again? I've got an interview in a couple of months.

Quickest way into the National Park Service is through "Dispatch". This is one place where jobs are always available and advertised to the public, not just open to current federal employees. Once in (6 months), the World is your oyster! LE Rangers get 20 year retirement. Real sweet deal, in most NPS units. Go to an undesireable NPS unit, get them to pay for your FLETC, and away you go!

My interview mentioned above is for a LE position. Do you guys think that a full time LE position is worth persuing? Or am I going to end up working for another gov agency with nepotism? How many hours does a LE ranger normally work? I'm getting out of a career where I make around 70k but work 60 hours a week. To me the trade off between a life and money just isn't worth it.

Any thoughts?

I am a retired industry executive who, decided last year to work with the National Park System - entered a temporary clerk position - project compete in 4+ months - then took a 30 day temporary Park Guide Position - thoroughly enjoyed the work content of both assignments - I have to think that my mistake came when, I made it public that I would like to work in a long term basis - somewhere around the 2nd month of my tenure. All of a sudden, I got a blank look from the Adminstrative Officer - had, on frequesnt occasions, employees come by to tell me that I would never stand a chance - too many people wanted the regular jobs - Next mistake, I persisted, had a new young Supt come in - I did tell him during a conversation that I would like to work at the park - He, immediately, went into how difficult it was - never saying no but, obviously, not encouraging - then, a position (temporary) was posted very near the end of my last assignment - I told them that I had applied - then, suddenly - bizarre things happened - an accusation of improper conduct - not compying with a Policy?? - that, first I had never seen or heard of - and, when I finally found (on the internet) what Ithink they were referring too, I had not done anything contrary to the policy - then accused me of misuse of government time - reason was that I was performin duties outside of my then job discription but, were duties directed by my ex -boss and current boss when I acepted the new assignment -

Once, I received work from NPS that I was highly qualified and forwarded to the Agency for interview - (I had since finished my 2nd assignment) I contacted the Supt to ask him about the status. Firt I was told that it would be a few days because they were trying to get together to talk about it - then, my next contact, he said that they were bringing in a new acting Chief and it would be sometime after Christmas - a couple of weeks later, I inquired again, then I was told that they may not fill the position in 2010 due to filling other positions - I asked which positions - they said "Oh, we don't have any othre positions, we meant we had to think about hiring a permanent Chief.- and, we won't be filling the position now - my next inquiry got the same answer, no filling of the position. My next inquiry, I received no response - I then visited the Park, and lo and behold, they had hired a brand new additionlal"young" student in that position - had actually been there since early December.

Now, besides the obvious subterfuge - out right lying - I know the student may be a recent Vet - I am on old Vet (5 years Army) - and may have been easy to appoint - but, why not just ell me the facts - tell the truth.

MY POINT TO ALL OF THIS I have talked to numerous employees of this Park - none will even respond to a question - all say "they may fire me if my name is in anything - Nobody stays here unless they know L_____ the
Administrative Officer They run off anybody who they don't like - - don't bring my name up, they fire people who say anything - "

I am a retired Industry guy with 5 years military and over 45 years in an industrial career - I would dearly llike to be of service to that Park - I enjoyed my work - I was extremely good at my work - but, what can you do in these cases???

I really find this behavior unacceptable and sickening.

No.

Hey all NPS employees, don't think for a minute that your agency is the only one with bad management, nepotism, ageism, & every other -ism. I'm 30+ years in another govt agency (& so afraid of retaliation that I won't say which one even in an anonymous post) and everything you mention goes on in our agency, too. You get where you want to go by either nepotism, brown-nosing, or back-stabbing. Mgmt continuously makes bad decisions & then blames those of us in the field. We are understaffed, underfinanced, & management-heavy. The only reward for a doing good work is more work, usually work not done by a bad employee with 'connections'. When I started my career it wasn't like this, but now, I tell my kids 'don't ever work here'. So, it's not just the NPS, it's govt-wide. ALL federal agencies need reform. I'm eligible for retirement now, so I'm outta there in a few months. Would stay longer but can't take the sweatshop anymore. Good luck to all you NPS employees. I'll give you all my most friendly smile and most polite manners because I KNOW what you're going thru!

Interesting posts Kurt. My own 37 year tenure with the NPS had some bumps in the road, a few spur marks, etc., but on balance it was highly enjoyable, I have no regrets. Perhaps its because I really did like working in the parks, it has been my lifelong interest, so I had a job that I wanted to do. As I got older, I began to realize how many good and talented people I got to work with, my free time was where I wanted to be. Additionally, I came to realize how many interesting visitors I was meeting on a daily basis. People from both all over the US and the world. Be it in the campgrounds, in the visitor center or especially on the trails, my first love, the job became more enjoyable as I got older. I also had the opportunity to work with some first rate managers and to meet employees of sister agencies. No, I would have to say from own experience, in any case, that someone who loves the outdoors, enjoys meeting people, and is interested in public lands management, well. it would be hard to beat working for the NPS.

Yes, Ron Mackie is on to something about the value of working in the national park service. Like him, meeting so many interesting (and eager !) visitors was a great kick.

Another great thing was the variety of work. From job to job, it was almost as if each was a different career, so many new things did I learn about the world, about education, about management strategies, about working with local communities. I found important friends and colleagues in the community and in the NPS.

One of the very best things: the great majority of people really believed in the Mission of the NPS, and were not there for the money. That led to the good side of the "NPS Family" because you could call nearly anybody, many you may never have met, in any park of central office and find that you were dedicated to the same things. Such people tell you the truth about the situation you are facing and the people involved, and give good ideas on how to do your job well in trying situations.

Another of the good parts of the "Family" is generally there is a homogeneity in commitment to consistent and excellent visitor experiences for all parks, across the Nation. The troubling part of the homogeneity, of course may be the compaints in some of the previous posts about the buddy system.

In my experience, though, I saw very little of it. I had no family or political leaders pulling for me to get in. But I have been supported by wonderful people in the Service throughout my career, even though I had no ties to them.

But I can see how it may look like a buddy system to some people who only see a small part of it. Half the people who joined the NPS when I did got in, though, in 'unusual' ways, because it was so difficult to get in. Often, a typical case, a Seasonal employee who had done excellent work gets a boost to get in. I came in via a technical job, and later was transfered over to a professional one. I have friends who came in as bookkeepers and eventually were moved over to park ranger. All that may look like a buddy system, and is extremely frustrating to those who never get in the career ranks. But the last President who went out of his way to create a professional way to enter the government, that was reflected in the NPS, was Lyndon Johnson. Gradually political and budget pressures on the NPS meant that managers had to go through weird contortions to obtain a staff of believers who also are competent. Training, for the same political and budgetary reasons, also has suffered historically. One value of the old system, you could learn a lot on the job. This is not so true, today.

On the complaint of Anon, above, about how superintendents are selected, I have a somewhat different take as well. When I joined, the typical career ladder for a superintendent was moving up the Park Ranger ranks to Chief Ranger, and then to Superintendent or Deputy. As the world changed, and new skills were required, or as bureaucratic requirements were forced on the NPS by congressional committees or the Office of Management and Budget, there was pressure to hire from outside the ranger ranks, and often the need to bring in superintendents with 'new' skills of resource management, science, cultural resources or partnership-beyond-park-borders.

There is a dark side of this story, too: I was told by an extremely high official in the Ronald Reagan Administration that it was their political goal to split the influence and political power of the Park Rangers by cutting back on the number of divisions in washington managed by Rangers, by pitting 'science' against 'park operations,' by pitting maintenance backlog funding against expansion of new conservation and preservation opportunities, by bringing in people from other Dept. of Interior Agencies and placing them ahead of NPS career professionals in jobs like the Divisions of Park Planning, Resource Managment, and even a whole slew of park superintendencies. I'll never forget when a new superintendent, right out of the Heritage Conservation agency was made superintendent of Ft. McHenry and promptly got volunteer Marine Corps assistance to "flatten" the parade grounds by bulldozing the land with enormous land movers. Up to 11 inches of cultural soil was disturbed with no archeological survey in advance, no 106 Historic Preservation study.

The old homogenious system also meant NPS was weaker for a lack of women and minorities in key positions; many talented women and minorities found their way up different career ladders, and often their previous job was not Chief Ranger. It is true that during the George H. Bush era the two NPS Directors placed numerous people, sometimes because they could be pushed around, sometimes because they were cronies. Sometimes extra layers of the bureaucracy were set up for these people, even in the field, between the Regional Office and the parks. For the most part, when you consider how massively the anti-conservation pressure on the NPS has been for the last 30 years, it is remarkable how well professionalism has held on. Most park superintendents want to do the right thing, and better training is finally being provided to the new superintendents. It is true you occasionally see a strange outbreak from this area or that -- for example the distortion of snowmachine use information from Yellowstone, as revealed in this website, and the need of the new Director to intervene to stop the destructive reorganization in the Northeast Region or the Core Ops program, also revealed here -- but through all these bad times you find professionalism pushing through the carnage like young growth after a fire. The Regional Director in the NE is still telling people he continues to implement his Bush-era 'right-sizing' but few people believe he has Authority. That was lost when the Bush-era Directors were removed (or not retained).

My assessment is the problems in the Service are NOT systematic (built in), but produced by political pressures from people who do not want the NPS to achieve the Mission. My sense is with the greater support of the American people for the NPS Mission, the Service can be trusted to eliminate most of the abuses. Despite its problems, the NPS is a great place to work.

After numerous years of working for private contractors and another federal agency I decided to switch to the NPS a few years ago assuming it would be just fun. The person that hired me said things like I'd be flying around doing herd counts, riding horse, that I'd be hired at a certain grade and that the park service takes care of it's own. What a laugh, none of it was true. It's common knowledge in my division the superintendent is a quota and grossly incompetent. She has an avoidant personality; never happy except when around her pets and openly shows animosity towards those she dislikes. It's cronyism beyond belief, and yes, nepotism too. Pets are being groomed for jobs. The pets are stool pigeons and report the slightest thing they do not like to get the disfavored in trouble. Low ranking seasonals are given authority over full time supervisors. There is a total lack of concern for safety and happiness. Region has increased budgeting with specific high priorities, and the money is not being used as intended. Things I truly miss about the other federal agency I worked for and most of the contractors are that they all wanted us to be happy and safe. Then there are paradigms and micromanagement, if it wasn’t done before it cannot be done now and I have never been so intensely micromanaged. I’m treated like I’m some sort of little dumb kid. My other federal employer wanted new ideas and I was getting perfect appraisals, cash awards and time off awards for thinking outside the box. I was a participant to one of the “anonymous” surveys a couple years ago and blasted management. At the end of the survey it was obvious they knew my pay grade and what park I worked at and I felt I would be reported so I never participated in the telephone questioning triggered by the survey. I occasionally work with other agency employees and contractors that have worked with parks before. They all know something is wrong with the Park Service as they are treated so much differently and see what’s going on. I believe the best remedy for the park service is to either clean it out by starting over at the division chief level on up, or to totally gut the park service and replace it with both private contract management and operation. A couple years ago another employee upon departure that was treated like a moron made a statement I can identify with: "Had I known what his job was all about, I never would have accepted it". Fortunately I work for a narcissist and as long as I tow the line to perfection, swallow the lies and give him daily praise I am somewhat sheltered from the rest.

After reading this article, as well as the comments, I must say I am a bit wary of accepting a job with the National Park Service. I am currently a DoD civilian... is it better to work for the U.S. Army, or for NPS? Now that Obama has proposed freezing the budget, I am more afraid than ever. DoD funding will probably never be cut in my lifetime, whereas NPS funding might be where the ax falls first.

Trust me what this article says is true. I work at a National Historic Site in the North East Region. I have heard it doesn't affect the larger "Parks" such as Grand Canyon. But, it does exist and is only getting worse.

I appreciate the passion so many people have shared on this subject. The NPS draws employees with strong convictions and this is evident.

I guess we have been lucky. Many of the terrible experiences I see related above have not come through our door. I've never seen nepotism involved at work. When there have been incidents of illegal activity, in most cases, action has been taken. In some cases, employees have been fired, in others, not. In this way, the NPS is no different than any other federal agency. We have laws and regulations that protect the Service and the employee. A few bad apples will always get through. In my experience, they tend to be the exception, not the rule.

But, I can say, safely, that in 20 years of service at eight different parks, I could not imagine a better career choice. I look back now on the last two decades and have incredible memories...of dragging dirt roads, fighting fires, flying on helicopters, river rafting, designing curriculum, arresting people, even cleaning toilets. I remember seeing the light go on in a small child's eyes when they finally make the connection and understand what these places mean. I remember pulling people from the river after they've flipped, taking VIPs into the back country, and swearing in a junior ranger. I also have sat with parents after their sons died, holding their hands as they said good bye to their children. I have had the highest highs and the lowest lows - and I have always felt needed. What other job in the world would I have the opportunity to do all of this?

I see in a lot of the letters above that there is a tremendous amount of frustration in the training and lack of support provided by the agency to support the employees. I would suggest that the nature of these jobs and experiences they encompass are so broad that I don't think we can expect the Service to meet all of our training needs - as employees, we end up taking the extra step. This job means taking sacrifices. Rangers take night classes, spend our vacations climbing and studying foreign languages, volunteer at the ER to get more CE credits...we do these things because there is no way the NPS can provide all of these training opportunities. I don't think our jobs are like any other. We have a propensity to burn out - we sleep with the radio on, ready to be called out. We go in early to make sure our shoes are polished and end up staying late to answer another visitor question. We need to look out for each other and for ourselves. If I could fault the agency, maybe this would be it - we allow our employees to give their all and forget to tell them to take a break. We all need a break sometimes.

For someone considering a job in the NPS, I say go for it. Realize that you are going to have to put a lot of energy into it - you may have to pay for your own trainings. You will likely move to various parks in your career. There is no guarantee that your spouse will have a job at the same park. You'll probably live in some houses that will not thrill you. But you will work with some of the greatest people in the world, folks that would give their life to protect you or a park visitor. You'll live in the nation's treasures and will be responsible for protecting them. I can't imagine a better job. Our children see what we do, are frustrated when there is a call out at dinner time, or when we miss a birthday party because papa had to give the evening program. But I know they would both love to grow up to be park rangers.

I concur with the comments of David Smith above. I worked for the NPS for 31 years. Did I have a bad boss or two? Yes, but is that any different than, say, IBM? Were all my training needs met? No, and I would argue that a ranger's job is so complex and varied--and differs from park to park--that it would be impossible to design a training curriculum that met all the contingencies that a ranger might face. Did I put in hours of uncompensated overtime? Sure, but the rewards for assisting visitors or rescuing people or dealing with bad guys more than made up for it.

I was a park superintendent or a regional office Associate Director for at least a decade. During that time, I came in contact with literally hundreds of park managers. As noted above in some of the comments, there were some bad ones, but the number was, in my judgment, incredibly low. Most were involved in the daily struggle to have their park staffs do the three things that have to be done in all parks: preserve and protect resources; provide quality visitor services; and maintain productive relationships with park interest groups. With shrinking staffs and declining budgets, these three tasks became increasingly difficult.

I was also fortunate to be an instructor at the Albright Training Center at Grand Canyon during the time that many new employees were involved in a 10-week course entitled, "Introduction to Park Operations." I was impressed with the quality of the trainees, many of whom went on to occupy significant senior management positions as they progressed through their careers. Did we have some losers? Definitely, but vast majority were compentent and highly motivated.

It is always easy to pay attention to those who complain because the find ways to make their complaints known. The satisfied people are out there doing their jobs. I don't regret for a moment my career choice, and if presented with another opportunity, I would do the same thing. As David Smith said, "I can't imagine a better job."

Rick Smith

I found this article doing research on NPS employees! There is a culture that becomes apparent whenever I deal with them! As an ordinary visitor I see the problems with the NPS as they come through in the interaction. When NPS has a monopoly one has to put up with it, If I could get the product somewhere else, I would! All this explains why the “client” experience is almost always bad when I talk to a NPS employee! There needs to be a change. This past winter I was in Yellowstone and saw a lot of park workers, but nothing getting done. Sitting in their trucks for hours at a time, same place, everyday! (not tracking wolfs, I checked) This seems to happen in all the parks that I visit and that would be most of the parks in the west! Most years they don’t even know how to plow snow on roads that are open in winter! I go to enough parks to see and hear of a NPS culture! So as long as I can go to a park and keep my contact with that “culture” to a minimum, I’ll keep going! I’ll continue to be my sweet self and just ignore the attitude and enjoy my visit! Change needs to come from the top or from the outside and that’s not going to happen because it is deeply entrenched!

Nepotism is at work like never before. It literally cripples operations and the ability of those that value education, are highly skilled and have tireless work ethics from being able to do their jobs. Management, what management? Leadership, is there such a thing here? Independent flotillas drifting aimlessly along, lost.

Wise man say "go grasshopper, go look into the Intermountain Region. And go once more to the mighty Grand Canyon, were you will see it all. Go now grasshopper, go." (Nepotism and Fraternalism at its worst for sure. Oh, and did I mention corruption?) We need Director Jarvis back. Let FEMA take over the spill. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity here. We need to keep thinking change. Let's not blow it! And, good job Mr. Jarvis.

NPS Anonymous

Check out this excerpt from the most recent issue of PJ Ryan's hilarious and often brilliant Thunderbear... which he labels THE OLDEST ALTERNATIVE NEWSLETTER IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT http://www.workingnet.com/thunderbear/284.html...

"Readers of THUNDERBEAR (and I suspect, present or former employees of the National Park Service) have often asked your kindly editor why the National Park Service is the most hide bound, slow to change, reactionary agency in the Federal Government?
First of all, is this accolade really deserved? Has the NPS really gone to the head of the class to win the Oscar for bureaucratic obfustication in the Federal Government?

Yup! It's true! We really are the best! Take it from an expert; nobody beats the NPS at Obstructionism.

The expert in question is none other than the former Inspector General of the Department of Interior, Earl Devaney.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Finance on January 30, 2003, Inspector General Devaney remarked:

"Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I have served in the Federal Government for a little over 32 years. I have never seen an organization more unwilling to accept constructive criticism or embrace new ideas than the National Park Service. Their culture is to fight fiercely to protect the status quo and reject any idea not their own."

There you have it neighbors! Confirmation from the Man Himself."..... read the rest of Ryan's story here (scroll down to the bottom for this article) http://www.workingnet.com/thunderbear/284.html

As a seasonal employee who has worked in three different parks I believe it depends on the park and the management at these parks. But it really boils down to the fact the large percentage of employees in the NPS are seasonals and all but a few can get jobs year round in the NPS system or permanent positions due to less and less openings and later and later retirement of those holding permanent positions. I enjoy the time I work in the National Park System and would love to do it full time and year round.

For those readers who think only NPS seasonals and lower graded permanent employees are
terribly discriminated against or treated badly, let's refresh our memories by re-reading:

Judge Kessler ruled that Mintzmyer, first female Regional Director, had been retaliated
against by senior Lead Counsel, Representation before Congress. There was just one woman who was the National Park Service’s first female ranger, first female superintendent, and first female regional director. She was the much decorated official who oversaw both the reintroduction of the wolves into the wilderness, and the controversial fire policies at Yellowstone. Eventually, she became the regional director in charge of the prize NPS region -- the Rocky Mountain Region. Then, suddenly, after 30 years of this type of service it seemed inconceivable that she was alleged to have illegally lobbied Congress (on behalf of the NPS) and threatened with an Inspector General’s investigation by a high-level DOI political appointee -- and later accused of being a potential threat to the President. Coincidentally, this happened just as she was criticizing political tampering with environmental programs and secret deals to gut related scientific studies -- deals between politicians and commodity groups subverting environmental and scientific programs in the West. What followed was a running battle in several forums -- involving many agencies and organizations -- and a bipartisan Congressional investigation with more than 45 witnesses and over 6,000 documents. Nothing could describe the results of the Subcommittee’s investigations as well as the executive summary of the huge report prepared by the Subcommittee's investigators and staff -- following the issuance of bipartisan subpoenae, a hearing and extensive review. "Interference in Environmental Programs by Political Appointees: The Improper Treatment of A Senior Executive Service Official" - A Report by theSub-Committee on Civil Service,U.S. House of Representatives, Congressional Printing Office (July 1993).

Based on the evidence examined thus far, the Subcommittee concludes that the Department of Interior engaged in a politically motivated, underhanded operation to destroy an environmental document Ms. Mintzmyer headed. This activity resulted in the improper directed reassignment of Ms. Mintzmyer.

On September 24, 1991, the Subcommittee on the Civil Service, Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, held a hearing regarding alleged improprieties in the directed reassignments of two high-ranking career Senior Executive Service (SES) level civil servants, Ms. Lorraine Mintzmyer (National Park Service, Department of Interior) and Mr. John Mumma (Forest Service, Department of Agriculture). That hearing was the first step in the Subcommittee's investigation to determine whether the directed reassignments of these two SES individuals were contrary to law or warranted additional legislative action by the Subcommittee.

At the time she was reassigned, Ms. Mintzmyer was the first and only woman to serve as a National Park Service (NPS) regional director and the most decorated female employee in its history. Mr. Mumma was the first and only wildlife biologist to become a Forest Service regional forester. The Subcommittee had received information that both individuals were subjected to strong political and special interest pressures to deviate from environmental laws and guidelines. When they refused to give in, Ms. Mintzmyer and Mr. Mumma received directed reassignments which substantially altered and effectively crippled their careers, harmed their families, and led them both into accepting forced retirements in the ensuing year.

The Subcommittee viewed those allegations with the utmost seriousness and concern, launching a bipartisan investigation in September of 1991. In the past fifteen months, the Subcommittee has interviewed more than 45 witnesses and reviewed over 6,000 documents in connection with this investigation. In addition, the Sub-committee has identified significant missing documents and evidence that the Department of Interior (DOI) has failed to provide. This staff report transmits the results of the Subcommittees investigation to date into alleged improprieties in the directed reassignment of Ms. Mintzmyer.

Ms. Mintzmyer's account of her directed reassignment centered around the wholly political revision of a joint National Park Service and Forest Service environmental document, referred to as the "Vision document." The preparation of this document was inspired by Congress, and Congress directed that the document should facilitate protecting the Greater Yellowstone Area's ecosystem by developing coordination guidelines between the National Park Service and the Forest Service. This document was intended as a prototype for protecting the National Parks from the Federal government misusing the public lands surrounding the parks.

The Subcommittee's investigation has revealed an improper concerted activity by powerful commodity and special interest groups and the Bush Administration to eviscerate the Draft Vision document because the commodity and special interest groups perceived it as a threat. The Department of Interior and special interest groups first destroyed the sixty page scientific document, turning it into a ten page "brochure." They then developed a story that would explain the revisions and keep their actions a secret. Finally, to protect their acts and in apparent retaliation against Ms. Mintzmyer, the Department of Interior effectuated a directed reassignment which moved Ms. Mintzmyer out of the Rocky Mountain Region and away from the Vision document process.

The plan to revise the Draft Vision document began to unravel, however, when the Subcommittee launched its investigation into the matter. The Department of Interior's explanation for the events leading up to the revision of the Draft Vision document are contradictory and unsubstantiated. Further, Ms. Mintzmyer was subjected to retaliatory acts after she was transferred to the Mid-Atlantic region, thus weakening the Department's position.

The Subcommittee's Conclusions

The Subcommittee concludes that the Department of Interior engaged in a politically motivated, underhanded operation to destroy the Draft Vision document because it was unacceptable to powerful and mooned commodity and special interest groups. This operation resulted in the improper directed reassignment and subsequent retaliation against Ms. Mintzmyer. The Subcommittee's conclusions are substantiated by the following evidence:

• An unusual, closed meeting was held on October 4, 1990, between high-ranking Department of Interior and Agriculture officials, a western U.S. Congressional delegation, and commodity and special interest groups. The sole purpose of this undocumented meeting appears to have been to deal with the Draft Vision document. (Chapter 2, 3 and 4)

• Mr. S. Scott Sewell, then Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior, effectuated the destruction of the Draft Vision document by revising and taking control of the DRAFT document in October of 1990 at the behest of John Sununu, former Chief of Staff for the White House. (Chapter 2 and 4)

• At the Department of Interior, Mr. Sewell and his staff revised the Draft Vision document outside of the public review process to accommodate special interest requests during the fall and winter of 1990, despite Mr. Sewell's denial, under oath, of revising or even reviewing the Draft document prior to June 1991. (Chapters 2, 3, and 4)

• Mr. Sewell tried to complete the operation by further neutralizing Ms. Mintzmyer in February of 1991 by demanding she be reprimanded for allegedly lobbying the U.S. Congress. His intent appears to have been to silence her or provide a basis for her directed reassignment. (Chapters 2 and 4)

• Following the false lobbying charge against Ms. Mintzmyer, the Department developed an explanation for how the Draft Vision document went from a sixty page scientific document to a ten page "brochure" and why the original drafting process for the Draft document was altered. They accomplished this by utilizing the following tactics: 1) closing previously planned national hearings to avoid anticipated positive public comment; 2) assisting outside groups to "rig' the appearance of negative public opinion at a few, select, local public meetings; 3) maneuvering the scientific interdisciplinary team, who had originally been responsible for drafting the document, out of the revision process; and 4) using the manufactured, negative, public comment to explain why the special interest revisions were necessary. (Chapter 3)

The inconsistencies in the Department's story were revealed on a number of fronts:

The participants at the October 4, 1990 meeting gave several contradictory explanations for the purpose of the meeting and could not substantiate those explanations with any documents. (Chapter 3 and 4)

Mr. Sewell originally denied, under oath, that he and his office revised the Draft Vision document. Document Exhibit # 122, written by Mr. Sewell's staffer, directly contradicted that assertion – specifically stating that Mr. Sewell's office was revising the Draft Vision document in line with special interest desires and Mr. Sewell was personally reviewing those changes. (Chapter 4)

Well after document # 122 was brought to his attention, Mr. Sewell changed his story in an unsworn statement and asserted that he had instead formed a "working group" in his office to review the Draft document, not to revise it. However, Mr. Sewell and members of the working group gave four separate, conflicting accounts of the group's mission. (Chapter 4)

The baseless attack on Ms. Mintzmyer for illegally lobbying Congress evaporated when Ms. Mintzmyer challenged the lobbying charge and the charge then disappeared. (Chapter 4)

The numerous shifting reasons for Ms. Mintzmyer's directed reassignment and the fact that Ms. Mintzmyer had announced her plans for retirement prior to her directed reassignment crippled the effectiveness of the Department's reasons for her transfer. (Chapter 5)

After the directed reassignment, the Department further retaliated against Ms. Mintzmyer by denying her a bonus and an SES step increase. Additionally, her subordinates in the Mid-Atlantic region were denied promotions and similar benefits and falsely told that Ms. Mintzmyer was to blame for them not receiving those benefits. (Chapter 5)



The commodity groups were stopped. The facts about how the Vision document’s environmental and scientific provisions had been intentionally subverted by political appointees for the benefit of commodity interests had, therefore, been thoroughly exposed. The congressional staff report contained footnotes to every major allegation and a huge attachment of documents detailing each fact. Although that staff report was published, no further hearings or votes by the Sub-Committee were possible as the elections and the end of the session intervened. Therefore, although the facts were out about the larger picture, Mintzmyer still had not been able to get the government to admit that Sewell’s statements about her had also been false -- an attempt to retaliate against her for speaking out.

A federal trial Mintzmyer v. DOI I, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1182; 66 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1804 (D.D.C. 1995), and MSPB proceedings Mintzmyer v. DOI II, 84 F.2d 419, 1996 U.S.App.LEXIS 11369 (Fed.Cir. 1996) followed. What was crucial to the litigation, and what Ms. Mintzmyer still had not gotten, went beyond the findings about compromising the Vision Document -- she sought the government’s explicit admission ‘on the record’ that Sewell’s statements were false regarding the numerous accusations he leveled against her -- particularly when he gave testimony to investigators about her under oath. After its own internal review, the government finally conceded this in written responses to interrogatories, and again when the government’s own lawyer, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, admitted this in an exchange with Judge Kessler.

Consistent with the Subcommittee investigators’ published staff report, Judge Kessler made the following Finding of Fact at pages 4-5 of the federal district court decision,


Because early drafts of the Vision Document contained controversial recommendations, S. Scott Sewell, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the Department, took control of the drafting process in October [*5] of 1990. n1 It is fair to say that Plaintiff and Sewell had very different, and incompatible, views about the Vision Document. On March 21, 1991, Sewell, a political appointee, demanded that Plaintiff, a career Civil Service employee, be reprimanded for allegedly lobbying members of Congress in February of 1991, while attending briefings on the Hill with legislative aides and committee staff members to discuss activities in their area of interest. Upon investigating the serious charges made by Sewell, the Director of the Park Service concluded that Plaintiff had not been lobbying, had instead been engaged in appropriate informational activities, and that there was no basis for such a reprimand.



Judge Kessler ruled that Mintzmyer had been retaliated against by senior NPS officials because of her efforts -- by denial of the SES step increase (as the Subcommittee investigative report had found.) Her voluntary retirement from the NPS, which was not addressed by the Subcommittee, did not constitute EEO discrimination. Finally, in closing, Judge Kessler made special reference to the type of tactics employed against Ms. Mintzmyer -- and the officials who had been involved:


The incident involving security for President Bush was of an entirely different nature. It was offensive and deeply insulting to a loyal American who had spent her life in service to her government. It was unfathomable to the Court.


I am a park ranger and I agree entirely with the description of issues above.
But I guarantee you that I would never in a million years tell that to a visitor. That would be grossly unprofessional. I smile and tell them that I love my job. Even if the park service is broken, that doesn't mean I don't still endeavor to do my job- give visitors a rich experience that they leave impressed and happy with. If I tell them that NPS is badly run, they may write their Congressmen and say that the park is wasting money. And guess who will lose their jobs if budgets are cut? Not the supervisors are hurting morale. No, the lower rangers will. Like me.

"[= 14px; line-height: 18px]Our senior "leadership" is dismal. Never in a 30+ year career has there been such shallow field experience at both WASO and in most of the regional offices. Regions have reverted back to the bloated entities that they once were and yes, jobs still get created out of thin air for the spouses of regional office employees. In the Intermountain Region only one of the senior leaders has any kind of recent field experience and many of them fail to even get out to at least one park a year. Is it any wonder these people lack credibility among park staffs?" [/]
[= 14px; line-height: 18px]How can so much trouble follow a Superintendent guilty of all the above issues and still get his golden handshake and continue on in Environmental Politics? I will pray for the individual that has followed in his footsteps catching the grief that was laid before him in an attempt to restore or erect something of character and value that would serve the US as it deserves. Tall order and it won't be words alone. I am hopeful in what I see in the individual's successor that I described. [/]

To the last two anonymous posters -- these words I clipped from this morning's NPS Digest still ring true for the vast majority of NPS personnel:

Today’s observation was made by publisher Alfred Knopf during his tenure as chairman of the Secretary’s Advisory Board on National Parks:
"It is hard to imagine more dedicated people than those who run the parks.
I have never met a single one whom I would not be glad to meet again,
and I have invariable regretted the time to say goodbye. The range of
their interests, their high intelligence, their devotion, make them a
separate and wonderful breed."

During my NPS years -- and throughout other jobs I held in my lifetime -- there were always some people who had no business being where they were. But I discovered there was no point in letting them prevent me from doing the very best job I could do. And there was also nothing stopping me from trying to do all I could to bring the attention of these people and their actions to other folks who might have been in a position to do something about them. Sometimes it was very unpleasant and a couple of times I risked a lot of personal harm. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed. But I tried.

If it is bad enough, there is always PEER out there. They might be able to help. And they might not. One of my law enforcement trainers said, "The hardest part of being a cop is learning to grit your teeth." That's true in virtually any calling. I wasn't an alcoholic, but the Serenity Prayer of AA is hanging on my wall.

So hang in there. Keep trying. Grit your teeth. Say the prayer. But never give up. If everyone who cares were to give up, nothing would change.

What is the Safety and Occupational Specialists job like at NPS

The National Park Service is a terrible place to work. There is absolutely no career later unless you are part of the the NPS club. It is stressful work environment to balance a career and family life. There is absolutely no leadership training for advancement. Neopotism is ramped. It is a good place to work as seasonal to get some experience or if you are retired. But, I would not recommend anyone to work for the NPS full time, unless you can pay your mortgage or kids college tuition in sunsets. I would never let my kids work for the NPS as a career.

I believe that they "reassigned" those bad seed managers to the Smokies.

Sigh.

And the Smokies management are also responsible for the national debt, bad breath in dogs, and most of Miley Cyrus' wardrobe decisions.

Rick,

I believe you are starting to see the light! Congratulations.