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Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin Hanging Up His Hat


After 35 years with the National Park Service, most recently as Grand Canyon superintendent, Steve Martin has decided to retire. NPS handout.

After 35 years with the National Park Service, Steve Martin has decided it's time to hang up his Stetson. The superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park has announced that he'll retire as of January 1.

Mr. Martin's departure opens one of the most-sought superintendencies in the National Park System and closes the career of a man who started out as a ranger and worked his way just about to the very top of the National Park Service. Not too surprisingly, along the way from his first job at the Grand Canyon as a backcountry river ranger to his current position -- with a stint as deputy director of the Park Service and a few superintendent roles in between -- he gathered some controversy.

Some inside the Park Service associate Mr. Martin with the "core ops" budgeting approach wielded by the Intermountain Region, one that many saw as merely a tool to cut both unwanted programs and personnel. Others questioned his appointment of his wife to a newly created "Group Superintendent" role within the region overseeing three other park superintendents.

During Mr. Martin's stint as regional director a case arose around Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in which the Indian trader was accused -- wrongly, it turned out -- of embezzling from the trading post. After a lengthy, and costly, series of investigations, including one by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General, Park Service officials determined that Intermountain Region investigators and managers who looked into the business operations at Hubbell Trading exhibited "poor case management" and "poor judgment and performance."

Neither Mr. Martin nor his deputy at the time, Mike Snyder, ever responded to inquiries from the Traveler about how they handled that investigation. (It has now been two years since the Traveler filed a Freedom of Information request with the Interior Department requesting its investigative reports into the matter and not a single page has been turned over.)

A lawsuit filed by the Indian trader, Billy Malone, included both Mr. Martin and Mr. Snyder as defendants, accusing them of misconduct and wrongful seizure of property belonging to Mr. Malone. A judge later removed the Park Service officials from the matter, saying he didn't think a case could be built against them.

Mr. Martin's career included stops as superintendent of Grand Teton, Denali and Gates of Arctic national parks, various roles in Yellowstone and Voyageurs national parks, as well as in the agency's Intermountain Regional Office in Denver where he served as regional director from September 2003 to April 2005, when he moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as deputy director. Two years later he returned to the field as Grand Canyon superintendent.

At Gates of the Arctic, he worked with Alaska Natives on cooperative conservation involving subsistence, wilderness and resource protection, and eco-tourism, according to a Park Service release.

As Grand Canyon superintendent, Mr. Martin advocated for high-flow releases of Lake Powell through the Glen Canyon Dam so that they might revitalize the Colorado River corridor through the park.

“Living and working in some of the most beautiful places on earth, with some of the best people in the world, has been a great privilege and adventure—for me and our family," Mr. Martin said in a prepared statement. "We have great memories of places and people and now look forward to spending more time out and about in national parks and protected places around the world.”


long live the mules

Regarding the "retirement" of mr martin...good riddance to bad rubbish. The mules? What a huge loss. I had the pleasure of going on the Phantom trip with my 68yr old mother and my 17 yr old daughter. My mother had a broken arm and was concerned that she would not be allowed to ride due to the rules. Being a tough bird she was able to mount with little help and rode Roscoe with great aplomb. My beautiful daughter carried the mail on Joe Bear. I was blessed with Mutton. We had so much fun...along with the retirees who made up the rest of the strings. Having lead rides through the mountains of central Arizona myself, in my youth, I truly appreciated the kindness and professionalism of ALL the staff at the Grand Canyon Mule Barns. They deserve so much more than what they are getting now...the shaft! Mr. Murph was a gentleman, Rich signed my water bag, Laura was so nice and the little lady with the braids was the sweetest! Sorry I forgot her name...I was stunned to hear about the loss of the rides....and the reduction to just 10 to Phantom is a loss! Maybe if the hikers who gripe have to carry their own duffles and meals etc, some of this loonyness would come to a screeching halt. mule pee indeed! People aka hikers are responsible for the trail deterioration. Just like the roads etc everywhere else. And the powers that be just don't get that do they? 

I sincerely hope the Plateau Point elimination is only temporary, Sheryl B.  Casey is running his own ranch and another for the owner, raising a son and staying in the saddle:).

I did not know of this issue of the loss of the day rides. I surely wish we'd experienced it while we had a chance. What a collosal shame. Mr. Murph, what are you doing now?

I have to go back to what Marjorie wrote in an earlier post that no one with heart problems should go in the Canyon. My group I was with riding to Plateau Point (a ride that Supt. Martin discontinued) arrived and we were eating lunch together overlooking the Colorado River and this little gal with a squeaky voice was so captured by the experience of the mules and the Canyon she 'fessed up that she had a HEART transplant nine months before. She had lived with a death sentence for years until she had the transplant. She was such a joy to have her on the ride. I mean a REAL JOY! The complaints about mule poop are put into perspective and what those complainers might learn in the Canyon.
Rock on Canyon Mules!

It is a fact that the number of inner canyon hikers who want the corridor trails free of mules represent a tiny minority. The vast majority of citizens wanted the mules to stay and would rather them left alone. Martin was acting as representative of this tiny minority and not acting in the interest of the citizens of the united states, or in accordance with the NPS mission statement.

In confirmation of the last paragraph of Casey's response (it's spot on in it's entirety), in conversations with NPS project lead, I said that she and Martin MUST know what their proposals lead to. In letter after letter to NPS during the public input "process', LOL, some of their proposals aren't possible due to safety issues. How much they've listened is predictable, particularly Martin. Which would lead to what Casey has envisioned.

There IS an Achilles Heel connected to NPS/Martin's anatomy and it would be better if Director Jon Jarvis did the surgery rather than making the National Park Service in it's entirety pay the price, hurting those foot soldiers in the field (NPS) and the funding public.

In response to the earlier comment, that individual who is so full of praise for Steve Martin for kicking the mules off the Kaibab, ill say this.
One of the first compromises I put forward to alleviate hiker, rider conflict was to give the hikers exclusive use of the Kaibab trail. Under my proposal only pack mules would be sharing that trail with the hikers, and my experience has been hikers rarely grumble about the mules when those mules happen to be carrying their beer.
Under my proposal, then the mule riders would have exclusive use of the Bright Angel in return. I thought this was a fair compromise, since, after all, the mule riders on the Bright Angel preceded hikers by about ONE HUNDRED YEARS!!!!!!!!...ahem.....
Not to get bogged down in Hyperbole, ..This was rejected out of hand by the NPS, as the hiker element, whom Martin is interested in pleasing, want the Bright Angel trail due to its conveneince.
And yes it is true there is a tiny remnant of mules that remain to carry passengers into the canyon. I hope I do not sound immodest, but I will take credit for that, and thank you very much. As far as this notion that they are not going anywhere, let me tell you something.
NPS does not want the blame for removing the mules,they want to make it unprofitable, or dangerous, so that Xanterra will remove the mules and Xanterra will take the blame. And at only a maximum of ten riders into Phantom, and no more affordable one day ride, its only a matter of time before Xanterra has a reason to make that move.

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