Traveler's View: The National Park Service Has An Image Problem It Needs To Address

The National Park Service has a serious image problem, part of it earned, and part of it manufactured, that it needs to address.

The government shutdown both created and exposed much of the problem, which stems largely from inconsistent enforcement of regulations and poor communications that led to public confusion and anger.

Some of the problems that surfaced during the shutdown can be traced to the decentralized nature of the agency, and the fiefdoms that have developed in some of the larger, more iconic parks. While there is a director of the Park Service in Washington, individual superintendents have much leeway in how they manage their parks. While leeway makes sense when you're comparing a national seashore vs. a Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Grand Canyon, too much empowerment can lead to confusion and even resentment among the public.

With 401 units of the National Park System, and almost that many superintendents, consistency can be a hard thing to maintain under the current approach. But consistency also leads to a certain amount of comfort and understanding from the public, as they come to know what to expect, and certainty among the Park Service's field staff as to what is, or is not, permitted.

The recent closure of the park system highighted many problems, including a short memory. Even Park Service Director Jon Jarvis had to acknowledge that the agency didn't have a good plan for shutting down the system, in spite of a similar experience in 1995.

During the past 16 days we saw:

* A random approach toward the dissemination of information regarding the shutdown. For example, Cape Hatteras National Seashore left a spokesperson on board throughout the shutdown to respond to inquiries, but the public affairs specialists at Yellowstone, as well as some park superintendents, were furloughed.

* Most of the Blue Ridge Parkway initially was scheduled to be closed, but then was opened from end-to-end, while the adjoining Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park was closed.

* Cyclists and hikers were freely allowed on the Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park, while some who wandered into Grand Teton National Park were cited.

* Residents in homes within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area were forced to leave, while furloughed Park Service employees were allowed to remain in their own government-owned homes.

* An escort who took international exchange students to Olympic National Park was handed a $125 citation for stopping in a parking lot to take their pictures, while Sarah Palin and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Michael Lee, R-Utah, were all present and urged protesters to push through barriers on the National Mall and smiled for the media without being cited.

* Rangers in some parks handed out citations to every visitor who entered in violation of posted closures, while officials in other areas approached the matter, where possible, with warnings and an explanation, and an apology for the inconvenience. Near the end of the closure Director Jarvis told his field staff to hold back from issuing citations, but that did no good to those already cited, and then only compounded the level of inconsistency experienced by the public.

While the Park Service's rank-and-file for the most part performed admirably during the shutdown under extremely trying circumstances, many were hassled and jeered, some even by congressmen who created the problem.

Now, with the wounds fresh and the National Park Service's centennial little more than two years off, the agency must take steps to win back the public angered by the closure of the National Park System, to strengthen its internal policies and processes, and to improve workplace morale.

What can the Park Service do now?

In the near term, the best thing the agency can do is fling open the park system's gates and let the public in free for a week or two. Put the park superintendents at the entrance gates, too, to welcome the public back.

That's the easy part. Building on that initial step will take time and determination.

* Some general suggestions:

* Become more transparent. The Park Service has a troublesome history of being insular and resistant to outside criticisms or suggestions. While the Obama Administration early promised to redefine government transparency, transparency is sorely lacking at the top of the Park Service....as it is throughout the administration.

* Establish a plan for shutting down the park system, one that clearly addresses the steps to be taken, and which includes a public relations plan. No doubt much of the anger from the recent shutdown stemmed more from miscommunication, or a lack of communication, than intentional actions.

* The Traveler respectfully offers the following specific suggestions and observations:

* Interior Secretary Sally Jewell should appoint a task force -- with representatives from outside government as well as inside -- to review how the Park Service interprets and implements the Anti-Deficiency Act during the recent shutdown, and make recommendations for the future, including the development of policies to address future shutdowns (which will certainly occur)

* Among the primary goals of the task force should be the clear articulation of what, if any, activities in the park system can continue during a shutdown (e.g., government/private residents, food services, schools, communications), what government services should be maintained, and what activities should be uniformly prohibited during the shutdown.

* Those determinations, whatever they are, should be cleared based upon legal opinions secured from both the Solicitor's Office and the Department of Justice.

* Written legal opinions secured from the Solicitor's Office and the DOJ should be used to develop a Director's Order (DO) with accompanying Reference Manual (RM) entries that delineate details for the implementation of that policy in a consistent manner, Service-wide.

* For example, the policy could be: "Park closures will be implemented with the goal of protecting park resources and maintaining public/employee safety, while minimizing impacts to the public in manner. Public uses and/or activities that do not add to the expenditure of government funds should be permitted."

Or, alternatively, "Park closures will be implemented with the goal of protecting park resources and maintaining public employee safety through the consistent with requirements of the Anti-Deficiency Act...All public use and activities are prohibited for the duration of the shutdown."

Whether maximally permissive or restrictive, whatever actions are taken to implement policy will be far more defensible, and even useful to future directors facing the wrath of congressional partisans, if the underlying policy is soundly based upon legal opinions rendered by the Interior Solicitor and DOJ.

* Remove local discretion over what types of public activities are permitted, and what government services will be provided. That would help the Park Service defend whatever actions are taken and help remove the matter from the political arena. The more specific the better. Removing local discretion in these types of situations would help the Park Service defend whatever actions are taken and help remove the matter from the political arena.

* The Park Service also needs to develop a better public relations plan. Posting closure notices that included a simple "We're sorry, but the parks are closed because..." sentence would have been a small matter, but also a slightly better PR move than simply placing signs saying the parks are closed.

* Every Park Service unit should have some public affairs specialists on the job to answer questions raised by the media and the public. Key to the success of a lawful shutdown is letting the public know what is happening and securing public compliance.

* Communicate with the public. While Director Jarvis emailed a letter to his furloughed Park Service staff during the shutdown, a bit odd in that most of those on furlough couldn't access their government email accounts, never did he reach out to the general public in a way that might have helped them better understand and respect the closure.

* At the very least he should have issued a release on October 1 through the agency's Washington, D.C., public affairs office explaining the need to close the park system, and perhaps even apologize for that closure, even though it wasn't his fault. At the Traveler we reached out that day for his reaction to the shutdown, only to be turned down.

The National Park System is a wonderful and enchanting place, and should never be used as a political pawn, as it was during the shutdown. Now it needs to become as inviting and welcoming as ever before, something only the Park Service can make happen.

Comments

A teriffic piece Kurt. I think you hit all the bases necessary for the next event of this nature. I think it is implied if not stated in your suggestions but I think the plan must be a public document, subject to FOIA at least. While I don't think it's necessary or practical to have this available at units I do think it should be available through a simple public request.

Ditto, Kurt. Great article. And I like MikeG's commentary too. As a side note, while I was staying on Mount Desert Island, there had been a sort of town hall meeting in Bar Harbor to address (actually vent about) the issues pertaining to the closure of Acadia National Park. I wish now I had attended but I was in Bass Harbor at the time, it was night, and I was tuckered out. The rental cottage manager told me the next day, though, that while she had not heard about the meeting until afterwards (apparently, the meeting was not that well-advertised, although I heard about it on the Maine Public Radio channel), she heard from a friend who did attend the meeting, that a park ranger got up to talk to the people and essentially told them if they saw people walking along the carriage roads or hiking along the road to Cadillac Mountain, they would simply inform them the park was closed and wish them a good day. Of course, this is hearsay, but I can tell you I lost count of the number of cars alongside the highway to the entrances of the Eagle Lake Carriage Road and the Cadillac Mountain park entrance. I only heard of a couple of actual citations from talking to a Friends of Acadia member, and those citations had to do with somebody trying to ride their moped along either a carriage trail or the park loop road and someone else having parked in one of the parking lot entrances to a trail.

Great article. I believe the NPS biggest problem, however, is their arrogant disregard of public input. They are an agency with little to no oversight and operate quite tyrannically. Jarvis is suspect, in my opinion, and scandals such as Ranger Danno etc emphasize the corruption and dishonesty at the top levels. I also think concessionaires have waay too much sway with the agency but regarding the shutdown, I believe you handed them a playbook they would be wise to copy.

To some, it's arrogant disregard of public input. To others, it's doing exactly what the service should be doing. Seems to all boil down to which side of the fight your dog happens to be on.

Kurt's article is excellent. Let's learn from this and move on.

Very helpful questions. A more open and honest debate about this issues would restore some public trust and sanity to the conversation, and would hopefully take the partisan slant off future situations like this. Might also be advantageous for those making the case for greater funding for the Parks going forward.

I agree with all on Kurt's comments. I agree with Lee - there has been some "arrogant disregard", just as there have been some open and transparent endeavors. Rather than capitalizing "all NPS" as the bad guys I think it comes down to individuals making poor decisions. Change those people and their decisions, and you change the climate from malignant to benign.

Also to be noted along with Kurt's suggestions - and his comments are indeed general enough for this - any specific instructions will fail if they are specific enough to not accommodate differences between, say, National Park of American Samoa versus Rosie the Riverter, or Klondike Goldrush-Seattle versus Olympic. Urban versus wilderness, tiny versus emmense; guidance has to accommodate.

Well done Kurt...I love that you offered this option...

"* For example, the policy could be: "Park closures will be implemented with the goal of protecting park resources and maintaining public/employee safety, while minimizing impacts to the public in manner. Public uses and/or activities that do not add to the expenditure of government funds should be permitted."

The irony of this fight to stop Obamacare is that the National Park Service routinely violates federal law to prevent its employees from getting health benefits. They do this by staffing many parks with "seasonal" workers on a year round basis.

They hire someone for six months then at the end of that time another person will come in and take it for six months. Or as is becoming more common people are put into 1-2 year appointments that are supposed to only be used to fill in for situations like when a permanent employee is on military deployment, or extended sick leave; or a limited term project . Instead this is a tactic to avoid paying benefits to Rangers. And it is used for people who's "special project" is everyday on going operations.

Jarvis says he was bound by the Anti Deficiency act to barricade the monuments in DC and shut down the Claude Moore farm but he has no problem with the rampant violation of personnel regulations that if followed would cause the NPS to have to shutter many facilities and curtail services across the country. Maybe if the director were to follow those laws with that same kind of rigor it would force funding to the appropriate level. In any case breaking the law should not be considered an option.

Director Jarvis went to work everyday in a city were hundreds of people illegally erected a shanty town in McPhearson Square and he let Occupy DC violate the camping regulations for 100 days. He did nothing about it until he was embarrassed in front of a congressional hearing who asked him the simple question why wasn't he doing his job? For the field level park rangers who put up with a lot to see that regulations are enforced at our parks around the country Jarvis's inaction back then was a slap in the face.

Yet this man who was all about discression and restraint during Occupy Wall St. has barricades out around open air monuments in the middle of a city on the very first day of the shutdown? Sure the actions of the House republicans were dumb but it is Jarvis who has let the NPS be a pawn of the politicians and he has let it be a pawn for the leftist side of the chess board.

Kurt, this is a great article and your recommendations are spot-on. NPS can sometimes be quite tone deaf to how its actions affect people and how the agency is perceived by others. Its strong organizational culture, deeply held values, and commitment to the mission sometimes leads to insular thinking (the 'echo chamber' effect). In spite of the high public profile the agency has, its professional communicators (interpretive rangers, public affairs specialists) are commonly the first furloughed during budget crises leaving LE and emergency staff behind as 'essential.' While NPS field rangers are fantastic in what they do, their first instinct is often for security, compliance with regs, and resource protection. However, when NPS appears to lack empathy for how park closures affect others, this can lead to occasional actions that cast the agency in a bad light. Embattled rangers, just trying to do their jobs in an impossible situation, inevitably overreact in a small number of cases and these become highly publicized in the hypersensitive political environment.

Given the agency's past history, virtually all of the things you suggest should already be in place as SOP during a budget shutdown. It's telling that they are not and reflects an institutional blind spot that has existed for a very long time. I sincerely hope that NPS leaders read your article and take it to heart. NPS would be much better prepared to articulate and defend its actions (that are largely well-reasoned and mission-focused) during the next such closure that may unfortunately happen all too soon.

While I like the spirit of giving visitors free park entry as a healing gesture, the 2013 FY is going to be one of the most difficult years budget-wise in a very long time. Recreation fees help run the parks these days, and they have already taken a big hit with the recent closure. It may not be financially possible to add more fee free days to those already set each year without causing even more harm to the agency's ability to provide services and keep the parks running.

In one of the most telling moments of Jarvis's testimony at this week's hearing was when Rep. Issa got Jarvis to admit that he just ordered everything closed on the first day and only then started to figure out what could be opened. If things like the Inns on the Blue Ridge or the Claude Moore farm could be open on the tenth day of the shutdown they could have been open on the first day of the shutdown with planning. But the likely truth is they wanted those closures to make as big a splash as possible. It is government acting as an interest group on its own behalf.

The end of the physical year was like an oncoming hurricane that director Jarvis did nothing to prepare for.

Great article Kurt. Maybe you should be on the committee. I would give 6 weeks for all park superintendents to have a plan for their park re what can and cannot be done. This will forwarded to HQ for discussions, changes and approvals.

Great piece! Very fair assement. I wonder if it might be possible to have an NPs that is self funded? User fees, local taxes and maybe we can charge the state or states the parks are in. After all, their local economies depend on it. If the parks weren't using federal tax dollars they wouldn't need to close in a shut down.

I'm probably just dreaming.

The Secret Service announced today that there is enough money in the CR to fund the security for WH Tours. It will only be for 3 days a week, instead of 5, between November 5 and January 15. It might take some of the heat off NPS, even though the discontinuation of the tours was not the service's fault, from some Members of Congress and the public.

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/10/white-house-tours-return-next-month-on-limited-basis-95620.html

Perpetual seasonal--I assume you knew you weren't getting health insurance when you accepted your appointment, I did during the 11 years I was a seasonal. You can obtain low cost health insurance from the Association of National Park Rangers. If you are going to continue on in perpetuity, I suggest you contact them.

Rick

I accepted those jobs on the proposition that they were genuine seasonal positions not permanent work that I was trading off with somone else for half the year. And the supervisor hiring those positons had to sign their name that it was legit seasonal work and not a dodge to avoid giving someone benifits, and job secuirity.

"Temporary ‘seasonal’ employment is appropriate when there is recurring work that lasts less than six months. While a temporary appointment can be of great use when properly applied, it is also an appointment that lends itself to abuse and can be an unfair working condition for an employee. "

--USNPS Human Resources Bulletin: 12-06

"Agencies are prohibited from using temporary employees to avoid the costs of employee benefits or ceilings on permaent employment levels"

--Federal Employes Almanac

I have come to learn that one reason it is so hard to get a permaent job is because this manipulation of personel regulations makes them artifically scarce.

Image verses Reality. Could it be that Director Jarvis found himself in the same position as most all other appointed positions in the administration. As a tool to inflict trouble on his political enemies and aid to his political friends? During the shutdown we were all treated to the display of aged WWII Vets being denied access to their memorial. We were then treated to the images of Ex-Speaker Pelosi & Senate Majority Leader Reid leading an immigration reform rally on the Mall. The image of Pelosi graciously thanking Potus for the opportunity to have the rally was particularly poignant. Guess director Jarvis is off the hook on that one. He can commiserate with Lois Lerner

Using our Parks in such a way has had a huge effect on America's image with our many International visitors, sets adrift those that have intimate relationships with great places and corrupts those who have careers invested. THE disapointment I've seen in some of NPS's most treasured advocates is significant .

Kurt, well done.

I might suggest more local ( park super.) control than you but you are dead on that there is a problem and it needs to be addressed.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. I have never seen the parks closed before under the circumstances we have witnessed so my first impression of the NPS's handling is very poor. I know they were used for political reasons however the statement early on that I recall, and many others repeated, was to make it as painful as possible for the public and that impression will last longer and hurt more than any remedies can repair.

there is much to repair: Today's edition of Chris Muir's Day by Day.

This comic was removed due to copyright concerns.--Ed.

Nice article Kurt. Leave out the politics and it would be even better - remember Nancy and some of her bunch were there getting arrested as well. Good point on transparency. The NEPA process is designed for public input, but is often just a process to cover a decision that has been made while acting like it hasn't.

Kurt, you have an exceptional site here that allows for open discussions on the issues. It's refreshing and is what journalism is supposed to be about, I believe.

A question: How does one support more central planning on the national level when the decision maker in DC uses the agency for his own political ambitions first? It's happened in the past where there were resignations rather than execute directives that were unconscionable. Not seeing that with this Admin.

A very complicated situation. When the house voted to partially close selected portions of US Government operations, agencies were required to do just that. The result would be, as most of us knew, loaded with unintended consequences. Traveler, it seems to me the "order" was quite clear, in the case of the NPS, it does not seem to me to require much more in the way of explanation. However, I agree, it does not take into account the complexities of all the legal requirements involved in many NPS units. This is true of all the other agencies involved. The NPS director had a tough job, as did all the other leaders of those agencies affected. Improvements can always be made (please, no more PR types), the culprit in this case, at least in my opinion, was the "high five" congressman (C-Span video footage), who thought this "goverment shutdown" was just great. Hopefully, they learned otherwise.

Didn't catch the High Five but the purpose of the PR types are to put blame on the other guy. Most often the real issues are hidden. If I'm reading you right as to the High Five were elected to do just what they are doing and said so publicly before they were elected to do in striking contrast to those that have been steering things. Tough place to be in for Director Jarvis and every Ranger, between a rock and a hardhead who arrogantly cares more about his ideology than what these places mean to people here and around the world. Not what was meant by America's Best Idea.

rmackie, It is hard to buy into the idea of the NPS having its hands tied by the law when in so many other cases they ignore the law when it suites their ends such as the persecution of Ranger Robert Danno or the way personnel regulations are disregarded to avoid hiring permanent employees. One of the best points made during the hearing was that during Occupy Wall St. Jarvis let the laws go unenforced in McPherson Square for 100 days but on the first day of a shutdown he's got barricades up around open air monuments.

Part of the justification for allowing Occupy in McPherson square was the First Amendment, the same justification for allowing the WWII vets on the mall and subsequently, the Immigration reform rally.

For more information on Occupy and NPS, check this.

And if the Vets had tried to live on the monument I'd say enforce the camping regulations against them as well. I understand discretion, maybe letting something go for a day or two , but to allow that to go on for four months! That does nothing but damage the average citizens respect for the concept of the rule of law and it makes the NPS look like they are supporting extreme leftist politics which I'm not so sure isn't the case.

Perpetual Seasonal, I think dahkota has it right, but in any case, I think it is good that you are participating in the NP Traveler. My own experience with the parks is going on 54 years now, and yes there are bumps in the road and those that do always follow the ethics of the Department (the department ethics not our personal ones), for many reasons. The Robert Danno case is a tragic example. I am delighted to see Mr. Danno exonerated. I find myself being very careful citing violations of law, what we think they are, and what is, is sometimes very complex and takes some very well trained and experienced people to unravel . I remember one distinguished Law School professor telling me, "Ron, 90% of the people screaming for justice in a court of law should be on their hands and knees begging for mercy". Our attorneys know much better than I. On the other hand, I can tell you, at least from my own experience, that those that practice malfeasance are still the minority. It is important you get into a position that carries some career status, or (and I know you must truly like the parks), find another agency or opportunity. It can be frustrating and I think its tragic that in this very negative atmosphere created by the anti-government crowd, it is very difficult to get into a permanent position. I do believe in a healthy tension between the government and the private sector, but we are seeing something more than that now, at least in my view. I have no regrets having worked for the NPS and in the long run you will not either, stay positive, try to find the good, it is easy to find the bad. I hope this is not some pontificating statement offered to you personally, just my own viewpoint. Thank you for your response and your 10 years of public service.

There has been an ongoing Anti-Nuclear protest in Lafayette Square(across from the White House and NPS controlled) since the Reagan Administration.

Perpetual Seasonal,

Read page 29 of the North Cascades Business Plan, it deals with personnel costs and ways to reduce them. Amongst the suggestions:

Utilizing the temporary budget relief associated with employee retirement and vacancies by lapsing positions for a period of time when feasible.

Gradually decreasing the total number of permanent full-time and permanent subject-to-furlough staff commitments; this will slowly increase financial flexibility.

http://www.nps.gov/noca/parkmgmt/upload/NOCA_4-30_spreads.pdf

I understand about how complicated the law can be and that what is wrong isn't necessarly illegal but I'm pretty sure that if a park hires ten seasonals for the summer and five at the same title and paygrade doing the same work in the winter those by law should be five permanent positions. Clearly this is being done to avoid the cost of benifits which is defined in policy and law as being illegal.

Sure budgets make getting perm jobs hard but Jarvis has made it harder. Because of his drive for diversity a large percentage of the permanent jobs that do come open are held in reserve for student hires. So you have situations where people who've proven themselves with years of experience are being passed over for students thanks to Jarvis. Also the new online questionnaire has pretty much removed merit as a factor in getting jobs --so much so that almost all applicants for competitive hires tie with perfect scores with of course veterans winning out because of their extra points.

Sara, I understand that these abuses go on because budgets are tight but I don't think that ignoring the law should be considered an option. If a park can't offer Facilities and services and do so in keeping with personel laws then they should not offer those facilities and services.

I would also not be surprised if people are kept in seasonal positions so that staffing at park HQ's and regional offices could be padded.

I'll just repeat my earlier excerpt from the federal Employees Almanac:

"Agencies are prohibited from using temporary employees to avoid the costs of employee benefits or ceilings on permaent employment levels" -P324 2012 Edition

Eventually someone will sue.

They sure didn't spare any expense in creating this pretty and colorful business plan!

Supreme Court Case on this:

Clark Vs. Community for Creative Non Violence

"Similarly, the challenged regulation is also sustainable as meeting the standards for a valid regulation of expressive conduct. Aside from its impact on speech, a rule against camping or overnight sleeping in public parks is not beyond the constitutional power of the Government to enforce. And as noted above, there is a substantial Government interest, unrelated to suppression of expression, in conserving park property that is served by the proscription of sleeping"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark_v._Community_for_Creative_Non-Violence

Yes, Kurt, a terrific piece, but this time I blame the Congress. Recall that a government shutdown has not occurred since 1995. The NPS—and every other agency—has thankfully had a good deal of time to “forget” how a shutdown should be handled.

In my case, I lost a speech in Zion National Park, and almost lost another speech as the shutdown occurred. At Zion Lodge October 1, all of us were “confined to barracks,” and technically the superintendent could have closed the auditorium in the lodge, as well. Instead, I was invited to offer an additional talk to my guests, and we invited everyone else in the lodge to attend. But again, the auditorium could just as easily have been closed if the superintendent had wanted to “make a point.”

Blame Congress, not the NPS, for failing to be consistent. Recall that the House Republicans, you know, the “bad guys,” immediately passed a bill and sent it over to the Senate, allowing the parks to reopen. As majority leader, Senator Harry Reid refused to consider the bill, insisting that the government should not reopen piecemeal. It was Senator Reid who closed the parks, not the NPS. And again, the House was willing to reopen the parks.

Where is Senator Reed Smoot when we need him? Ah, but we don’t make senators like that anymore. Okay. Let’s be partisan and say that the Senate did the right thing by insisting that everything be reopened at once. The problem is: Two thirds of the government did not shut down at all—just the parts that people like and enjoy. The losers here were the visitors and working stiffs, who lost their vacations and income. Frankly, I don’t want my Park Service practicing for that. Why should they? Why should the parks ever be closed?

Meanwhile, have I told everyone about my “escape” from Lake Mead National Recreation Area? I will save that for another time. Suffice it to say that if anyone had stopped me, I would have offered myself to Nightline, The Today Show, etc., and given our government “leaders” a piece of my mind.

For myself, I am just happy to return to "normal." The shutdown just illustrates the park service's inability to be consistent. That's what most people want, I believe. What I noticed in the local newspaper, was an article of Grand Canyon being opened and right beside it was, "Funds For Homeless Shelter Disapproved." What is this??? We have become a society of making our own priorites? Everyone for themselves. Unfortunatley, that's what individual employees have become in the park service. I got mine and that's all that matters. And when those types cry foul, then we have to give attention to the loudest one.

There are many good points and good suggestions in this article, and the NPS certainly bungled the shutdown (especially that open-air WW2 veterans monument on the Washington Mall). But I take issue with the concept that a plan should be developed or that there should be SOP's developed for something that should simply not have happened in the first place, and should never happen again. How many other agencies have been criticized or are expected to have contingency plans for a failure of government from the top down? Is there a shutdown plan to be required for DoD or Treasury or FCC or NASA or USFS? The NPS took its lumps at this hearing, and I'm sure they learned some lessons about what not to do if there is a "next time." Let's hope not.

"Establish a plan for shutting down the park system..."

Wait.... what?

How about planning to not shut down the park system?

I would like to National Parks Traveler to take a stronger position on the shutdown. Shouldn't you be arguing for ways to protect the parks from political nonsense?

While I appreciate your intentions, I think this post undermines your own mission.

Of course the parks should not have been shut down, along with the CDC, NOAA, and all the rest. But as long as there are idiots out there, idiocy will occur.

Equally, there "should not be" floods, pestilence, earthquakes, or other things one wishes not to have occur, but which do occur, and which need contingency plans.

During his live webchat today Jarvis acted as if he learned nothing -shooting down the idea of preparation and minimizing impact whenever it was mentioned.

One interesting aside someone asked what Jarvis thought of the Pathways program and stated their feeling that Pathways is keeping experienced seasonal LE rangers from getting work. Of course they didn't touch this question. There is no doubt that this increased push for diverstiy is keeping a lot of people who've served sucessfully in parks for years from getting work in favor of the less experianced particpants in these "diversity" programs.

This is a democracy and right or wrong we are governed by the legislative body. It is up to them to decide if we are open or not. To a large extent this planning for a shutdown is a plan to keep open what you can. As has been said before if they can decide to reopen things on the tenth day there is no reason they could not have been open on the first day with planning. The shutdown was an approaching storm Jarvis did little to prepare for probably because he feared preparation might make the event more likely and because I think he felt that minimizing its impact might make it more likely to happen again. That is the Director playing us as a political pawn.

Washington Monument Syndrome is a real thing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Monument_Syndrome

Good analysis. I agree.

Unfortunately, the National Park Service was used as a pawn in the government shutdown. Even though the National Park system did not handle the closure as well as expected, I feel that most people were more angry at the ridiculousness of Congress to shutdown the government. Therefore, I don't feel the National Park Service was seen as having an image problem. If anything, the Republican Party ended up with a negative impression. All the shutdown did was prove how important the government's role is in running the National Park Service. Their strategy backfired and was ineffective.


Their strategy backfired and was ineffective.


Wishful thinking on your part Gary

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/nov/13/gop-erases-9-point-deficit-generic-congressional-b/

And you know what, the Republicans are going to get their way anyway as Obamacare collapses under its own ownerous weight.. Dems should have been willing to negotiate, it may have saved them from some egg on their face.

What does Obamacare have to do with the NPS? I feel in the end that it was the Republicans who looked bad. Taking it out on the NPS was just a bad public relations move.The gallup poll taken at the time agreed.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/165317/republican-party-favorability-sinks-record-low.aspx

As for Obamacare, it has got off to a rough start but in the end I think it will be one of the most important pieces of legislation passed in U.S. history. It is a matter of opinion if you think it will fail. I have worked in healthcare for the past 15 years and have seen what happens when you let physicians, hospitals, and insurance companies run amuck. I'm glad that it was passed and many Americans will be happy to finally have health insurance. It is way past time to start making insurance companies, physicians, and hospitals accountable for the medicare fraud/abuse and discrimination they have been practicing for so many years.

Gary Keirh, thank you for an excellent comment. I agree with you on both counts.


What does Obamacare have to do with the NPS?


I guess you weren't paying attention when the entire government, including the NPS, was shut down due to the Dems unwillingness to put Obamacare on the table. You probably are unaware, or want to ignore, that the Dems overwhelmingly voted to keep the NPS shut when the conservatives voted to open them.

As to your happiness it ( Obamacare) passed, your naivity is breathtaking. Everything the critics predicted has happened and it will only get worse.

I guess some folks weren't paying attention when the entire government, including the NPS, was shut down due to the Tea Party Republicans' unwillingness to allow a simple vote that would allow another vote on the entire issue on the table. You probably are unaware, or want to ignore, that the Republicans overwhelmingly decided to keep the NPS shut when the so called liberals in Congress called their bluff.

As to your unhappiness it (the Affordable Care Act) passed, your unquestioning blind acceptance of all the half-truths and outright lies is breathtaking. Everything the critics predicted will turn out to be just more elephantine flatulence and a few years from now, ACA will be recognized by intelligent people as one of the best things to have happened in America in a long, long time.

But it sure would be wonderful if the extremists in Congress would grow up and seek ways to work together with others to make ACA the best it can be.

you need to get out more Lee. And maybe read something other than Huffpo or DKos.

Check out any number of opinion pieces today on RealClearPolitics. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/

Yeah, some are on the right but none of these are 'extremists'.

Clearly, as the President might say, there is much discontent with ACA in the nation. The presser by Mr. Obama yesterday was dreadful. Speaking of 'half-truths and outright lies'...

The fate of ACA is still undetermined, but it don't look good as they say in Texas.

Sean Trende's piece on presidential approvals and elections is especially interesting....

Ok, time to move on. This horse is dead.