Seasonal Rangers Who Said They Lost Jobs For Blowing The Whistle Win Their Case

Bruce and Sara Schundler, who alleged they lost their seasonal jobs as rangers at Mesa Verde National Park for bringing attention to suspect spending by the park's former superintendent, have been vindicated by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

In a ruling last week, the OSC staff's investigation revealed that the couple was not rehired at Mesa Verde "in part because of their perceived whistleblowing."

The couple's struggles to investigate the spending habits of the former superintendent led to their decision to launch a website to chronicle their efforts, which involved a long and evasive process through the Freedom of Information Act procedures.

Bruce Schundler was subjected to a correspondence-heavy, administrative maze since requesting information on Mesa Verde's fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2008 budgets, the travels of its superintendent, and the number of unfilled vacancies at the park. Mesa Verde officials initially put off his first requests for the information, saying the staff was too busy to comply immediately

In its ruling, the OSC noted that the Schundlers "had spotless work records at Mesa Verde National Park..." In raising concerns about the then-superintendent's spending habits, they alleged that he had used National Park Service funds "to travel excessively to conferences and seminars, in support of a private company," the OSC finding noted.

"They filed Freedom of Information Act requests for information on the matter and also filed a complaint with the Inspector General. The (Office of Inspector General's) report found that the park superintendent’s actions 'created the appearance of a conflict of interest,'" the OSC noted. "The following season, the couple was tentatively offered seasonal park ranger positions again, only to see the offer rescinded.

"The OSC investigation showed that Mesa Verde management decided not to rehire the couple in part because of their perceived whistleblowing."

After the OSC investigated the matter, the Park Service "agreed to provide the couple with seasonal work at another national park of their choosing and to reimburse them for expenses incurred in anticipation of the rescinded rehiring."

“I’m pleased that the National Park Service corrected the actions its employees took against these park rangers,” said OSC Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner. “All federal employees have the right to blow the whistle on perceived wrongdoing without fear or retaliation.”

Comments

Congratulations to the Schundler's for their perserverance and dedication to improving the NPS, an agency whose management often deserves the low rankings it has consistently received in annual employee surveys.

Five years is almost warp speed for NPS malfeasance cases. Teresa Chambers waited seven years and Robert Danno almost ten years for 'justice'; I believe Billy Malone is still waiting. These types of cases are much more common than most NPS true-believers will admit. I saw even permanent whistleblowers lose their jobs and part of their retirement due to management retaliation. Others were denied deserved promotions and/or transferred to undesirable duty stations far from their families.

Dont miss their webpages on NPS non-transparency and Regional Office bloat:

http://www.schundler.net/Monocracy.pdf

http://www.schundler.net/PayScales.pdf

And it only took seven years hundreds of hours of work and I'm sure intense emotional distress to get to this point.

I am pleased to see the federal bureaucracy finally admit what was obvious but what about punishment for the offenders?

Those who carried out the persecution of Rob Danno still hold high positions of trust and responsibility in the NPS as I am sure those who did this to Bruce and Sara will.

Why is it that when NPS leadership engages in this kind of serious misconduct they tend to fall upwards while "seasonal" employees can get black listed and prevented from working in their chosen profession for virtually any reason or no reason at all.

For example there is one recently named NPS superintendent who has a track record, known to management, of engaging in improper relationships with young women he directly supervised but still gets promoted while at the same time a seasonal who talks openly about problems is treated as a bigger problem than the actual problems.

A serious question I'd love to hear addressed: what is it in the psychology of so many in NPS management that they feel the need to go after people like Bruce Schundler with such vigor?

My theory is that NPS leaders, especially superintendents, must feel like they are constantly walking a tight rope. Could it be that there are so many rules and regulations that if they were all followed many parks couldn't even open there doors? Given this, might it be that NPS leaders feel like they are constantly in danger? Apparently the last thing they want is someone inside the tent, like Bruce, who is intelligent enough, experienced enough, to see the shandy stuff that is going on? The vindictiveness with which they go after people like this is revealing I think of how threatened and insecure NPS leaders must feel and of how the leadership looks out for one another at the expense of those at the bottom.

For example,the extent to which parks go these days to avoid paying benefits to employees is a system they have to know is unsustainable. If the crunchy granola types who love to castigate companies like Wallmart knew that the NPS engages in worse labor abuses what would happen? That has got to be scary to the leadership that has built this house of cards. Just as I am sure it was scary to the superintendent at Mesa Verde to have it out in the public that he had spent $400,000 on travel in one year.

If NPS management would only devote half the attention to purging the organization of the deadwood that is allowed to carry on in the ranks year after year, as they devote to going after folks like Bruce Schundler, Rob Danno, Frank Scaturro, Billy Malone, and Teresa Chambers our parks would be far better off and the NPS would be a much nicer place to work.

tahoma, thank you for an excellent post. I must agree, the delays, political pandering, etc. involved in these cases is quite disturbing. Much thanks to Chief Chambers, Mr. Bruno, Mr. Schundler and others for their efforts.

But a large chunk of this unfortunate story is missing. What happened with their complaints? Were their charges investigated or not? If they were investigated, what were the findings?

Agree Lee, first, much thanks to the Schundler's for their heroic effort. and thanks to tahoma and others, I have referenced the Schundler's website. It is extremely informative. I also found the Perpetual seasonal comments interesting. The resistance to posting and or responding to FOI requests is a serious issue. I know that when I did budgeting in my position with the NPS, I posted it on the door of my office. That is the way it should be, it is public money and the citizens have right to see where it is spent, or at least they should. Through, I almost always disagree with ECs posts, he is right about one thing, human nature is a complex issue, often times we are somewhat self serving in the performance of our duties and in some cases the reality is you have an employee has little choice. It pays to "get along and go along", be it in the governmental or private sector. You pay a price when you do not. Traveler, it would be interesting to note the consequences, if any, to the malfeasance practiced on the Schundlers, Billy Malone, etc., if any. The Schunder's case a classic example, with, unfortunately to many others, Billy Malone, Todd Bruno, well the list goes on.

We are in a NPS discussion site, discussing the NPS, but I would caution thos NPS-is-always-wrong folks that this nonsense happens everywhere. Congress, Wall Street, Hollywood, or the K-mart in Winnemucca. Don't ask "why do park superintendants do this or get away with that?" Instead ask "why do people in positions of power...?"

I'm sorry Rick, but I must respectfully disagree. It is apparent that there is a disproportionate amount of malfeasance and vindictiveness on behalf of the upper echelon NPS and it is increasingly well documented. And it comes from the top and Jarvis needs to be held accountable for perpetuating this culture. It is time for congress to get involved and clean house at the NPS. Then the hard working, rank and file can once again do their duties without fear of this type of retribution. I know that corruption exists in any human endeavor but this agency stinks more and more each day. I have personal experience with it in the Smokies. Our present and fortunately outgoing Superintendent has grossly inappropriate relationships with concessionaires and is an outright liar. Apparently that is a skill set necessary for advancement in the NPS. It is time someone stood up and put a stop to it for good and restore the reputation of what was once, "America's best idea."

We the citizens deserve better but there is shockingly little oversight of the bureau.

Smokies, I'll respectfully disagree with you and heartily endorse Rick's comment. I'll also have to agree (unfortunately) with Perpetual's comments about the tight rope.

And, unfortunately, it is all too true in virtually all human activities. There will always be some people who will find the courage to stand up for what's right, but they seem to be becoming an endangered species today. Others will cave in to pressure. Still others will allow greed to take over.

Then again, maybe nothing really has changed. History as far back as history goes is filled with similar stories from all over the world.

All any of us can do is look to ourselves and ask frequently, "Have I done any real good today?"

So the NPS is just a reflection of the country, Lee? Sorry, that doesn't pass the smell test. For those of us not affiliated with the NPS, this stinks worse every day. I don't believe that most people in the US are as corrupt or devious. The NPS has an upper level image problem and the facts of it are undeniable. They operate with impugnity and take advantage of the goodwill so freely offered to them. Its time for NPS oversight. Oversight now.

It's a rampant mentality with in the NPS, they live the lie until it takes them down. But they know there is no accountability so it does not matter who gets hurt.

The liberal good ole boys club, aka the NPS.

I would also say in response to Rick B. comment that events like this in the NPS get more attention because of the old image of how the National Park Ranger is supposed to be a paragon of virtue. It is shocking to many to learn that usually the amount of virtue is inverse to the pay grade. As the management of parks has increasingly shifted from the old fashion ranger and into the hands of bureaucrats this is the result.

As natural selection works in nature to weed out the week and the sick there is a perverse type of unnatural selection in the NPS that weeds out those with integrity from getting past the GS-9 level. (and that is if they are lucky)

Even those who are not active wrong doers must be complicit and silent in the wrong doing of management. I have been in staff meetings with a superintendent who said "I don't care how many rules I have to break to keep the doors open I'm going to do it" You have these hard charging gung ho superintendents who are sent to a park with a mission and they mean to get it done regardless. They can't come back to their superiors and say 'I'm sorry but regulation X,Y&Z is stopping me.' To do that would be more harmful to their careers than anything done to flatten some whistle blower.

All-I think we have to be careful not to tar all managers in the NPS with the same brushes we might tar the supervisors of Danno and Schundler. Being a superintendent in the NPS was the hardest job I ever had. There were scores of decisions every month that caused me to review the management policies and consult with the hunan resources staff. Those posters such as beach who claim that the NPS is the "liberal good ole boys club" must not have jobs that involve multiple supervisory and policy decisions. I suspect that being a superintendent is even more difficult now given the political differences that exist in our country. What passes for environmental debate now is nothing more than shrill posturing,

At the end of each day, I used to ask myself: have we done something good for the area's resources today? Have we provided high-qualiity visitor services? Have we successfully engaged park interest groups? If the answers were yes, I knew we had a pretty good day.

There are 4 or 5 posters on NPT who have specific issues with an individual park--beach with Cape Hatteras, smokiesbackpacker with Great Smoky Mountains, perpetual seasonal with whatever park terminated him at the end of his appointment. Those are legitimate issues that deserve discussion but it is difficult to get through the fog of blanket condemnations of the NPS to get to them.

Rick

Mr. Smith, the comments of the Perpetual Seasonal are drawn from experiences across many parks over many years in several regions. It isn't a grudge against any individual site. Of the half a dozen or so parks worked in I can only think of two without serious examples of malfeasance and mismanagement. Of all those only one resulted in real punishment for the perpetrators and that only occurred because law enforcement in the park went around the superintendent to document criminal activity.

The experiences of one person, you, reprated in multiple locations, might easily lead one to conclude the only common factor is you.

I am not nor have I ever been an NPS employee, but in my experience across dozens of people, the average GS9 or above I've met has above average integrity. I know that is true for the half dozen or more >9 currently of my acqaintance in the local park.

Sorry your experience has soured you, but your ongoing bad experiences in absolutely no way invalidates my good experiences. I frankly don't doubt that you will continue to find what you expect to find.

I should have included the DOI with my brush.

Remember the old story about the guy who was moving to a new town. He asked someone from the town what the people who lived there were like. That person turned the question around and asked what the people were like in the town he was moving from.

"They're some of the worst humans on earth. They're judgemental, they lie, they find fault with everything," was the reply.

"Then those are the kind of people you will l lkely find in this town," said the town native.

The next day another new comer asked the same man the same question. Again, he turned the question around. This time, the newcomer said, "Oh, they were wonderful. Kind, honest, accepting of everyone. Great people!"

The native smiled and observed, "Then those are the kind of people you will find here."

That story seems very appropro in many cases at Traveler, too. When we seek with prejudice, we find what we want to find and ignore what we don't.

Rick B., good theory but it is wrong. I'm not talking about things where I was even a party I'm talking about things observed.

For example: there was large concession operated restaurant in one park that was continually packed with people that put it far beyond what would be considered safe occupancy. If the park were subject to the local fire code the place would have been shut down. Not only were they regularly beyond what would be considered a safe level of occupancy but the concession also kept several exit doors blocked with food service carts. The park ranger (not me) who reported his concerns about this was serving on a term appointment. He was a star performer --a well liked go getter who worked circles around much of the permanent staff. Of the group he was hired with for some reason he was the only one not to be reappointed the following year. He had difficulty getting NPS work again.

Or there was the instance about ten years ago of the park that was under pressure from local interests to open a certain facility a little earlier in the year and close it a little later. Well the problem with that is that it would put the seasonal staff that operated the facility beyond the six month limit on seasonal appointments. So instead of doing the legal thing and making the jobs permanent subject to furlough positions with a retirement plan, benifts, etc. the park just worked them all beyond the limit. Doing this would have required several NPS managers to sign their names to statements that they knew were lies, but hey, so what, right? How did I manage to engineer that one?

There was the wife of the director of a nearby state park who had gotten hired into a seasonal park guide position with the NPS but didn't really do the work of a park guide and was in fact doing administrative work at the park's HQ as a way of them getting around having to advertise the position and risk that it might go to the wrong applicant.

There was the director of housing at one park who when told that rent wasn't being deducted for several units his response was don't worry about it and you'll probably never have to pay for it. This added up to a loss of about $18,000 to that park. How did I manage to engineer that one Rick B.? I could give more a dozen more examples but I suspect NPT would rather I wrap it up.

Gee, when I was a seasonal ranger (11 summers), I never knew what was happening adminstratively in the park, I was just worried about what was happening on my shift and whether everyone would be ok at the end of it. Maybe that's the difference between a protection division seasonal like I was and an interpretive one. Otherwise, I can't explain how the perpetual seasonal knows all those things unless he spends a lot of his tine looking for them. It's too bad he never worked in a well managed park area. It's lots of fun.

Glad you included the DOI, beach. We wouldn't want to leave anyone out.

Rick

So what happened to the wrong-doer they were blowing the whistle on?

One thing I would criticize Bruce Schunder for is how he went about this. He and his goal would have been better served if he had operated more quietly and anonymously. As we unfortunately saw in this case, and in this comment section, when someone tries to shine a light on the dark side of the NPS, the agency, and its Koolaide drinkers will without fail put the focus on the individual blowing the whistle and not the official misconduct.

I would recommend to anyone thinking of blowing the whistle on any US land management agency. to take a look at the book "The Art of Anonymous Activism: Serving the Public While Surviving Public Service." It is published by the non profit group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. www.peer.org.

online version of the book: http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/The%20Art%20of%20Anonymous%20Activism.pdf

If they choose to take your case PEER will take your information and see that it is used to best effect. This allows you to keep going in your career and stay on the inside while PEER takes the heat. They take disclosures at this site:

http://org.salsalabs.com/o/823/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=870

This is another good group to go to that helps whistle blowers. http://www.pogo.org/report-corruption/

The US office of Special Counsel and the DOI inspector general are places you can turn as well but NEVER GO THROUGH NPS CHANNELS OR GIVE THE DOI ANYTHING WITH YOUR NAME ON IT or the Yosemite Mafia types will get you.

I keep hoping NPT columnist PJ Ryan might return to this subject in 'View From The Overlook'. Until then, one can find some less-publicized examples by typing 'whistleblower' in the search box at his website: http://www.workingnet.com/thunderbear/ You may have to scroll to find the smiles. Here's an appetizer from Issue #256: 

"...In the haste and confusion of trying to crucify the whistleblower, NPS management invariably ends up nailing themselves to the cross, along with the whistleblower, where they all dangle, subject to editorial derision by liberal newspaper editors who are forever speculating in print on how the NPS obtains and promotes such stupid administrators.

How does this happen? Perhaps we should study a famous case from the annals of whistleblowing: In the year 1707. A British fleet was returning to England after a glorious victory that won the great fortress of Gibraltar for Great Britain. The fleet was led by Sir Cloudsley Shovel, Admiral of the Red (real name, neighbors, I'm not making this up!) in his flagship the 74 gun ship of the line, HMS Association.

The fleet was in the western approaches to the English Channel, several days sailing from the British naval base at Portsmouth where Sir cloudsley was to be received with great honor by the king himself. The sea was relatively calm with a light off shore breeze, but there was a dense fog so thick that it was difficult to discern the following ships in the fleet and then only by the ghostly glow of the battle lanterns, seemingly suspended in mid air.

A less confident, more cautious commander might have hove to, and let the fog burn off,

Not sir Cloudsley Shovel! It was just such confidence and daring that allowed him to prevail against much stronger enemies! He would not be denied the king's honors by being weather timid. Besides, he was one of the acknowledged masters of the art of Dead reckoning navigation, the form of navigation used by european seamen to calculate position at the time, and Sir Cloudsley calculated his fleet to be safely in the middle of the English channel.

High up in the rigging above Sir Cloudsley, a lone whistleblower was shortly to disagree with the admiral of the Red. He was a foretopman, the Royal Navy equivalent of a GS-3 in the National Park Service. Like most whistleblowers, he did not start out to be a whistleblower, but circumstances gave him no choice. He had been posted in the rigging to supplement the usual lookouts in case there was a break in the fog and well as provide an extra pair of ears to listen for surf breaking.

But our whistleblower had other senses and what they told him chilled his heart. There was something on the wind. He began to detect a faint, familiar odor from his childhood. What was it? Then memories flooded in and filled him with dread: The kelp pits of Scilly! Our whistleblower was a native of the Scilly Islands, a cluster of rocky, dangerous islands off the Cornish peninsula at the entrance to the English Channel, The people of the islands burned seaweed to make fertilizer, and the burning kelp created a unique, unforgettable odor that immediate brought back memory of place.

The smell meant they were steering directly toward the rocks of Scilly! There was not a moment to lose! He must notify his superiors! He slid down the ratlines and aproached the officer of the deck. (So far, so good. He was going through the chain of command like a good whistleblower should. No grandstanding, no running around the ship, yelling "WE'RE ALL BLEEPING DOOMED! WE'RE GOING ON THE ROCKS! )The officer of the watch was skeptical, but passed our whistleblower onto a bored lieutenant. The lieutenant thought it a very good story, but that as long a our whistleblower had not seen anything or heard anything, the nose thing must have been the product of ignorant superstition. Like most whistleblowers, our foretopman was getting impatient as he had the valuable, all important field knowledge of the problem but not the rank to do something about it.

He asked permission to stand below the Quarterdeck. Permission was granted. (Our whistleblower was still going through correct procedures!) Now the quarterdeck was where the officers stood. No seaman was allowed on the quarterdeck: that would mean mutiny. The quarter deck was about 6 feet above the main deck, so that the ship's officers could keep an eye on everything. Standing below the quarterdeck to state your grieveance or make a suggestion was very dangerous business in the 18th century British Navy. You automatically risked demotion, flogging, keelhauling or worse for suggesting that everything was not hunky-dory on one of His Majesty's ships. Understandably, few availed themselves of the "privilege".

Our whistleblower dedided to take the risk.

He stated his opinion on the fleet's position to Sir Cloudsley, Admiral of the Red. The Admiral was apoplectic. He could understand a request for more water or more bread, but to have his professonal competence questioned by ruffian foretopman! Well!

Our whistleblower begged Sir Cloudsley to consider the possibility that his calculations could possibly be in error, that a course change might be in order or at least the fleet hove to until the fog cleared.

At this point, our whistleblower made a fatal error. In the emotion of his argument, he happened to rest his hand on one of the planks of the quarterdeck to steady himself. He had touched the quarterdeck! Mutiny!

Sir Cloudsley ordered the marines to seize our whistleblower and hang him. (If you can detect a resemblance between Sir Cloudsley and a certain NPS official, you would make a good historian.)

After the hanging, Sir Cloudsley ordered more sail bent on to increase speed. It was to be his last order. The flagship went onto the Scilly rocks as the whistleblower had predicted. The rest of the fleet, dutifully following the lanterns of the ship in front of it, soon joined the flagship on the rocks.

It was one of the worst disasters in British maritime history. 2,000 men were drowned. But not Sir Cloudsley.

Somehow, perhaps clinging to wreckage, he was carried through the rocks and surf onto the beach. Totally soaked by the cold Channel sea and hyperthermic, he collapsed on the shingle just above tideline and awaited his fate. It was not long in coming.

Out of the fog materialized a woman, a fisherman wife. Perhaps Sir Cloudsley thought she was a ministering angel. He weakly raised his hand. Bad move. The woman caught the glint of his gold and emerald ring. She then did what many a person in her social station in 18th century England would do. She picked up a large rock, dropped it on Sir Cloudsley's head and then bit off his swollen finger to get the ring. Not a bad end for a stubborn snob.

Now was any thing learned? Well, no and yes. The British government did not pass a whistleblowers protection act, but they did offer the eqivalent of a 2 million dollar prize to the person who develop a means of calculating longitude to prevent another such disaster. The problem was finally solved shortly before the American Revolution.

However, the spirit of Sir Cloudley Shovel is still with us! Resolute in face of evidence to the contrary! Stalwart in vindictiveness! Indifatable in ignorance! Sir Cloudsley is the very model of a certain type of NPS executive! He shall not have died in vain!

We at THUNDERBEAR humbly propose the annual Sir Cloudsley Shovel Award to the Federal Land Management executive who best personifies the Sir Cloudsley Approach in dealing with whistleblowers. The winner will be decided by an impartial panel convened by PEER."

Perpetual seasonal, I read your posts and I think you have some valid points. I must agree however with Rick Smith, Lee and Rick B, we must be careful taring everyone with a broad brush. I personally spoke out on many issues, so I do have some inkling of your position. But I must tell you that, on balance, the vast majority of employees at every level, from the trail crew to the Superintendents Office, were competent, ethical and motivated people who were enjoyable to work with. Mr. Rick Smith was just one example. Rick Smith has carried on his work in retirement to both take on some tough acting Supt. positions (until replacements could be selected), and to work internationally with other nations on their park ranger issues. Rick B, yes, I think you are right, in my own retirement activities, I continue to meet just excellent NPS personnel.

That is not to say I am satisfied with NPS/DOI handling of those abuses that occur. Improvements need to be made and Rick B is right, these cases of gross abuse of power happen in all agencies and in the private sector as well. Unfortunately we see the same behavior in the political arena. In any case, this is an interesting discussion for me personally.

As a 30+ year retired Federal employee I can assure this is not just the NPS, I'm sure it's rife in all govt agencies since we're pretty much under the same 'Standards of Conduct'. Some examples from the agency I worked for:

Office manager found with a struggling female employee pinned to his desk=promotion, employee promoted as 'hush money'

Supervisor harassed an employee who criticized her to the point of the employee being hospitalized for acute GI distress/internal bleeding=transfer & promotion within 6 months, employee forced to retire for 'excessive absences'

Supervisor stalked female employee=transfer, no discipline, employee relocated per her request (at her own expense)

Supervisor falsifying time records re his OT, stealing office furniture/supplies=promotion, now the '2nd in command' at a large regional facility

Office manager with a history of screaming red-faced at this employees & throwing things=very large cash 'performance' awards yearly

This is just a few of the things I saw myself. The stories are legion, believe me. Whenever federal retirees get together, these stories are many and more and more outrageous. I think there is a very big and very real culture of 'fear of retaliation' in govt employment. Our unions can only do so much, and most of the time it's not enough, although the union I was under tried very hard. Whistleblower protection is a joke.

You will get no argument from me that there are many wonderful people in the NPS. It is for them that I speak out against people like Cliff Spencer who the government now acknowledges violated the Whistle Blower Protection Act when he retaliated against the Schundlers.

As for the two Ricks; I don't want to get personal when it comes to other users of this site. I appreciate the forum and the exchange of ideas. But, to put Mr. Smith's comments here into perspective, I would reccomend readers take a look at the review of the book "The Case of the Indian Trader" he wrote for NPT.

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/review/2011/billy-malone-and-national-park-service-investigaton-hubbell-trading-post8533

The comments section of the review is replete with long time NPS rangers with twenty plus years of experience stating over and over how bad NPS leadership has gotten over the years. They tell of instance after instance of malfeasance in the agency. Mixed in with those comments you'll see Mr. Smith making comments to the effect of 'well I never saw anything like that' and 'that was not my experience.' How is it that he never saw or experienced these things that are epidemic in the agency? Maybe he's just that lucky.

My sense of it is that things have gotten a lot worse in the last twenty years that could be a factor as far as people's perceptions as well as where you served. My impression is that the Northeast is the worst when it comes to corruption. I saw supervisors there who would go out shopping while on the clock. I think the division you work in has something to do with perceptions of how bad things are. I have the feeling that leadership in visitor/resource protection and maintenance is much better than interpretation; human resources and administration in general are a total mess.

Well, a terrific story, perhaps Thunderbear will pick up on it.

Rick B. and Rick S.--I have read your comments, along with those of others, with considerable interest. While both of you have been courteous, and I applaud you for the level-headed approach you have taken, the fact remains that in my view you are in essence in a situation of defending the indefensible. I have read and re-read Ranger Danno's account, along with some of the documentation he cites. As someone with a background in research and writing (retired university history professor who has written widely for both scholarly and popular audiences), I find his coverage compelling. What makes it even more so is his willingness, repeatedly, to point out where he made mistakes.

When it comes to the Malone situation, it is one where a solid dose of common sense would have served far better than a vindictive, costly, "we can never be questioned" NPS approach. Again, the book is carefully, indeed meticulously, documented, and the NPS cost the taxpayers a great deal of money even as they did their level best to destroy a good, decent man.

Add to that the highly questionable and quite possibly illegal activities of Jarvis, the shameless money fiddling of a female predecessor of his, and the Schundler situation which led to this exchange of views, and you begin to have a quite compelling case for pervasive problems in the NPS hierarchy

As for the situation connected with backcountry fees in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I am intimately familiar with that issue. Quite simply, superintendent Dale Ditmanson has lied, multiple times. on issues related to the fee. Those began with his justification of the fee being based on overcrowding in the backcountry. When I pointed out that the Park's own statistics belied that, since camping in the backcountry had been dropping steadily over some three decades, and when others used that finding (it came from the Park's own statistics) as one reason for challenging him, things began to go downhill. There has been cronyism, initial resistance to FOIA filings, special favors for hig-placed politicians, questionable dealings with concessionaires, and more. From start to lawsuit the whole matter has been handled in a miserable fashion laced with arrogance.

There are enough comments on this thread, many of them clearly coming from folks with every reason to use noms de plume when writing, to make it abundantly clear that their are major management issues in the NPS as well as a culture which brooks no dissent.

Jim Casada (and for matters of clarity, that's my real name--I have never worked for the NPS, although some people I know well and greatly admire have done so--and therefore don't have to worry about the all too real threat of retribution)

Jim Casada, thank you for your post. I must admit that I think it is right on, and I am a firm supporter, generally speaking, of the NPS. I have also read both books twice now, ("Worth Fighting For" and The Case of the Indian Trader"). I find them both very sobering, you nailed it in my own humble opinion.

Mr. Casada--

I fully agree with you. The Danno and Malone cases are inexcusable and I said so in the book reviews that were published on NPT. I don't know as much about the Schundler case so I will leave that to others who do. I don't see a problem with a backcountry camping fee in the Smokies, but have no idea how it was implemented or whether the superintendent is guilty of not telling the truth or not, All I have are the charges from smokiesbackpacker as evidence and I am not absolutey sure he is an unbiased witness.

Nevertheless, we are talking about a handful of people out of the 20,000 or so that work for the NPS. Maybe, as perpetual seasonal states above, I was lucky in my career not to run into that handful. Nonetheless, that is still a small number. I am reluctant to castigate all the employees of the NPS for the actions of a few. One poster above says NPT is replete with charges against the NPS. Yet, when I look back at the posts, it's pretty much the same people who are doing the criticizing.

No government agency or private business is without its faults and poor performers. The NPS's get highlighted here because that is the topic to which NPT is devoted. I worked for the NPS for 31 years and like most employees, I was a bit of a vagabond. I worked in 6 or 7 parks, 2 regional offices and in the headquarters in DC. The vast majority of employees with whom I worked were honest, hardworking and dedicated to serving the public and preserving and protecting resources. That majority, by the way, includes a number of posters on NPT.

I don't doubt that some posters here may have run into some of the minority of employees who were poor performers. But it is another thing entirely to blame the NPS for carrying out the policies or laws that someone doesn't like. That's not poor performance; that's doing what you are supposed to do.

I appreciate you using your real name and suspect that some who don't are far beyond the reach of the NPS. Thank you.

Rick

And I also have never defended the NPS in the Danno or Malone cases. I jyust don't like the off with her head, NPS is the bad guy, black helicopter, generalist attitude.

Mr Smith,

You say that situations like this are the result of just a handful of wrong doers but do you honestly believe that if tomorrow some seasonal were to start filing FOIA request on his park that he isn't going to face the same kinds of reprisals ten out of ten times? What odds would you give anyone who did that for being rehired for the next season?

An interesting article on how the agency continues to stonewall Freedom of Information Act Requests regarding possible efforts to make the government shutdown as painful as possible:

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/366063/national-park-service-stonewalls-foia-request-mount-vernon-barricades-cites-potential

Do you have a more objective source than William F. Buckley's National Review. Per Wiki: "Many of the magazine's commentators are affiliated with think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. Prominent guest authors have included Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Sarah Palin in the online and paper edition."

Sorry, but I do judge information to a degree by the credibility of the source, as I'm certain you do as well.

Typical Rick - rather than provide any facts to show the source wrong, just dismiss it on ideological grounds.

Oh come on, Wall Street, you do the same doggone thing, so back off. I asked if he had a more neutral source. The day you aren't driven by your ideology, poke your head back up.

Well, the article states that the NPS is stonewalling. However, they received the requested documents within 8 weeks. Not exactly stonewalling. Addtionally, the 'un-biased' reporter is making value judgements as to the information redacted. He believes the redacted portions must be damning and/or embarrassing information to the NPS. It could be that some of it has nothing to do with the FOIA request or contains opinions unrelated to the FOIA request. As a journalist is not 'supposed' to infer the truth, just relate the facts, this reporter shows bias, presumably against the NPS.

Not really a big deal. But, if you value fact and base credibility on it, this reporter fails for inserting opinion into the article.


you do the same doggone thing,


No I don't. I provide logical arguments and facts I don't just dismiss. Because I have logical arguments and facts.

Thanks, Dahkota.

Thanks for one heck of a good laugh, ec.


Typical Rick - rather than provide any facts to show the source wrong, just dismiss it on ideological grounds.


This one took about 12 seconds to find:

"Of course [The New York Times] supports [the basic science of heat/temperature] given its liberal agenda." Submitted by ecbuck on June 19, 2013 - 9:20am

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2013/06/climate-change-workshop-teachers-coming-apostle-islands-national-lakeshore-next-month23472

(My New Year's resolution is not to engage in these puerile flame wars, but sometimes the irony is just too hilarious to pass up.)

And with that, we're moving on....