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Op-Ed | When The Bureaucracy Demands Permission: A Warning For Our National Parks

Mar 8th - 10:47am | ecbuck

 Why does any institution need an "Ethics Office" in the first place? The same reason we need law makers and policemen.  1) not everyone has a common set of values  2) not everyone obeys the rules.   Why do we suddenly seem so confident that a bureaucracy is better than a court of law?

Mar 8th - 09:57am | Alfred Runte

A question for the readers. Why does any institution need an "Ethics Office" in the first place? Shouldn't everyone in the organization already know what is right and wrong? Other than their preacher, priest, rabbi, or minister, must someone else always be telling them that?

Mar 7th - 22:33pm | raybane

A very thoughtful and well written comment.  Thank you, rmackie.  Your critical appraisal of the issue is well-ballanced and concise.  I have had differences with Director Jarvis, but I have always respected his personal commitment to the National Park Service.  Nonetheless, he made a serious mistake - one he likely would have disciplined a subordinate for commiting.

Mar 7th - 11:43am | Ethical Retired...

The NPS Director has claimed that the agency's Ethics Office was an excessive impediment, which is why he went around it in publishing his book.  Others have described that office as a bureaucratic mess.  I assume it has been under the Director's supervision for the seven or so years he's in charge.  My question is this:  What could he

Mar 7th - 11:25am | rmackie

Agree Lee, Dr. Runte's post is thought provoking and unfortunately true in many respects. I also take issue with a coupe of points. In the case of the NPS Director, the issue is not his writing book, it was the means to achieve the same.

Mar 7th - 10:30am | tahoma

Thanks for the lesson in comparative bureaucracy, especially this gem:"The National Park Service is not the Pentagon, but the game is still the same. If you are truthful, the other players will cut your budget to ribbons. In other words, the moment the bureaucracy asks, the moment the truth inflates. A generous overhead for the bureaucracy is built in.

Mar 7th - 09:48am | Lee Dalton

Wow! This is something we need to read several times to absorb it all. Unfortunately, Dr. Runte is right.  And unfortunately, the effects of this -- and a zillion or two other similar stories throughout virtually every curve and corner of American life -- are being seen now as frustrated people think they've found their savior in a bizarre bully.

Mar 7th - 08:03am | SmokiesBackpacker

The NPS serves the NPS, and the concessionaires.  That is spot on.  Jarvis turned the agency into a money whore while turning out those who truly wished to pursue wilderness stewardship. He should step down.  But his arrogance will not permit that.  

UPDATED: Forest Service Rejects Permit Request That Could Have Led To Development Near Grand Canyon

Mar 8th - 09:34am | JB Bergeron

Great Joy and celebration upon hearing of the Forest Service's decision!  Submitting comments does work. 

Mar 7th - 10:24am | Christy

I found this article through Earthjustice. I'm a native Phoenician, and I read online news sources because the primary Arizona news sites (The Arizona Republic newspaper, , and TV news) are all silent on any issue that opposes the Republican machine in this state.

Mar 7th - 00:24am | Leland CAMPBELL


Mar 6th - 19:18pm | Willem J De Groot

"THEY WANT TO PAVE PARADISE AND PUT UP A PARKING LOT"? How often do we have to witness this cenerio, thank you for making the right discision to protect this gem for future generations. We are grateful.  

Birding In The National Parks: The Mob That Protects Wading Birds In The Everglades

Mar 8th - 09:04am | roseman2000

Enjoyed reading the articles. What makes this research stand out is your excellent field work. Projects with remote data collection involves dedication so thanks for those efforts! Always fascinated with the process of handling outliers. They can be a source of fun or a big headache. Tim

Cool Events And Hot Exhibits On Tap In March For The Acadia National Park Centennial

Mar 8th - 06:27am | Acadia on my mind

Among the official Acadia Centennial events running all year: First-ever 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek. Hikers, runners or step-counters around the world can log their miles and see their map icon move along the route that goes over the 26 peaks of Acadia, along parts of the Park Loop Road and carriage roads, and sections of the real-life MDI YMCA Acadia Half and Fall Half Marathons.

New Study Finds Many Appalachian Trail Hikers Are Unable To Identify Key Sign Of Lyme Disease

Mar 8th - 00:11am | Grace

I know  three people that have it , one is runner, an outdoorsy person, The other was hiking out in the wilderness, and the third person was hiking  at the foot  of the Cascade mountains. I read of  case where  a guy got it playing ball in central park.

Mar 7th - 21:58pm | SuzyQ

It is in Oregon and Washington. Maybe not epidemic levels of the east coast but it is definately here. When I was at the doctors in Portland I was stunned to see lot of people getting IV and I asked this patient what they were being treated for and it was Lyme. Seemed like a lot of people to me considering only  352  cases were reported. I think the number is higher than that.

Fireside Read: Guidebook To American Values And Our National Parks

Mar 7th - 16:34pm | Mark Dowie

I am not defending this book review, or the book reviewed. But I do defend the right of a magazine or book review editor to assign or accept the review of a book, or a movie, a play, an opera, concert or art exhibit by a partisan, even viciously partisan reviewer. Can you imagine how boring book or any cultural reviews would be without some attitude?

Mar 7th - 07:28am | SmokiesBackpacker

What I appreciate is that NPT is THE only media outlet in existence that will take on the NPS without forcing people to chug the NPS kool-aid.  Testament to this fact is that I have found no other media outlet that would dare besmirch the beloved Jarvis and call him to task for an obvious and arrogant move.

Mar 6th - 21:30pm | Lee Dalton

Gordon, Traveler seems to make a sincere effort to actually be "fair and balanced."  Although I was certainly turned off completely by Ms. Rolph's article, it's important that we have opportunities to read opinions from all sides.  Without that, there is no balance.

Mar 6th - 21:09pm | rmackie

Gordon, I to found Ms. Rolph's review more of an opinion piece on the the NPS Director than on the book. In any case, I  want to defend the Traveler for publishing it. It is important to read different viewpoints, as EC stated, lets not only have one oar in the water. I do think Ms.

Mar 6th - 21:06pm | Ethical Retired...

I probably wouldn't be reading this book anyway, even if the book review had been more informative and made it seem interesting.  There is obvious hypocrisy displayed in the manner in which this author produced his book.  One of the core values purportedly advanced in this book is "Honesty".  How can that be, when the author lied both to his bos

Mar 6th - 19:40pm | ecbuck

But the entire Rolph article claiming to be a "book review" was off topic and ad hominem. Gorden, you have an interesting perspective when you claim the discussion of the Superintendent of the NPS is "off topic" and "ad hominen" on a site discussing the National Parks.  

Mar 6th - 19:29pm | Gordon Bennett

But the entire Rolph article claiming to be a "book review" was off topic and ad hominem. If off-topic and ad hominen submissions are banned on the National Parks Traveler website, then the Rolph article should never have been published here. Rolph's article would have been entirely appropriate if published on her advocacy website.

Mar 6th - 18:30pm | ecbuck

that our comments on those same articles are not published until "approved by a moderator." I find my comments go through immediately- no approval necessary.  And Lord knows, Kurt and I are frequently on a different page.   If there is "after the fact" editing it usually is because the responses have moved off topic or have become ad hominen.

Mar 6th - 18:27pm | Kurt Repanshek

Gordon, the reason some comments are moderated is to stop spammers from posting willy-nilly. Folks who sign up for accounts have their comments go live when they post them.

Mar 6th - 17:52pm | Gordon Bennett

But if ecbuck's point about letting "thoughts pass of fail on their own merit, not on some editors bias" were actually the logic by which the National Parks Traveler publishes articles...then it is illogical and contradictory that our comments on those same articles are not published until "approved by a moderator."

Mar 6th - 17:33pm | ecbuck

Perhaps NPT is trying to have an oar on both sides of the boat.  Keeps you from going around in circles. I applaud Kurt for presenting alternative points of view and leaving them open for discussion. Let the thoughts pass or fail on their merit, not on some editor's bias.  

Mar 6th - 16:59pm | Gordon Bennett

Having long experience with Ms. Rolph's on-going vendettas against those with whom she disagrees, I am not at all surprised about the attack-dog tone of her supposed "book review." But the more fundamental and interesting question is why the National Parks Traveler would stoop to publish such an obvious ad hominem attack on the Director of the National Parks?

Mar 6th - 11:59am | Rick Smith

"Her upcoming book about Drakes Bay Oyster Farm tells the story of a historic oyster farm in Point Reyes, California that the Park Service is trying to remove for unstated reasons of its own." This from her website.  Tells you a bit about what oar she has in the water.

Mar 6th - 11:42am | Lee Dalton

All three of the commenters above have said very well what I am thinking.  I'll try to find a copy of the book so I may read it and draw my own conclusions.  But for right now, I'm wondering exactly who Sarah Rolph is and why she has such an obvious axe to grind.

Mar 6th - 11:27am | ecbuck

Sarah, I am fully sympathetic with Drakes Bay cause and believe that was terribly mishandled.  Further, I am no appologist for Jarvis in other "management" matters as I don't know enought about them to opine.  But, I must say, this is far from an objective book review and I think much has been made of little on the book deal.  

Mar 6th - 11:06am | Rick B.

I learned nothing about the book, and it sounds like the author is using this premise to continue her personal vendetta. I don't have an oar in the water either way, but from this review I gain no clue about the book.

National Park Service Uses Arlington Memorial Bridge To Highlight Maintenance Backlog Woes

Mar 7th - 16:04pm | ecbuck

Rolling over Congress won't do anything for the bloated bureaucracy.  But let's stick to the NPS.  Why in the world is the Arlington Bridge part of the NPS.  Its emblematic of the NPS being stretched beyond its mission and means.  

Mar 7th - 15:32pm | Lee Dalton

And what better way to start trimming that bloated bureaucracy than by voting all the career incumbent Congress members out and replacing them with fresh blood subject to rigid term limits and campaign finance reform founded on repeal of Citizens United?

Mar 7th - 12:50pm | ecbuck

Alfred and Lee, The vast majority of those riding over Arlington bridge each day aren't going to a national park.  They are daily communters of the bloated federal beaucracy.  

Mar 7th - 10:29am | Alfred Runte

I think Lee is right. Haven't you noticed all of the signs: "Don't Feed the Politicians"?Seriously, although I haven't done the math lately, about 9,000 acres of Washington, DC, is in federal ownership for public parks--the Mall, Rock Creek Park, etc. And then there are all of the buildings and monuments.

Mar 7th - 09:33am | ecbuck

Maybe because nearly all of D.C. is a de-facto national park. I am so baffled by that comment it is impossible to respond.  

Mar 7th - 09:24am | Lee Dalton

Maybe because nearly all of D.C. is a de-facto national park.

Mar 7th - 08:33am | ecbuck

The bridge isn't an example of an NPS backlog, it is an example of assets that have no business being part of the NPS.  Why is the NPS footing the bill for commuters into DC?

Essential Park Guide, Spring 2016: Time To Spring Into The Parks

Mar 7th - 14:31pm | Ken Case

Always interested in new places to visit

UPDATED: USFWS Proposes To Remove Yellowstone, Grand Teton Grizzly Bears From Endangered Species Act Protection

Mar 7th - 09:24am | ecbuck

Are there some?  I am sure there are.  But I believe they are a tiny fraction of the decisions that are made on a daily basis.  I'm not going to make accusations against everyone and anyone for the digressions of a few.   If you have evidence of "backroom, under the table, quid pro quo dealings and pressures re the grizzlies - show us.

Mar 7th - 09:13am | Lee Dalton

Well, all I'll say is that I think it's awfully foolish of any American to even think that there are no shady backroom, under the table, quid pro quo dealings and pressures applied to the people who must administer the government Congress and some administrations have screwed up so badly.

Mar 7th - 08:15am | ecbuck

Now let's see you PROVE that there are no backroom shenanigans. Ah once again you make an accusation, provide no proof and then ask me to prove a negative.  Saul at his best.   stark shades of Black and White with nothing in between.

Mar 6th - 23:04pm | rmackie

Lee, I agree, there is always many shades of grey between the extremes on most issues.  That said, I must admit I am impressed by the comments of Dr. David Murphy, the spokesperson for the greater Yellowstone Coalition, NPCA, others. There is much science and creditability behind the above mentioned people, groups,  I will sign the petition. 

Mar 6th - 22:33pm | Lee Dalton

Well, there are a few million others out there who share my distrust of our power brokers.  Now let's see you PROVE that there are no backroom shenanigans. Can't do it, can you? Just the other day, someone wrote about Grand Canyon and  ended his article with a comment about how things are seldom black and white, but that there are lots of "gray areas."

Mar 6th - 21:46pm | ecbuck

Unfortunately, too many years of hidden dealings in back rooms have engendered a lot of distrust on all sides of virtually every issue that faces our nation.   Yeah, all those "hidden dealings" that you can't identify and don't have a clue whether they happened or not.  But hey, lets just make the (baseless) accusation.

Mar 6th - 21:37pm | Lee Dalton

I know it's impossible to ever find out, but I can't help wondering how much of the move toward delisting is driven by good science and how much by political pressure from various groups pushing on Congress. Dr. Mattson's comments cause a lot of concern here.

Mar 6th - 19:26pm | ecbuck

Kent, would you like to propose your argument why delisting is inapproporate?

Mar 6th - 19:04pm | Kent Nelson

If you oppose delisting grizzlies sign the petition at

Native American Tribes To Pursue Bear Ears National Monument With President Obama

Mar 6th - 13:06pm | CJ

My thoughts exactly. All you have to do is read the official document that's been put together and it is very clear that this is the goal. The proposal would have them working hand in hand with government, which would be a first, and in my opinion, change that area for lots and lots of people. 

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