After 35 years with the National Park Service, Steve Martin has decided it's time to hang up his Stetson. The superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park has announced that he'll retire as of January 1.
Mr. Martin's departure opens one of the most-sought superintendencies in the National Park System and closes the career of a man who started out as a ranger and worked his way just about to the very top of the National Park Service. Not too surprisingly, along the way from his first job at the Grand Canyon as a backcountry river ranger to his current position -- with a stint as deputy director of the Park Service and a few superintendent roles in between -- he gathered some controversy.
Some inside the Park Service associate Mr. Martin with the "core ops" budgeting approach wielded by the Intermountain Region, one that many saw as merely a tool to cut both unwanted programs and personnel. Others questioned his appointment of his wife to a newly created "Group Superintendent" role within the region overseeing three other park superintendents.
During Mr. Martin's stint as regional director a case arose around Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in which the Indian trader was accused -- wrongly, it turned out -- of embezzling from the trading post. After a lengthy, and costly, series of investigations, including one by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General, Park Service officials determined that Intermountain Region investigators and managers who looked into the business operations at Hubbell Trading exhibited "poor case management" and "poor judgment and performance."
Neither Mr. Martin nor his deputy at the time, Mike Snyder, ever responded to inquiries from the Traveler about how they handled that investigation. (It has now been two years since the Traveler filed a Freedom of Information request with the Interior Department requesting its investigative reports into the matter and not a single page has been turned over.)
A lawsuit filed by the Indian trader, Billy Malone, included both Mr. Martin and Mr. Snyder as defendants, accusing them of misconduct and wrongful seizure of property belonging to Mr. Malone. A judge later removed the Park Service officials from the matter, saying he didn't think a case could be built against them.
Mr. Martin's career included stops as superintendent of Grand Teton, Denali and Gates of Arctic national parks, various roles in Yellowstone and Voyageurs national parks, as well as in the agency's Intermountain Regional Office in Denver where he served as regional director from September 2003 to April 2005, when he moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as deputy director. Two years later he returned to the field as Grand Canyon superintendent.
At Gates of the Arctic, he worked with Alaska Natives on cooperative conservation involving subsistence, wilderness and resource protection, and eco-tourism, according to a Park Service release.
As Grand Canyon superintendent, Mr. Martin advocated for high-flow releases of Lake Powell through the Glen Canyon Dam so that they might revitalize the Colorado River corridor through the park.
“Living and working in some of the most beautiful places on earth, with some of the best people in the world, has been a great privilege and adventure—for me and our family," Mr. Martin said in a prepared statement. "We have great memories of places and people and now look forward to spending more time out and about in national parks and protected places around the world.”