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National Park Quiz 51: Administrivia

Praised for its many green construction features, this building was named in honor of former U.S. Senator Carl T. Curtis (1905-2000). If you know what city it’s in, you know the answer to the Extra Credit Question. U.S. General Services Administration photo by Tom Kessler, Kessler Photography.

1. True or false? The Department of Interior official who directly oversees the operation of the National Park Service is the Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

2. True or false? The National Park Service document that provides guidance to park Superintendents and other officials in the field is called Administrative Policies.

3. True or false? The National Park Service administers more than 25,000 historic structures.

4. True or false? The Organic Act of 1916 stipulated that a national park must have an approved General Management Plan before it can be opened for public use.

5. True or false? A National Park Service employee stationed with the Washington Office has the job title Assistant to the Chief Special Assistant, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

6. True or false? The National Park Service publishes and periodically updates a set of regulations and requirements called the Superintendent’s Compendium which applies to all units in the National Park System.

7. True or false? National Park Service officials who are Senior Executive Service members occupy positions in the agency that require appointment by the President with Senate confirmation.

8. True or false? There is no Federal law stipulating that the National Park Service must administer every National Park System unit .

9. True or false? Each of the four-letter alpha codes that identify National Park System units refers to a different National Park System unit.

10. True or false? In National Park Service budget lingo, ONPS stands for Office of the National Park Service.

Extra Credit Question:

11. Tell what is missing from the following sequence: Anchorage; Denver; Washington, DC; Philadelphia; Oakland; Atlanta.

Super Bonus Question:

12. Administrators need to know the names of the properties they are administering. What name did Congress give to the tract of land described in the 1872 legislation that created the world’s first national park?


(1) True. Incidentally, this is one of those high-level positions requiring a presidential appointment with Senate confirmation.

(2) False. This very important document is called Management Policies.

(3) True. According to the 2008 Director's Report, the National Park Service is responsible for managing around 27,000 historic structures.

(4) False. The Organic Act contained no stipulation like this, nor is any such requirement in effect today. Many National Park System units have operated for years without an approved GMP. Acadia National Park, for example, had already existed for three-quarters of a century (initially as Sieur de Monts National Monument) when it got its first approved General Management Plan in 1992.

(5) False. However, there is a WASO-assigned National Park Service employee whose job title is Special Assistant, Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. There is also a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

(6) False. The Superintendent’s Compendium spells out various special designations, closures, public use limits, permit requirements, and other restrictions pertaining to a specified National Park System unit. The restrictions/constraints are imposed under the Superintendent’s discretionary authority.

(7) False. However, members of the Senior Executive Service do occupy key positions just below the Presidential appointees. (Conceptually, these SES members are the main link between the presidential appointees and the agency work force.) Several SES members administer major national parks.

(8) True. There are several National Park System units that are not managed by the National Park Service. Louisiana’s Poverty Point National Monument, which has no federal facilities and no federally owned land, is administered by Poverty Point State Park. Washington's Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve is managed by the Trust Board of Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve.

(9) False. Well, almost true. One National Park System unit, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, has two four-letter alpha codes – one for the Seattle component (KLSE) and one for the Skagway component (KLGO). Give yourself a bonus point if you knew that each of this park's components also has its own superintendent.

(10) False. There is no such thing as an “Office of the National Park Service.” In National Park Service budget lingo, ONPS simply stands for Operation of the National Park Service.

(11) The missing city is Omaha. Like the six cities in the list, Omaha is home to a National Park Service Regional Office – the one for the Midwest Region, to put a finer point on it.

(12) Believe it or not, the Act of Dedication dated March 1, 1872, refers to the specified tract of land as a “public park” but does not give it an official name! (See for yourself at this site. ) The claims that the National Park System unit we now call Yellowstone National Park was initially designated Yellowstone Forest Reserve or Yellowstone Timberland Reserve are all unfounded.

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.


Well, I had 5 correct. This was a good one Bob.

For number 1, I found a description of the Department of the Interior, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, for those who may be interested.

Bob, is this Assistant Secretary the direct boss of the NPS director on a day-to-day basis?

Bob, number 6 refers to the Superintendent's Compendium. Is this document put out annually? Is it more of a "traditional" thing put out by the superintendent of a new park? Could you explain a little further? Thanks a lot.

Executive Director,
Crater Lake Institute
Robert Mutch Photography,

The Superintendent's Compendium should be issued periodically, though I don't know that they absolutely have to be annual. No doubt they should be reviewed annually, at least. It's a very important part of giving park policies legal force. But they are often neglected in parks with a low law-enforcement presence.

If you're interested, it looks like Crater Lake is accepting comments on their 2009 Compendium right now:

Don't beat yourself up, Robert. I suspect that five is about par for this one (though Rick Smith did get them all correct). Dan's got it right for the Superintendent's Compendium. As for the NPS Director's immediate supervisor, well, "day-to-day basis" is a rather ambiguous concept. Few federal administrators in the upper echelons have the time, talent, or inclination to be micro-managers. The concept "answers to" is useful. In practical terms, this means that the supervisor is saying "You will not be hearing from me until you screw up in a way that makes me look bad."


Chalk me up as resting on my laurels for the first time in a long time. Rob, the superintendent's compendium contains those restrictions that apply only to that park. For instance, many parks have areas designated in their compendiums where 1st amendment activities may take place. We had such a place designated in Everglades. When the Sierra Club was conducting their "Dump Watt" petition drive, they were restricted to operating in one place in the park. These compendiums are normally reviewed in house once a year.

The Director of the NPS receives his/her direct supervision from the Asst. Secy for Fish, Wildlife and Parks on a day-to-day basis.

Rick Smith

Thanks Dan, Bob, and Rick. The "inside scoops" are especially appreciated.

Executive Director,
Crater Lake Institute
Robert Mutch Photography,

I _wish_ #9 was almost true!
and 2 others I keep forgetting and get tripped up by.
The Alaskan parks that are also preserves each have 2 codes for some purposes: the park & the preserve.
And don't get me started on the multiple codes for different hierarchical levels of National Capital Region Parks.
Also, Gettysburg and many battlefields have a second code for the national cemetery.

Note that there is not a single "official" set of park codes, even though the lands office uses codes, I&M uses codes, the park-specific websites use codes, etc. I think that the only true statement is that all NPS units, including training centers and administrative facilities, have at least 1 code (not necessarily unique).

#8 has many more examples: Grand Staircase Escalante NM, Santa Rosa Mountains NM, Parashant NM, Canyhon of the Ancients NM, etc.

Plus, there are several National Monuments where NPS administers but owns none of the land: Canyon de Chelly and Navaho NM.

Thanks, Anon. I'm sure you understand that it's impractical to include all exceptions and examples in every explanation accompanying quiz answers -- there's just not room for them all. If there are many instances, I try to include enough to make the point. CACA was replaced with CAVE a good while back -- and for the reason you think (it's Spanish for poop). COSW became obsolete in 2003 when Congaree Swamp National Monument was redesignated Congaree National Park. (These are not all of the redesignations that prompted new alpha codes.) Sequoia NP and Kings Canyon NP have the same alpha code, SEKI. The NPS 394-unit count doesn't include any national cemeteries, and that's why I didn't mess around with cemetery alpha codes. No NPS units in the National Capital region that I know of are identified by more than a single alpha code. There is, of course, some double counting of units going on (I've already written about that), but each unit still has its unique alpha code..

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