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Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin Hanging Up His Hat


After 35 years with the National Park Service, most recently as Grand Canyon superintendent, Steve Martin has decided to retire. NPS handout.

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.”


This is a really crappy write up to summarize a 35 year career with the NPS. I am deeply disappointed to read garbage like this.
There is no mention of all that Steve Martin accomplished in his career and especially in his four years at Grand Canyon National Park.
Very disappointing!

Stop whining and calling it "crappy". Actions and example speak louder than any write up. Martin is lucky he and his wife were not idicted for their ethical and other wrong doings including official travel often conveniently rigged to be done together at taxpayer expense. Free ride for a very long time with special exceptions and considerations that none of the rest of the NPS workforce received nor should the NPS workforce receive. We hope Mrs. Martin will soon follow her husband's example and choose retirement. Her career exists essentially because of her husband's power to force the hand of previous officials in the NPS and DOI. Her enabling safety net is about to be pulled out for good with Martin's retirement on January 1. A new year and a new day for the NPS with this turn of events. Happy Retirement Superintendent Martin!

I suppose his proudest accomplishment is the destruction of the mule rides. People who have been in the GC park for 20-30 years know all about Mr. Stevie, and his wife. Must be nice to be able to CREATE a position and put your spouse into it! His excuses for getting rid of the mules were pure B.S.

Good riddance, I say.

Editor's note: No decision has been made on the ongoing stock use -- both mules and horses -- of the canyon trails. Indeed, on the South Rim stock use continues to be allowed year-round.

For the last five years, I have had the opportunity to work with both of the Martins in an official capacity. During that time, I found them both to be two of the most capable civil servants I've had the honor to work with. To say that Mrs. Martin is unqualified to serve in her present role is unfair and untrue. On NAGPRA work, she is one of a handful of authorities I would turn to in order to get edification. As a park manager, she has done a tremendous job of working with the tribes as well as reaching out to her local partners. She is an extremely capable and qualified civil servant who earned the position she currently serves in. If you have real facts, state them - but don't just libel someone without justification.

As far as Mr. Martin, whether you like him personally or not, I think you would be hard pressed to find evidence that he has not been effective as a park manager. During his tenure, he pushed hard and got new housing for park staff; completed long drawn out projects that should have been finished a decade ago (park roads, bike rental program, update the VC and HQ, the new entrance station at the watchtower, and the trail of time); and gained the support and loyalty of park staff as well as park neighbors and partners. He could often be abrasive and lack tact, but he got the job done and worked in ways that were in the best interest of the park staff, the park, and its visitors.

We are grateful for the incredible job that both Martins have done and with them good luck in the next chapter of their life.

I agree with the last 'Anonomous' comment about the quality and intelligence of Ms. Martin. She is bright and imaginative, energetic, and excellent to work with.

I also believe the federal government should foster dual career employment, of married couples. There was a time many years ago that the NPS seemed to ignore the need of spouses to work. Because it is critical that NPS people be moved around, and not go stagnant or become 'clientists' at one assignment for year after year, some provision must be made to permit both parties to seek NPS employment, particularly in remote jobs.

Steve Martin is a good example of best of the traditional park ranger ethic. He clearly believes in the Mission of the Service, and like many other dedicated employees, helped parks and park people in an honest and straightforward if old fashioned way. Several times when worthy initiatives were threatened by the bean-counters or politically motivated colleagues, i have seen him intervene in a gentle way to make the problem go away, without kicking up dust. Personally, I never found him either abrasive or tactless. He seemed to me pretty sincere and straightforward. I found him to be very free of ego. You could challenge his ideas directly, and he did not take your head off; he seemed to me to want to listen. Like many of the best park people with green blood, I think Steve Martin has not always been prepared for the political times in which we live. Many of the most loyal and most conscientious park rangers are not.

Maybe that is to his credit. Maybe someone as deputy director more capable of defanging the forces opposed to the NPS -- in the Bush Administration, in the OMB and in the Congress -- would have been crushed anyway. My sense is that very few of the senior NPS people are devoted to politics, or possess political gifts. Except perhaps, for the Byzantine Budget Office who's priorities and power base seem to have little to do with the needs of the Serviice or System. It seems to me in the face of impossible odds, Mr. Martin was as conscientious and effective as he possibly could. He made things better than they would have been without him.

I know nothing about any role Mr. Martin may have played personally in the Hubble issue, nor have complete confidence in the insight or balance of investigations by the IG or GAO. Or, if he had any role delaying the release of Freedom of Information requests, or intransigence by the NPS or the lawyers.

So what are the particulars of his and his wife's golden parachute or is Mrs. Martin going to take over the Grand Canyon Superintendent's position?
As far as the South Rim originating Inner Canyon Mule Rides, he reduced them by 75%. No affordable day ride to Plateau Point while only ten riders can go to Phantom per day. All the while the mule packers continue to haul duffels for hikers and supplies for hikers, Phantom Ranch and NPS Rangers alike. It was a shot at the concessionaire with NO consideration for the public. Many of which are disabled that could not possibly experience the transformational ride which is equally awesome for the not physically challenged. Never in any discussion with Martin or any that were representing his proposals did I here a word of true respect for what has been a 103 year old iconic tradition with NO rider fatalities in ALL THOSE YEARS while, on average, 30 visitors assume room temperature(mostly hikers, rafters and others). ... Seems more than coincidental that they are holding the Stock Use EA from being released until just before he retires or after so he won't have to deal with it after a very contentious and questionable process.

Editor's note: In June 1951 a concessionaire mule skinner, who was riding double with another man, died when he and the mule were crowded off the Bright Angel Trail and fell. The man was killed instantly when the mule landed on top of him.

Stock use has been reduced by 75% below the rim ... at least the rides. Carrying all supplies in and out of Phantom for the hikers and 10 mule riders per day is still done by mule. Stock use on the S Rim used to be 40 riders to the bottom, and 10-20 (someone correct me) for day rides to Plateau Point.

Day rides below the rim have been eliminated, and replaced with a crappy 3 hour ride through the pine forest to the Abyss.

Overnight rides below the rim have been reduced to 10.

The final plan is just waiting for the signature of Steve's boss ... sitting on his desk for going on 2 months.

to editor: "No rider fatalities" means no GUEST riders. And in 103 years only one employee death. The mule rides are the most SAFE way for everyone to see the canyon.

Can't say the same for those mighty hikers, now, can we? How many hikers have been rescued and/or assisted by mules and the wranglers?

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