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Meet The Press: National Park Service Director Addresses National Press Club


National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis addressed the National Press Club on Monday, touching on a wide range of issues, from sexual harassment problems in the parks to the Zika virus.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis expects to hear of more incidents of sexual harassment or misconduct from his agency once a hotline is set up to receive reports.

"Once they see that we are taking action, I expect the numbers of reported incidents to increase. Not that there are more cases, but I think that employees now are feeling more empowered to speak up and step up," he told a gathering of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Monday. "I expect that to occur not only in the National Park Service but in other agencies that are seeing what’s happened to the Park Service and are following our lead.”

The director addressed the situation with sexual harassment and misconduct during an hour-long appearance before the press club. Half of his talk was devoted to questions from the audience.

Last month Director Jarvis outlined to his far-flung field staff of roughly 20,000 employees a "zero tolerance" policy that was being implemented in response to a sordid chapter of sexual harassment that last for years at Grand Canyon National Park.

"Some have asked what it means for the National Park Service to have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment," the director wrote in a memo emailed system-wide. "I want to clearly state that this means that when incidents of harassment are reported, I expect NPS managers to follow up on those allegations. Specifically, in situations involving alleged harassment, including sexual harassment, I expect NPS managers to initiate an investigation of the allegations and to act promptly to ensure that the harassment, if confirmed, does not continue. I also expect appropriate disciplinary action to be taken if any allegations are verified. To ensure that this can happen consistently across our organization, I have asked a leadership team in Washington, with input from regions, parks and programs, to develop a roadmap that will guide these efforts."

During his talk Monday to the National Press Club, Director Jarvis said that a survey to be taken later this year of NPS staff would help managers determine how best to approach, and tackle, the problem of sexual harassment and misconduct.

"First and foremost we need to establish a baseline of how prevalent this is in the National Park Service. I honestly don’t know, and we’re not going to know until we do a well-crafted survey of all employees that’s done with protection of anonymity," he said. “Once we establish that baseline then we can understand more specifically how to take action. We are jumping on top of any, obviously, reports right now, and I’ve set a standard with my senior leadership of what I expect how to implement a zero tolerance policy in terms of quick action, protection of the victim, and zero tolerance for this work for this horrible component."

He assured the press club audience that the hotline would be designed to permit employees to file complaints about their immediate supervisors, if necessary, and not suffer consequences on the job.

During the Q&A period, Director Jarvis touched on a wide-ranging number of topics:

* The Park Service's $12 Billion Maintenance Backlog

"We understand our maintenance backlog at sort of an excruciating level of detail. We really, really know this down to the brick," he said. "So about half of our backlog is in what I would call the transportation side. So that is the roads-and-bridges piece. That is not an easy thing to raise philanthropic money for. That’s something that is the responsibility of the (congressional) appropriators, and we do get a significant amount of funding out of the transportation bill. And there is now a five-year bill to address high priority roads and bridges in the National Park System.

"The other half, which I would call non-transportation assets, about half of that are what I call high priority assets; these are those that are directly related to the visitor experience, or of high significance value. The Lincoln Memorial, for instance. A nice little asset that you might consider a high priority asset of the National Park Service. In some cases, those we can raise philanthropic dollars for, and certainly all of you know that we have had significant contributions from individuals like David Rubenstein to repair those as well.

"And we have a campaign with the National Park Foundation to address many of those issues. But we are also going to need a steady supply of federal appropriations, and we have asked the Congress to respond to that. We have centennial legislation before them that would give us greater flexibility with our existing revenues, such as fees, and generate some new revenues that we could address the maintenance backlog.”

* On Recognizing Sponsors And Donors To The National Parks

“First of all, we have always had relationships with corporate America. From the very beginning of the national parks," said Director Jarvis. "It was the railroads that built most of the major lodges, the old historic lodges, like the El Tovar (at Grand Canyon). And throughout my 40 years we’ve had long-term relationships with corporate America without selling out. Without renaming, or, 'This park brought to you by...' We just don’t do that. We sit down with corporate America and say, 'What are your goals?, these are our goals. This is an area you can’t go, and we’re not going to allow that.'

“I think you should trust us that we are protecting these assets from branding and labeling. It is not the direction we’re headed. What we’re trying to do is sort of modernize our philanthropic capability for the Service, for the National Park Foundation, and all of the friends groups that raise money for us.”

* On Congress's Love-Hate Relationship With The National Park Service

"I’ll probably get in trouble for telling this story, but when I go on the Hill regularly to meet with members of Congress, there has been, historically, bipartisan support for the national parks. A long tradition of great support, both sides of the aisle," he said. "Sometimes different priorities. When I go and testify before a committee, there’s a lot of sort of finger pointing and accusations made about the national parks, but when I go into the offices of certain individuals, they pull down the shades and they get out their park pass and want me to sign it.

"And they tell me their latest national park trip story. So part of the issue, in my estimation, is that there is a sort of a political agenda around that nothing in government is good, and it’s hard to admit that, if you say that, that there is this aspect of government that they actually like, which is the national parks."

* On "Overcrowding" Some Parks Are Experiencing

“We are experiencing record levels of vistiation, as a result of the centennial, the Find Your Park campaign, our outreach, the media coverage, all of that. This past year, 2015, the last year we kept record, we surpassed 312 million visitors," said Director Jarvis. "Let me put that in perspective: That is more than all of Disney, more than all of national football, national baseball, national basketball, soccer, NASCAR, combined. And we do it on a budget (equal to) the city of Austin, Texas.

"The way I view this is when the public comes to national parks, something happens. Yes, it can be somewhat overwhelming for our employees, which is the state of the art right now. But you are deepening that connection, and that connection translates into support, as a volunteer, as an advocate, through a variety of advocacy groups out there, friends groups at the local level, support to Congress, and so I think there is an upside to the visitation side. And it also is inviting a generation that perhaps didn’t know about these places. Our goal is not to just raise the numbers, but to increase the diversity of that visitation as well.”

* On The Threat Posed By The Zika Virus

“We certainly haven’t gotten to the point of considering closure (of parks), but we definitely feel that Zika is going to be a significant problem in the southern tier parks. The Eveglades, Biscayne, Big Thicket, a number of these areas, Dry Tortugas, these are all southern tier parks that have large mosquito populations," Director Jarvis said. "This particular species (Ae. albopictus) is not really a species that breeds in the water of the Everglades, it’s much more of a human contact species. But we have been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically on information for the public and information for our own employees who work in those environments as well.”

You can watch his entire talk here:


"We understand our maintenance backlog at sort of an excruitating level of detail. We really, really know this down to the brick,"

Please share that information with us.

"...and I've set a standard with my senior leadership."

Yes, Jon, you surely have.  A standard of deception, falsification of scientific data, retribution for whistleblowers and ethics lapses that would make Nixon proud. Not to mention your personal arrogance that seems to be giving Trump a run for his money.  You surely have set an unmatchable standard.

"The way I view this is when the public comes to national parks, something happens. Yes, it can be somewhat overwhelming for our employees, which is the state of the art right now."

Being one of the worst-managed federal agencies is "state of the art"?

If I was a National Park Service employee being sexually harassed, the last thing I would utilize would be Jarvis' hotline.  Will his hotline be monitored by NPS Human Resources, one of the most reviled of such departments in the entire Federal service?  Maybe he can give some credible assurance that hotline complainants will remain anonymous, and not forwarded to the alleged culprits as is the usual case.  His pledges for action are in direct conflict with his record, which includes persistent coverups of disqualifying misconduct benefitting members of his superintendents' club.  "We're going to do" doesn't square with what he's done.  The survey results are already in, and his senior leadership team, in independent federal employee surveys, is rated in the bottom of the barrel, not the positive "Standard" that he claims.

With everything going on in the NP's were going to focus on sexual harrasment.   GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!

Dear Anonymous.  Last I heard, the NPS was staffed by not only men, but women as well.  Sexual harrassment is unwelcome, highly unproductive, creates an atmosphere of low morale, low productivity, and general fear on the women's part of losing their jobs because some yahoo is threatening their livelihood.  Oh yeah, and it pisses women llike me off. It disappoints me that the NPS, which is supposedly the respected caretaker of our federal park lands, has so trivialized this kind of outrage against 1/2 of its employees and is only now attending to it because they got caught.  So, Anonymous, since you seem to trivialize this particular fault of the NPS, I'm curious as to which of the NPS' othe faults you place at a higher level.  And while we are at it, why don't you do the right thing and pay for a membership to this site on which you like to leave comments and yet remain anonymous.

The knee-jerk, naming calling responses by the usual suspects, and also the comments by Ethical Retired Ranger (ERR), are full of angst but little light.

1. As to what is the most significant problem with too little attention, it is the impact of rising sea levels and other effects of Global Warming. Yes, there are climate change directives from the top, and moments when the construction teams and the Suoerintendent's make innovative project requests & DO take it into account, but this is not consistent.

Addressing global warming now, that is the priority, while we can.

--  Like many things inadequately understood by NPS critics, the impact of a hostile Congress on preparing for Global Warming is huge.

Congressional appropriations and political dysfunctio is primarily responsible for hiring and sustaining staff, for training, and most other morale issues.

2.  ERR claim about 'Senior Leadership Team' shows how disconnected from reality these complaints are. What leadership team are you talking about.

First, THE top person responsible on the Leadership Team for park operations and operational problems like harassment no longer works for the NPS. This is the NPS Deputy Director, who also was the one most responsible for selecting the team who developed the changes to Director's Order 21 Philanthropy and the leader who did most of the review of those proposed changes in Donor Recognition.

AND the Washington person the next rung down, Assc. Director for Operations has also changed, and filled by a person assigned a little over a year ago to deal with the problems of Human Resources with the Office of Personnel Management. Bringing him and his Deputy in to deal with this was a shakeup, and now by elevating this person to Operations is a way to push that agenda directly into park operations.  Meantime, the deputy most involved in the shakeup will remain in ace to keep that HR work going. 

But again the best way to deal with many of the complaints is money Congress does not provide. One reason park managers are lateraled and lower level employees do not move up.this would not happen the way it does without the cut back in positions. Another is not enough training money puts pressure on new opportunities for frustrated employees.

these are just a few changes in Leadership. Also included are the head of the Denver design and construction team, that person's boss the Washington Associate Director for Construction Planning and Lands, the Associate in charge of Partnership and a year or two earlier, the immediate subordinate in charge of fundraising has been there about 2 years. among others, including several top changed park superintendents.

so that often repeated charge about Senior Leadership is flat wrong.

3. On Sexual Harassmen, the doubts about the priority AND the doubts about the legitimacy of the Hot Line process, again the complaints are completely missing the real changes.

First, it is the Secretary Jewell's priority and she has made it clear it will happen. Several of the staff changes above are part of those actual changes, plus they have moved the direct responsibility to the Director and created a Deputy Director to deal with the parallel issue of HR.

For anonymous, this is an inescapable priority. The Secretary has made it clear this is The priority. And, Congressional hearings, same way. Although it is true the named parks involved are 2 of the 410 parks, the Secretary has implied the hot line is working and the 'good' and bad news is many people ARE coming forward.

THESE people coming forward feel sufficiently protected, but rumors are coming out of the NPS that many mid level Regional staff are already working to help with these newly-empowered complaints.

Most people were impressed by the firm comments of the new superintendent at Grand Canyon, and also that the cynical concern that the whole thing would be blamed on a park deputy turns out NOT to be true, because it was the Superintendent instead who was apparently offered a Washington transfer to a non-existent job vs. retirement and of course had little choice but to choose retiremen. As apparently a step-down job offer to that Deputy Director responsible for operations also resulted in a retirement.

4. so it is not the old-boy network because it is gone. But the morale problem DOES actually emerge from congressional appropriations but even more by the failure of congress to value parks.

Park Service people are like people in the US Military in this way: they have high ideals and do not think it is there job to the political and appropriations fighting to obtain their ideals, their dreams. They believe it goes without saying, and only slime balls get good at politics.

Most feel it is the job of congress and their bosses to shut up, leave them alone, and send all the money they need. No matter how high the political heat, they believe it is their boss' job to back them all the way no matter how excruciating the road gets.

These uncompromising idealists are DEEPLY and disproportionately disappointed compared to staff of other agencies when the Service does not live up to their ideals.

There is something beautiful in the naivete, politically, of how the world works, and typically, like these commenters above, they personalize problems and evil they see, problems in fact much larger than the Director of the NPS or the Superintendent they work for. But like they know, they give long lists of the sins they are sure begin and end with the Director.

Or people like the Ethical Retired Ranger talks about how much more 'reviled' NPS Human Resources is than all other federal agencies, just as if we are to believe Mr ERR actually has worked with the HR offices of every federal agency, and really really knows!  NONE of this has anything to do with the dysfunctional congressional politics of our time that you can read every day in the newspaper ! No ! It is all that most-reviled Human Resources office that is behind all of it !


i am sure it is quite beyond these critics, but my advice is to encourage the NPS with deep understanding of how miserable it is for managers to do their job the way they want to in this political environment. Hold up, as the military does, the best exemplars. Encourage the congress to see when the good is done, and support and incentivize the good. By funding it. Encourage efforts to deal with problems that are, as the Secretary Jewell strongly emphasized, society-wide. Encourage the effort, like the one on sexual harassment, and call for the highest standards.

Because whining cynicism doesn't actually help, except to make it that much harder to make necessary changes.





You are saying that money will fix the cultural problems in Jarvis NPS?  Jarvis couldn't have said it better himself.  Or maybe he just did?  Maintenance backlog?  The latest Jarvis scam.  Only an NPS person would make such a statement, harrass women then ask taxpayers for more money.  Thank you sir, may we have another!  LOL.

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