Thursday, May 05, 2016

National Park Service centennial shares limelight with scandals

...Jarvis decided to turn the speech into a book to sell during 2016, the national parks’ centennial, believing his positive message could help the parks better resonate with increasingly diverse future generations. But that’s where his trouble started. He assumed the book wouldn’t be approved through official channels in time, so he quietly found his own publisher, a Park Service concessioner. His boss, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, learned about the unauthorized book only when he sent her a copy of Guidebook to American Values and our National Parks.

That kicked off an investigation by Interior’s Office of Inspector General, or OIG. In February, Jarvis was reprimanded for unacceptable behavior and ethics violations relating to the publication. The incident has resurrected earlier criticism of Jarvis’ leadership of the agency he has headed for nearly seven years.

Another, unrelated OIG investigation, released in January, revealed a long-term pattern of sexual harassment and misconduct at the Grand Canyon, the very park where Jarvis wrote the original speech that inspired his book. The scandals have tarnished both the message that Jarvis wants to highlight for the parks’ 100th birthday and the conclusion to his own 40-year career at the agency. (Jarvis plans to retire at the end of the Obama administration.)

“These incidents have cast the agency in a negative light at a time when we should be celebrating what Wallace Stegner told us was the best idea we ever had,” says Mark Squillace, a professor at University of Colorado Law School, who twice worked in the Interior Department’s solicitor’s office.

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