Over the years, I have written a lot on this blog about national park visitation, the threats facing our parks today, and the diminishing budget for our parks. What I am going to talk about today deals with all of these things, but from what I have seen so far, it seems to be a sensitive topic. The opinion I hold on this topic is not necessarily a popular one, but after working in parks and researching them for many many years it is an opinion I think is informed, and one that I am sticking to.
Park Service Centennial
As we approach the end of 2016, I think this is an opportune time to look back on the Centennial year of the National Park Service. It has been a busy year in the parks, with lots of ups and downs. In case you missed them, these are some of the headlines in the NPS from 2016.
As previously covered in an earlier blog, searching the USAjobs website can get confusing. There are hundreds of jobs out there and their job titles might not sound anything like what the position actually entails. Even though you now know how to search for jobs according to their series and grade, you might be thrown off by the jobs that your search comes up with. For the next several months, I am going to be spotlighting specific starter positions within our public lands that you might not necessarily think to apply to. However, these are jobs that you should be applying to, as they offer an excellent foot into the door in the forestry field. This month’s spotlight is on the Education Technician position. While not every park or public land offers this position, it can be a great way to get your foot in the door in our nations biggest parks, especially if you like kids. Special Thanks to Ranger Joshua Contois from Great Smoky Mountains National Park for helping us out with this month’s spotlight!
We take a break this month from our regularly scheduled programming to celebrate something very near and dear to my heart (and most likely yours as well). On August 25th, The National Park Service celebrated 100 years of service. In case you weren’t able to make it out to a park for the day- let me summarize the events across our nation. It was a festive special day, unlike anything our parks have seen before. With free entrance, musical events, instameets, special campfire programs, and free cake: every park offered something special for those guests fortunate enough to be visiting a park on this historic day. We were the google doodle of the day, Facebook featured us their home page and we were the number one trending topic on twitter. Because I am a National Park Service employee, I was lucky enough to receive several gifts –from coworkers, management, and park visitors- to commemorate this special day. These gifts got me thinking about the gifts that our national parks give all of us daily. Gifts that are worth celebrating as the agency which protects them reaches this milestone.
When President Obama visited Yosemite and Carlsbad Caverns this month, he faced a lot of criticism. Some of the complaints were that the timing wasn’t right following the tragedy in Orlando, that his weekend visit interrupted the Father’s Day weekend of too many people in the crowded Yosemite, that he should be focused on more important things than the national parks, and finally that his transportation had a negative environmental impact on these places. Even if every single one of these complaints were absolutely legitimate, Obama’s visit to the parks was still important and still necessary.
Recently, Yellowstone has been the spotlight of many trending headline: the woman petting the bison on opening day, the foreign tourists putting a bison calf in their vehicle because it looked cold, the group of four Canadians walking out on Grand Prismatic Spring, and, even today, a trending headline about an elk charging a woman taking a photo of it. While these headlines can be equal parts amusing and infuriating, they perfectly illustrate the challenges facing our public lands and, in particular, our national parks as they enter the next century.