The Superintendency at Grand Canyon
For several months now we have been bemoaning the fate of Grand
Canyon, with its apparent revolving door superintendency. The many letters that have
been written to NPS Director Roger Kennedy and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt
have not gone unheeded. Washington is very aware that Grand Canyon needs continuity.
Our campaign for reform has been based on often contradictory information as
to who is to blame, the pros and cons of the Senior Executive Service, and the destiny of
the office. We have based our campaign on a great deal of input from people both within
and without the National Park Service.
Boyd Evison, the current Superintendent at Grand Canyon and himself a member
of the SES, will be here until a permanent replacement is found. He has offered to give us
his perspective on the current status of the situation and the actual mechanics of the
Thanks for asking me to try to clear up some
misapprehensions about the Superintendency of Grand Canyon National Park. Some of what you
and your associates have written about it reflect legitimate concernsconcerns that
have been diverted down the wrong rabbit hole by some fundamentally wrong notions, I
Grand Canyon never was a training park for SES candidates. People
are picked (competitively) to go through SES training, regardless of where they are at the
time. They may move, in normal career progression, to another non-SES job, during or after
that training. After completion of the training, they are eligible for three years for
placement in SES jobs without the usual extended process of competition and selection.
That process, by the way, is whats going on for Grand Canyon right now. The NPS is
not compelled to give every SES job that opens up to one of the current SES feeder
group; and in this case, they felt that they needed a look at more than the
available feeder group members.
But the fuss about allegedly using Grand Canyon for training is really beside
the point now. The job is SES. Whats to train for? The best possible
candidate will be selectedat least as genuinely as is true of any Superintendency at
any lower gradeand he or she will have less reason than ever, to move out of Grand
Canyon. Certainly no real financial or status incentive, such as existed when the Park was
What youve gotonce Im replacedis what you say you
want. Whoever fills the job will be really highly qualified, and is going to be here at
least as long as he or she would be at any lower grade.
The threat of jerking SESers around, on the theory that management is a
pure skill transferable to any circumstances, just hasnt amounted to
anything. It really is little, if any, easier to force a career SESer to move than
to force anyone else. Not easy, at all, even in much nastier timesespecially with
Davis going to Washington was a blessing for the NPS; Chandler to
Presidiothe best match of person to an enormously complex and difficult job.
Thats good sense. Both were promotions. Today, they wouldnt necessarily be
promotions, so there would be that compulsion.
So here at the center of the universe, youre stuck with me for a while.
Im not an amateur, and I have a little advantage in having some previous
acquaintance with Grand Canyon. Its a privilege to be here. In these few months,
Ill shape what goes into the preferred alternatives of the Draft GMP/EIS; set the
course for what we do in the years before the GMP can be fully operating; choose what we
recommend to Congress about overflights; choose the NPS direction regarding adaptive
management on the Colorado River from Glen Canyon down; decide if we get into
largescale fundraising (and if so, with what specific purposes and direction);
move us further into a Colorado Plateauwide role in eco-region partnerships; take
specific steps to strengthen the parks research and resource management capabilities
(an emphasis typical of all my superintendencies); and go after getting added support for
the park in Region, Washington, and the Congress.
A great time to be here.
I bring to it a pretty good record in NPS management, and a lifetime spent on
and around rivers (all over the east, plus the Snake, Yampa, Kern, Noatak, Kobuk,
). I wont bore you with the career stuff. Youve seen the news
release, and can use the info from it if you wish.
None of my jobs has been some kind of cushy political reward. When they pick
me, they know they arent getting a slide-by manager.
But neither am I about to act as if a river trip 20 years ago makes me an
expert on you or your business. I have a modicum of common sense, and I pay attention to
what I see and hear. See you on the river.