The Superintendency at Grand Canyon


   For several months now we have been bemoaning the fate of Grand Canyon, with it’s 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 SES.

   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 concerns–concerns that have been diverted down the wrong rabbit hole by some fundamentally wrong notions, I think.

   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 what’s 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. What’s to “train” for? The best possible candidate will be selected–at least as genuinely as is true of any Superintendency at any lower grade–and 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 GM-15.

   What you’ve got–once I’m replaced–is 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 SES–ers around, on the theory that management is a “pure” skill transferable to any circumstances, just hasn’t amounted to anything. It really is little, if any, easier to force a career SES–er to move than to force anyone else. Not easy, at all, even in much nastier times–especially with superintendents.

   Davis going to Washington was a blessing for the NPS; Chandler to Presidio–the best match of person to an enormously complex and difficult job. That’s good sense. Both were promotions. Today, they wouldn’t necessarily be promotions, so there would be that compulsion.

   So here at the center of the universe, you’re stuck with me for a while. I’m not an amateur, and I have a little advantage in having some previous acquaintance with Grand Canyon. It’s a privilege to be here. In these few months, I’ll 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 large–scale fund–raising (and if so, with what specific purposes and direction); move us further into a Colorado Plateau–wide role in eco-region partnerships; take specific steps to strengthen the park’s 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, Colorado…). I won’t bore you with the career stuff. You’ve 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 aren’t 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.

Sincerely,

Boyd Evison
Superintendent