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National Parks - Politics and Climbers


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Below is a link to the Senate Confirmation hearing on Obama's Nomination for the Director of the National Park Service, Jon Jarvis. You may recall that Jon was once the Superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park (and Wrangell St Elias). Though not necessarily a 'climber,' Jon has summitted Mount Rainier twice and was very familiar with climbing related issues at Mount Rainier.


Interestingly, Senator Mark Udall, who is the Chairman of the National Park Subcommittee, has climbed extensively. For example, Sen. Udall has summitted Denali via the Cassin, climbed the SE ridge of Mt. Foraker, and summitted Dhaulagiri. Perhaps more than ever, there are people familiar with climbing and rescue related issues who are working in important places in DC. Isn't that cool?


The video starts off slow - so here are the high points:


13:52 Hearing begins with introduction by Sen. Bingaman.

18:35 Senator Cantwell introduces Jon Jarvis (see her text below).

47:30 Jon Jarvis reads his statement (see his text below).

52:37 Senators begin with questions. Most of the questions are directed to Jon Jarvis and the NPS, and they are about hot topics like guns in parks, snow-machine use in Yellowstone, and helicopter tours at Crater Lake.


Link to the Energy and Natural Resources video archive of Senate Confirmation Hearings on National Park Service Director


Well, it's not 12,800 feet on Liberty Ridge during a rescue, but I was there behind the dais with the Senators. What an interesting year to be in DC.


~ Mike


Statement of Senator Maria Cantwell

July 28, 2009

Energy and Natural Resources Committee


Chairman Bingaman and members of the Committee, I’m honored this morning to stand in support President Obama’s nomination of Jon Jarvis to serve as Director of the National Park Service.


It is a position that one of our late Committee Chairmen, Senator Clinton Anderson of New Mexico, called “the greatest job in America.”


There are only a few souls as talented, enterprising, or experienced as Jon Jarvis to take the reins and move our park system forward into this next century.


Mr. Chairman, our national parks say what we’re about as a nation. They embody our values and our heritage. Our national parks system is the envy of the world.


At the same time, our park system faces a range of challenges--from the impacts of climate change, to billions in deferred maintenance, to the imperative of creative partnerships, to the mandate to welcome people of all ethnicities, backgrounds, and classes to the wonders of our natural places.


It’s for all of these reasons that Jon Jarvis is so eminently qualified.


As a trained biologist, Jarvis moved up through the ranks of the Park Service from his first days as a Park Ranger on the National Mall during the 1976 Bi-Centennial.


Mr. Jarvis’s career includes stints as chief of natural and cultural resources at North Cascades National Parks in Washington state, and superintendent at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, at Mount Rainier and at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska.


Mr. Jarvis distinguished himself within the top ranks of superintendents nation-wide by constant innovation, open dialogue with gateway communities, and delivering project results.


The largest project in the Pacific West is the Elwha River Restoration project, a robust and complex plan to remove two hydro electric dams and restore 70 miles of river to salmon runs within Olympic National Park.


Long delayed and over budget, Mr. Jarvis brought the project back into the National Park System, assigned an entire new team, updated costs, briefed Congressional appropriators, sought and gained the support of the National Park Service leadership and got the entire project back on track.


Mr. Jarvis has also been a tremendous ambassador for Park’s gateway communities, building relationships that are so essential to the success of our park system.


For example, at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, Mr. Jarvis reached out extensively to the rural communities of the Snake River Plain. He helped reconnect the park to community leaders that had been “disenfranchised” by the Monument’s establishment.


In his seven years at the Regional Director of the Pacific West Region, the largest in the Park Service, Mr. Jarvis as distinguished himself as a leader within the National Park Service.


Mr. Jarvis has been able to set a vision and guide the Region as a whole all while consistently managing the complex issues around the 58 Park units of the Pacific West Region.


These issues have ranged from:

- forest fires, typhoons, volcano eruptions, floods,

- 54 million visitors, and

- the unfortunate fatalities that come with wild land recreation


When faced with complex natural resources issues, Mr. Jarvis actively engages the scientific community. In 2004, he orchestrated a series of regional workshops on climate change with top scientists in the field.


Mr. Jarvis set the standard that the Pacific West Region would lead in environmental sustainability. As director of the Pacific West Region, he ordered that his 56 parks be carbon neutral by 2016, when the agency celebrates its centennial.


And for the second year running, the Region purchased enough photovoltaic systems to more than offset all Regional office travel for the year, and parks are producing 700,000 KiloWatts of green power, enough to operate 18 small parks for a year.



Mr. Jarvis has also developed a long standing trust relationship among western Native American tribes. Trusted to speak the truth and be sensitive to Native American concerns, Mr. Jarvis recently facilitated the first comprehensive agreement between the eight tribes affiliated with Olympic National Park.


Mr. Chairman, our nation is fortunate to have such a qualified nominee to lead the National Park Service. Jon Jarvis’s experience and vision perfectly align with the charge of the “greatest job in America.”


Thank you.



Statement of Jonathan B. Jarvis

Nominee for Director, National Park Service

Before the

U. S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources


July 28, 2009


Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Murkowski, and Members of this Committee. I am truly honored that President Obama and Secretary Salazar have demonstrated their confidence in me by nominating me to lead the National Park Service (NPS). If confirmed, I pledge to work closely with the Secretary, with Members of Congress, with our many partners, and with the public, in the stewardship and enjoyment of our national parks.


My father was in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the depression and he, like so many other young men of the time, connected deeply with the forests and streams of this great nation and instilled that passion in me and my brother as kids. We were raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, backed up against national forest land where we hunted, fished and roamed. I knew from that time I wanted to pursue a career related to the protection and enjoyment of the outdoors. I graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1975 with a degree in Biology and immediately took a road trip across the country, camping in many of our great national parks, like Yellowstone, Glacier, and Olympic. From that trip forward, I was hooked on the National parks.


In 1976, I was hired by the NPS to staff the Bicentennial Information Center here in Washington, helping to host the millions who came to celebrate their nation’s birthday. I spent the following winter with President Jefferson in his Memorial. Often alone there for hours, with the wind howling across the Tidal Basin, I absorbed his writings inscribed on the wall including excerpts from the Declaration of Independence:


We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,


From that time to this moment that I sit before this Committee, I have devoted a career to the National Park System which I believe embodies these principles:


The cultural parks of our country are the places where civic engagements, often confrontational, occasionally bloody, have shaped who we are as a people: Selma to Montgomery, Brown versus Board of Education, Manzanar Japanese Internment Camp, the Statue of Liberty, and Flight 93. These are parks where we learn not only of the people who left their marks on our future, but through this intimate contact, we learn how to take the next generation to a higher and better place.


The natural parks of our country, in addition to their intrinsic beauty, stand as testimony to this nation’s willingness to impose self restraint. For example, President Abraham Lincoln set aside Yosemite during our civil war because perhaps he knew our country would need such places for healing.


The 391 units of the National Park System are a collective expression of who we are as a people, where our values were forged in the hottest fires. They are an aggregate of what we Americans value most about ourselves. They also deliver messages to future generations about the foundation experiences that have made America a symbol for the rest of the world. And of course our great parks are places we pursue happiness, as a respite from a fast paced and congested world. In my thirty-three years with the NPS, I have met thousands of visitors on the trail. They smile, they offer greetings, and most are not looking at their Blackberries.


I have served as a field park ranger in the most classic sense: delivering interpretive talks, working the information desk, conducting search and rescues, riding horse patrol, and ski patrol. I have fought fires, trapped bears, forded glacial rivers, rappelled off cliffs, made arrests, and helped thousands of visitors have a great experience in their parks. In my first 26 years of service in the NPS, I was an interpretive ranger, a protection ranger, a biologist and Superintendent in seven parks in seven states. For the last seven, I have served as the Regional Director for 54 national park units in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands of Guam, Saipan and American Samoa. My wife and I have moved nine times and lived in rural west Texas, the Snake River Plain of Idaho and if confirmed, I will be the first Director to have ever served in bush Alaska. In each place, I have always worked hard to become a contributing member of the local community and have encouraged my staff to do the same. Gateway communities and parks have an important relationship that needs to be grown through mutual respect and cooperation, particularly when tourism is an essential part of the economy.


I do not need to tell you of the challenges before us: the economy, climate change, connecting urban kids to nature, the concerns over obesity, and a concern about a loss of cultural literacy. I believe that the National Park Service has a role and a responsibility in each of these. As Regional Director in the Pacific West, I set high standards for the parks to achieve environmental and financial sustainability. We instituted programs to reach out and connect to the urban youth of the Los Angeles basin and the central valley of California. We studied and learned that we can attract the public to the parks for their health benefits and have pioneered cooperative efforts with partners in the health and fitness community. We facilitated good science and began to interpret the changes we could link to climate change. And we worked through our community assistance programs to help gateway communities to achieve both preservation and economic goals. In each case, the extraordinary employees of the National Park System responded to these goals with energy and enthusiasm.


Throughout my life long connection to national parks, a constant source of inspiration has always been the extraordinary employees of the National Park Service. They formed my second family along many paths of my career. It is with all of them in mind that I find the personal confidence to take on the daunting task of leading the agency in these very challenging and complex times. The employees of the National Park Service do great work every day across the nation, whether preserving places, cultures, flora, fauna and vast natural ecosystems or giving flight to the imaginations of millions of park visitors exploring a given park. At times the men and women of the National Park Service are asked to do difficult, dangerous and nearly impossible work. I am proud to be one of them.


Wallace Stegner said: National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."


Never in its 200 years has this nation needed the National Park System more. It stands as a collective memory of where we have been, what sacrifices we have made to get here and who we mean to be. By investing in the preservation, interpretation and restoration of these symbolic places, we offer hope and optimism to the each generation of Americans. If confirmed, my pledge to you and to the American people is that I will bring all my energies to be the very best steward of America’s best places and America’s best idea. Thank you.


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