Many New Mexicans made a big political push to have the Valles Caldera National Preserve placed under the National Park Service. We did that because the NPS has a strong mandate to preserve and protect the lands they manage, and because the agency is generally accessible and friendly to the public.
It’s good to know the basic orders National Park Service managers work under. The agency is required by various laws to communicate with us and to take our ideas into account. After all, the American people (including the Tribes) own the national parks.
At the top of the National Park Service is the Director. Currently, Chuck Sams. The Director is a Senate confirmed individual who serves until a President appoints a replacement.
The Director’s Orders are legally binding guidelines for park management. One of the orders, #75A “Civic Engagement and Public Involvement,” spells out how and when Park Service managers must talk to the public about decisions they make on our behalf. #75A is a remarkable document! If you feel Park Service people are not being forthcoming with you, pull out a copy and remind them of their obligations as stewards of America’s most important places.
Here are some wonderful quotes from the Director’s order that are worth reading and thinking about. Notice the almost-poetic quality of many of these quotes:
“Civic engagement is a continuous, dynamic conversation with the public on many levels that reinforces public commitment to the preservation of heritage resources, both cultural and natural, and strengthens public understanding of the full meaning and contemporary relevance of these resources.
The foundation of civic engagement is a commitment to building and sustaining relationships with neighbors and communities of interest.
Institutionalize a civic engagement philosophy and vision that will help ensure the relevance of NPS resources and programs to people, as well as ensure NPS responsiveness to diverse public viewpoints, values, and concerns.
True civic engagement is more than just a formal process to involve people in our NPS mission-it is a continuous, dynamic conversation with the public on many levels. For the NPS, civic engagement is an institutional commitment to actively involve communities in our mission through the public planning process, in interpretive and educational programming, and directly in preserving significant resources. Civic engagement enhances the focus of NPS efforts to partner with communities, fulfill the NPS education mission, and work with partners and neighbors to preserve sites that represent the fullness of the American experience.
In many ways, the National Park Service is our nation’s Department of Heritage…. Parks should be not just recreational destinations but springboards for personal journeys of intellectual and cultural enrichment…. [We] must ensure that the American story is told faithfully, completely, accurately…. Our nation’s history is our civic glue.
As stated in NPS Management Policies, “the Service is committed to providing appropriate, high-quality opportunities for visitors to enjoy the parks, and will maintain within the parks an atmosphere that is open, inviting, and accessible to every segment of American society.” As we welcome and encourage public involvement in our parks and programs, we must also welcome and encourage public involvement in our thinking about the future of the resources held in trust for them, and in our planning and decision-making. The public has a right to know about the challenges that confront the NPS and to participate in the process by which we find solutions to those challenges. Those who take the time to participate in public processes, raise issues and voice their concerns help our government function as it should. People who participate by raising issues and voicing their concerns help us expand our range of options and assess the impacts of our decisions.
The public includes all the individuals, organizations and other entities who have an interest in or knowledge about, are served by, or serve in, the parks and programs administered by the NPS. They include (but are not limited to) recreational user groups, the tourism industry, Tribes and Alaska Natives, environmental leaders, members of the media, permittees, concessioners, property owners within a park, members of gateway communities, and special interest groups.
One very important group that is not usually thought of as being part of the “public” is NPS employees. We must recognize the valuable service that our employees provide by informing the public about the NPS mission, issues, and challenges. Because of their expertise and knowledge, we must give employees an opportunity for meaningful involvement during the decision-making process at the workplace.
The NPS role is to provide opportunities for the public to be involved in meaningful ways, to listen to their concerns, values, and preferences, and to consider these in shaping our decisions and policies.
We will respectfully engage the public in thoughtful participation, build understanding, find creative ways to address problems, accommodate diverse values and dissenting opinions, and encourage continuing collaboration in our decision-making processes.”
Let it be so. Thank you Director Sams and the people before you who wrote these phases.