07-04-16 SFExaminer: NPS protects the wilderness. But who will protect integrity — and women — from the Park Service?

This is the fundamental (ethics) problem with the Park Service — sexual harassment and other ethical violations are not viewed as serious problems by top managers. When reports of violations become public, the violators — especially if they’re higher ups — are allowed to either retire with full benefits or, like the Catholic Church’s pedophile priests, simply moved to a similar position at another park unit.

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There are few serious consequences for violations. More than a dozen Park Service employees singled out in public reports for mismanagement and misconduct still work at the agency.

These cases of sexual harassment and other misconduct in the Park Service have taken place under Jon Jarvis’ leadership. Jarvis himself has come under fire for intentionally bypassing the agency’s ethics office to write an unsanctioned book with a company that has contracts with the agency, and then lying about it to the Secretary of the Interior. He was reprimanded, banned from overseeing ethics at the agency and required to attend monthly ethics training. While embarrassing, it was a weak slap on the wrist. Jarvis remains head of the Park Service.

Some have questioned if an organization with so many harassment and ethical problems can truly reform with Jarvis in charge.

“We view the Park Service as an agency that’s rotting from the head,” Jeff Ruch, from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that frequently clashes with the agency, has said. “When it is convenient, Jarvis is willing to set aside rules.”

The National Park Service protects the wilderness. But who will protect integrity — and women — from the Park Service? An online petition seeking Jarvis’ immediate removal can be found at www.tinyurl.com/FireJonJarvisPetition. For more information, visit “Fire Jon Jarvis” on Facebook.


Monday July 04, 2016

The City > News Columnists > Sally Stephens

‘America’s best idea’ is rotting from the top

 

Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga, pictured in October 2013 speaking at the blocked entrance of the Grand Canyon, has chosen retirement over a transfer after being told the park needed new leadership, months after federal investigators found a longstanding pattern of sexual harassment in the Grand Canyon’s now-former river district. (Matt York/2013 AP file photo)

By Sally Stephens on July 3, 2016 1:15 am

 

The National Park Service has been around for 100 years. In that time, the agency, once called “America’s best idea,” has protected many wilderness areas. But its centennial celebration has been tainted by revelations of a long-standing culture of sexual harassment and ethical violations, especially at its top levels.

For 100 years, the Park Service has embraced an institutional culture with a very specific masculine identity — the rugged, macho, solitary individual. Until 1978, female Park Rangers couldn’t wear the same uniforms — or the same badges — as male Rangers. They had to wear skirts that looked like something you’d see on a flight attendant, not an outdoor professional.

This macho ideal spawned a culture accepting of sexual harassment. A recent report from the Interior Department’s Inspector General found a 15-year pattern of sexual harassment of female employees by NPS river guides in the Grand Canyon. Women who made formal complaints were subject to retaliation. An official report was given to the Grand Canyon superintendent outlining the problem, but he did nothing and allowed the harassment to continue for several more years.

The harassment caused humiliation for the women and cost some their jobs and careers. But perhaps more importantly, it shook their perception of themselves as able to take on anything that man and nature threw at them. Ironically, working for the Park Service cost some of the women their love of the river and the outdoors.

At the Canaveral National Seashore in central Florida, another Inspector General’s report found the chief ranger sexually harassed women on his staff in three substantiated cases in less than two years. He is still on the job.

This is the fundamental problem with the Park Service — sexual harassment and other ethical violations are not viewed as serious problems by top managers. When reports of violations become public, the violators — especially if they’re higher ups — are allowed to either retire with full benefits or, like the Catholic Church’s pedophile priests, simply moved to a similar position at another park unit.

Just before becoming Superintendent at Mount Rainier, Dave Uberuaga made a questionable real estate deal — that he repeatedly failed to disclose — with the head of a company that operated concessions in the park. When the deal finally came to light, Uberuaga was removed from Mount Rainier … and named superintendent of the Grand Canyon. He’s the one who ignored the sexual harassment report. When the harassment scandal finally broke, he was removed from the Grand Canyon … and was offered a job with the Park Service in Washington, D.C. He decided to retire.

There are few serious consequences for violations. More than a dozen Park Service employees singled out in public reports for mismanagement and misconduct still work at the agency.

These cases of sexual harassment and other misconduct in the Park Service have taken place under Jon Jarvis’ leadership. Jarvis himself has come under fire for intentionally bypassing the agency’s ethics office to write an unsanctioned book with a company that has contracts with the agency, and then lying about it to the Secretary of the Interior. He was reprimanded, banned from overseeing ethics at the agency and required to attend monthly ethics training. While embarrassing, it was a weak slap on the wrist. Jarvis remains head of the Park Service.

Some have questioned if an organization with so many harassment and ethical problems can truly reform with Jarvis in charge.

“We view the Park Service as an agency that’s rotting from the head,” Jeff Ruch, from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that frequently clashes with the agency, has said. “When it is convenient, Jarvis is willing to set aside rules.”

Disgusted by the lack of consequences in the sexual harassment and ethics scandals, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., has asked President Barack Obama to remove Jarvis immediately as head of the Park Service. “Ultimately, Director Jarvis must be held accountable for … the ethical failures and misconduct and the lack of discipline …”

The National Park Service protects the wilderness. But who will protect integrity — and women — from the Park Service? An online petition seeking Jarvis’ immediate removal can be found at www.tinyurl.com/FireJonJarvisPetition. For more information, visit “Fire Jon Jarvis” on Facebook.

Sally Stephens is an animal, park and neighborhood activist who lives in the West of Twin Peaks area.

10-23-2012 Greenwire CA Dept of Fish & Game says Oyster Farm should stay.

The California Department of Fish and Game is pressuring the Interior Department to allow a California oyster farm to stay in a potential wilderness area, in the latest twist of a years-long controversy.

Until now, the state agency has stayed out of the debate over whether Interior should issue a new lease to Drakes Bay Oyster Co. when its current one expires Nov. 30. The farm has operated in Point Reyes National Seashore for decades; located in Drakes Estero, the farm straddles a “pastoral zone” set aside for ranchers and a “potential wilderness” area (Greenwire, Sept. 13).

But the state department has overseen the farm’s water bottom leases since California conveyed Drakes Estero to the federal government in 1965. That agreement underscores a long-held understanding, according to Fish and Game — namely, that California would be able to retain its fishing rights and allow the farm’s indefinite operation.

With less than six weeks until the farm’s lease expires, Interior has yet to release its final environmental impact statement. Salazar will consider the EIS in making his final decision.

But the draft EIS — which found that the farm would negatively affect the surrounding environment — has been controversial, with the oyster farm demanding that Interior redo it (Greenwire, Sept. 18). A report in August from the National Academy of Sciences found that a lack of evidence made the conclusions in the draft EIS significantly uncertain (Greenwire, Aug. 30).

Greenwire 

10. INTERIOR:

Calif. asks feds to allow oyster farm to remain in wilderness area

Emily Yehle, E&E reporter

Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The California Department of Fish and Game is pressuring the Interior Department to allow a California oyster farm to stay in a potential wilderness area, in the latest twist of a years-long controversy.

Until now, the state agency has stayed out of the debate over whether Interior should issue a new lease to Drakes Bay Oyster Co. when its current one expires Nov. 30. The farm has operated in Point Reyes National Seashore for decades; located in Drakes Estero, the farm straddles a “pastoral zone” set aside for ranchers and a “potential wilderness” area (Greenwire, Sept. 13).

But the state department has overseen the farm’s water bottom leases since California conveyed Drakes Estero to the federal government in 1965. That agreement underscores a long-held understanding, according to Fish and Game — namely, that California would be able to retain its fishing rights and allow the farm’s indefinite operation.

In a recent letter to the National Park Service, Fish and Game Director Charlton Bonham pointed out that Drakes Bay Oyster Co. represents 55 percent of the water bottoms leased and 40 percent of the oysters cultivated in the state.

“The continued cooperation between Drakes Bay Oyster Company, the National Park Service and the California Department of Fish and Game will benefit the environment, the community, and the local economy, consistent with our agencies’ unique history of managing this property,” he wrote.

It is unclear how much the letter will play into Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision on whether to allow the farm to remain.

Congress has specifically enabled him to give the farm a new 10-year lease thanks to a rider championed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). A longtime advocate for the farm, Feinstein is also copied on Bonham’s letter.

National Park Service spokesman David Barna said the agency has received the letter. “We appreciate the State’s concerns and are reviewing the letter as we work to strengthen and complete our environmental review,” Barna said via email.

Time is running short. With less than six weeks until the farm’s lease expires, Interior has yet to release its final environmental impact statement. Salazar will consider the EIS in making his final decision.

But the draft EIS — which found that the farm would negatively affect the surrounding environment — has been controversial, with the oyster farm demanding that Interior redo it (Greenwire, Sept. 18). A report in August from the National Academy of Sciences found that a lack of evidence made the conclusions in the draft EIS significantly uncertain (Greenwire, Aug. 30).

10-21-2012 Pt. Reyes Oyster War Heats Up

MARIN’S long-stewing “Oyster War” just got a bit spicier. Now the issue is state sovereignty versus federal jurisdiction.

On Oct. 10, after a bureaucratic tug-of-war, the state’s appointed Fish and Game Commission, with a little push from the governor’s office, got its staff to reluctantly issue a letter supporting continuation of aquaculture in Drakes Estero.

The correspondence emphasized that California long-ago granted the oyster farm a water-bottom lease extending to 2029.

Notably, the letter was copied to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, an aquaculture supporter.

While oyster farm opponents cloud their arguments with a veneer of science, the dispute has little to do with technical details. It’s all about ideology.

There’s a segment of Interior Department and Fish and Game employees, supported by vocal elements in the environmental community, that perceives their duty is to convert much of federal parklands into wilderness status, untouched by human hands.

Counterclaims that historic agriculture or fishing uses are also valuable components of America’s natural and cultural heritage is blasphemy to pastoral purists.

An alternative philosophy is voiced by elected and appointed officials, such as Feinstein, who sympathize with small scale ranchers, fishermen or, in this case, oyster farmers.

After the staff issued the letter at the commissioners’ direction, ideologically motivated staffers backtracked, dismissing it as just another meaningless bureaucratic communication.

Not so fast. The appointed commissioners understood their duty to protect California’s interest in aquatic resources. Even with bureaucrats downplaying the letter’s significance, everyone understands it will be used by Feinstein and oyster farm supporters.

Their goal is to convince Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that since there are substantial state interests involved, he should override park service staff and grant the Lunnys an extension when their current use permit expires on Nov. 30.

If the extension is denied, an odd maneuver could follow.

As the letter points out, the Lunnys have a valid state-issued water bottom lease. They could continue harvesting oysters. But instead of using their current sheds on park land, they could transport their oysters by water to a new site on private land.

If Fish and Game staff resists enforcing the state’s public interest, a team of high-powered pro bono attorneys, including retired federal Judge Frank Damrell, former Marin-Sonoma Assemblyman Bill Bagley, retired congressman Pete McCloskey and, most significantly, litigation giant Joe Cotchett have prepared a draft writ of mandate compelling the state to assert its jurisdiction over Drakes Estero.

Of course the Feds will dispute any assertion of ongoing state jurisdiction. As the Interior Department isn’t an honest broker but a fierce advocate, a lawsuit is inevitable.

Conceivably, a court could grant the Lunnys a stay, allowing them to remain in business during the multi-year litigation process.

The prospect of such an ugly and interminable jurisdictional dispute could be one factor in motivating Salazar to grant a use permit extension or devise a compromise.

In that event, this allegedly meaningless bureaucratic missive might end up having significant impact.

Columnist Dick Spotswood of MillValley shares his views on local politics every Sunday in the IJ. His email address is spotswood@comcast.net. Read his musings at

http://blogs.marinij.com/spotswood/

 

10-10-2012 Ca Dept of Fish and Game letter to PRNS Muldoon in support of aquaculture at DBOC

10-10-2012 Charlton Bonham, the Director of the State of California, Natural Resources Agency, Department of Fish and Game, in a letter to Point Reyes National Seashore Superintendent Cicely Muldoon, wrote to “encourage continued cooperation between the National Park Service, the California Department of Fish and Game (“Department”), and Drakes Bay Oyster Company….”

He cites the “47 years” of  the two agencies having worked together “to allow continued aquaculture in Drakes Estero.” and “….fishing rights included the rights…for shellfish cultivation.” 

He reminds her of the “…almost five decades, the State has supported aquaculture in Drakes Estero….” and that “continued cooperation … will benefit the environment, the community, and the local economy, consistent with our agencies’ unique history of managing this property….”

For the full text of the letter, click the link below:

DFG Muldoon_Drakes Bay Letter 10_10_12[1]

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