For Immediate Release: December 6, 2018

Coalition To Protect America’s National Parks Urges Improved Training on Ethics Standards

The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (CPANP), the nonprofit organization that consists of over 1,600 members drawn from the ranks of former and current National Park Service (NPS) employees, has weighed in on the ethics issues that are currently front and center for that agency. Specifically, the Coalition has called for the NPS to undertake far-reaching and detailed reforms to the system it uses to educate its own employees on how to work with donor and partner organizations to raise badly needed support for the nation’s national parks.

The Coalition sent a letter to Acting Director of the NPS, Dan Smith, because there is general confusion about the rules that apply in carrying out the strong policy directive issued by former NPS Director Jarvis to pursue support from donors and partners. The lack of guidance and support is evident in recent Inspector General (IG) investigations that have subjected NPS employees to disciplinary action, even when the actions involved are to seek funds to support national parks.

In the letter, the Coalition emphasizes the need for employee training on ethics standards with donors and partner organizations. CPANP points to a clear lack of guidance for superintendents and other NPS officials on the agency ethics standards that should be followed while they seek to fulfill their critical responsibilities in cultivating and strengthening relationships with partner organizations and donors.

CPANP offers several recommendations to remedy the issues surrounding these interactions, including new and expanded ethics training for all park managers who have, or seek to establish, Friends Groups or other partnerships. CPANP also urges the NPS leadership to use the IG as a last resort and, if an investigation is deemed necessary, carefully review the report and allow affected employees to respond and refute charges prior to its finalization.

The NPS has encouraged partnerships and the utilization of outside sources of funding for decades. In 2016, a revised Director’s Order (DO-21) was issued to guide park managers in their interactions with Friends Groups. However, DO-21 failed to clearly define what the relationship between park Friends Groups and the NPS should be, and neglected to provide acceptable guidance and staffing to implement the order, including training on ethical issues that may arise from its implementation.

Recently, this lack of guidance and support for park managers has resulted in several IG investigations that proved detrimental to park superintendents who were charged with violations of Department policy, and even federal laws, that were not clearly articulated to them.

In the letter, Coalition Chair Phil Francis says, “from our perspective, IG investigations can, and sometimes have, resulted in reports, and even criminal referrals, that are inaccurate or off-the-mark for their lack of understanding of NPS roles and relationships. Nonetheless, IG reports tend to be accepted by both the Department and the Service as the final word. And they can be the subject of one-sided media exposure that is difficult for the targeted employees to respond to.”

Francis also addressed the challenges in securing fiscal and human resources in this current political climate. “The emphasis on, and need for, partnerships have become more intense in recent times as resources shrink and collaboration with other parties becomes more essential.”

More information, and the full text of CPANP’s letter, can be found at https://protectnps.org/coalition-urges-training-for-employees-on-ethics-standards-with-donors-and-partner-organizations/

The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks is a reliable, respected, and effective advocate for achievement of the mission and goals of the National Park Service. Recognized as the Voice of Experience, CPANP studies, educates, speaks, and acts for the preservation and protection of the National Park System, and mission-related programs of the National Park Service.