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Margaret Everson, the recently named Acting Director of the National Park Service, has stated that a lack of park employees due to the pandemic should not be a reason to limit access to parks. Ms. Everson went on to instruct NPS Regional Directors that, “staffing limitations should not be a constraining factor in providing access to outdoor spaces.”

Phil Francis, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, issued the following statement:

“This directive from Acting Director Everson demonstrates her complete lack of understanding regarding how parks operate and what National Park Service (NPS) employees actually do. Her comment should disqualify her from serving as the acting director, as it demonstrates her lack of experience and support for NPS staff and the protection of park resources.”

Her suggestion that all outdoor facilities, including campgrounds and picnic areas should be open despite staff shortages suggests she thinks these facilities run themselves. They do not. NPS employees are required to empty the trash, clean the restrooms, take water samples for public health, handle campground issues, respond to medical emergencies, and so much more.

To suggest that all these facilities remain open despite staff shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a further insult to the dedicated managers and employees of these national parks and puts their health at further risk.”