March 1, 2023
The Honorable Charles F. Sams, III
Director, National Park Service
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Subject: NPS workplace issues and employee morale
Dear Director Sams:
The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, the Association of National Park Rangers, and the National Parks Conservation Association recently formed a joint workgroup to assess workplace issues impacting the morale of National Park Service (NPS) employees and support practical solutions to raise employee morale and improve working and living conditions.
First, we thank you for your leadership and attention to these issues and continue to offer our support in addressing them. We formed this workgroup because we recognize the urgency of these issues, and our collective organizations are dedicating staff and resources to help pursue solutions. Among other actions, our workgroup is committed to advocating the following:
- additional funds to more effectively operate and staff our national parks,
effective solutions to hire and retain a more diverse NPS workforce,
- equitable pay rates for comparable work at higher pay rates provided by other federal agencies,
- additional and improved NPS employee housing,
- additional funding to support NPS employee orientation and leadership development training,
- and solutions to systematically address long-standing employee morale issues that have been identified in the following reports:
- Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,
- 2018 NPS Voices Tour Summary Report, and
- 2022 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey for the Department of the Interior, which indicated that NPS employees have the lowest Global Satisfaction of 15 bureaus within the Department of the Interior.
The above referenced reports document longstanding issues within the NPS that can be resolved only through a holistic and comprehensive approach leading to lasting changes in organizational culture. We recognize that changing the organizational culture is an extremely challenging task; however, NPS employees deserve the agency’s best efforts to effect the necessary changes.
Various case studies indicate that “committed leadership” is an essential component for effectuating lasting change in entrenched organizational cultures. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) are recognized as having the best diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) programs in the Federal government, and both agencies consistently rank at or near the top of annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government surveys. NASA and GAO leaders shared their secrets to success in a November 2022 article in NARFE Magazine (a copy of the article is attached for your information). In essence, respective agency officials reveal that creating a highly successful DEIA program starts at the top with leaders who demonstrate a strong personal commitment to the core principles of DEIA and who make such a commitment part of the organizational mission of the agency. In our view, changing aspects of the NPS organizational culture that are contributing to employee morale problems requires nothing less than committed NPS leaders who make it a high priority to address those concerns and change the underlying organizational culture.
We are grateful for your recent actions demonstrating such a commitment to change and applaud your efforts to make the NPS a more inclusive, transparent, and communicative workplace. We support the effort to implement and fund the Workforce and Inclusion Directorate. We embrace and support the recently issued NPS Respectful, Inclusive, Safe, and Engaged (RISE) Vision Action Plan, which includes 30 across nine to in the 2022 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. We are hopeful that implementation of the Action Plan will effectively address many of these concerns and put the NPS on an upward trajectory to regain its rightful place as one of the best places to work in the federal government. We also encourage you and the NPS to make as much progress in implementing the plan as you reasonably can during the next two years, so that changes made are not easily reversed if there is a change in administration in early 2025.
Last but not least, we strongly support and applaud your decision to discontinue use of the USAHire Assessments as part of the hiring process and replace it with other options. The assessment has been a long-standing concern as a barrier to the effective and efficient recruitment of diverse and well-qualified applicants.
In closing, we greatly appreciate your leadership on this issue and offer our encouragement and support. We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you or your designee sometime in late summer to discuss progress and explore other ways our group could lend support to this initiative. Until then, please let us know if we can be of assistance in any way as you move forward with implementing the RISE Vision Action Plan.
Michael B. Murray, Chair
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Rick Mossman, President
Association of National Park Rangers
David Lamfrom, Vice President, Regional Programs
National Parks Conservation Association
CC: Michael T. Reynolds, Deputy Director, Congressional and External Affairs, NPS Lena McDowall, Deputy Director, Management and Administration, NPS
Shawn Benge, Deputy Director, Operations, NPS
Rita Moss, Associate Director of Workforce and Inclusion, NPS