John Christiano was a pillar of the National Park Service (NPS) Air Resources Division from 1979 to 1996. As a direct result of his leadership, that division achieved and maintained a national reputation as a premier air resource management agency. Under his direction, the NPS’s air quality monitoring and research programs made significant contributions to the state of science, particularly with respect to visibility. These programs also influenced the enactment of legislation and regulations protective of the resources under NPS stewardship. Through Christiano’s diligence and commitment to the principles for which the National Park System was established, the NPS was able to meet its affirmative responsibility under the Clean Air Act to protect park resources from the adverse impacts of air pollution.
One of Christiano’s most significant accomplishments was serving as the chief NPS negotiator in developing a win-win solution regarding the control of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from the Centralia Power Plant in the State of Washington. NPS monitoring and research showed that the plant contributed to visibility impairment and acid deposition impact at Mount Rainier National Park and other wilderness areas in the State. Christiano was instrumental in negotiating a 90 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions. In announcing the negotiated agreement, then Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt stated, “Christiano has for years and years been one of the most respected and loved leaders in the National Park System…John has had an extraordinary impact on the NPS.” George Frampton, then Assistant Secretary for Parks and Wildlife, remarked, “Mr. Christiano’s sharp mind, technical expertise and deep sense of fairness played a major part in bringing the target solution to realization. He cared deeply about national parks, and he committed his life’s work to reducing air pollution’s adverse effects on the public health and environmental resources.”
Christiano’s efforts in the areas of environmental leadership, education, and interpretation resulted in a cadre of knowledgeable resource managers throughout the NPS. Visitors to parks are now better informed on the threats of air pollution to resources. Under his leadership, the Air Resources Division reviewed over 700 permits for air pollution sources near parks. These reviews resulted in significant emission reductions from proposed industrial development, thereby minimizing impacts to park resources. His efforts also resulted in the establishment and continued operation of extensive national air quality monitoring and research programs. These programs not only characterize the status and trends of air resources in parks but also contribute significantly to the understanding of how pollution travels to parks.
John Christiano received the Department of the Interior’s Superior, Meritorious and Distinguished Service Awards and numerous performance awards during his 17-year career with the NPS. Unfortunately, this outstanding career ended much too soon – John died in December 1996 as a result of injuries suffered in an automobile accident. His legacy, however, lives on.