Kate Roney Faulkner’s National Park Service (NPS) career reflects the maturation of professional resource management. She began her NPS career as a seasonal park ranger and then was hired as a permanent natural resources specialist in northwest Alaska in 1985 after completing a Master of Science degree in biology and natural resource management. The national parks in Alaska, many of which had been established or expanded in 1980, recognized the importance of science-based stewardship of their considerable natural and cultural resources. Kate helped lead the growth of science-based management of park resources, as the NPS sought to professionalize its resource management.
In Alaska, Kate was lead natural resource specialist for Kobuk Valley National Park (NP), Noatak National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument. But her influence really came into play at Channel Islands NP, where she joined the staff in 1990. As its chief of natural resources, she faced many challenges in dealing with the legacy of grazing, DDT, and other degradations. Her ability to work with research scientists, superintendents, and others, often in contentious policy arenas, resulted in some of the most outstanding examples of resource management successes in the NPS, to include:
- Feral pigs, destroyers of island flora and archeological sites, also provided a food source for the golden eagles that began to populate the islands in the 1990s. These new arrivals preyed on the endemic island fox and rapidly reduced fox populations by more than 90 percent. On Santa Rosa, for example, the number declined from an estimated 1,800 to just 15 within five years and officials listed them as Endangered. A captive breeding program was begun with the remaining foxes. Golden eagles were captured and released in Northern California, feral pigs eradicated, and bald eagles (victims earlier of DDT) reintroduced to the islands. The recovery of the island fox population after release from the captive breeding program stands as one of the fastest in the history of the Endangered Species Act.
- Rats, another non-native animal, were feeding on the nests of island-nesting seabirds, including the extremely rare Scripps’s murrelet. While controversy over killing rats might strike some as strange, the park faced a law suit from Fund for Animals, the controversy resulting in a T.C. Boyle novel. However, the lawsuit was decided in favor of NPS, the eradication was carried out, and the population of the Scripps’s murrelet increased.
These aggressive efforts to recover natural systems at Channel Islands, though often controversial, were always based on good science and well-planned, usually with effective partnerships as a key to their success. Kate also led other park programs, including the inventory and monitoring program at Channel Islands that became a model for an NPS-wide program, as well as innovative interpretive programs, showcasing the problems and the results of good management.