Abigail Miller came to the National Park Service (NPS) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, after previously serving in the Minerals Management Service, to work for the NPS Associate Director of Natural Resources as an administrative program analyst. She exhibited strong budgeting and administrative skills, but her real value was in her ability to see the big picture without losing mastery of the operational details of our Nation’s complex system of national parks.
Abby served as NPS Deputy Associate Director for Natural Resource Stewardship and Science for ten years and was a major contributor to the design and practical execution of what was called the Natural Resource Challenge. The Natural Resource Challenge was the NPS effort at the turn of the millennium to retool national parks to better prepare them to face the increasing difficulty of protecting natural resources in today’s rapidly changing landscape. Abby served as chief pragmatist in designing effective programs that enhanced the application of science in park management of their natural resources. Working with park superintendents and subject matter experts, she was instrumental in developing budget proposals to fund the Challenge. Congress approved the first funding increases for the program in 2000 and for the following seven years. She was masterful in reporting to Congress where every dollar of the Natural Resource Challenge was spent and worked tirelessly with park managers on ways to measure and improve success on the ground.
Abby’s personal integrity and credibility were key to the funding, implementation, and management of these exciting new science programs in the parks. Her understanding of the importance of actual data in moving parks into the 21st century helped ensure the successful implementation of the Inventory and Monitoring Program in more than 270 park units, along with significant increases in research and project funding to protect and preserve park natural resources. Her ability to pull together information on the 270 parks with dynamic natural resource systems, and her ability to understand the practice of natural resource management at the park level made her the perfect person to maximize the role of the Washington office in support of parks. During her 18-year NPS career Abby found all of the levers to pull and learned how to pull them to get things done. She worked through the many challenges of implementing new science programs throughout the park system. Regional offices and especially parks quickly developed confidence in her as a fair arbiter both in dispersing resources and vetting new mandates and workloads from Washington. Very few who spent their careers in DC have developed such a degree of loyalty and affection across NPS ranks.
Abby’s career and the impact of the programs she shaped continue to make a difference in ensuring that the natural resources of national parks will inspire future generations. She retired in 2005 to Vermont but remains active in the George Wright Society and in developing Nature Fund for Parks—a new organization created to raise private funds for the protection of nature in national parks.