To say that I love national parks and wilderness areas would be an understatement…I dedicated my entire career, from my early days at law school to my former post as head of the National Park Service’s Air Resources Division, to the protection and defense of our national parks and wild places, specifically against the threat of air pollution.
Thus wrote Chris Shaver a few months ago in an op-ed published in The Coloradoan advocating for tougher regulations to protect park air quality. Her own words say so much about who she is and what she has done. From her early work during law school, she has dedicated much of her energy to preserving nature in national parks, especially clean air that is critical to unimpaired visibility, vegetation, soils, waters, and more. What distinguishes Chris is her ability to use every tool available—science, policy, interpretation, law, partnerships, collaboration, education, and the nurturing of succeeding generations—to move the preservation agenda forward. Even in “retirement,” Chris writes op-eds for parks.
Chris worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on air quality issues first in Washington, D.C. (1975-1979) and then in EPA’s Regional Counsel Office in Denver (1979-1983). In 1983, she joined the National Park Service (NPS) air quality division and managed the policy, planning, and permit review branch until 1992. In 1991, the National Parks Conservation Association recognized Chris’s work to retrofit the Navajo Generating Plant with pollution controls with the Stephen T. Mather Award. A year later, she left the government to work in Boulder, Colorado as regional counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, continuing her fight for clean air. Chris later returned to the NPS air quality division in 1997 to provide continued strong leadership to the division and new initiatives to protect parks. She eventually added programs to protect natural sounds and dark skies to her park protection portfolio.
Chris received the Department of the Interior’s Meritorious Service Award, among other things, for making the NPS air resources program “a nationally respected and influential advocate,” for developing “a cadre of knowledgeable resource managers, and for her “ability to think broadly and…refusal to be confined to conventional thought” in the face of climate change and other challenges.
She has inspired many. This fun, funny, and caring woman also focused on getting things done. She has hired and continues to mentor people with talent and heart for park resources. In retirement, in addition to writing op-eds for the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks and volunteering for Great Old Broads for Wilderness, she has helped launch and lead Nature Fund for National Parks, a fund-raising partner for NPS science and natural resource stewardship.