Archive

ShareThis Page
Parks boss: More sex harassment cases likely | TribLIVE.com
News

Parks boss: More sex harassment cases likely

The Associated Press
| Thursday, October 20, 2016 10:27 p.m

BOISE — The National Park Service must attract younger and more racially diverse visitors to the areas it manages, and it will probably uncover more cases of sexual harassment in its workforce of 22,000 employees following a scandal involving demands for sex by male workers from their female colleagues, the service’s outgoing director said Thursday.

Jon Jarvis, who will retire from the park service in January after a 40-year career, was called before Congress in June after a report confirming sexual harassment and a hostile work environment at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Canaveral National Seashore in Florida. Some lawmakers on a House committee called for his resignation.

Jarvis, 63, said he is not retiring in response to those demands but that his term as director automatically ends after a new president takes office in January.

He called the sexual harassment horrible and unacceptable. Jarvis said he was unaware it had been going on, but he expected more cases to emerge now that the park service is actively investigating.

Jarvis, whose final year running the park service coincides with its 100th anniversary and celebrations that Jarvis said have enticed more visitors, also said he’s worried that most visitors to the nation’s parks are like him — older, white and “not representative of the demographics of the United States.”

“We’re an institution that only exists at the will of the people,” Jarvis said before giving a speech for the Andrus Center for Public Policy to about 250 at Boise State University. “If we’re not relevant to the next generation or the generation after that, we will have failed our mission.”

Since being confirmed by the Senate in 2009, Jarvis has pushed for a park system more representative of the diversity of the U.S. population as well as efforts to attract younger visitors. That’s led in recent years to national monument designations by President Obama for places honoring blacks, Latinos and women.

Those designations include in 2012 the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in California, recognizing farm worker rights. In 2013 came the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland recognizing efforts by an escaped slave to help others to freedom.

In 2016 came the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, a significant site for women seeking the right to vote. The Stonewall National Monument in New York was also created earlier this year. It’s the first national monument to gay rights.

Jarvis said whoever succeeds him must keep up the momentum to attract a more diverse parks visitor base because “making sure that we’re telling the full and complete American story is going to be a big part of our second century.”

Conservation national monuments have also been created, including almost half a million acres for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico in 2014.

Besides the demographics of park visitors, another challenge Jarvis sees is climate change. That could include what to do about new species that move into conservation areas as a kind of last refuge, possibly displacing existing species.

“These are tough policy and tough scientific questions,” he said.

He said he expects the park service to coordinate with other land management agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, to try to connect large landscapes as climate change influences species migration.

He said the agency’s budget has been problem for years, and there’s currently a $12 billion backlog of maintenance. He said that can mean outdated facilities for visitors and shabby housing for employees. But Congress controls the agency’s budget.

Jarvis’ biggest challenge came this year, when a report by the Interior Department’s inspector general found male employees at the Grand Canyon preyed on female colleagues, demanded sex and retaliated against women who refused.

Reports of sexual harassment, bullying and other misconduct among employees have also come to light at Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park.

Jarvis, one of the longest-serving directors the agency has had, said in the interview that the agency has been male-dominated and has sought advice from the Department of Defense on how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.