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Finally, on September 24, the U.S. Senate confirmed Jon Javis as director of the National Park Service. His nomination had been in limbo while two members of Congress went on a fishing expedition for correspondence between Grand Canyon National Park officials and park advocacy groups.

Mr. Jarvis, a long-tenured National Park Service employee who steadily moved up through the ranks to his most recent position as director of the agency's Pacific West regional office, wasted no time in establishing his priorities. The very next day he dispatched a system-wide email that spelled out his intention to focus initially on strengthening the Park Service's workforce, making the agency relevant to today's society, focusing on stewardship of the National Park System's resources, and boosting the Park Service's education mission.

"As director, the stewardship and care of our national parks, service to our visitors, and expansion of our community programs are my core responsibilities. I will apply all of my skills and years of experience to carry out these duties," he wrote.

Here's a glance at those four core areas Mr. Jarvis identified:

  • Workforce: "The day-to-day operation of the parks and the work of our community assistance programs is accomplished by the dedicated men and women (including amazing volunteers) of the NPS who empty the trash, enter the payroll, rescue the lost, clear the trails, help communities, sample the air and water, and tell our compelling stories. Your welfare and safety will always be my top priority. To help you succeed, we will provide the funding, training, succession planning, recognition, facilities, and policies you need to get your work done."
  • Relevancy: "There is deep concern out there that national parks will become irrelevant to a society that is disconnected from nature and history. We need to help all Americans -- especially young people -- discover a personal connection to their national parks. ...I believe every American will relate to and cherish their national parks if given the chance to connect, by technology or by visiting."
  • Stewardship: "Stewardship of our natural and cultural resources has always been a core value of mine. Our mission is to manage these treasured landscapes unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. This mission is being challenged, particularly by global warming. But at the same time, these challenges are pushing us to think and act at the ecosystem scale, creating unprecedented partnerships with other land managers. We must apply the very best science and scholarly research."
  • Education: "Education is a primary responsibility of the NPS. Visitors should be able to see predators and prey act on their instincts. American history must be portrayed fully, without bias or embellishment, the good and bad parts of the American experience told with equal intelligence. Service learning opportunities must be enhanced. Parks truly are classrooms that help people understand and appreciate the complexities of the natural world and of the historic events that have shaped it and our lives."

Kurt Repanshek is the author of several national park guidebooks, including National Parks With Kids. You can get a daily dose of national park news, trivia, and commentary by visiting www.nationalparkstraveler.com. This site tracks "Commentary, News, and Life in America's Parks." Follow National Parks Traveler on Twitter at www.twitter.com/parkstraveler.

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