Two leaders of the National Park Service provide a front-row seat to the disastrous impact of partisan politics over the past fifty years – and offer a bold vision for the parks' future.
The US National Parks, what environmentalist and historian Wallace Stegner called America's "best idea", are under siege. Since 1972, partisan political appointees in the Department of the Interior have offered two conflicting views of the National Park Service (NPS): one vision emphasizes preservation and science-based decision-making, and another prioritizes economic benefits and privatization. These politically driven shifts represent a pernicious, existential threat to the very future of our parks.
For the past fifty years, brothers Jonathan B. and T. Destry Jarvis have worked both within and outside NPS as leaders and advocates. National Parks Forever interweaves their two voices to show how our parks must be protected from those who would open them to economic exploitation, while still allowing generations to explore and learn in them. Their history also details how Congress and administration appointees have used budget and staffing cuts to sabotage NPS's ability to manage the parks and even threatened their existence. Drawing on their experience, Jarvis and Jarvis make a bold and compelling proposal: that it is time for NPS to be removed from the Department of the Interior and made an independent agency, similar to the Smithsonian Institution, giving NPS leaders the ability to manage park resources and plan our parks' protection, priorities, and future.
Jonathan B. Jarvis was the eighteenth director of the National Park Service, serving from 2009 to 2017. He served for forty years with the NPS as a ranger, biologist, and park superintendent in eight national parks. He is co-author of The Future of Conservation in America, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
T. Destry Jarvis has had leadership roles at the National Parks Conservation Association, Student Conservation Association, National Park Service, and National Recreation & Parks Association. Currently, he is vice president of US/ICOMOS, the US National Committee for the International Council on Monuments and Sites, better known as the World Heritage Program.