When he ran the National Park Service, Jon Jarvis was not known for his sterling leadership. The service struggled to deal with widespread incidences of sexual harassment in the ranks, he was accused of cronyism, and he was reprimanded for an ethics violation. But today, in the wake of the muzzling of the Park Service by the Trump administration and the vocal resistance on the part of it and other agencies, Jarvis spoke out against censorship for the rights of the service to express itself. He is perhaps the highest profile former Obama official to do so.

“I have been watching the Trump administration trying unsuccessfully to suppress the National Park Service with a mix of pride and amusement,” Jarvis said in a statement issued via the Association of National Park Rangers. “The NPS is the steward of America’s most important places and the narrator of our most powerful stories, told authentically, accurately, and built upon scientific and scholarly research. The park ranger is a trusted interpreter of our complex natural and cultural history and a voice that cannot not be suppressed. Edicts from on-high have directed the NPS to not talk about ‘national policy,’ but permission is granted to use social media for visitor center hours and safety.”

The censorship controversy exploded after the NPS re-tweeted photos comparing the size of the crowds at the Trump and Obama inaugurations and was ordered by the new administration to remove the tweet. Trump’s team also ordered a freeze on public communications in many U.S. agencies, as well as requiring political approval before scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency released studies.

In response, Badlands National Park tweeted a series of climate change facts, which was widely interpreted as a diss to Trump, who has called climate change a Chinese hoax to hurt American manufacturing. The tweets were quickly removed and the park later said they were posted by a former employee who still had the Badlands social media logins. Almost immediately, however, alternative national park Twitter accounts were formed, some by those who claimed to be Park Service employees working in their off hours. The largest was an Alt National Park Service, which has evolved into Not Alt World and now is being run by environmentalists and journalists.

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The rest of Jarvis’s statement reads:

The ridiculousness of such a directive was immediately resisted and I am not the least bit surprised.

So at Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, should we not talk about his actions to secure the rights to vote for African Americans in the South, or is that too “national policy”? At Stonewall National Monument in New York City, shall we only talk about the hours you can visit the Inn or is it “national policy” to interpret the events there in 1969 that gave rise to the LGBT movement? Shall we only talk about the historic architecture of the Washington, DC, home of Alice Paul and Alva Belmont or is it too “national policy” to suggest their decades of effort to secure the rights of women can be linked directly to the women’s marches in hundreds of cities last weekend? And as we scientifically monitor the rapid decline of glaciers in Glacier National Park, a clear and troubling indicator of a warming planet, shall we refrain from telling this story to the public because the administration views climate change as “national policy”?

These are not “policy” issues, they are facts about our nation, it is how we learn and strive to achieve the ideals of our founding documents. To talk about these facts is core to the mission of the NPS. During the centennial of the National Park Service, we hosted over 300 million visitors (now that is huge) to the National Parks and most came away inspired, patriotic and ready to speak on behalf of the values we hold most dear. The new administration would be wise to figure out how to support the National Park Service, its extraordinary employees and their millions of fans.

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Photo by Always Shooting

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