A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish

Michael Reese Hiking Carpenter Peak Roxborough State Park
Michael Rees Hiking Carpenter Peak Roxborough State Park

Photo courtesy of Michael Rees

Name: Michael Rees

Job Title: Natural Resource Specialist in the Denver Service Center Planning Division


Experience and education: I've worked almost 26 years for the National Park Service, Denver Service Center Planning Division. Before that, I worked with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in Alaska (refuge planning) and Washington, D.C. I have a Masters of Forest Science from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and a bachelor of arts in Environmental Studies from Ripon College.

What does a typical day look like for you? I find there is no "typical day" in planning. Every day is different. But most of my time is spent in the office, working on National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents, writing notes and emails on various planning efforts, or engaging in meetings. I work regularly with people in our division, as well as folks in parks, regional offices, and the Washington Office, discussing programmatic and park issues and management directions. Although I'm officially a natural resource specialist, I get involved in all levels of planning, including identifying planning issues, determining the purpose and need for projects, developing alternatives, writing impact analyses, and compiling documents.

What career advice would you give to someone wanting to join NPS? A tough question these days, given budget and staffing constraints. Know what you're interested in, what you want to do, and what services and skills you can provide to the NPS. Finding a mentor can be very helpful. Persistence is critical--if you have a passion for this work, keep at it. Networking with people is also important so others know who you are and what you can provide. Be alert for new opportunities, including training and education--very important throughout your career and being an excellent communicator. Lastly, focus on doing quality work to the best of your ability.

What is one of the bigger projects you are working on and what about that project might surprise people? Starting in 2016, I've been working on a Washington Park Planning and Special Studies effort to update Director's Order 2 (DO-2) "Park Planning." DO-2 was last issued in 1998 and was superseded by chapter two of NPS Management Policies 2006. This revised director's order will supplement portions of management policies, and will provide national guidance for park planning. It is also intended to define the NPS planning framework and the concept of the planning portfolio as well as updating the definition of what a general management plan is. The director's order, and an accompanying reference manual, will help guide much of the work our office does.

Anything else? Growing up, I always wanted to work for NPS. Only a few people have an opportunity to help chart the future of our national park system. I feel privileged and honored to work with an amazing group of professionals at DSC, helping to protect and preserve the nation's natural and cultural heritage, providing quality experiences for all Americans (and world travelers), and helping our parks confront the myriad of tough issues facing them.