North Cascades NP Superintendent to Retire

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Date: October 24, 2006


William "Bill" Paleck, superintendent of the three park areas in the North Cascades "complex" including the National Park, Lake Chelan and Ross Lake National Recreation Areas, has announced his retirement, effective January 3, 2007.

"Bill has championed park stewardship for over 35 years," said National Park Service (NPS) Regional Director Jonathan B. Jarvis in reluctantly accepting the retirement papers. "I have relied on Bill for many years to shepherd difficult decisions through and provide national stature during a tough fight."

During the 14 years Paleck has been superintendent for the North Cascades Complex of parks, he has tackled some of the most intriguing national public policy issues affecting the NPS. Jarvis tapped him to participate in the team to rewrite the NPS Management Policies which were completed in September after a rigorous 14-month public evaluation.

"Bill’s keen political sense helped us understand how our policies affect our relationship with state and local governments," said NPS Acting Chief of Policy Chick Fagan in acknowledging Paleck’s critical role in the Management Policies. "And we needed someone with his extensive park management experience and fine intellect to bring a reality check to the project."

He also has served on the national NPS Wilderness Task Force. This task force analyzes the Wilderness Act in light of the NPS mission and applies consistent policy guidance across the NPS.

"Bill’s unerring sense of balance for the NPS mission and wilderness protection concepts makes our ability to manage the backcountry better all the time," said Rick Potts, National Wilderness Program Coordinator.

Some of the biggest rewards have come from the communities in the North Cascades Complex, Paleck readily acknowledges. As soon as he arrived as superintendent, he began making monthly trips from headquarters in Sedro-Woolley to Stehekin, holding casual evening meetings with anyone who wanted to walk into the ranger station. A lot of trans Pacific Crest hikers stopped by. Lodge guests wandered in. Most importantly, Stehekin residents became regular coffee drinkers with him.

"A lot of information was traded over a cup of coffee," Paleck said. "I came to understand the nature of community and its finely-tuned sense of what’s right and less right for those who live in the rural west. It is a lesson I will always cherish."

Naturally, not everyone agrees with all the decisions he has had to make, but he’s pretty sure they all know how he arrived at the conclusion.

His application of the Natural Resource Challenge, a national science program that, in part, seeks to catalogue all natural resources within parks, has led his staff to the monitoring of how glaciers are responding to climate change to the search for grizzly bears in the North Cascades ecosystem.

Through his guidance and mentoring, staff has worked on salmon recovery, finished the seemingly endless study of appropriate high mountain lakes for fish stocking, partnered with sister agencies on fire management, built an environmental education center below the Diablo Lake, worked with the state and other agencies on recreation, and pioneered new approaches in environmental education with the North Cascades Institute.

"Driving across Highway 20," Jarvis said. "I can see Bill’s management mark on the educational signs, the highway and safety turnouts, the resource recovery, and contented visitors. The park looks very, very good, thanks to Bill’s direction."

Paleck has practiced his craft in some of the nation’s most beautiful places. He served as a ranger at Sequoia and Kings National Parks in California, chief ranger at Wupatki-Sunset Crater in Arizona, as well as in the largest park in the U.S.—Wrangell- St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska. He was the first superintendent for the newly redesignated and enlarged Saguaro National Park in Arizona from 1987 to 1992.

His wife, Marcie, has provided wise counsel through their many moves, public meetings, and national policy task forces. They have a fondness for the Skagit Valley and will be found in retirement sailing the shores of lakes and bays and probably needling the next superintendent of North Cascades National Park.

"I have announced my retirement with several months to spare in order to give our management team some time to recruit and provide for a smooth transition at this incredible set of national park areas," Paleck said. "I guess it goes without saying that seeing the ‘vacancy announcement’ for this superintendency, which was released a few weeks ago, reinforces that parks are clearly here for future generations of visitors and the outstanding crop of new managers."

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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