News Release

Statement from Deputy Director David Vela Regarding Race, Equity, and the Values of the National Park Service

Date: June 9, 2020

Through their voices and actions, individuals across the nation and around the world are addressing racial injustices within the black community. As the stewards of parks who protect the sites and tell the stories of this on-going struggle, I want to convey our voice, the voice of the National Park Service.

The National Park Service is committed to fighting injustice and ensuring equity within our organization and in the way we welcome visitors to the places in our care. We understand that we have a role in this and will do more to make what we do more accessible and relevant to all communities. 

We are entrusted with and spotlight places where our nation has struggled with issues of race, equity, and systemic violence...from the home of Martin Luther King, Jr in Georgia, to the history of the Buffalo Soldiers at Yosemite and the Presidio in Golden Gate in California, the Frederick Douglass home in Washington DC, Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, and the path of the marchers from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. These and other places in our care continue to inspire new generations to learn and be part of history.

We also have a long history of First Amendment rights and efforts taking place on our public lands throughout the NPS; the National Mall has served as a venue for people to exercise their First Amendment rights since its creation in 1791. Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are constitutional rights. However, the courts have recognized that activities associated with the exercise of these rights may be reasonably regulated to protect park resources. 

Upholding our duties during the added stress and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is outside anything we have experienced before. However, we remain dedicated to ensuring the safety of park visitors, employees, and the natural and cultural resources of national parks that we are entrusted to protect.

The National Park Service commits to lead change and work against racism. Specifically, we will work together in building strategies and tools that effectively engage all communities so that we become better allies for inclusion, equity, and equality. We also commit to work with our partners and supporters to engage in more dialogue with communities who have been missing from the discussions for far too long. In addition, we commit to doing a better job of listening and building a genuinely more inclusive environment both within the agency and with external communities. 
Your leadership is committed to be a champion for an organizational culture that is increasingly inclusive and participatory, which values the diverse ideas, experience, and background of every individual, and empowers an innovative, flexible, and resilient NPS to engage future opportunities and challenges. 

As an organization, we will be implementing strategies to help us with this important work as we engage and provide a second century of service. We are thoroughly committed to an ongoing and sustainable conversation with resulting products and outcomes for the benefit of current and future generations.

David Vela
Deputy Director
Exercising the Authority of the Director


About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 419 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at, and on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and YouTube.

Last updated: June 11, 2020