Preserving Nature in the National Parks
A History
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Chapter 6
Science and the Struggle for Bureaucratic Power: The Leopold Era, 1963—1981

The Pursuit of Bureaucratic Power

Following the reports, efforts to infuse science into park management were affected by two underlying factors. Perhaps the more daunting was that, both explicitly and implicitly, the reports called for a redistribution of power within the Park Service. A full and committed response by the Service would have required sizable increases in staffing and funding for natural resource management, including research. Ultimately, bureaucratic leadership would be shared with those advocating scientifically based management—a concept virtually alien to Park Service leaders and field personnel of the early 1960s. At the time of the Leopold and National Academy reports, science was buried in the Service's large and complicated organizational chart, split between two divisions and receiving little of Director Wirth's attention. [35] But the Leopold Report's declaration that all national park management should come under biologically trained personnel suggested that an extraordinary change in the Service's entrenched power structure was necessary. In effect, biologists would have to become full members of the bureau's leadership culture. This possibility—along with the National Academy's recommendations that directorate-level scientific positions be created, that ten highly qualified scientists be placed in the Washington office, and that funding for science be increased to ten percent of the Service's annual budget—constituted the more formidable aspects of the potential redistribution of power.

Compounding the problem of sharing power within the bureau was a second major obstacle: the complexity of ecologically oriented park management. The Leopold Report repeatedly emphasized the challenges inherent in attempting to restore the parks to a semblance of primitive America (efforts akin to what would become known as ecological restoration). "The implications of this seemingly simple aspiration are stupendous," it stated, given the "enormous complexity" of both the ecological communities of the parks and the means required to manage them. The report's summary statement gave notice that restoration of the parks to their primitive condition required "skills and knowledge not now in existence." [36]

Both reports issued in 1963 called for scientifically informed management —with which the Service had only limited experience, even considering the George Wright era of the 1930s. Decades of indifference to science reflected the attitude that neither research nor professional scientific skill was necessary for proper park management. The lack of experience with complex scientific land management probably helped foster the Park Service's naive, rhetorical "can do" response to the reports—even though the bureau at times acknowledged the reports' warnings about the difficulty of ecological management. [37] It is also likely that the Service was reacting positively to the National Academy study for the very reason Howard Stagner later gave—as a means of masking negative feelings toward the report.

Overall, Park Service leadership seems to have underestimated the extent of the challenge it faced: the amount of effort necessary and the degree of change required in its traditional power structure and park operations. Scientists hired by the Service in the 1960s and 1970s were similarly challenged. With little or no experience in a bureaucracy of such size, they confronted the bewildering task of developing an insurgent science program in the face of management's long apathy toward science—an indifference that had not ended with the appearance of the reports in 1963.

Relating to the factor of complexity, the reports' promotion of much stronger science programs implied a slower, more cautious pace than before for many park actions. If research were to become an integral factor in decisionmaking, it would force greater deliberation over both long-range planning and daily operations. As Director Hartzog admonished his superintendents in 1965, they would have to be cautious with their management and development and be "alert to the requirements for studies that arise" out of their park programs. When development was contemplated, each superintendent had to know what effect it would have on the "ecology of the surroundings" and had to be sure that a development site was "not of such scientific value as to justify . . . proposing a different location." Hartzog emphasized that if they did not know the answer to such questions, the superintendents should ensure that research was conducted "before—not after" breaking ground. [38] Such an admonition was, however, largely rhetorical. Although Hartzog was well aware of the need for prior scientific studies, most often that need would be ignored by park management. Easily decreed, it was not easily enforced. The bureau's leadership would provide lip service to the new science initiative, and would prove reluctant to share power and to accept substantive changes in its mode of operations.

In urging that the science programs be headed by a chief scientist under an assistant director who would in turn report to the director, the National Academy sought to ensure that science would be "independent of operational management" in order to promote objectivity in research and recommendations. The concern for independence—a central issue in the years to follow—stemmed from the traditional academic and professional ethic of maintaining the integrity of scientific research and recommendations. The scientists were to become the chief advocates for the new ecological approach to park management, and their views would frequently conflict with the pragmatic, day-to-day interests of park superintendents, who were accustomed to being in charge of all activities in their parks. Commenting on the question of independence, Robert M. Linn, a scientist in the Washington office, asserted in 1967 that scientific research should be separate from management; otherwise, it would always be "suspect," in that management could "dictate a prejudiced result." Much in accord with concerns expressed by the National Academy, he added that scientific research should be "as free as possible to criticize the parent organization." [39]

The organizational changes in the years after the Leopold and National Academy reports moved very slowly and erratically toward the scientists' goals of independence and freedom to criticize. Even building the basic framework for a credible Park Service science program was bound to be a lengthy process. The Service could not merely hire several dozen scientists and with little forethought send them to the parks to do research and advise the superintendents. Thus its initial response to the reports included hiring a chief scientist, who was to design and implement a science program.

Director Wirth stated soon after the academy's report that the Service's "organizational deficiencies" would be "corrected." He promised to set up an "identifiable unit" (rather than an independent unit) of science, having "close liaison with administration and operating arms of the Service," and having "freedom of communication on professional matters." In 1964 Director Hartzog established the Division of Natural Science Studies and named George Sprugel, Jr.—a highly respected biologist with the National Science Foundation—to be the Service's chief scientist. [40]

Sprugel's division included all research scientists in the Washington office, several of whom were transferred from a branch within the Division of Interpretation. This action gave science a clearer identity and an elevated status (from a branch to a division), at the same time breaking an organizational tie with interpretation that had been in place much of the time since the early 1930s. Sprugel reported to an assistant director for resource studies, a new position that included history and archeology programs. This arrangement, it was asserted, would allow a dialogue among researchers from different disciplines. However, it may have served more to restrict the status and visibility (and certainly the independence) of the science program, in that science was only one division among three reporting to an assistant director.

Sprugel sought to establish his programs through systematic research planning for the major natural parks. He created teams of Park Service scientists and naturalists that, working with experts from outside the Service, studied the parks to determine the particular research requirements of each. Although the scientists wanted short-range research to address "stop-gap" management concerns, they principally planned for long-range studies that would address "every feature and factor represented in each natural area," providing a "basic ecological understanding" for park management. The first "natural science research plan" produced was for Isle Royale National Park, followed by plans for Everglades, Great Smoky Mountains, and Haleakala national parks. By the late 1960s, the research plans were being folded into more comprehensive documents, the "resource management plans." Although intended to provide the ecological component of park master plans, the resource management planning effort languished in the 1970s without aggressive systemwide support. [41]

In a move providing some degree of independence, Sprugel was given direct supervision over all field research scientists, in accord with the academy's recommendation for control of the research assignments and protection of the objectivity of the scientists' findings. [42] Thus researchers were not to be under the authority of the park superintendents. Yet Robert Linn recalled that placing in a park a scientist who was "directed in his activities and paid by someone else" was viewed as a "direct threat to the concept of the Superintendent as the 'captain of the ship' "—a factor that Linn believed led to "major problems" and to "constant pressure" by management to gain control of the science programs. [43]

In the late 1960s, recalling recent efforts to strengthen the science programs, biologist Lowell Sumner noted "clear parallels with the struggle for survival in the natural world." He acknowledged that the struggle within the Park Service was not "as violent and predatory as in the animal world"; rather, it was more like the "competition among plants," in that particular branches and divisions had a "favorable place in the sun." These plants "overshadowed the others and got the major share of the funds, as well as major representation on policymaking and planning committees." Also, in Sumner's opinion, biology had been "dismembered into 2 camps"—wildlife rangers and scientists. Of the two, the wildlife rangers had the more "favorable place in the sun." [44]

With the effort to build scientific programs, the Park Service seems to have made more meaningful attempts to distinguish between "research science" and what was gradually becoming known as "resource management." Resource managers (the wildlife rangers) continued to perform the actual in-the-park treatment of flora, fauna, and other natural elements, including elk reduction, fisheries management, and firefighting. They also assisted the scientists with some data gathering and other routine functions. The wildlife rangers were selected to do natural resource management either because of their experience in such activities or because of related academic training, although some apparently had limited qualifications. Field oriented rather than academic, they assisted the superintendents in making, as well as implementing, decisions on natural resource issues. (In the Washington office, the wildlife ranger division consisted mainly of individuals transferred in from the big natural parks where they had had experience managing large mammals.) [45] By contrast, the scientists had the responsibility for formal research, including preparing research designs, then gathering data and interpreting the findings.

In Wirth's September 1963 response to the National Academy's report, he made it clear that research scientists were to play a limited role in park management. In spite of the academy's admonition that science should not be "simply an advisory function" and that it should have "line responsibility," the Park Service director stated that the researchers' "basic responsibility" was to submit findings and recommendations, and that their authority was only "advisory." The scientists would "not make decisions, or give orders pursuant to putting recommendations into effect." The superintendents, assisted by the wildlife rangers (the resource managers), would give such orders and then implement them. There would be little sharing of bureaucratic authority with the scientists. Moreover, the Service was developing two organizationally separate biological programs—research and resource management—an arrangement that Washington office scientist Robert Linn would later characterize as "biology divided." [46]

In contrast to the research scientists' rather consistent lack of common understanding with superintendents, the wildlife rangers maintained strong ties with park managers. With wildlife and forestry management combined in the Washington ranger office (as in most field offices), the rangers not only had a substantial role in resource management, involving both animals and plants, but also enjoyed much greater bureaucratic influence than did the research scientists. Early in 1964, an internal Park Service study recommended reorganizing the ranger division and renaming it "Resource Management and Visitor Protection." [47] The very title of the new unit (a title also adopted in many parks) helped ensure that the rangers would continue to be in charge of resource management in addition to law enforcement.

While head of the ranger division in the mid-1960s, Spud Bill, former superintendent at Grand Teton, soon to be Hartzog's assistant director and then deputy director, sought to make sure that the rangers kept a tight hold on resource management duties. In a memorandum on "The Role of the Park Ranger in Resources Management," Bill asserted to Director Hartzog that it was "wholly logical" for resource management to be a "park ranger function and basic responsibility." He recalled that, in decades past, specialization of national park work in such fields as interpretation and maintenance had taken these activities from the rangers, which he feared had diminished their status. But, as the Service moved toward more intensive management of natural resources, he was convinced that the ranger should be the principal player. The strength of the resource management program must "spring from and be motivated from the program operation level"—it was the ranger, the "man on the ground," who was familiar with the park and who should remain the "keyman" in resource management. Much later, veteran law-enforcement ranger and resource manager William Supernaugh commented that as the parks' resource management programs grew, their personnel "largely came from law enforcement"—the ranger staff. The wildlife rangers continued, in Supernaugh's words, to be within the rangers' "empire." [48]

As part of the ranger domain, historically allied with park management, the wildlife rangers were a steady source of support to whom the superintendents could turn for advice in the new era of ecology. Much more inclined than the scientists to make decisions without the delays and questions resulting from research, the wildlife rangers tended to act if, in Supernaugh's words, the situation "felt right." [49] Their management style surely suited the perceived needs of superintendents, who were long accustomed to decisive action.

This adherence to tradition was almost certainly encouraged by the wildlife rangers' close association with the Park Service's foresters, whose leaders remained little influenced by current ecological concepts. Well after the Leopold and National Academy reports were issued, the foresters (believing, as biologist Robert Linn later stated, that "all fire is bad and must be put out") continued to push for suppression of fires and elimination of certain insects and diseases. In 1966, in a clear illustration of minimal ecological concern, the acting assistant director in charge of the foresters and wildlife rangers wrote that although the Leopold Report's intention was to "restore and maintain the natural biotic communities" within national parks, these natural communities have "little justification for retention as national parks except as they are utilized by man, i.e., the park visitor." Recalling such attitudes, Lowell Sumner asserted that the "trouble with ecological considerations" in the parks had been that they were "frequently in conflict with some of the programs of other Service units—programs such as native forest insect control, filling in of swamplands to enlarge campgrounds, road and trail building into essentially pristine ecological territory, or suppression of natural fires in parks whose distinctive vegetation was dependent on the continuing role of natural fires." [50]

With the rangers generally representing the traditional perspective on natural resource management and the scientists much more attuned to current ecological thinking, discord between the two groups was sure to arise in the Washington office. In a statement prepared in late 1966 and issued under Deputy Director Bill's signature, Robert Linn (then acting chief scientist) observed that "evolving traditions, reorganizations, realignments, etc." had created the separate wildlife ranger and science functions, with each group having a "traditional dominion or assigned mission." Efforts to strengthen the science programs had rapidly precipitated territorial disputes. In a restatement of his "biology divided" observation, Linn wrote that "unhappy animosities" and "unhappy moments" resulted from "conflicts of 'jurisdiction' and conflicts of opinion." Responding to this problem, in 1967 the Service created a Natural Resources Committee for the purpose of "creating and/or maintaining coordination" between the wildlife rangers and the research scientists. [51]

An internal Park Service statement dated July 1964 (shortly after George Sprugel became chief scientist) noted that although the Service had reorganized to accommodate science, funds for research were "so limited" that even stopgap studies to address "pressing natural history problems" could not be satisfactorily accomplished. Mainly, Park Service scientists had to seek support from outside researchers to "initiate and carry out basic studies" in the parks, and funding had to be "obtained elsewhere" than from the Service. By 1965 the Park Service's own funding for research projects had reached only $105,500—up almost $80,000 from 1963 but still a minuscule amount compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on park development under Mission 66. The scientific research programs had not, as Director Hartzog observed early in 1965, "achieved the pace" he had hoped for; rather, they had met with "mixed results." Hartzog cautioned his superintendents that research was not a "fringe activity," but a "real and practical requirement" that needed recognition. Nevertheless, research received little budgetary support. [52]

Park Service leadership asserted that a key factor in limiting research funds was that some members of Congress believed that scientific research was not a proper function for the Service. Sprugel recalled that during his tenure as chief scientist (1964—66) a "budget problem" existed, resulting partly from congressional opposition to allowing line-item funding for research. [53] Shortly after assuming office in early 1964, Director Hartzog had been bluntly advised by no less than the chairman of the House Interior Department Appropriations Subcommittee, Michael Kirwan of Ohio, that research was not any business of the Service. This attitude prompted the director to avoid use of the word "research" in budget requests to Congress; he substituted the designation "resource studies," to disguise the program. In addition to the monies appropriated for resource studies, Hartzog used his emergency funds to finance research. Robert Linn recalled the director's use of "hip pocket cash" to ensure that the research programs continued. [54]

In Linn's opinion, the funding question was one of the chief problems to "plague mightily the science program." He noted too that hip-pocket funds "rarely legitimize a program and rarely come in amounts sufficient for major efforts." Linn claimed that the Park Service had "never presented effectively" to Congress an explanation for "why research was necessary to carry out the mandates that Congress gave to the Service," or why the Service should conduct its own scientific research. In truth, the failure of Service leadership from Mather's time on to determinedly pursue scientific research funding reflected a lack of concern for acquiring an in-depth knowledge of the parks' natural conditions. [55] At a conference of national park scientists in the late 1960s, Lowell Sumner concluded that funding and staffing for research were still "peanuts in comparison to those of larger and more powerful branches and divisions of the Service." He quoted a former Park Service landscape architect, Al Kuehl, who had frequently commented that if managers "think [biology] is important, they'll find the people and money" to do the work. [56]

Along with the question of funding, the Park Service faced the persistent problem of control—in Linn's words, "who should direct the work of the [park] scientists." George Sprugel recalled that even though he had line authority over the scientists, the superintendents exerted strong influence over them, and that superintendents and regional directors often sought to impede efforts to advance science in the parks. Sprugel remembered Hartzog as "friendly" toward the science programs, but viewed the director's top lieutenants as difficult obstructionists, unwilling to tolerate the new scientific approach to park management. [57]

Exasperated with what he saw as insufficient funding and overall weak support for his research programs, Sprugel resigned from the Park Service in September 1966. His departure occurred just over two years after he assumed the position of chief scientist and more than three years after the Leopold and National Academy reports declared the need for strengthened science programs within the Service. But in Sprugel's opinion, many of the Service's leaders had only "paid lip service" to the two reports and were "very hardnosed" in their resistance to science. Representing a new focus in park management, he had felt like an "outsider" with old-line managers, and it seemed as if he had been "thrust down their throats" by Director Hartzog. [58]

Announcing the chief scientist's resignation, a strongly worded article entitled "Science: Sense and Nonsense" appeared in BioScience and reflected Sprugel's concerns. Sprugel recalled that the author, reporter Harold Simons, had obtained his information from a highly placed source—no less than Assistant Secretary of the Interior and prominent biologist Stanley A. Cain, who, prior to his appointment to the Interior Department in 1965, had served on both the Leopold and National Academy committees. The article characterized Park Service efforts to respond to the reports of these committees as being "sorry, at best." The Service had "turned its back on scientific advice." Simons stated aptly that three years after the academy's report the same harsh criticism "could be made, along with the same threats, needs, and recommendations" that the academy had identified. Although Sprugel himself had "enlivened the scientific approach" to the parks, "all signs" indicated that the Service had not yet seen the "scientific light." [59]

Despite such a negative outlook, shortly after Sprugel's resignation the status of the science programs rose significantly. The Division of Natural Science Studies, reporting to an assistant director, was redesignated the Office of Natural Science Studies, reporting directly to Hartzog. Moreover, in the spring of 1967 Hartzog enticed Starker Leopold to become Sprugel's successor as chief scientist, thus bringing into the Service the Leopold Report's principal author. Hartzog had tried hard to get Leopold to join the Service, pushing the matter even after an initial refusal. He reached an agreement that while Leopold served as chief scientist he could continue his work at the University of California and be stationed in Berkeley. To ensure smooth operation of the science programs, Hartzog promoted Robert Linn, who had been acting as Sprugel's replacement, to serve as Leopold's deputy. [60]

Hartzog had long admired Leopold, and no doubt recognized the prestige he could bring to the Service and its science programs. In what Hartzog termed a "brilliant address," Leopold had told the superintendents conference gathered at Yosemite in October 1963 (several months after his report had been issued) that the Service—as well as Congress—needed a "complete overhaul" in its attitude toward research. He believed the research necessary to manage the parks "intelligently" was "simply enormous," and that without scientific input there was no way for "ecological management" to take place. [61]

With the chief scientist reporting directly to Hartzog, the Office of Natural Science Studies had at last attained for science the kind of status and independence envisioned in the National Academy Report of 1963—a situation enhanced by Leopold's reputation. And, as Leopold's deputy based in Washington, Robert Linn became "a part of the Director's squad," or "inner circle," as he put it. Heretofore, Linn felt, the scientists had had "no real representation on that august body." [62] At that point, it seemed that little more independence could be expected as long as science remained a function of the Park Service.

However, in the spring of 1967, just before Leopold took office, U.S. Senator Clifford P. Hansen of Wyoming proposed the National Park Service Natural Science Research Act, which would create a fully independent scientific wing of the Service. The bill included establishment of a Commissioner of Natural Science Research, who would have status approximately equal to that of the Park Service director. Senator Hansen claimed that the legislation was drafted "in response to some of the dramatic crises" that the national parks faced, and was "based upon the findings and recommendations" of the National Academy's 1963 report. [63]

In fact, the academy had only recommended that science be "independent of operational management" within the Service. Park Service leaders believed that Hansen's real intent was to wrest decisionmaking power from the director in order to gain control over wildlife management issues, particularly the still-unresolved issue of public hunting of Yellowstone's elk. Acting chief scientist Linn wrote to his former boss, George Sprugel, asserting that Hansen, reacting to concerns about Yellowstone, had "dragged out the old [National] Academy Committee Report" and made a bill out of it, to create a new "agency or super-agency within the National Park Service." Considering the potential power of a Commissioner of Natural Science Research, Linn added that there was "not much room for a war between a Director and a Commissioner." In his response to Linn, Sprugel evidenced his past frustrations with the Service, noting that with regard to the bill, nothing he had seen led him to believe "that tying the hands of the Director when it comes to a research program might not be to the benefit of the Park Service." Predictably, however, the bill promised a situation Hartzog could not tolerate. The Park Service claimed that it was already "organizing as effectively as possible" to have research support for park management, and the proposal was never enacted into law. [64]

Even the independence attained by the science programs under Starker Leopold did not last long. Leopold resigned as chief scientist effective June 1, 1968—exactly one year after his appointment. Having accepted the position on a conditional basis and with personal reservations, he soon realized that he could not satisfactorily address the needs of both the university and the Park Service. On Leopold's recommendation, Hartzog appointed Robert Linn as the new chief scientist. But soon, in 1969, the Office of Natural Science Studies lost its high organizational status when Hartzog removed it from his direct supervision and buried it in a cluster of eight divisions under one associate director. [65]

Thus, within a period of about two years, Park Service science had risen to a prominence it had never before known—then dropped back to a rank-and-file level. Given the timing of these shifts, it seems likely that the elevation of science was tied to Leopold's personal status and influence. Once he was gone, the Service quickly lapsed into customary organizational arrangements. The bureau's traditional leadership culture had reasserted itself and reduced the visibility of science and its role in management.

The status and independence of the science program were further affected when in the fall of 1971 Hartzog suddenly ordered the transfer of Washington office staff scientists to the regional offices, to become "regional chief scientists" reporting to the regional directors. At the same time, supervisory authority over those biologists stationed in parks was taken from the chief scientist in Washington and turned over to the regional directors or park superintendents. In the opinion of Chief Scientist Linn, this move had very likely been spawned by the antagonism of the more traditional managers, who resented their lack of control over the scientists, perceived by some to be engaged in research "hobbies" in the parks. Linn believed that Hartzog had come under "constant pressure" from the superintendents on this matter. [66]

Linn later recalled that he had not been consulted prior to Hartzog's sudden announcement of the reorganization, made at a meeting of regional directors in a hotel near Washington's Dulles Airport. The very fact that this important restructuring of the science programs was pulled off as a surprise move indicates that its proponents intended to catch Linn off guard and force the issue. At a coffee break following the announcement, the director discussed the matter with Linn, offering to reconsider if he had any "real heavy objections." In Linn's words, the "biggest mistake I ever made as chief scientist was not vigorously objecting." Caught in a sudden power play—and no doubt under tremendous pressure from a phalanx of the Service's directorate seeking to preserve a long tradition in which superintendents had virtually complete control in their parks—Linn assented. Told that he would be able to make the selections for the regional chief scientist positions, and assured by at least one regional director that in reality "nothing will change," the chief scientist hoped that the situation would work out satisfactorily. [67] With the regional directors closely allied with the superintendents (indeed, most had themselves come from the superintendency ranks), Hartzog's move greatly increased management's control over science. It was a definitive rejection of the National Academy's recommendation for a program independent of operational management.

Although individuals with high academic credentials had been employed before, the scientists hired in response to the Leopold and National Academy reports constituted the first sizable number of Ph.D.s to come into the Service. Academics with little bureaucratic experience and embodying a challenge to established views of park management, they had difficulty finding common ground with traditional managers. Their research could delay decisionmaking and could present ambiguous conclusions. It could also challenge a superintendent's preferred course of action. In many ways the scientists were caught between their desire to do independent scientific research and their need to participate directly in park decisionmaking. Participation would necessitate working closely with management during, for instance, analysis of policies, preparation of park planning documents, and analysis of the potential impacts of management actions. Such cooperation could rob the scientists of valuable research time and threaten their independence of thought and action. [68]

With their goal of independence (a goal seemingly less important to other research-oriented professions in the Service, such as archeology or history), the research scientists had been implanted in a bureau with longestablished modes of operation that rejected the alien concept of an independent scientific voice. The desire for independence may have reflected the degree to which scientists wished to be free to criticize management— but it may also have served to estrange park managers even more. Park Service leadership preferred that science be integrated with management, in the hope that it would be responsive to the managers' immediate needs. With regionalization, the goal of an independent scientific research program (which, as Linn had put it, should be "as free as possible to criticize the parent organization") had all but vanished, buried beneath the Service's management traditions. [69]

Regionalization brought no consistent organizational arrangement for scientists located in the parks. Each reported either to a staff person under the superintendent (usually the chief ranger) or to the regional chief scientist. Such varied reporting arrangements further splintered the science programs. Attempting to retain some authority and cohesion in his programs, Linn secured approval for creation of a Natural Science Coordinating Council, to consist of the chief scientist, his remaining Washington staff, and all of the regional chief scientists. The council was to meet quarterly. Yet with the regional and park scientists under supervisors who had varying degrees of interest in science, even this arrangement faltered. Within about six months of the reorganization, Linn learned that two of the regional chief scientists had been told not to "call Linn." In his view, this marked "the end of a centrally directed science program." [70] He recalled that even "simple inquiries to the field" from his office became treated by superintendents "with distrust and disdain and as an act of trespass." In addition, Linn stated that park research at a "number of locations" was "reduced by the encroachment of 'more meaningful' management activity." Budget allocations for long-range research competed with the superintendents' desire to use those funds for more "instant success" with park projects such as "snowplowing, dangerous tree removal and a variety of visitor services activities." [71]

The frustrations of biologist Ken Baker, stationed at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, exemplified the new situation for field scientists. Baker wrote to his friend Lowell Sumner that "just prior to reorganization" Chief Scientist Linn had approved his annual operating budget of $5,200, but that "after reorganization I got $0.00. That's what I said, $0.00. So here I sit, without any mileage for my personal vehicle, animal feed, telephone expenses, etc." The Washington office had passed the science funds to the regional offices, but, as Linn indicated, the money was diverted to other purposes. Baker described a similar loss of funds for the Death Valley biologist. With the reorganization, Baker believed that the chief scientist had become "nothing more than a figure-head and that Research Biologists have been tossed to the lions (Superintendents)." Emphasizing the role of the park superintendents more than the regional office, he wrote bitterly that the biologists were "under the control of Superintendents. They control our purse strings and whoever does that controls the Biologist." After Sumner conveyed this information to Starker Leopold, the former chief scientist responded that having the biologists dependent on the superintendents "is not the way I envisioned this program working nor the way it should work." [72]

The remarks of Linn and Baker on funding pointed to a key problem for scientific research: the ability of regional directors, superintendents, and chief rangers to manipulate funds and personnel. Always quite limited, science funding was generally subject to the discretion of park management, and more so after the regionalization. Superintendents could now shift funds with virtual impunity, especially when it involved the related fields of science and natural resource management. When a superintendent turned research funds over to the chief ranger, the ranger could instead use these funds for resource management (under his control) and thus free up his own resource management funds for other purposes, such as law enforcement or safety. As Linn's remarks on snowplowing and tree removal suggested, scientific research funds not infrequently ended up supporting routine park operations.

Similarly, Roland H. Wauer, a leading natural resource management strategist during this era, later observed that the majority of Park Service scientists found themselves "dealing with resource management issues rather than [scientific research]." [73] Despite their desire for independence, scientists were repeatedly drawn from research into resource management. Among other things, the shuffling of funds and personnel for science and for resource management and other ranger work seriously blurred the situation, making it difficult, if not impossible, to track the actual yearly funding or staffing for science.

Nearly two years after regionalization of the science programs, the extent of the loss of central control over the programs was made evident. An August 1973 Washington office memorandum on the "status of the Servicewide natural science program" pointed out that "attempts" to "ascertain the scope of ongoing [science] projects and to determine the actual funding level by Regions" had proved "somewhat unsuccessful." Had the Service's directorate been truly committed to science, surely it would have insisted on close tracking and accountability. But, in Linn's opinion, with the Service's priorities focused on daily park operations, "long-range promises" for science had done "badly in a marketplace of instant success." [74]

Reorganizations during the 1970s brought continued fluctuations in the status of the Washington office science programs. In 1973, under Hartzog's successor, Ronald H. Walker, and following Linn's departure, the chief scientist position rose to approximately the same status it had had during Starker Leopold's tenure, reporting immediately to the director. But under succeeding directors, more shifts occurred. By 1976 the science office had fallen back to division status, again buried in the organization as one of six divisions reporting to an associate director. In 1977 Starker Leopold and Purdue University biologist Durward L. Allen conducted a review of national park science programs. With their report and with an order from Assistant Secretary Robert Herbst that the "scientific program be upgraded and coordinated throughout the Service," the bureau again came under pressure to raise the status of science. [75]

As with the Leopold and National Academy reports, outside authorities once more sought to influence Park Service organization and effect shifts in power. Leopold and Allen recommended that the position of associate director for natural science be established, and that the incumbent operate in effect as the chief scientist. After months of stout resistance by Park Service leaders reluctant to share authority with science, this recommendation took effect. In 1978 Linn's successor as chief scientist, Theodore W. Sudia, was promoted to a new position of associate director for science and technology. [76] Although the title "chief scientist" was abandoned, science for the first time had attained the associate director level—fifteen years after issuance of the Leopold and National Academy reports.

Overall, during the 1970s, the organizational fluctuations of the science programs demonstrated that a kind of intellectual and policy push-and-pull was taking place—between the dictates of the Leopold and National Academy reports on the one hand and the traditional mindset of the Service on the other. As Linn put it, "representation at the top of the bureaucratic pile" was an "important function" for science, and the highest levels of the Park Service "MUST include [scientific] knowledge and concern." But the Service had only very slowly yielded some of its power to scientists. In marked contrast with science, perennially favored functions such as administration, design and construction, and ranger operations had maintained a consistently high organizational status throughout this period, generally at the assistant, associate, or even deputy director levels. [77]

Possibly contributing to the instability of the scientists' status was the revolving-door directorship imposed on the Service during the 1970s. For various political reasons, between December 1972, when Hartzog resigned as director, and May 1980, when Russell E. Dickenson took over, the Park Service had three directors: Ronald Walker, Gary E. Everhardt, and William J. Whalen. These eight years manifested the most rapid leadership changes in Service history, with an average tenure of about two and onehalf years, and with each director having his own perception of science and its role in national park management. Robert Linn believed that Hartzog's support for science was much greater than that of his immediate successors, a view seemingly contradicted by the rise of science under Director Walker. [78] Clearly, though, science had had difficulty securing sufficient bureaucratic strength to resist sudden organizational shifts, especially when the directorship itself was susceptible to rapid turnover. Yet in 1978 in the Washington office, science at last gained the associate director level—an organizational status it has maintained.

The period of frequent turnovers in the directorship helped bring about another shift in power within the Park Service's top echelons. As director, George Hartzog had dominated the Service. But because his successors lacked his bureaucratic strength and finesse, the regional directors assumed greater control, in effect filling the vacuum created by Hartzog's departure. And by the late 1970s the number of regions had increased from eight to ten, which augmented the regional directors' overall strength. Richard H. Briceland, who as associate director headed the science programs from 1980 to 1986 and encountered firsthand the authority of the regional directors, described the dispersal of power as "distributed anarchy." He believed it seriously impeded efforts to run an effective Servicewide science program. Similar to the earlier observations of Chief Scientist Linn and Hawaii Volcanoes biologist Ken Baker, Briceland stated that not infrequently he had seen regions or parks divert funds from scientific research to maintenance or other park activities. [79]

Briceland also recalled how the regional directors defeated an effort to elevate science throughout the Service. At a 1986 meeting Director William Penn Mott, Jr. (who had succeeded Russell Dickenson the previous year), proposed that science personnel be placed in high positions of authority, immediately under the regional directors or superintendents, in all regions and major natural parks. This plan, promoted by Briceland and others, had been presented to the regional directors well before the meeting. To some extent it would replicate throughout the system the status that science had finally attained in the Washington office.

Revealing his deference to the strength of the regional directors (and in a democratic management style in startling contrast to that of the oftenintimidating Hartzog), Mott submitted to their judgment, asking them to vote on the issue. Unwilling to surrender more authority to the scientists, they voted nine to one against the proposal, believing that it "wasn't needed," Briceland recalled. Support for the proposal came only from Western regional director Howard H. Chapman, who was building science programs in parks such as Sequoia, Yosemite, and Channel Islands. This important vote by the regional directors effectively constrained the scientists' authority in the regions and parks. [80]


Preserving Nature in the National Parks
©1997, Yale University Press
sellars/chap6c.htm — 1-Jan-2003