Memo Advises National Parks Officials on How to Mislead Public on Service Cuts

March 18, 2004
Memo Advises National Parks Officials on How to Mislead Public on Service Cuts

Previously undisclosed plans for cuts in the National Park Service (NPS) were revealed at a press conference yesterday -- along with Park Service documents encouraging NPS employees to mislead the media and public about the reductions.

The nonpartisan Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees presented a memo from the NPS Northeast Region suggesting various options for service cuts, and language to help mislead the media.

The undisclosed planning for NPS cuts took place late last month even as the Interior Department was announcing a partnership with travel agents to increase the number of visitors to America's national parks.[1, 2]

"We have a very clear memo stating that the stewards of our land are supposed to misinform the public about what is going on," said Laurel Angell, counsel for Campaign to Protect American Lands. "I find this to be a really sad day."

Speakers at the press conference speculated that NPS employees were being advised to avoid mentioning cuts to the media -- and to provide misleading answers when questioned -- due to the "Chambers Effect." NPS employees wanted to avoid the fate of U.S. Park Police Chief Theresa Chambers, who was removed by the Bush administration after she publicly disclosed cuts in services.

"Chambers was forced out by the Bush Administration after revealing similar budget cuts," said Denny Huffman, spokesperson for the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees and former superintendent of Dinosaur National Monument.

Huffman said the Chambers firing has created a "culture of fear" in the NPS, and park superintendents were told to "make the cuts, keep them quiet and if necessary mislead the media."

Service reductions apply to weekend and holiday activities this summer at various U.S. national parks. Some of the cuts suggested for consideration by Northeast Region park superintendents, for example, include:

-Close the visitor center on all federal holidays.
-Eliminate life guard service at one of the park's three guarded beaches.
-Eliminate all guided ranger tours.
-Let manicured grasslands grow all summer.
-Turn one of our four campgrounds over to a concession permittee.
-Close the park every Sunday and Monday.
-Close the visitor center for the months of November, January & February.[2]


Email Bush in support of Chief Chambers, and let him know you don't agree with policies to mislead the media and public about reductions.



[1] NPS Midwest Region memo, Mar. 1, 2004.
[2] NPS Northeast Region memo, Feb. 20, 2004.


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