North Cascades National Park Staffing Issues Spur Petition To NPS Director Chuck Sams

Staffing issues means there won’t be any interpretive rangers based at Stehekin in the North Cascades National Park Complex this summer/Rebecca Latson file

A lack of staff at North Cascades National Park Complex has spurred a petition to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and National Park Service Director Chuck Sams asking that they “commit to fully staff Stehekin with rangers this summer” and keep the Golden West Visitor Center there open.

Implementing the request could be difficult for the park in Washington state, as it simply doesn’t have enough bodies to go around, according to a park spokesperson.

“We understand the desire to have interpretive and general ranger staff available for personal interactions with visitors, but the staff departed from the two permanent positions in interpretation and visitor and resource protection divisions in Stehekin and we have not been able to refill those positions,” said Denise Shultz, the park’s visitor services chief.

Shultz explained the problem with filling the positions stems from a hiring process that can take up to 18 months, the difficulty with hiring permanent staff at Stehekin, and the uncertain funding climate.

“Without the permanent interpretive or general ranger positions in Stehekin, we will not be able to hire and supervise seasonals as we have done in the past,” she said in an email. “The GWVC will not be open, but there will be information and interpretive materials available online as well as on the bulletin boards and waysides throughout the valley. Backcountry permits will be issued, and campground reservations will be available online as usual. Maintenance and resources staff will be working in Stehekin as usual, and backcountry/wilderness and fire staff will be rotating through.”

Those who launched the petition drive pushed back against the park’s position.

The decision by the National Park Service to abandon Stehekin is a betrayal of Congress’s intent in assigning Stehekin to the care of the Park Service,” reads a portion of the petition. “People from all over America and the world want to come enjoy this gem, and they deserve to be greeted by public servants. That is why we call on Secretary Haaland and Director Sams to publicly repudiate and reverse decisions to curtail ranger staffing in Stehekin this year.

Shultz said that while overall visitation to the park complex’s three units — the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area — has risen 36 percent over the past decade to 1,066,380 per year, Lake Chelan visitation has remained “about the same” during those ten years, ranging from 38,000-40,000 per year.

“The park assesses and reviews operations on a continuous basis for the entire complex to best meet the needs of the majority of visitors,” she added. “In Stehekin we have prioritized orchard operations, utilities to support concession operations, campground and restroom maintenance, and resource protection.”

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