Petition Asks Interior Secretary To See Rangers Staff Remote North Cascades Outpost

A petition with nearly 800 signatures from across the country has been sent to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland asking that she direct the National Park Service to staff a remote outpost in North Cascades National Park Complex in Washington state.

The petition, driven by the North Cascades Conservation Council and joined by a coalition of environmental and outdoors groups, carries with it more than 400 personal testimonials of community members from Stehekin who want rangers based there this summer.

The NCCC and the coalition want Haaland to meet with outdoors advocates to explain her department’s ranger-cutting decision.

“We are appalled that North Cascades National Park Service staff have told park advocates that they plan to hire no ranger staff to work in Stehekin this summer,” the petition reads, noting that the park’s zero-ranger decision breaks 55 years of park precedent in Stehekin. 

“The Park Service made a choice to allocate no ranger staff to Stehekin, effectively walking away from this gem of the Park system,” said Carolyn McConnell, NCCC vice president. “That betrays Congress’s intent in putting this unique valley into the North Cascades National Park Complex.”

Park Service officials, however, say there just are not enough rangers at North Cascades to staff Stehekin.

“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,” Denise Shultz, the park’s visitor services chief, told the Traveler last week.

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.”

Phil Fenner, president of NCCC, said the support reflected by the petition “demonstrates how much people love this beautiful place. Signers came from all over the country and, remarkably, 80 percent of the signers added heartfelt personal comments.”
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