NPCA submitted the following position to members of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources ahead of a hearing scheduled for October 16, 2018.
Since 1919, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. On behalf of our more than 1.3 members and supporters nationwide, we urge you to support the nomination of Raymond David Vela as Director of the National Park Service (NPS).
In late August, President Trump nominated Mr. Vela for the top post at NPS, and on Tuesday, October 16th he will appear before the full Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. If confirmed, Vela would bring nearly three decades of public service expertise to the position, including his current role as superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, previous service as the Associate Director for Workforce, Relevancy and Inclusion in Washington, D.C., as well as Superintendent of Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site and the Director of the Park Service’s Southeast Region.
Vela, a 28-year career veteran of NPS, would be the first Hispanic-American to lead the agency. As Director, Vela would play an essential role in protecting 417 of America’s most treasured places and oversee the management of more than 20,000 National Park Service employees. If confirmed, Vela would be charged with upholding the Park Service’s mission to protect and keep unimpaired our most incredible resources – natural, cultural and historic –for future generations to experience and enjoy.
Currently, Vela is the Superintendent of Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in Wyoming, encompassing over 300,000 acres of national park lands. Grand Teton is best known for the spectacular views of the magnificent Teton Range and is home to species such as gray wolves, grizzly bears, moose, elk and antelope.
In his current role, Vela has tackled many high profile and often contentious issues. Throughout his tenure, he demonstrated professionalism and commitment to inclusive and fair decision-making processes around a broad scope of issues. These included wildlife management, wild and scenic river protection, transportation and visitor management, reconstruction of the Jenny Lake area and trail system and protection and acquisition of state-owned inholdings within the park.
In NPCA’s experience, Vela has been respectful of many diverse opinions surrounding park management in Grand Teton and committed to the effective resolution of issues through community-based dialogue and solutions. He has been a dedicated civil servant and holds Park Service values to a high standard, keeping them at the core of all his management decisions. Likewise, we have found that Vela operates in a bi-partisan manner and works effectively with both Republican and Democratic administrations. As a Senior Executive for the NPS, Vela has worked in many different realms of NPS and understands the broad challenges facing the National Park System. He oversaw an internal restructure to better align the Service’s Human Resource functions with the agency wide commitment to relevancy, diversity and inclusion. Finally, during his tenure with the Park Service, Vela has established several robust leadership programs that train the next generation of park staff with the goal of recruiting and retaining new talent to support the Park Service’s noble mission.
Vela is a problem solver and poised to take on many obstacles facing our parks as Director, including threats from development, air and water pollution, climate change and record visitation. Obviously, though the committee has taken recent action to support NPS priorities, one of the more difficult challenges Vela must undertake will be addressing an already underfunded National Park Service and its nearly $12 billion in needed repairs.
Recognizing how long the Park Service has been without a formal Director, we look forward to the timely confirmation of David Vela as National Park Service Director. NPCA hopes to support him and all the important work ahead to ensure the protection and future of our national parks. Thank you for your consideration.
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Senior Vice President of Government Affairs