The journalist Linda Ellerbee once said, “What I like most about change is that it's a synonym for 'hope.'” This week, even as NPCA says goodbye to a valued leader, we feel hope for the future of our national parks and the strength of NPCA’s vision as we work toward the Park Service’s centennial in 2016.
Yesterday, NPCA President Tom Kiernan stepped down after a memorable fifteen years leading the organization. During his tenure, Tom dramatically increased the size and scope of the organization and played a pivotal role in our fundraising efforts. He’s also the kind of person who leads by example, sharing his genuine love of the outdoors and real sense of connection to issues that matter to so many of us in the conservation community. We know he’ll be a great success as the next chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association, an organization that shares NPCA’s interest in finding more sustainable energy sources that might address global warming.
During this transition, Executive Vice President Theresa Pierno will serve as our acting president. We asked Theresa a few questions about the days ahead as NPCA faces the prospect of change internally.
Q: Do you foresee any shifts in NPCA’s program work as a result of this transition?
Our strategic plan leading up to 2016 was already in place before Tom made his announcement. I don’t think you’ll find any surprises in the work we hope to accomplish in the coming months. We will work to protect parks from air pollution, to ensure parks are well-funded and managed, to broaden the base of national park supporters to include more diverse audiences, and to support legislation that would create new parks and protect park ecosystems. And we must also ensure the park system continues to evolve and reflect the diversity of America’s story.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for national parks in the next six to 12 months?
As we prepare for the Park Service’s centennial in 2016, we have major challenges ahead to ensure that we are doing everything we can to preserve these treasured places for the future. From restoration work in the Everglades to maintaining strong interpretive ranger programs to protecting sensitive park wildlife and landscapes from the impacts of climate change, we have a unique opportunity to show that the American people value our national parks by giving them the resources they need to be healthy and thriving. Fortunately, park enthusiasts around the country understand what is at stake, and our 750,000 members and supporters regularly speak out on a host of issues, from clean air and water to preventing incompatible development. We also have a fantastic staff that works hard to preserve these critical places and stop legislation or policy decisions that could harm our parks.
I want to make sure my children and grandchildren get to see the best of America and enjoy these incredible, iconic places just as much as I do.
Q: Are there recent accomplishments you hope to build on during the coming months?
President Obama just added three new national monuments to the park system, including a site honoring Underground Railroad hero Harriet Tubman that we have spent years advocating for—a great victory and a signal that our federal government values preserving our history. And even with the recent funding cuts, NPCA and our supporters worked very hard with leaders in Congress to gain $400 million in national park restoration funding after Hurricane Sandy.
NPCA also co-founded and I co-chair the America’s Great Waters Coalition, a network of partner groups that protect vital watersheds around the country, from the Everglades to the Colorado River to the Great Lakes. These organizations are doing so much great advocacy and restoration work, from improving wildlife habitat at Galveston Bay in Texas to increasing public access to recreation on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. It’s inspiring to see what a coalition of committed people can do, raising the profile of these restoration projects nationally, securing funding to help important watersheds, and connecting people to new opportunities to enjoy the waters in their neighborhoods. Healthy national parks depend on healthy waterways.
Q: Do you think the transition will hamper NPCA’s ability to get things done?
We are sad to see Tom leave, but one of the very best parts of working at NPCA is our strong commitment to teamwork and our strong leadership team of experienced staff members who have been working on park protection for many, many years. We have a strong field presence with our 24 regional and field offices, as well as skilled, dedicated staff in our national office in Washington, D.C. We are ready to dig in and keep our great momentum going during this transition.
Learn more about Acting President Theresa Pierno on NPCA’s website.
About the author
Jennifer Errick Managing Editor of Online Communications
Jennifer co-produces NPCA's podcast, The Secret Lives of Parks, and writes, edits and moderates online content.