Park Service Announces Changes Addressing Widespread Sexual Harassment

Oct 17, 2017

Credit National Park Service

On Friday, National Park Service Director Mike Reynolds and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to better protect park service employees from harassment.

They spoke from Grand Canyon National Park, where in 2016 a high-profile investigation shed light on a pattern of sexual assaults and harassment across the park system. 

Reynolds described the results of the survey passed out to employees in January, which confirmed harassment is widespread, and that many victims, worried that they won’t be treated fairly, do not report.

The agency is responding with new trainings, procedures, and more staff, whose salaries Reynolds said will draw from existing funds.

The Directors’ Order issued Friday also places firmer penalties on managers who silence reports or attempt to retaliate. Reynolds said the park service is also setting up support groups for employees.

“We have a women’s employee resource group that is a peer-to-peer support function that can also address leadership on how to address issues affecting women, for example. And we would like to add more of those. We’re also focused on an internal communications structure,” Reynolds said.

Former Colorado National Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo worked in the Park Service for 35 years before retiring in 2011. Anzelmo has been outspoken about the culture of harassment in the agency, and says she is relieved that its leaders now seem to be listening to employees. But she’s concerned there won’t be funding to maintain these initiatives in the long-term.

“I’m hopeful with what I’ve been reading, but of course the proof will be how they implement this action plan,” Anzelmo said. “Will there be funding for the added positions, will there be funding for the added training – what will be the mileposts of accountability over the coming year or so?”

Anzelmo adds that sexual assault and harassment extend far beyond the National Park Service.