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Grand Teton Superintendent: A Rumored Pick For National Park Service Director

Supt. Vela describes the significance of the NPS badge to a 4th grade student from Donald Stalker Elementary before awarding a Jr. Ranger badge to her at the completion of an "Every Kid in a Park" visit, sponsored by Grand Teton Lodge Co. (May, 2015)
National Park Service

The superintendent of Grand Teton National Park is rumored to be President Trump’s nominee for the National Park Service (NPS). The position has been left unfilled for 18 months. David Vela has been with the NPS on and off for 37 years. He’s worked at several historic sites, coordinated operations in Texas, and oversaw the NPS southeast region, covering 66 parks.

Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said the agency has lacked direction and morale without a leader; she added it’s impacted operations.

“Things like grants to many of the groups that are trying to work with the park system have been really held up… as well as decisions. More recently, the issue of additional land being put forth to increase Fort Monroe. So, a lot of these important decisions are really being held up” she said.

Pierno added there’s been staff shortages as well.

Another major challenge will be addressing the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog. Interior Director Ryan Zinke’s current plan involves using additional energy development revenue.

Pierno said Vela is a good choice to manage the backlog.

“He’s had significant experience in dealing with budgets and trying to manage a system that is in desperate need of additional resources.” She said, "So I think he’s a voice that is needed at this time particularly with the Secretary making the maintenance backlog a priority. "

Vela would be the first person of Hispanic descent to lead the agency.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.

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