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Know the West

Diversity as cynical distraction


Like many in the National Park Service, as well as retirees, I think this elevation of diversity to one of the most important issues facing the agency is a cynical distraction from more serious issues like commercialization, invasive species and climate change ("Parks for All?" HCN, 5/12/14). No one is against diversity, but how serious a problem is it? Most parks have high visitation, and those numbers are not dropping.

While I don't doubt that the agency has reflected the national culture throughout its history, including things we cringe at today, statements like the one Alan Spears makes – about minorities not forgetting they weren't originally welcomed at all parks and implying this attitude may persist – are questionable at best and offensive to Park Service field employees.

Agency statistics and polling numbers are generated through such minuscule sample sizes and generic questions that they are useless. There isn't a private organization in the world that would make any policy decisions based on those sample sizes. It's a recipe for poorly informed choices with lasting consequences.

I hope your organization will take a much harder, more objective and less sympathetic look at the National Park Service as it nears its 100th anniversary. Yes, parks are under threats as never before. But the idea that racial diversity is the most important of these is simply wrong. I don't disagree with goals of getting more Americans aware of parks and their relevance. I do disagree with the agency's version of why that isn't happening.

Lou Good
Page, Arizona