Dan Wenk

Yellowstone Superintendent Could Be Reassigned Under Interior Proposal

Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk could be reassigned under a potential proposal to “shakeup” management in the National Park Service.

According to the Washington Post, Wenk is one of seven officials the Interior reportedly wants to reassign. In an email Friday, Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said the agency had no announcements to make but added, “the Department is continually looking at ways to better utilize our workforce and senior leaders to improve the Department.”

Wenk, along with the other six officials, is a member of the Senior Executive Service, a rank in the civil service just below Presidential appointees. SES officials also act as links between the executive branch and the rest of the federal workforce.

Here is the list of other officials reportedly being considered for reassignment, courtesy of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

The other employees rumored to be on the move are Alaska Region Director Herbert Frost; Lake Mead National Recreation Area Superintendent Lizette Richardson; Biscayne National Park Superintendent Margaret Goodro; National Capital Region Director Robert Vogel; Intermountain Region Director Sue Masica; and Midwest Region Director Cameron Sholly.

Should the realignment happen, Sholly would be the one expected to take the helm at Yellowstone. Alexandra Picavet, a Midwest Region spokeswoman, said Sholly has been the Midwest Region director since 2015. He was previously the chief ranger at Yosemite National Park and superintendent of Natchez Trace Parkway, headquartered in Mississippi.

According to the Post, Wenk could be reassigned to head the National Capitol Regional in Washington, D.C. If Wenk refuses the reassignment, he would either have to resign or retire.

According to the Chronicle, the proposed reassignment comes as a surprise to organizations like the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. It also follows controversy over the reassignment of other Interior officials. From the Chronicle:

“It did come as a shock,” said Scott Christensen, conservation director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “It kind of follows this pattern that we’ve been seeing at the Department of Interior of these very arbitrary and not very well thought out reassignments.”

The department was criticized last year for the reassignment of 35 senior employees to new jobs, a move critics claimed was politically motivated. The department’s Office of Inspector General released a report earlier this month that said agency leaders had failed to document the reasoning behind the changes.

Christensen added that Wenk has been a “strong leader” on various park issues like bison management and native trout restoration. Wenk also pushed back against removing endangered species protections for Yellowstone area grizzly bears.

“If the rumors prove true,” Christensen told the Chronicle, “those of us who worked on protecting the park will certainly have lost an important leader. Not just for conservation in Yellowstone, but in the entire Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.”

Wenk has been Yellowstone’s superintendent since 2011. He first joined the NPS in 1975 as a landscape architect in Denver. He later served as a landscape architect in Yellowstone between 1979 and 1984.

From 2007 to 2011, Wenk served as deputy director of operations at the NPS. In 2009, he served as acting director of the NPS.

Last December, Wenk received an honorary doctorate from Montana State University for being “an eloquent advocate and steward of the world’s first national park.”

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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