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Long to-do list for new US parks chief

(Page 2 of 3)

He has enlisted a special science adviser, Gary Machlis, to provide a science-based analysis whenever dealing with the tug of war between protecting and tapping park resources. Mr. Machlis's instructions are to resolidify park service ties with the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

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That's not too surprising, given Jarvis's background: He is the first park service director to be trained as a biologist.

That's a symbolic and important distinction, says Denis Galvin, a retired park service policy veteran who has known 10 different directors. It's one reason Jarvis has worn his "greenness" on his sleeve – even at times when public display of environmental sensibility was frowned upon in Washington.

During his career, Jarvis has backed removal of dams blocking salmon streams near Olympic National Park in Washington. He reduced development around Crater Lake National Park in Oregon to improve water quality. And he got into hot water recently with US Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California for fighting a commercial oyster operation in a bay at Point Reyes National Seashore because he believed it would harm the marine ecosystem.

During his recent tenure as regional director overseeing national parks in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Idaho, Jarvis criticized attempts to weaken park protection codes, end public education programs, and outsource ranger jobs to the private sector.

"He has credibility [among resource professionals] not only because he spoke out, but because he came up inside, through the ranks. He's not an outsider," Mr. Galvin says. "He knows the agency culture, its traditions, and its mandate for the American people. He didn't buckle under."

Jarvis is praised by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, which blanched when parks became political footballs in controversies ranging from reducing the number of snowmobiles in Yellowstone to attempts by Creationists to sell books on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

His record, though, is not universally acclaimed, especially among libertarian, small-government proponents in the West.