What You Missed: Leaked Park Service Study on Harassment Shows Culture of Fear
NPS study on harassment leaked, more ski resorts delay opening, teddy bear lost in Glacier National Park reunited with owner
For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure, and travel stories, plus discounts on trips, events, and gear, sign up for Outside+ today.
Welcome to What You Missed, our daily digest of breaking news and topical perspectives from across the outdoor world. You can also get this news delivered to your email inbox six days a week by signing up for the What You Missed newsletter.
An internal study into harassment conducted by the National Park Service has been leaked to the press, and it confirms previous reports of discrimination and abuse within the organization.
On Monday the High Country News (HCN) published documents from the NPS Voices Tour Report, a 2018 study of NPS behavior conducted by the human-resources consulting firm Sepler and Associates. Comprised of more than 50 in-person sessions, 27 digital sessions, and 200 anonymous submissions by full-time and seasonal NPS employees, the report detailed a wide range of problematic activity, including firsthand accounts of sexual harassment and abuse by employees. The report also detailed employees’ fear of retaliation from managers for reporting violations.
“My advice to anyone who is being harassed or unfairly disciplined would be to not say anything and leave the NPS as quickly, quietly, and gracefully as possible,” read one anonymous statement in the report’s Storybook section.
“Management allowed the harassing individual in my case to write the summary of the investigation into his own wrongdoing,” read another statement. “Yes, that is correct. The harassing individual was allowed to determine if they were responsible for their own wrongdoing.”
This isn’t the first time the NPS has studied its own policies on harassment and abuse—in 2017 it published an internal survey showing that 38 percent of employees had experienced workplace harassment in the previous 12 months.
Unlike the 2017 study, however, the NPS kept results of the Voices Tour Report hidden from the public and from employees, the story that broke in HCN. Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, an NPS spokesperson, told HCN that the organization had intended to distribute the report after it was completed in late 2019, but that the pandemic interrupted those plans.
“We recognize our delay in sharing the report could have the unintentional consequence of impacting our efforts to build confidence and trust with employees,” Anzelmo-Sarles told HCN. “One of the most important things we can do is be transparent about what is occurring within the workforce and help break down barriers that dissuade or prevent people from coming forward when they are subject to or witness inappropriate behavior.”
The report’s summary and conclusion section paint a stark picture of the NPS’s internal policies on harassment and abuse and how those failures impact employees. According to the report, respondents witnessed harassment based on age, gender, religion, race, disabilities, and sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Participants strongly believe that the NPS does not follow its stated zero tolerance policy and that some leaders do not address harassment,” the report said. “In the anonymous submissions, we heard about many reportedly unaddressed harassment and discrimination complaints as well as retaliation for making complaints.”
In total, the Voices Tour Report includes testimony from more than 1,200 people and covers topics ranging from sexual harassment and abuse to the lack of career-advancement opportunities for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color. In 2021, the NPS employed more than 12,000 people, and the report states that all employees were invited to participate in the report.
The report upheld the multitude of reports from former and current employees concerning abuse within the country’s national parks. In 2018, contributor Annette McGivney reported on the culture of harassment and intimidation among staff at Grand Canyon National Park in a feature story for Outside.
More Ski Resorts Delay Opening Day
If you just canceled your Thanksgiving ski plans, you’re not alone.
Ski resorts from Colorado to Vermont this week delayed opening for the 2021–2022 season due to unseasonably warm and dry weather. On Tuesday, Colorado’s Telluride and Steamboat Resorts both announced plans to delay opening until after Thanksgiving. The news came after Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Resort announced on Monday that it had pushed back its November 19 opening until further notice.
Vermont’s Mount Snow and Okemo Resorts also revealed plans to delay their respective gate drops, which were originally planned for this week. Brian Head, Utah also canceled its plans to open on November 19, pushing back the date until further notice.
The ski areas are blaming delays on warm temperatures and a lack of moisture. In Steamboat Springs daytime temperatures are still hovering in the low fifties.
“Normally this time of year we have more than 20 inches of snowfall that has remained (not melted) a 10-to-20-inch mid-mountain base, and 200 hours of snowmaking under our belt,” said Dave Hunter, Steamboat’s vice president of resort operations in a release. “This year we haven’t been able to capitalize on extended snowmaking temperatures and windows with only eight hours of total snowmaking.”
Memories of the bone-dry 2017–18 winter are still fresh in the minds of many skiers, but there is still hope this winter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association predicts a La Niña year in the West, which could see above average snowfall in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies.
Bear Story of the Year
In a story with multiple twists and turns, rangers in Glacier National Park have reunited a teddy bear with its owner more than a year after it was lost in the Montana park.
“My Worst Hike: My Boyfriend Left Me Stranded on the Trail” Contributor Meg Atteberry recounts the trek that forever changed her perception of partnership in the outdoors. Outside
Around the Outside Network
“How Cotopaxi Fought a Facebook Scam” The apparel brand’s vice president explains how it pushed back against the social media giant after becoming the target of online scammers. Outside Business Journal
“The Triumph and Tragedy of Patrick Edlinger” Contributor Ed Douglas profiles the first icon of sport climbing, who died in a tragic accident in 2012. Climbing
“How Blood Glucose Monitors Could Reshape Pro Cycling” Devices that monitor how much glucose is in your bloodstream could give elite cyclists a sizable advantage. VeloNews
“This Colorado Resort Was the Place to Be During the Pandemic” How Silverton ski area helped skiers come together while also staying socially distanced. Ski