When I worked for the NPS, a lead seasonal told me that when in uniform I was to have no opinion. It's bad enough being told not to express an opinion, which to me seems to violate the First Amendment, but being told not to have an opinion--to purge my mind of anything but officially sanctioned thoughts--is utterly repugnant and Orwellian. But that seems to be the culture of the National Park Service.

Those inside the agency who speak out are often silenced. Those critical of the National Park Service--its policies, actions, and procedures--often find themselves silenced by Big Brother.

The NPS has censored many. In one case, the NPS and FBI shut down a website simply because it displayed a photo of an entrance sign and NPS arrowhead, which the NPS maintains is copyrighted. Search for "National Park Service" + censorship, and you'll discover that the NPS edited "gay images" out of a Lincoln Memorial video, has removed historical references to "God" from various DC memorials, and has banned books that refer to aboriginal inhabitants as Anasazi.

The NPS also censors scientists. In Rocky Times in Rocky Mountain National Park, Karl Hess, Jr. describes how scientists who spoke up and criticized the park's policies were silenced by NPS administration. In a separate editorial, a former NPS director is quoted as saying "alteration and deletion of scientific information is now standard procedure at Interior."

Scientists, whistleblowers, policy critics, history. They've all been censored by the National Park Service. Why? To protect its continued existence. Government agencies are self-perpetuating and conservative (resistant to change) by nature. Those financially dependent on the agency will defend it and will silence critics. Criticism might lead to change, and change might threaten paychecks, pensions, and parasitic profiteering.

There is a better way. We can remove parks from a political system and place their management in conservation trusts, which would be led by a board of directors elected from the pool of park employees, university faculty, local residents, and concerned environmental organizations.