The National Park Service is making progress toward addressing a range of personnel-related management challenges, but the task ahead remains daunting, a Senate subcommittee has been told.

An IG witness said that office has document in recent times issues including serious ethics violations, lack of consequence for misconduct and poor judgment, and harassment, discrimination, and reprisal against employees.

“Changing this culture will be arduous. NPS has a legacy practice of hiring family and friends. Favoritism and sexism abound. The remote location of many parks limits diversity in applicant pools, and often blurs the boundaries between the work and personal lives of park employees. NPS’ culture of silence and protecting its own has kept harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in the shadows,” she said.

Acting NPS director Michael Reynolds agreed that the problems “did not develop overnight and will not be solved overnight.” He said that responses underway include a clear message from the Interior Department that harassment or discrimination will not be tolerated; creation of a new ombudsman office that employees can contact if they encounter such problems; improved training including stress on anti-harassment; seeking input from employee groups; and quick action when new cases arise.

Results of an employee survey taken earlier this year are not yet available but will be publicly released when they are, he added.