Teton chief retiring from highly political post

Nov 10, 2013 The Associated Press

JACKSON -- Retiring Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott has had a parks career that saw her serve in places like San Francisco and New York, where bashing officials was a blood sport.

She had the wind knocked out of her long before she came to Grand Teton, where she also got plenty of advice -- and criticism too. Serving Teton wasn't the first time she experienced "body blows," she said this week.

Of all the places she's been a public servant in the last 33 years, "this park is one of the most political animals I've ever seen."

She leaves after serving as the first female superintendent of Grand Teton and the third-longest-serving superintendent of the reserve. She started her job here in 2004, her career in 1980.

"The Park Service had just started allowing women to wear the same uniform as men," she said of the era when she joined.

She came to Grand Teton as a member of the elite Senior Executive Service of the National Park Service, a group of 10 officers. With her retirement, that cadre will have no female members, which riles her.

Why there aren't more is "a question the agency should be asking," she said.

Grand Teton is sometimes called a "bastard" park because of its many incongruous uses, including a commercial airport, hunting and grazing that are allowed by law.

Some of those bring pressures on the superintendent, as when unnamed Wyoming residents floated the idea of swapping state lands inside Grand Teton for Jackson Hole Airport.

The topic came up during consultation with representatives of the Rockefeller family, which donated more than 14,000 acres to the government to expand Grand Teton decades ago. The meetings continue because the donation contains a "reverter clause" that stipulates the property will return to the family if it is not used for park purposes.

While under political pressure to propose actions like a swap for the airport, the superintendent also answers to Rockefeller heirs who guard their family's "investment" in the Grand Teton gift, Scott said. She assured trustees of the Rockefellers' Jackson Hole Preserve Inc. that any notion that Grand Teton would cede its airport property was a "nonstarter" in discussions about the landing strip, the only such commercial facility in a national park.

"We don't give up park land," Scott said.

The park prepares an annual report on the status of Rockefeller gifts to Grand Teton, including the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. The family donated 1,160 acres around Phelps Lake that used to be a family retreat.

Keeping the airport in the park through a lease agreement also allows Grand Teton to have a significant say in operations.

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