President Barack Obama on Friday tapped Jon Jarvis to head the National Park Service, turning to a 30-year-veteran who oversees the national parks across the Western states, and who also has angered a powerful U.S. senator and backers of a Northern California oyster farm.
Jarvis is a biologist who told The Associated Press recently that his priorities as a parks official include climate change, the role of the parks with education and youth, and reaching out to populations who haven't used the parks.
He recently locked horns with a powerful Senate Democrat in a controversy over environmental effects of a Northern California oyster farm and potential relicensing of the facility.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a May letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that she found the Park Service's negative conclusions on the oyster farm "troubling and unacceptable," in light of a national scientific report stating the Park Service exaggerated concerns about the operation's impact on seals and the environment at Point Reyes National Seashore.
The National Research Council in May found the Park Service had misrepresented and overinterpreted some scientific information, overlooking potential benefits as well as exaggerating negative effects of the oyster farm.
Jarvis, at the time, apologized for errors in the Park Service assessment and said he was committed to protecting the estuary.
California's largest commercial shellfish operation, the Drake's Bay Oyster Co. has been in a long-running battle with the Park Service which says the region should convert to official wilderness when the company's lease runs out in 2012.
Feinstein wants the Park Service to extend the permit of the 70-year-old operation, saying it provides 30 jobs.
The National Parks Conservation Association, an environmental group committed to the parks, welcomed Jarvis' nomination, calling him "well-versed in the threats to our natural and cultural treasures, and the leadership, collaboration, and cooperation needed to restore them."
But the continuing debate over the oyster farm could dog him. One prominent critic is scientist Corey Goodman, a University of California at San Francisco adjunct professor who said Jarvis' nomination is at odds with Obama's stated commitment to sound science.
Before becoming the director of the service's Pacific West Region, Jarvis was superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington, Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska.