William Penn Mott Jr., the new director of the National Park Service, wants to try to get off to a good start with the leaders of national conservation groups by meeting with them at a retreat at Yellowstone National Park this week.
Mott said he'll try to lead his part of the Interior Department in a direction "very different" from that of former secretary James G. Watt. He said he hopes to achieve a consensus with interest groups and the senior bureaucrats who run the Park Service.
At his swearing-in ceremony last week, Mott said Interior Secretary Donald Hodel told him that he is "most interested in the energy aspects of the agency, and I should worry about the park aspects. I think that'll be a good blend, and he seems willing to give me the free hand to do it."
Referring to the retreat with environmental leaders this week, Mott said, "What I'm looking for is their cooperation. I don't want them to nit-pick and fine-tune at this point. I just want them to agree that this is the direction we should go."
Mott has prepared a list of 12 goals, including developing an "expanded land-protection initiative," achieving a "better balance between people management and resource management" and changing the often acrimonious relationship between park concessionaires and the agency. Although the plan lacks specifics, Mott is a person who listens before completing the road map, according to people in the environmental community who know him.
Mott agrees with conservationists that some new parkland should be acquired but said in a background paper, "I do feel that we have not used other innovative acquisition strategies involving states, other federal agencies and the private sector as extensively as we might." Mott said these avenues must be explored because of budget constraints.
"I think you are going to find that Bill Mott will try to draw out the best of the people in the Park Service and the best of the ideas from the conservation community before making decisions," said Paul C. Pritchard, president of the National Parks and Conservation Association. "Bill is a man who knows the park issues inside out and is not afraid to speak his mind."
Mott was director of the California State Department of Parks and Recreation from 1967 to 1975. Since then, he had been general manager of the East Bay Zoological Society (which oversees the Oakland Zoo).
Mott says he would like to find a way to move regional Park Service officials out of their often-antiseptic offices into historic buildings on park properties to help them gain a better appreciation of their jobs. In addition, the move would cut the agency's rental costs.
"I'd like to see that money go into park restoration work," Mott said. "But I don't know if I'd do it if the money went back to the Office of Management and Budget."
Mott says that he wants to review the agency's agreements with park concessionaires. In some cases, the concessionaires have not only been paying low rent, but they get the right to take over federal property when their contract is up.
Mott said the only personnel change he has made involves Park Service Deputy Director Mary Lou Grier, whom he wants to replace with a career employe. Mott said he expects that the White House will name her chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation when Alexander (Sam) Aldrich's term as chairman expires.
Grier is supposed to be out of her Park Service job by June 15. She could not be reached for comment.