For female employees working in the U.S. National Park system, there are threats much greater than bears. Namely, their male co-workers. On Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee heard testimony about rampant harassment among employees at some of the nation’s most famous park, including Yellowstone and Yosemite. The conditions at the California park, where 18 employees have complained about the work environment, were described as “toxic, hostile, repressive and harassing.”
One of the victims who spoke to the committee was Kelly Martin, a 32-year veteran of the park service who currently serves as Yosemite’s chief of fire and aviation management. She recounted one incident where a park ranger watched her shower and received no punishment when she reported him. In fact, he was promoted despite being “repeatedly caught engaging in voyeuristic behavior.” She also spoke of the time a male supervisor who kept her picture in his car tried to kiss her. And the time another supervisor ran his fingers through her hair during a meeting.
Martin said her experience was not unique and that many female employees at Yosemite “are being bullied, belittled, disenfranchised and marginalized from their roles as dedicated professionals.”
The allegations at Yosemite are little surprise to those who followed the stories of an abusive chief ranger at Canaveral National Seashore in Florida or the sexual misconduct reported at the Grand Canyon.
Lawmakers of both parties were angry about what they heard but had little faith much would be done to stop it. As Maryland representative Elijah Cummings mentioned, a park-service task force was convened in 2000 to find solutions to rampant harassment. None of its recommendations were implemented.