You may be asking yourself what is WASO and how does it fit into the National Park Service? I know, because I spent the whole first week of my internship trying to figure that out… and just how the whole National Park Service is really put together.
To be honest, when I hear the words National Park Service I think of the rolling glacial valleys of Yosemite and the thick mangrove and sawgrass marshes of the Everglades, or really any beautiful public land that I could go adventuring in. I don’t really picture a central office in D.C., much less do I think of working for a central D.C. office of the National Park Service in my dining room table where I have set up my makeshift office for the foreseeable telework future. But… I am actually pretty happy I am getting to learn how a huge federal organization like the National Park Service is put together, and to work maybe not in the most beautiful public land but in an office that seeks to make sure all the public lands stay beautifully organized.
See, the National Park Service which was founded in 1916 with the mission of conserving and ensuring that the public was able to enjoy protected land, is in charge of 419 areas covering more than 80 million acres of land. With millions of visitors each year, and with about 20,000 annual employees and 279,000 volunteers, the many branches of the National Park Service need all the organization and support they can get from the Washington D.C. office.
Here is the infographic that I stared at pretty much the whole first week of my job, while I tried to figure out how this whole thing was put together. A bit confusing still, but the main takeaway is that lots of people are working in and accross offices around the country so that our public lands can be enjoyed. At WASO you can find about every organizational director in the park service from the Director of Cultural Resources, Partnerships & Science to the Director of Legislative and Congressional Affairs. All these D.C. folks provide guidance and support to the 11 regional directors who run all the parks that their region encompasses, shown in the map.
Who ever thought, while you were taking that breath of fresh air at the top of your hike along the Grand Canyon, or while you were admiring the baby bison (from a safe distance) at Yellowstone, that so many people all over the country were coordinating all the tiny details just so you could enjoy a trail or a view? I think that pretty cool. So while I may not be in the great outdoors this summer, I hope I can do some office work that will help someone else enjoy a moment in our beautiful public lands.
Agency: National Park Service
Location: National Capital Region
Program: Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP)