The head of Yosemite National Park is stepping down following employee accusations that he created a hostile work environment rife with harassment, bullying, and humiliation. Superintendent Don Neubacher, 63, announced his retirement in a statement to park service staff (full text of the letter is below). His departure comes less than a week after a U.S. congressional hearing revealed that at least 18 employees have come forward with allegations of a toxic work environment at Yosemite.
“I regret leaving at this time, but want to do what’s best for Yosemite National Park,” Neubacher said in the statement. “It is an iconic area that is world renowned and deserves special attention.” He will be on paid leave until his official retirement date on November 1.
Neubacher’s departure is the latest is a series of shake-ups in the National Park Service following ongoing investigations by the U.S. Department of Interior. During last week’s hearing, the committee heard similar hostile work environment complaints from staff at Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.
Earlier this month, the superintendent of Canaveral national seashore in Florida was reassigned following reports confirming a “pattern of harassment.” In June, Dave Uberuaga, the superintendent at Grand Canyon National Park, retired following a scathing report by the Interior Inspector General’s office confirming a long-term pattern of sexual harassment among river guides.
Dear Yosemite Colleagues:
Today, during a discussion with the Regional Director, it was determined that new leadership was needed at Yosemite National Park. I was offered a detail in Denver as a Senior Advisor to Michael Reynolds, Deputy Director for the National Park Service. Since my home is in California, I have opted to retire effective November 1, 2016. I will be on leave effective immediately.
Over the course of the last six years, we have done incredible work together. The two controversial Wild and Scenic River Plans for the Merced River and Tuolumne River have been completed and approved. Mariposa Grove restoration is nearing completion; it is the culmination of our vision with incredible collaboration that is fitting for the birthplace of the National Park idea. We also added the 400 acre Ackerson Meadow to Yosemite, a major Centennial gift to the national. And we have restored western pond turtles, Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, and red-legged frogs to Yosemite National Park. For employees, we started together the Yosemite Leadership Academy and mentoring program. The list of accomplishments is much longer, but I wanted to keep this message brief.
I regret leaving at this time, but want to do what’s best for Yosemite National Park. It is an iconic area that is world renowned and deserves special attention. I appreciate all you have done for me, Yosemite and each other. Our employees, our park and our partners are some of the best in the nation.
Thank you for your past support.
With lasting respect and admiration,