Volcano Man: New Superintendent Enjoys Craters of the Moon
Twin Falls, Idaho
June 23, 2006
By TIMES-NEWS WRITER
ARCO — More by chance than design, Doug Neighbor seems to have a thing for volcanoes. Three of the six places he’s worked are decidedly volcanic, including Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park and the National Park of Samoa.
And now, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Neighbor is the new superintendent of the park, moving here four months ago from his position as superintendent of the park in Samoa, America’s 50th park and the only one south of the equator.
“About half of my career I’ve been at parks associated with volcanism,” said Neighbor from his office last week. “I like being in remote and rural communities and I know that the park is important to the local economy.”
Craters, Neighbor noted, is unique not only geologically but also because it has a partnership with the Bureau of Land Management. “This is one of the monuments that is associated with other agencies — this one is the BLM,” said Neighbor. Although many people believe that Neighbor’s job must be nothing short of awesome, the balancing act a park superintendent must perform day-to-day between environmentalists and park users is often tricky.
“I actually have a lot of paperwork, executive orders and regulations to weed through,” Neighbor said. “I have to balance the uses that occur within the park and we don’t always anticipate the use, such as snowboarding down sand dunes.” Making difficult decisions and managing a national park almost didn’t happen for the Texas A & M grad.
“When I was in high school in California I took backpacking classes and went into the Sierras,” said Neighbor. “My aptitude tests mentioned outdoor work, but in college I had several majors before finally graduating with a degree in wildlife and fisheries science.”
From there, Neighbor started with bird and mountain lion research in Big Bend National Park in Texas. Since joining the National Park Service 15 years ago, Neighbor has worked at six national parks, including Utah’s Bryce Canyon and Big Thicket in east Texas.
The superintendent left the island paradise of Samoa to a new future and challenge at Craters of the Moon. “It wasn’t a career move because I was superintendent there,” said Neighbor. “I like new experiences and I longed for the mainland and being closer to family.”
The future of the park is literally in his hands.
“We’re at the tail end of our management plan and waiting on a Record of Decision,” Neighbor said. “We’re looking at maybe establishing another visitor center at the southern end and maybe bringing other agencies in, such as Fish and Game and state parks.” Most importantly, Neighbor knows the consequences of his stewardship role.
“Being able to manage a unit of the park service and to protect it for future generations, that’s what I’m proud of.”
Four questions with Doug Neighbor, the new superintendent of Craters of the Moon:
Q: What’s the difference between a national monument and a national park?
A: With a monument the president can use the Antiquities Act to protect land without congressional approval. With national parks, Congress can designate use and spell out why it is a park.
Q: What’s unique about Craters of the Moon?
A: There are many different lava flows and most are fairly recent. There are a lot of unique geological features and when it comes to rifts, this is it — the Great Rift is the biggest in North America.
Q: What do you want visitors to take home with them?
A: Hopefully, they will take home a better sense of the environment, that they can take that to their own backyard and appreciate it even more.
Q: In the short time that you’ve been at Craters of the Moon, what have you enjoyed the most?
A: I certainly enjoyed the snowshoeing in winter. I’ve only been here four months, but I really enjoy how quiet it can be and the night sky.