Hartzog – Advisory Board on National Parks

We covered a lot of ground in these sessions, but there are a few areas that I’m hoping we can talk about a little bit more. One thing we have not discussed is the advisory board. It would be helpful for me to get a sense of what role the secretary’s Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings and Monuments played during your tenure.

Well, I felt very good about the role the advisory board played at the time that I was there, because we made a substantive change in the way we managed the affairs of the advisory board. If we had already made up our mind on an issue, we didn’t send it to the advisory board. We started using them only for substantive material about which we had not yet made any conclusions, so that we asked for their professional judgments on what the issues should be and what the results should be. The result was that after two or three years the [congressional] committees were sufficiently impressed by the major change in the emphasis of the work of the advisory board that they started always in the hearings asking for the report by the advisory board on the subject matter.

We took them on their field trips and we challenged them in new areas of work that were under consideration. For example, the year that Mel [Dr. Melville B.] Grosvenor became chairman of the advisory board. He was also the CEO of the National Geographic Society. We took the advisory board to Alaska to review almost all of the proposals that we were making up there for the expansion of the system and saving that great natural and cultural area. Out of that trip came subcommittees appointed. I remember the one on the land bridge between Russia and America. The historians, I think, have pretty well settled with the archeologists today that there was originally a connection between the continents. [Dr.] Emil Haury was the chairman of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Arizona. Ned [Dr. Edward B.] Danson, [Jr.,] who is the director of the Northern Arizona Museum at Flagstaff, one of the greatest museums in the country, Bob [Dr. Robert L.] Stearns, the president of the University of Colorado, and Justice Byron White’s father-in-law.… that continued to be the composition of the board until the Nixon administration came in. They came in and they started politicizing it.

W.E.– Excuse me, George, but wasn’t Alfred Knopf on the board?

G.H.– Oh, yes, very much so.

W.E.– Yes.

G.H.– The other thing that we did to utilize people like Alfred Knopf, we created a council to the advisory board so that when these very distinguished people—and Alfred Knopf was one of them; Frank [E.] Masland, [Jr.,] was another one of them, and the great old guy, who was the president of the University of California, Dr. Robert G. Sproul—but when they went off, when their term of six years expired, we didn’t want to lose them, so we created a council which in effect gave them like an emeritus appointment and they continued to work with the board. They had no vote after their term was over. But they could participate in making a contribution to the learned discussion of the committees and of the board, and many of them did participate. We paid their travel, but they served without compensation. They didn’t get any fee or anything. It was a contribution. But we did pay for their travel.

That was your initiative because you started to feel like you were losing some expertise?

We did that when I was director, to capture that talent which otherwise would be lost. After six years of experience, you see, they’d been through the ropes. They knew it and they knew the history of the Service. I’m glad you mentioned that.

W.E.– Also, wasn’t it customary that all proposals for new parks were passed on to the advisory board?

G.H.– Oh, yes, absolutely.

W.E.–To advise the secretary of what they thought, which was great.

Well, after you left, the advisory board became a Park Service board instead of functioning at the secretarial level. Is there anything you want to add about the board’s role and how it might have changed?

W.E.– It was a board that was listened to and the secretary would put things before them, like any proposed new park, and the Congress, I mean, Alfred Knopf, yes, they listened to him. The fact that he would take this job, he was a very busy man, I mean, if it was only to be a figurehead he wouldn’t have taken it. For us it was great; he got a real interest in the parks. He started to visit them and speak very highly of them. So it was not politicized at all. The board was part of the 1935 Historic Sites Act.

Did the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 make the board’s role any more important?

I don’t think it made it any more important, because, you see, the 1966 act created the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, so most of the authority that was given in the 1966 act went to the president’s council. It became a very important part of the cultural programs.

The Park Service had responsibility for maintaining the National Register, which was an advisory board function. The review of the [national] landmark decisions went to the secretary’s Advisory Board on National Parks. And they had to clear them and then they went on the [National] Register.

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