Book Review – Dr. Robert C. Suggs

Dr. Gil Lusk;

National Parks Our Living Treasures:

A Time for Concern.

Gatekeepers Press: Columbus Ohio, 2019


Dr. Lusk served for 35 years in the National Park Service, rising to the level of Superintendent in several National Parks and holding senior positions in the National Park Service administration. In 1986 and 1999, he received two of the highest performance awards given to National Park Service personnel: the 1999 award was presented by the Secretary of the Interior in the presence of the President of the United States. Dr. Lusk also worked in conjunction with the US Forest Service at the Pinchot Institute of Pennsylvania. His last years with the NPS were devoted to the development of training programs to protect natural resources and wildlife.

The volume consists of two major parts: the first section (pp.-258) describes Dr Lusk’s career in the National Park Service, beginning with his entrance into the three-year Student-Trainee Program, which began with an assignment at the old Spanish fort of San Marcos at St. Augustine, Fla. He had signed up for a tour of duty in the USMC following that program, but due to medical problems received a medical discharge and remained in the NPS. His first assignment following San Marcos was at the Booker T. Washington National Park in Virginia—a park where racial concerns played a significant role. Thereafter, he was assigned to a variety of parks and played a major role in the development of the Wolf Trap Park in Northern Virginia, and Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. During these assignments, he frequently encountered difficulties from within the National Park Service bureaucracy, other agencies of the US government and local governments as well as non-governmental personalities. He then was transferred to other areas of the US. His duties in these areas led him to develop a keen interest in environment and life, as well as to gain important experience in working with Native American communities. He also developed significant experience in working with governmental bureaucracies, the manner in which they functioned and asserted their control. A major step in his career was the five years that he spent at Big Bend National Park in Texas; where he dealt with immigration problems and had to work with the Mexican government. From there, he moved to Glacier National Park, a huge park area of complex terrain, inhabited by a range of impressive wildlife. He retired in January,1997, and received an award from President Clinton, and got a Ph.D. in Public Service. Dr Lusk’s very devoted career was clearly not that of a typical civil servant!

The second part of Dr. Lusk’s book is devoted to the expression of his penetrating thoughts regarding the behavior in bureaucratic culture of Washington D.C. how it should be dealt with (and hopefully!) modified. The reviewer strongly recommends that present civil service employees study this section to attempt to understand the problems they are, or will be, facing,  and hopefully to implement  some of the recommendations suggested, regarding relations with the public, relations with the media, dealing with natural change ,and change in the park infrastructure ,as well as relationships with other Federal agencies. Dr. Lusk certainly knows the problems of civil service very well, but his recommendations might also help members of the military in some of the defense bureaucracies. Well done, Dr. Lusk!

Dr. Robert C. Suggs

Oceania and Marquesas Islands

Historian and Archaeologist