16 April 2024

Do You Know How Big the National Park Service Is?

Written by: Lucy Nentwick

I have always considered myself pretty knowledgeable in the world of conservation and the different players that exist, but the first 2 months of my fellowship opened my eyes to so many things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I am a GIS fellow for the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program under the Partnerships and Civic Engagement Division of the National Park Service. I had only ever heard of one of those things before. I spent the first 2 weeks of my fellowship learning about all the divisions and programs within NPS, and meeting so many incredible, important, and inspiring members of the Park Service. And I am still learning more every day.

The National Park Service is one of four primary federal agencies that protect and manage the country’s wild and scenic rivers. Rivers that get designated into the National Wild and Scenic River System are free-flowing rivers (no dams or major man-made obstructions) with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values, which become further protected from adverse effects upon designation. The Nationwide River Inventory, which is my main project, is a huge list of river segments that are potentially eligible for designation. The last time the NRI was revised was in 1993, so this update and everything that comes with it is going to be a massive undertaking. However, I feel like I’m ready for it.

I feel very lucky to be a part of the Partnerships and Civic Engagement Division team. While I was extremely nervous my first day, and even my first couple weeks in the office, everyone that I’ve met has been so welcoming. I work closely with Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, the Interagency Wild and Scenic River Coordinating Council, the National Trails System, and so many more amazing programs. I feel very comfortable reaching out to people to learn more about them and what they do, as well as asking questions both privately and during larger meetings because I know no one will judge me for not quite knowing what we’re talking about.

I’ve also been more than encouraged to attend networking events or face-to-face program meet-ups to build deeper connections with my peers and colleagues. For example, I attended the Federal GIS conference and Hike the Hill events in February, as well as a fellows meet-up and several Rivers Hill Week events in March, with more to come in April and May. I’ve also gotten a lot of advice over the last 2 months, but here is the piece that’s stuck with me the most: it’s not that serious. While I’m doing important work that I’m passionate about, I am here to learn and grow but also to try and fail. I have learned so much already and I can’t wait to see what the next 9 months of my fellowship have in store for me.

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