North Cascades National Park is coming under new leadership

Don Striker will draw from and recognize the traditional knowledge and sovereignty of tribes.

By Ysabelle Kempe / The Bellingham Herald

North Cascades National Park is getting new leadership in November, with the appointment of Don Striker as the North Cascades National Park Service Complex superintendent.

Striker will come to Washington after nearly three decades working with the National Park Service, most recently serving as superintendent of Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve since 2013.

“By and large, it’s going to be a pretty similar position in the sense that we have big, capital-W designated wilderness,” Striker told The Bellingham Herald. “And a lot of passionate people that really value wilderness.”

The North Cascades National Park Service Complex is 505,000 acres comprised of a northern and southern unit, along with two national recreation areas: Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The park “preserves some of the finest mountain country in North America,” according to the National Park Service website.

The park includes land in Whatcom, Skagit and Chelan counties.

“(Striker) brings extensive skills in managing vast natural areas and an ability to cultivate partnerships, which make him a great fit for this position,” said Cindy Orlando, acting National Park Service regional director, in a statement.

North Cascades National Park is the most dangerous national park in the country, with an average 652.35 deaths per 10 million visitors, according to a study from personal injury law firm Panish Shea & Boyle LLP. But Striker says he feels prepared to manage park safety, especially considering that Denali National Park and Preserve ranked second on that list with 100.50 deaths per 10 million visitors.

Striker is still orienting himself to the values and priorities of stakeholders at North Cascades National Park, including surrounding communities, visitors, tribes and National Park Service staff, he said. He is reaching out to a list of key contacts to better understand issues important to them.

“Managing parks is a delicate business,” Striker said. “We need to focus on whether or not we are relevant; in particular, if we are relevant to the communities surrounding the park. If your neighbors don’t like you, it’s tough.”

Sharing local values

Striker said one of his broader goals is to draw from and recognize the traditional knowledge and sovereignty of the tribes who originally stewarded the land now managed by the National Park Service. Striker also wants to ensure that surrounding communities feel like the park is managed for their benefit, not just the “crush of summer visitors,” he said.

“It means sharing our values in a way people can understand and come to embrace in their own terms,” Striker said. “Not being seen as the federal government whose boundaries you’re crossing into, and now we are in a police state with a bunch of rules we are imposing on you.”

Striker has a good track record in this area, said Dunham Gooding, president of the Bellingham-based American Alpine Institute. The Institute leads climbing expeditions both in Denali National Park and North Cascades National Park, and Gooding said Striker’s management style effectively balances holding companies like his to high standards and knowing when to step back and trust that they know what they are doing.

“His administration (at Denali) was typified by being clear about expectations but at the same time not being a micro-manager,” Gooding said.

Compared to other national parks, North Cascades doesn’t have as many trails and opportunities for members of the general public who don’t have the expertise or fitness to go on long hikes in the backcountry, Gooding said. He sees this as an area for growth under Striker’s administration, and he also hopes Striker continues his collaborative work here in Washington by collaborating with local tribes and educational institutions.

“North Cascades National Park is largely wilderness,” Gooding said. “So it presents a great opportunity for education about ecosystems and climate change.”

Road to Cascades

Striker has previously also served as acting regional director for the National Park Service in Alaska, superintendent at New River Gorge National River and Mount Rushmore and Fort Clatsop national memorials, comptroller at Yellowstone National Park and in several high-level positions representing the National Park Service in the U.S. Department of Interior, according to a National Park Service news release. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

North Cascades National Park was previously led by Karen Taylor-Goodrich, who retired at the end of the summer. Denise Shultz, who is chief of interpretation for the National Park Service and handles the North Cascades National Park public affairs, is the acting superintendent.

Striker doesn’t yet know where he will move to in Washington but is considering homes near Sedro-Woolley, where the North Cascades National Park Service office is. His wife of 34 years, who is a science teacher, will move with him. Striker said he is excited to move to the Pacific Northwest, not only to be closer to his youngest daughter, who lives outside of Seattle, but also because of the culture.

“It really seems like communities in the Pacific Northwest just sort of thrive,” Striker said. “There are lots of passions and differences of opinion, but it seems like there’s more acceptance for working together to find a win-win.”

Talk to us

More in Northwest

FILE - In this March 14, 2019 file photo, Ethiopian relatives of crash victims mourn at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, south-east of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. Relatives of some of the passengers who died in the crash will mark the two-year anniversary of the disaster on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, by seeking a reversal of government orders that let Boeing 737 Max jets fly again.  (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, File)
Boeing pilot involved in Max testing is indicted in Texas

He’s accused of giving the FAA false information about systems that played a role in two deadly crashes.

Seattle Seahawks fans during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in Seattle. The Los Angeles Rams won 26-17. (AP Photo/Ben VanHouten)
Vaccine proof or negative test soon required at large events

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the new order, which goes into effect Nov. 15.

In this Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, photo, James Gleeson, a surveyor with the Washington State Department of Transportation, takes measurements from the shoulder of Interstate 82 to monitor a slow-moving landslide on Rattlesnake Ridge beyond in Union Gap, Wash. Large containers line a road below the ridge, an effort to help block rocks and debris from reaching the highway. The threat has forced evacuations as officials prepare for what they say is inevitable – the collapse of the ridge near the interstate highway that experts say should occur sometime from late January or early February. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Yakima County landslide slows down to 2 inches per week

Scientists have been monitoring the Rattlesnake Ridge slide near Union Gap since 2017.

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020 file photo, truck traffic from Canada waits to cross the border into the United States in Derby Line Vt. The U.S. will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The new rules, to be announced Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021 will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason for travel (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)
US to reopen land borders in November for fully vaccinated

The move ends a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seattle Police officers confer after taking part in a public roll call at Hing Hay Park in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District on March 18. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Seattle police staffing woes prompt emergency dispatch plan

Detectives and non-patrol officers are responding to calls because of a shortage of patrol officers.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021 file photo, a nurse loads a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Jackson, Miss. Millions of Americans are now eligible to receive a Pfizer booster shot to help increase their protection against the worst effects of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Washington’s COVID-19 cases down across all age groups

The downturn comes weeks after the state passed a peak of infection driven by the delta variant.

University of Washington campus in spring 2018. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
University of Washington settles DOJ claims of grant fraud

A science/engineering professor is accused of submitting false documentation about research work.

The Boeing 737 Max 10 airplane landing at Boeing Field in Seattle on June 18. (Chona Kasinger / Bloomberg)
Boeing ramps up 737 Max but 787 deliveries are still blocked

Boeing last month maintained its steady trickle of sales as it navigates the aviation downturn.

Bobby Nakihei (right) of Everett, shown with his wife, Diana, died of COVID-19 this month. In 2017 he received a heart and kidney from Justin Elzinga, a 20-year-old Kennewick college student who died unexpectedly. (Family photo) 20211013
Organ donor gave Everett man a new life, until COVID hit

A 20-year-old man’s heart beat inside Bobby Nakihei, 62, of Bobby’s Hawaiian Restaurant in Lynnwood.

FILE - In this March 20, 2020, file photo, the Amazon campus outside the company headquarters in Seattle sits nearly deserted on an otherwise sunny and warm afternoon. Amazon said Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 it will allow many tech and corporate workers to continue working remotely indefinitely, as long as they can commute to the office when necessary. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Amazon to allow employees to work remotely indefinitely

Although most cannot work remotely because their duties include grabbing orders and delivering them.

Inslee: No ‘massive disruptions’ as worker vax rates hit 90%

A surge in vaccinations has eased concern about service slowdowns ahead of a Monday deadline.

A poster with information on slain Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Wales is displayed during a news conference giving an update on the unsolved 2001 slaying of Wales, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in Seattle. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein joined other officials to discuss the killing of Wales, an 18-year veteran of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle who was shot as he worked in the basement of his home on Oct. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
$2.5 million reward to solve prosecutor’s killing in Seattle

Thomas Wales, who was shot to death 20 years ago, was a veteran of the U.S. attorney’s office.