WASHINGTON -- The director of the National Park Service announced her resignation yesterday from an agency often at odds with environmentalists and Westerners for shifting its focus from conservation to recreation.
Fran Mainella headed the agency for six years and most recently oversaw a controversial rewrite of management policies for the parks under its care. Mainella is leaving her position to devote more time to her family, according to a Park Service release.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne told Mainella that perhaps her most important contribution was her ``effort to foster a culture of partnership within the National Park Service," according to a letter released by the Interior Department.
Mainella and the Park Service were criticized by some members of Congress after the agency released a management proposal that would have placed more emphasis on recreation and expanded the use of snowmobiles and all-terrrain vehicles on federal land. A new draft of the plan released last month by Kempthorne retreated from that proposal, winning praise from environmentalists.
Mainella also was criticized for what was called excessive travel among her ranks. Lawmakers who oversaw the Park Service budget called Mainella to Capitol Hill in March 2004 after records showed that in a two-year span, she and other agency employees had spent $94 million on travel.
Agency officials later said they had reduced travel costs. They also defended Mainella's domestic travel, saying she has been the first director to visit many smaller and lesser-known national parks.