As our National Parks are widely celebrated as America’s “Crown Jewels,” so is Robert “Bob” Stanton emblematic as the Crown Jewel of diverse leadership in our public lands system. Beginning as a rookie Park Ranger detailed to the Grand Teton National Park in 1962, Mr. Stanton rose to become the Director of the National Park Service; Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and Expert Member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation among numerous other positions of influence and power. Through it all he has never lost his awe for the grandeur of our public lands treasury, nor his relationship to the young Black man from Texas that he was.
Director Stanton is knowledgeable in every aspect of securing, managing, protecting and promoting our natural, cultural and historic treasures. Declaring them “America’s greatest open-air university,” he has opened the door for Americans of every racial and ethnic group to enjoy and benefit from these assets and protect them for future generations. His story is itself the greatest demonstration of the power of democracy.
He currently offers his services as consultant and lecturer in natural and cultural resource preservation, park management, and diversity, drawing upon his vast experience in the following capacities:
Appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014, he also is a former Expert Member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). An independent federal agency, the ACHP promotes the educational, economic, and cultural values of historic preservation and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy. It also influences federal activities, programs, and policies that affect historic and cultural properties. He was chairman of the ACHP’s Communications, Education, and Outreach Committee.
As Senior Advisor to the Interior Secretary from 2010-2014, Mr. Stanton served as a key senior analyst and provided executive level advice and support to the Secretary on a wide range of environmental, educational, organizational and management challenges and opportunities, and worked closely with the bureaus and offices in advancing the Secretary’s and the President’s goals for DOI. He also represented the Secretary and the Department on Presidential Policy Review Committees, Boards, and Commissions. From 2009-2010 before assuming the Senior Advisor position in the immediate Office of the Secretary, Mr. Stanton served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Program Management.
Following his 35-year career with the NPS and prior to returning to federal service in 2009, he served as an Executive Professor at Texas A&M University in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences; Visiting Professor at Howard University in the Department of History (Public History Program); Professor of the Practice at Yale University in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; and as a board member and consultant to a number of national conservation organizations. From 2001-2003, he served as the International Union for Conservation and Nature Ambassador for the Fifth World Parks Congress which took place in 2003 in Durban, South Africa.
An experienced public administrator, Mr. Stanton was nominated by President Bill Clinton and was unanimously confirmed in 1997 as the 15th Director of the NPS and served as the Director until the end of the Clinton Administration. He was the first Director to undergo confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate and the first African American to serve in this position since the NPS was established by congressional legislation in 1916. Beginning with his appointment by Interior Secretary Stewart Lee Udall in 1962 as a seasonal park ranger at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Director Stanton has dedicated his life work to improving the preservation and management of the nation’s rich and diverse natural and cultural resources. He worked consistently to increase youth participation in conservation programs and diversity in the workforce and public programs.
He supported the establishment of new parks and programs that recognized the struggles, courage, leadership, and contributions of women and minorities in the development and collective history of the United States. He has held key management and executive positions including Park Management Assistant (National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C.), Park Superintendent (National Capital Parks-East, Washington, D.C./Maryland), Park Superintendent, Virgin Islands National Park, (St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands); Deputy Regional Director, Southeast Region (Atlanta, Georgia); Deputy Regional Director, National Capital Region (Washington, D.C.); Regional Director, National Capital Region (Washington, D.C.); and in the National Office, Assistant Director for Natural Resources, Assistant Director for Park Operations, Associate Director for Park Management, and Director.
As Director of the NPS, Mr. Stanton had policy, planning, and management responsibility for the National Park System’s 384 natural, cultural, and recreational areas and partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organizations. The 83 million acre National Park System attracted 228 million visitors each year. He managed a workforce of 20,000 permanent, temporary, and seasonal employees and an annual budget of $2.3 billion. He was responsible for the NPS areas and offices located in 49 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Director Stanton’s bipartisan and inclusive approach to problem solving and cooperative resource stewardship earned him respect and admiration, enabling him to build effective relations with the U. S. Congress; federal, tribal, state agencies, diverse organizations, leaders, and citizens. Under his leadership and through the work of an outstanding staff, volunteers, and wide range of partners, the NPS budget increased by 28 percent, and major park preservation and visitor service programs were inaugurated. These included the Natural Resource Challenge (a major action plan for revitalizing and expanding the NPS natural resource programs); the Cultural Resource Challenge; Connecting People to Parks (education and interpretation); Public Lands Corps; Action Plan for Diversity in Workforce and Public Programs; Co-sponsorship of the Save America’s Treasures Program; Visitor Transportation Systems; Cultural Resources Diversity Intern Program; Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units Program; International Cooperative Agreements for Resource Conservation; and Restructuring of the NPS Planning, Design, and Construction Program. Major administrative and legislative initiatives were enacted throughout his tenure, including the authorization of 11 new park areas, six National Heritage Areas, and the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and Special Resource Studies for 22 possible new areas to the National Park System.
Cited in a wide range of news media, professional, and technical publications and a frequent public speaker, Mr. Stanton has participated in major national and international conferences, including the Fifth World Parks Congress, Durban, South Africa, 2003; World Protected Areas Leadership Forum in Australia, 2002, in Spain, 2001, and in Virginia, 2000; First World Conference on Cultural Parks, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, 1984; and the Second World Congress on National Parks, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 1972. He is a co-founder of the World Protected Areas Leadership Forum.
He is active in professional and civic affairs. Current and past board and advisory council memberships include the Endangered Species Coalition; Chesapeake Conservancy; Park Institute of America; Institute for Parks at Clemson University; Rosenwald and Rosenwald Schools Park Campaign; Advisory Council of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund; National Parks Conservation Association; Environmental Law Institute; Grand Teton National Park Foundation; African American Experience Fund of the National Park Foundation (co-founder); Advisory Council of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration; Guest Services, Inc.; and the Student Conservation Association.
Director Stanton has been nationally recognized through awards and citations for outstanding public service and leadership in conservation, historic preservation, youth programs, public and government relations, and diversity in employment and public programs. Recognition includes the U.S. Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Federal Executive Service; Distinguished Service Award, U. S. Department of the Interior; Distinguished Service Award, National Council of Negro Women; Cornelius Pugsley Gold Medal, American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration; Student Conservation Association Founder’s Award; Presidential Award, Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association; Lincoln Medal, Ford’s Theatre Society; Colonel Charles Young Diversity Recognition Award, National Park Foundation; Living Legacy Award, Association for the Study of African American Life and History; Louise du Pont Crown in shield Award, National Trust for Historic Preservation; and the Murie Spirit of Conservation Award, Teton Science Schools. Two awards and one joint award have been established in his name.
Director Stanton earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, Texas, and did his graduate work at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts. He has been awarded five honorary doctorate degrees: Doctor of Letters, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; Doctor of Science, Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, Texas; Doctor of Environmental Stewardship, Unity College, Unity, Maine; Doctor of Public Policy, Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Doctor of Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina.
A native of Ft. Worth, Texas, Director Stanton grew up in Mosier Valley during the era of “separate but equal.” Mosier Valley is one of the oldest communities in Texas founded by African Americans shortly after the U.S. Civil War. He and his wife Janet, nee Moffatte of South Carolina, make their home in Fairfax Station, Virginia.
Areas of focus:
Natural Resource and Cultural Heritage Preservation
Public Lands Authorization and Management
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Community and Government Relations