Yellowstone faces winter season without 3 key leaders

Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk has accepted a temporary position as interim president of the National Park Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Ruffin Prevost / Yellowstone Gate

Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk has accepted a temporary position as interim president of the National Park Foundation in Washington, D.C.

With only a month until snowmobiles and snow coaches begin entering Yellowstone National Park, three of the park’s top managers will be tending to new duties in other locations. Though the timing is coincidental, and two of the moves are temporary, the circumstances will mean a big change in Yellowstone’s daily leadership for the 2014-15 winter season.

Yellowstone’s superintendent, a top management assistant in charge of winter use and the park’s lead scientist have all recently taken assignments in other states.

Superintendent Dan Wenk accepted a temporary position earlier this month to serve as interim president for the National Park Foundation. Wenk will lead the Washington, D.C.-based organization while its board looks for a new president following the departure of outgoing Foundation President Neil Mulholland, who served for five years.

Deputy Superintendent Steve Iobst, who will serves as acting superintendent in Wenk’s absence, said at a Nov. 11 public meeting in Cody, Wyo. that National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis recruited Wenk to fill in as interim president for the Foundation, the official charity for the America’s national parks.

Wenk is expected to return to Yellowstone as superintendent as soon as the Foundation’s board selects a new permanent president, sometime in early 2015.

Wade Vagias

Wade Vagias

Wade Vagias, a Yellowstone management assistant who played a key role in crafting the park’s latest winter-use plan, has accepted a temporary post as interim superintendent for Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

He was instrumental in drafting the latest plan for winter travel in Yellowstone, and the first in more than a decade to avoid a court challenge. Vagias helped develop the “transportation events” concept that will govern how snowmobiles and snow coaches move through the park each day.

This winter, Vagias will oversee operations at Bryce Canyon until a new superintendent takes over there. Yellowstone spokeswoman spokeswoman Amy Bartlett said Vagias is expected to resume his duties in Yellowstone by February.

Bartlett said it’s common for the Park Service to move key personnel into interim leadership roles in other parks while a new superintendent is selected.

David Hallac

David Hallac

David Hallac, Yellowstone’s lead scientist, has accepted a permanent assignment as superintendent of Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Outer Banks Group in North Carolina.

Hallac has spent three years as division chief of the Yellowstone Center for Resources. Hallac and his wife, Robin, and their four children will move to the Cape Hatteras area to start his new assignment in early January 2015.

“I spent many summer vacations in the Outer Banks with my family, so I have a great appreciation for the resources and the memories that people make there,” Hallac said in a statement released by the Park Service.

The new assignments for the trio of top managers have been the subject of much recent speculation by park and concessions workers.

But Bartlett said the shuffling of top Yellowstone personnel was not part of any coordinated plan or initiative. The assignments for Vagias and Hallac represent opportunities for career growth, she said, while Wenk was tapped by Park Service leadership to help run a key fundraising partner.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].

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