An Open Invitation to workers at Federal Public-lands agencies

To the women and men on the ground in our federal public-lands agencies,

Because of your pugnacious colleagues at @NatlParkService and @BadlandsNPS, you’ve experienced the gag reflex of our newly installed president. Welcome to the club. My own very special chapter, according to the president, includes “among the most dishonest people on Earth.”

The president cannot fire journalists, cannot pull our funding, and so cannot silence us, either. You all, however, are on different footing. President Trump is your ultimate manager, so unfortunately you’re quite literally like contestants on the original version of Celebrity Apprentice.

But in this reality show, freedom of speech and a free and thriving press remain cornerstones of a healthy democracy. Censorship is an early plank of tyranny. So, the way I see it, we’re all in the same boat. Let’s keep this sucker from sinking.

The past year or so, my work as a journalist has taken me to some 16 national parks. As a matter of course, I visit and photograph several National Wildlife Refuges every year. I’ve attended several snowshoe and other outings led by Forest Service rangers. The Bureau of Land Management doesn’t have much of a presence where I live, but I’ve met several dedicated mid-level managers from that agency through my work with the Next 100 Coalition, a national alliance of green groups of color, and civil rights, religious and community organizations that have advocated for access and a more diverse workforce in your agencies.

So I’ve gotten to know a lot of you. Though some of your senior leadership and communications personnel considers me a pain in their seats, you all have treated me with warmth and respect. You have trusted me with your stories, your ideas and, yes, even your opinions. I have been able to reflect much of that in my writing, and during our work together on workforce and outreach, without betraying the trust you placed in me. As such, I believe together we have contributed to a more accurate picture of what you are up against.

And what you’re up against goes beyond simply protecting iconic landscapes so I can take prettier pictures, more rejuvenating hikes or more inspirational drives. You are on the front lines of our battle against the impacts of climate change. You are defenders of our water sources, our food chain, our biodiversity and our cultural heritage. I daresay that the work you do reaches more extensively into the everyday life and well-being of all Americans than the workers in just about any other agency.

Your work is too essential for you to be silenced in any way. This is a notion many of you have applied to me, so back at you.

So let’s make a deal: Don’t let the president and his minions stick their fingers down your throats. If you have something important to say or convey, don’t be gagged. Tell me, and I will write it, post it, or tweet it without betraying your trust, just as I have been. And so will the legions of my friends and colleagues who also believe in your work and freedom of speech.

You can contact me through

You can tweet at me at @trailposse. Or direct message me at my Facebook page.

You can contact my trustworthy colleagues at High Country News.

Or my zip-lipped friend Teresa Baker through her blog.

Or my friends and colleagues at Next 100 Coalition.

The president may be your manager, but you work for the American people. You are changed with serving our best interests, and being silenced isn’t living up to your mandate. I have learned that the real work takes place at your level; let us help.

Glenn Nelson,
Founder, The Trail Posse

P.S.: I produced the video below as part of a project on which I’m still working. I thought it was appropriate to share it with you now.