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For Immediate Release: Jan 16, 2007
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

EVOLVING GRAND CANYON POSITION LEAVES UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

National Park Service Now Distancing Itself from Creationist Book It Approved


Washington, DC — The National Park Service insists that it does not teach creationism or endorse the view that the Grand Canyon is the product of Noah’s Flood, according to a new agency public statement posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Despite this statement, the agency will continue selling a book making those “Young Earth” claims about the origin of the canyon – a book that top agency officials approved over the objections of its own park superintendent

In a statement issued by the National Park Service (NPS) Chief of Public Affairs, David Barna, on January 4th, the agency contends that park rangers have been instructed to “use the following explanation for the age of the geologic features at Grand Canyon…The principal consensus among geologists is that the Colorado River basin has developed in the past 40 million years and that the Grand Canyon itself is probably less than five to six million years old.”

The statement adds, “Since 2003 the park bookstore has been selling a book that gives a Creationist view of the formation of the Grand Canyon, claiming that the canyon is less than six thousand years old…We do not use the Creationist text in our teaching nor do we endorse its content.”

While this is the first time that the Park Service has gone on record distancing itself from the book, Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail, on sale in park bookstores, the Barna statement does not explain:

  • Why did the Park Service approve it for sale? Under agency rules, park officials are only to allow display materials of the highest accuracy and which support approved park interpretive themes in its bookstores;
  • What happened to the “policy review” on the book promised in public statements and in letters to members of Congress by Barna and other NPS officials?
  • Why has NPS refused for the past five years to issue the pamphlet entitled “Geologic Interpretive Programs: Distinguishing Science from Religion” providing guidance to park rangers and other interpretive staff on how to answer questions relating to creationism, evolution and related topics?

The Barna statement notes “This book is sold in the inspirational section of the bookstore” but omits the fact that this “inspirational” section was created after PEER exposed the fact that the book was being sold as a “natural history.” The inspirational section now includes anthropological works on Native American culture but no other work remotely resembling the Vail book.

The new Park Service statement implies it will keep selling the creationist book for the foreseeable future, despite protests from the agency’s own specialists that the book’s approval violated Park Service rules.

“Our only point is that the Park Service should stop selling the book with a government seal of approval,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Nonetheless, we are delighted that the Park Service has, after three years, finally chosen to publicly and unambiguously acknowledge that the Grand Canyon is the product of evolutionary geologic forces.”

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Read the new Park Service position statement on Grand Canyon

See the Doonesbury cartoon (1/13/07) on the Grand Canyon controversy

Revisit the creationist controversy created by Bush officials