Protecting What She Loves
For Margaret Everson, joining the National Park Service was the highlight of a career in environmental public policy and public service. She was named counselor to the secretary, exercising the delegated authority of the National Park Service director, in August.
Previously, she had served as principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a lobbyist for a conservation and hunting group, chair of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners, and general counsel for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Her love of the outdoors began when she was a child growing up in Morgantown, West Virginia, where she was a Brownie. “It was really an opportunity to get outside, and that was really engrained in us in West Virginia—hiking, fishing, hunting, camping,” she says.
“Growing up in West Virginia, you had the opportunity to explore the woods. We would go dig these big holes and turn over rocks and look for bugs. It was the idea of exploring the natural world around you. It gave me a strong foundation and a sense of place.”
Margaret knew from the time she was very young that she was interested in a career in the outdoors.
“I always knew growing up I was interested in conservation, and I wanted to study the hard sciences and biology. At the time I didn’t have a clear understanding of ecology and the other options,” she explains.
Once she got older, the path of her career began to crystalize.
“I understood that I really enjoyed policy. I knew I wanted to do environmental law when I grew up, but I didn’t understand what that career path would look like. I didn’t understand how to get from a biology degree to law school.”
Now Margaret spends a lot of time talking to young women and discussing the many paths into a public policy and environmental advocacy career.
“One of the things I have had a chance to do in my career is to talk at universities about career paths and opportunities. You can study the hard sciences or engineering and then pursue a career in law or policy or get your master’s degree in management,” she explains.
“You look across the National Park Service—we have folks who are good accountants and maybe never studied park management design. The more we talk about the roads that got us there, the more we can help people see that there are many routes you can take.”
In her current role, in a time of crisis, leading an organization that was designed to preserve the natural resources of the more than 100-year-old National Park System, she believes her deep roots in a love of nature serve her well.
“Every job that I have had, I have gotten up and been excited to come to work every day. I would hope that enthusiasm is contagious. Folks around you share that same passion and enthusiasm as the leader,” she says.
Today, Margaret lives in the Washington, D.C., area and is raising her daughters in a more urban environment. She is the camping coordinator for their Girl Scout troop.
“Because it is a co-op troop, each [parent] is expected to lead a section. I am the registered outdoor camping coordinator. I went through the training—outdoors in March, it was freezing cold!” she laughs, sharing the story like a badge of honor.
She is grateful for the outdoor opportunities that Girl Scouts has provided for her daughters. Before the pandemic, her troop enjoyed a trip to the treehouse cabins at Camp Sandy Pines on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. On the way back, they stopped at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge to hike around the tidal marshes and see the high concentration of nesting bald eagles that the refuge is known for. Her goal? To help the girls understand both the challenges and successes of wildlife preservation on the Eastern Shore.
“Growing up in a place where I was able to experience the outdoors and raising my own children where access is sometimes limited,” she explains, “I have had the good fortune to be able to find ways to create opportunities and access.”