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Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Classification Appeal Decision
Under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code

Thomas P. Charles
Natural Resources Specialist (Ranger)
B. Everett Jordan Project
Wilmington District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Department of the Army
Riegelwood, North Carolina
Park Ranger

Robert D. Hendler
Classification and Pay Claims
Program Manager
Agency Compliance and Evaluation
Merit System Accountability and Compliance



As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, this decision constitutes a certificate that is mandatory and binding on all administrative, certifying, payroll, disbursing, and accounting officials of the Government.  The agency is responsible for reviewing its classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions to ensure consistency with this decision.  There is no right of further appeal.  This decision is subject to discretionary review only under conditions and time limits specified in the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards (Introduction), appendix 4, section G (address provided in appendix 4, section H).

Since this decision lowers the grade of the appealed position, it is to be effective no later than the beginning of the sixth pay period after the date of this decision, as permitted by 5 CFR 511.702.  The applicable provisions of parts 351, 432, 536, and 752 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, must be followed in implementing the decision.  If the appellant is entitled to grade retention, the two-year retention period begins on the date this decision is implemented.  The servicing human resources office must submit a compliance report containing the corrected position description and a Standard Form 50 showing the personnel action taken.  The report must be submitted within 30 days from the effective date of the personnel action to the OPM Agency Compliance and Evaluation (ACE) Atlanta Office.


On August 12, 2014, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) ACE Atlanta Office accepted a classification appeal from Mr. Thomas P. Charles.  The appellant’s position is currently classified as Natural Resources Specialist (Ranger), GS-401-9, but the appellant believes his duties and responsibilities warrant upgrading.  His position is located in B. Everett Jordan Project at the Cape Fear Locks and Dams (L&D), Wilmington District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Department of the Army, in Riegelwood, North Carolina.  We received the agency administrative report (AAR) on September 19, 2014.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

Background information

On or about September 2012, the appellant requested a desk audit through his supervisory chain to the Operations Division of the Wilmington District, USACE.  He contested two of the nine factor levels credited to his position (Factor 2, Supervisory Controls, and Factor 3, Guidelines), because he believed his position description (PD) did not accurately reflect his degree of independence given his geographic distance from his supervisor.  On June 26, 2014, the servicing Civilian Personnel Advisory Center issued an advisory opinion resulting in no change in the classification of the position but recommending the development of a new PD to incorporate changes provided in a proposed PD submitted by management.  The appellant then filed this appeal with OPM.

Both the appellant and his supervisor indicate the appellant’s position is not that of a typical natural resources specialist located at other USACE parks.  Rather, his responsibility for the area located at three L&Ds on the Cape Fear River presents a mix of different needs and challenges.  The appellant’s supervisor explains that in the past only lockmasters (i.e., Federal Wage System (FWS) employees) would perform the work needed at these locations.  However, when the last lockmaster retired, the agency felt the need to hire a “Park Ranger” due to the variety of recreational facilities and opportunities at each L&D including a boat ramp, restrooms, picnic tables, charcoal grills, and large picnic shelters.  Also, projects at L&D #1 have restored anadromous fish access previously disrupted or blocked by the dam, creating opportunities for research by various stakeholders.  Further, there is a cooperative agreement between the Wilmington District and the Cape Fear River Watch (CFRW), a non-profit organization that has as its purpose the enhancement of the environment through education and outreach activities and which contributes to public recreation by assisting the USACE in conducting its natural resource management programs and activities.  CFRW performs work at all three L&Ds.  Additionally, the USACE has partnerships with other natural resource and conservation organizations that engage in research, specifically at L&D #1.  The appellant explains that the aforementioned factors make his duty location “unique” and should be considered when evaluating his position.

General issues

The appellant makes various statements about his agency’s review and evaluation of his position and compares his position to higher-graded Natural Resources Specialist positions recruited by his organization.  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of his position.  By law, we must classify positions solely by comparing its current duties and responsibilities to OPM position classification standards (PCS) and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107 and 5112).  Since comparison to PCSs is the exclusive method for classifying positions, we cannot compare the appellant’s position to others, which may or may not be properly classified, as a basis for deciding this appeal.  Because our decision sets aside any previous agency decisions, the appellant’s concerns regarding his agency’s classification review process are not germane to this decision.  

Both the appellant and his immediate supervisor do not believe the appellant’s current official PD (#GP262575) is completely accurate.  The supervisor asserts the PD is written for a position located at a lake project and does not reflect the unique characteristics of the appellant’s duty location.  The appellant states he performs duties not documented in the PD, which he feels are performed by supervisory park rangers or assistant managers, and further describes his position as that of a “facilities manager.”

A PD is the official record of the major duties and responsibilities assigned to a position or job by an official with the authority to assign work.  A position represents the work which is made up of the duties and responsibilities performed by the employee.  Classification appeal regulations permit OPM to investigate or audit a position and decide an appeal based on the actual duties and responsibilities currently assigned by management and performed by the employee.  An OPM appeal decision classifies a real operating position and not simply the PD.  This decision is based on the work currently assigned to and performed by the appellant.

Our review disclosed the appellant’s PD of record is not accurate in that it describes duties the appellant either does not perform or overstates their difficulty and complexity.  The PD also overstates the level and types of knowledge required to perform the appellant’s regular and recurring work.  For instance, he does not participate in developing planning and operational documents or assist in developing and implementing specific land use plans for diverse water resources projects.  The appellant does not assist in preparation of annual Operations and Maintenance budgets for assigned programs.  He does not maintain the project geographic information system (GIS) or participate in an interdisciplinary team which performs environmental assessments.  Further, he does not administer the recreation use fee and contract park attendant programs since neither are in place at his project.  He does not prepare documents pertaining to leasing and managing project lands or monitor visitation tabulation and recreation use survey programs to insure the validity of data.  Furthermore, because the appellant’s assignments do not require him to work with fish and wildlife specialists in the District or with State and Federal natural resource agencies in researching and monitoring natural resources, he does not participate in scientific studies involving the protection of threatened or endangered species.  He also does not work with the District Regulatory Program to ensure wetlands protection.  He participates in prescribed burns only under the direction of a designated Park Ranger (i.e., “burn boss”) in charge of this function.  Our fact-finding disclosed that due to the involvement of the CFRW, the appellant does not perform the full range of natural resources management duties described in the PD of record.  Therefore, the appellant’s PD of record does not meet the standard of adequacy addressed on pages 10-11 of the Introduction, and the agency must revise the PD to reflect our findings. 

In reaching our classification decision, we have carefully reviewed all of the information provided by the appellant and his agency including his PD which, although not fully accurate, we incorporate by reference into this decision.  In addition, to help decide the appeal we conducted separate telephone interviews, including follow-up interviews, with the appellant and his supervisor. 

Position information

The USACE Wilmington District operates three L&Ds on the Cape Fear River for the congressionally authorized purposes of navigation and public recreation and to promote the USACE’s missions which include stewardship of environmental and cultural resources.  L&D #1 in Riegelwood, L&D #2 in Elizabethtown and the William O. Huske L&D #3 in Fayetteville, North Carolina,  make up the Cape Fear River Project.  The first two L&Ds were constructed between 1915 and 1917, and the third was completed in 1935.  This project provides for a navigable depth at low water from Navassa to Fayetteville, a river distance of 111 miles.  Historically, the three L&Ds passed commercial traffic up and down the river.  However, today the L&Ds are no longer in commercial use and rarely pass large vessels.  Instead, they help protect water intakes for cities and industries along the river by maintaining appropriate water levels and have become popular recreation spots.  As a result of the transition from commercial to recreational use at the three L&Ds, the Cape Fear River project was absorbed under the B. Everett Jordan Project for organizational reporting purposes only.  These L&Ds are in poor structural condition and are undergoing repair to keep them operational.

The appellant is the sole non-FWS USACE employee at the Cape Fear River L&Ds as previously described.  He is physically located at L&D #1. There are two Maintenance Mechanics, WY-10, one located at L&D #2, the other at L&D #3.  The appellant is responsible for patrolling all three L&Ds.  His direct supervisor (Natural Resources Manager, GS-401-12) serves as the Assistant Operations Project Manager responsible for the development and implementation of the Falls and B. Everett Jordan Lake multipurpose projects including the three Cape Fear L&Ds.  He is physically located at the Jordan Lake site, two and a half hours away from the appellant’s duty station.

The appellant serves as the point of contact for CFRW personnel and student interns as well as for other partners with regard to USACE rules, regulations, and requirements applicable to projects taking place on USACE property to ensure compliance with safety and appropriate emergency procedures.  The appellant establishes collaborative relationships with a variety of contacts both within and outside the Federal Government.  His contacts include officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and State and local law enforcement and recreation planning officials.  The appellant also has contacts with various public groups such as conservation organizations and after school program groups who use the resources; e.g., nature trails, Cape Fear River and recreation areas at the L&Ds.  The appellant’s contacts are for the purpose of coordinating current project efforts in connection with recreation, conservation, or natural resources management related activities conducted at the L&Ds by interested stakeholders.  The appellant’s major duties are encompassed in the following areas:

Interpretative Work

The appellant is responsible for responding to questions from visitors involving the interpretation of natural, historical or other features of the Cape Fear L&Ds (e.g., trail establishment, history of the L&Ds, fish passage project). He is also responsible for enriching visitors’ experiences through such activities as talks, walks and occasional environmental education presentations at events such as Eagle Days and Ecology Meets.  He uses knowledge gained from research and selects and devises ways to impart the knowledge to visitors and other groups.  For instance, he obtained coastal related information from the State Marine Patrol, data from the USACE regarding construction and engineering of the L&Ds, and data from the work of other agencies conducting biological studies at the L&Ds and put together a flowchart to show visitors what types of projects are taking place on the Cape Fear River.

Visitor Protection and Services

The appellant enforces pertinent provisions of title 36, CFR, the rules and regulations governing public use of water resource development projects administered by the USACE, by educating the visiting public on project purposes, conditions, policies and regulations.  He patrols the L&Ds and their facilities; e.g., restrooms, to ensure they are clean and operational.  He prevents unauthorized use, trespass, and destruction of property and ensures compliance with the aforementioned rules and regulations.  The appellant assists in search-and-rescue and works with the State Game Warden, State Marine Patrol and the local Sheriff’s Department in that regard.  He is responsible for ensuring vehicles receive routine maintenance, and maintains recreational and office supply inventories.  He is a National Association of State Boating Law Administrator certified boat instructor, reviews applications for boating permits, and administers tests for the certification.  He performs duties involved in public use management to include planning special events (e.g., Shad Fest, L&D #1 100th year anniversary) and monitoring activities during such events.  Although the appellant is an authorized badge holder, he is an unarmed ranger.  While he can issue warnings and citations, he does not have the authority to make arrests.  Because the L&Ds do not have a law enforcement officer, the appellant works in coordination with the local Sheriff’s Department when law enforcement assistance is needed.

Resource Management

The appellant coordinates with and provides assistance to other Federal, State, local and not-for-profit agencies on resource management matters.  For example, he operates lock equipment to facilitate navigation and anadromous fish passage to assist those conducting research on fish and wildlife.  He also assists lockmasters by removing gates/motors in an event of flooding, and coordinates group visits and contractor meetings.  The appellant also serves as Contracting Officer Representative (COR) for small service and maintenance contracts.  This includes writing initial scope of work for timber dikes used to prevent flooding near the river bank.  The scope of work includes taking photos of the condition of the dikes and getting estimates on the cost of materials (e.g., stainless steel bolts) needed to fix the dike, which he then forwards to his supervisor.  Annually, he collects resource management data such as the number of small service and maintenance contracts, the number of citations issued to visitors during certain events or on holidays or weekends, and enters this data into the Operations and Maintenance Business Information Link (OMBIL). The appellant’s supervisor ensures data is properly entered into the OMBIL to access reports of park and recreation and other related information needed for management decision making purposes.  He also collects similar data to be included in monthly reports; e.g., number of partnership events conducted and recommendations on possible future projects such developments of new trails. The data is used for evaluation of programs by his supervisor and other USACE specialists.  

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency has placed the appellant’s position in the General Natural Resources Management and Biological Sciences Series, GS-401, titled it Natural Resources Specialist with parenthetical title "Ranger," and evaluated it by application of the Job Family Standard (JFS) for Professional Work in the Natural Resources Management and Biological Science Group, GS-400.  The appellant does not dispute these determinations.

The General Natural Resource Management and Biological Science Series, GS-401, covers positions that manage, supervise, lead, or perform professional research or scientific work in biology, agriculture, or natural resources management that involves professional work in more than one series, or that is not classifiable to another more specific professional series, in the 400 Group.  The natural resources that are most relevant to the 400 JFS are water, land, food, plants, animals, and soils.  Natural resources work may involve administrative or managerial duties, such as controlling, preserving, and/or evaluating a natural resource or natural resources function, such as conservation, forest, rangeland, fisheries, and wildlife.  The work may have specific geographic boundaries (for example, management of a national wildlife refuge).  The natural resources management work covered by this JFS requires knowledge and skill sufficient to interpret and apply biological science and research.

The record shows that due to the CFRW and other partnership involvement and the availability of District staff with specialized knowledge in research and scientific work, the appellant does not perform the professional natural resources management work or functions covered by the GS-401 series.  Specifically, contrary to what is stated under Factor 1, Knowledge Required by the Position, in his PD of record, the appellant's position does not require professional and practical knowledge of biological science practices, principles and techniques sufficient to assist in planning and implementing environmental, recreational and natural resource management activities at a water resources project.  Also, his position does not require knowledge of natural resource management and related laws, policies and regulations as they pertain to biodiversity, threatened and endangered species, wetland protection, cultural resources and agricultural lease programs.  Rather, our interviews disclosed the primary purpose and function of the appellant’s position is to coordinate the planning, operation, and maintenance of the L&Ds with student interns/staff and other personnel involved in natural resource and recreational management duties.  To do this, the appellant applies specific knowledge of agency policies, objectives, and operating methods as they relate to the total activities in the park rather than the professional scientific knowledge required for coverage by the GS-401 series. 

The record shows the appellant’s work is appropriately assigned to the Park Ranger Series, GS-025, which includes positions the duties of which are to supervise, manage, and/or perform work in the conservation and use of Federal park resources.  This involves functions such as park conservation; natural, historical, and cultural resource management; and the development and operation of interpretive and recreational programs for the benefit of the visiting public.  The term "park" is used in this PCS to include national monuments; seashores; parkways; historical, military, natural, and urban parks; lakes; and other related areas administered by the Departments of the Army and the Interior.  Like those of the appellant, assignments in this series include protection of property from natural or visitor related depredation; dissemination of general, historical, or scientific information to visitors; control of traffic and visitor use of facilities; enforcement of laws and regulations; investigation of violations, complaints, accidents, and trespass/encroachment; and management activities related to resources such as wildlife, forests, lakeshores, and recreation areas.  This determination is supported by his supervisor's statement that recruitment sources for the appellant’s position would include park rangers with citation authority to enforce Federal regulations under title 36, CFR. 

The appellant believes he serves in a supervisory role due to his work with the CFRW student interns and volunteers.  In order for a position to be titled “supervisory” and graded by using the General Schedule Supervisory Guide (GSSG), the position is required to accomplish work through the technical and administrative direction of others and meet at least the lowest level of Factor 3, Supervisory and Managerial Authority Exercised, in the GSSG based on supervising Federal civilian employees, Federal military or uniformed service employees, volunteers or other non-contractor personnel, and such work must occupy at least 25 percent of the position’s time.  The appellant does not have delegated supervisory authority over Federal employees.  The FWS staff at the L&Ds are officially supervised by the appellant’s supervisor.  While the appellant provides direction to non-Federal student interns and volunteers, this does not involve exercising the full scope of both technical and particularly administrative control required under Factor 3 of the GSSG (e.g., interviewing candidates for positions and recommending personnel actions; developing performance standards and evaluating work performance; effecting minor disciplinary measures; arranging for training and development; and formally hearing and resolving complaints.)  Thus, since his position does not meet the basic requirements for coverage by the GSSG, it cannot be evaluated by using the GSSG or be titled “supervisory.”  Therefore, we find the appellant’s position is properly allocated as Park Ranger, GS-025, based on the titling provisions in the GS-025 PCS.

The published Park Ranger Series, GS-025, PCS is directly applicable to the appellant’s position and must be used to grade his work (5 U.S.C. 5107).  The GS-025 PCS provides grade level criteria for positions (except Park Managers) in this series regardless of functions performed.  This series is a one-grade interval series through GS-5 and a two-grade interval series at GS-7 and above.  Two factors together provide the basis for classifying park ranger positions: Nature of the Assignment and Level of Responsibility.  To warrant a given level, the position must fully equate to the overall intent of the factor level description.

Nature of Assignment

This factor measures the complexity/difficulty and scope of the assignment and the knowledge and skills required to carry out the assignment.  At lower grade levels, the ranger may assist other rangers and may be assigned work primarily for developmental purposes.  At GS-9 and above, assignments typically include some administrative and planning work.

GS-7 park rangers receive assignments of substantial variety for which established precedents are not fully applicable.  They select appropriate guidelines and references to solve operational problems or to facilitate details of the work planning process.  Some GS-7 rangers develop revisions to standard work methods and procedures, and take actions or make recommendations based on their preliminary interpretation of data.  They also typically apply a thorough, specific knowledge of agency policies, objectives, and operating methods related to the functional area(s) of assignments, and a good general knowledge of agency policies, objectives, and operating methods as they relate to the total activities in the park.

Typical assignments at the GS-7 level include functioning as liaison with community organizations and interest groups in order to provide orientation to park programs and services, stimulating interest in such programs and services, and discovering ways to facilitate visitation to and use of the park’s recreational and educational facilities.  This includes coordinating group visits with operational personnel and communicating schedules, logistical support requirements, and other pertinent data.  At this level, the ranger identifies visitor needs for specific programs and services through surveys, questionnaires, and group discussions.  GS-7 rangers recruit and train candidates for volunteer programs, develop work projects, and coordinate activities with other park personnel.  They observe, monitor, and evaluate onsite programs to determine if visitor needs are met and determine and recommend activities that community organizations could undertake to increase program effectiveness.  GS-7 rangers monitor and inspect the use of various resources, such as lands and shoreline, including leased land, concessions, docks, roads, and contract work performed.  At this level, the ranger plans daily activities and recommends measures to improve administration or use of facilities.  GS-7 rangers typically provide information to park visitors and make presentations to public interest groups.  A ranger at this level may advise adjacent landowners, users, and lessees on problems such as encroachment, violations of lease agreements, and noncompliance with permits or licenses and issue warnings or citations.

GS-9 park rangers apply resourcefulness, judgment and ingenuity in the accomplishment of tasks such as formulating and executing park resource and interpretive plans and programs; promoting environmental, conservation, and public use programs; planning and executing resource management analyses concerning the level and types of uses of resources, deterioration in resources, and changes in operating programs or types of use; planning and executing management analyses concerning the effectiveness and visitor appeal of the interpretative programs and literature; and developing necessary program improvements, including the selection of new media or techniques.  At this level, rangers may be responsible for overseeing the development and execution of programs, including coordination of the work of other rangers, or may serve as staff specialists providing advice and guidance agency-wide

Typical assignments at the GS-9 level include drafting plans for operations, including resource management and seasonal staffing priorities.  At this level, the ranger compiles evaluation reports and makes recommendations on specific management problems, including scenic easement, special use permits, and visitor use and safety.  GS-9 rangers typically develop training programs and prepare new or revised guidelines and operating procedures that deal with matters such as regulatory or law enforcement activities, wildland and structural fire control, and search and rescue problems.  A ranger at this level may be responsible for making periodic inspections of campgrounds, picnic areas, Government buildings, trails, roads, lakeshores, and parking areas to determine the quality of operations and services.  The ranger uses this information to develop improvements in diverse areas such as added employee training, requests for new facilities, and changes in concessionaire operations.

Typical natural resource management work performed at the GS-9 level includes coordinating the development and implementation of plans, such as river, wildlife, fish, and vegetation management plans, and providing advice and guidance to ranger staff and management on the environmental impact of potential or proposed activities.  GS-9 rangers establish a routine to monitor ecological processes, identify incipient problems, and develop and recommend corrective projects or programs.  They review and analyze new construction or other development proposals, including concession activities, to ensure adequate preservation and appropriate use of all park resources.  GS-9 rangers also coordinate programs for the protection of rare and endangered plant and animal species with staff within the agency and in other Federal, State, and local agencies.

The appellant’s position meets the GS-7 level.  Like this level, the appellant applies knowledge of agency policies, objectives, and operating methods to coordinate the implementation of recreation, interpretative and resource management plans at Cape Fear River L&Ds.  The recreational activities in this area include boating, fishing, jet-skiing, nature trail sight-seeing, bird-watching and picnicking.  Like at this level, the appellant is responsible for the onsite interpretative service, including the development of interpretative materials such as pamphlets, brochures, trailhead maps, displays, signs and other written information.  Comparable to this level and as the sole “ranger” at the L&Ds, the appellant provides information and makes presentations to recreation area visitors, school groups, conservation associations and other members of the public to stimulate interest in activities and promote environmental awareness.  Similar to this level, the appellant recruits and directs volunteers and develops work assignments for them to assist in the maintenance of the grounds (i.e., pick up trash, and trim bushes, trees and other vegetation).  He also coordinates group visits, activities, and special events with student interns and volunteers.  Comparable to this level, the appellant monitors and inspects use of various resources such as lands, docks, roads, and contract work performed and recommends measures to improve the use of facilities.  For instance, due to his familiarity with the duty location, he recommended the CFRW elevate a drain used for a natural spring before placing asphalt to build an overflow parking lot. 

The appellant’s position does not meet the GS-9 level.  The degree of park program planning and development of resource management plans and programs envisioned at this level are not found in the appellant’s assignments.  Given the nature of his duty location, his assignments are significantly more limited than those described in the work examples at the GS-9 level.  For example, unlike this level, the appellant’s work is limited to collecting data such as number of visitors, special events, and citations; he does not use this data to compile evaluation reports or make recommendations on specific management problems such as scenic easements and environmental issues.  Although the appellant asserts he is the primary contact for fires, his work is limited to conducting prescribed fires under the direction of a designated ranger.  His primary function for search and rescue situations entails his contacting the appropriate personnel for search and rescue action; e.g., the county sheriff.  Further, unlike this level, the appellant does not develop training programs or prepare new or revised guidelines and operating procedures that deal with matters such as regulatory or law enforcement activities, wildland and structural fire control, and search and rescue problems given his limited roles in these programs. 

While the appellant facilitates and coordinates cooperative arrangements such as the one between the USACE and the CFRW, he is not responsible for overseeing the development and execution of the resultant programs.  For example, the CFRW designed, built and installed a rain garden to capture storm water coming off a parking lot before the water flowed into the river.  Since the rain garden was constructed on USACE property, the appellant’s involvement was to ensure the CFRW followed safety regulations and to direct public traffic away from the project during construction.  While the appellant may communicate with different agencies concerning activities that may be of interest to them, he does not provide advice or guidance to staff and management concerning environmental impacts as found at the GS-9 level.  This responsibility is vested with those conducting research and who are involved in scientific studies and program work at the District level.  Because he is onsite, the appellant is the first person to see conditions such as an algae bloom expected in the summer.  He is aware that multiple organizations have interest in studying the impact of the algae bloom on fish and people and he contacts them to let them know of the existence and location.  For example, the appellant contacts the State Marine Patrol and USFWS which would be concerned about a fish kill, and the North Carolina Division of Water Quality which would be concerned about the health of fishermen and people jet skiing due to the possibly of contracting bacterial infections.  However, unlike the GS-9 level, he is not involved in the planning or coordination of any resultant studies.  Moreover, the appellant’s assignments fall short of facility oversight and improvement functions at the GS-9 level as he is not routinely involved in assessing the need for and requesting new facilities, changes in concessionaire operations, or program matters of similar scope and complexity.

This factor is evaluated at the GS-7 level.

Level of responsibility

This factor takes into account the judgment exercised, the supervision and guidance received, and the review of the work, either during the course of the work or upon completion.  At the lower grade levels, the ranger generally uses standard methods, techniques, and practices and receives detailed supervision; numerous routine public contacts are typical.  At higher levels, the assignments require the ability to plan and lead or execute park program activities.  At these higher grade levels, public contacts often involve situations whereby the use of resources generates high public interest regarding controversial management issues.  That the appellant’s supervisor is geographically distant from the appellant’s work location is not determinative in the assessment of this factor as the appellant appears to believe.

At the GS-7 level, park rangers perform operational assignments requiring initiative and resourcefulness in carrying out daily planning and execution, or to oversee the execution of operational assignments.  Assignments typically involve locating and selecting the most appropriate guidelines and then determining which of several alternatives to use.  Rangers at this level adapt procedures to fit work situations and develop and recommend revisions to standard work methods.  At this level, the supervisor makes the initial assignment by indicating the purpose and general direction of the program or project and any deadlines or similar constraints.  Guidance is provided for new developments, changes in program or policies, and deviations in procedures that are required by the supervisor or higher level management.  Completed work is reviewed for technical soundness, appropriateness, and accomplishment of objectives.

At the GS-9 level, the supervisor outlines major objectives, critical deadlines, and the overall nature of expected results.  The park ranger independently plans the detailed steps necessary to complete assignments, including recommending changes in operating plans when necessary.  When unexpected and unusual conditions or work situations are encountered that might cause significant controversy, proposed actions are discussed with the supervisor before implementation.  At this level, rangers work with guides generally applicable but not specific to onsite conditions or problems.  Selections must be made from alternative methods or approaches which appear to be appropriate to the existing situation, and make or recommend compromises required to meet objectives.  All completed work is reviewed for overall adequacy, consistency, and correlation with related activities, programs, and objectives.

The appellant’s position meets the GS-7 level.  Like this level, the appellant performs operational assignments requiring initiative and resourcefulness to carry out day-to-day planning.  Assignments are initially made by the appellant’s supervisor.  Others may surface through personal observation when the appellant performs patrol duties.  However, the appellant’s supervisor provides guidance for new developments, changes in program or policies, and deviations in procedures as required by himself or higher level management.  Like at this level, the appellant exercises considerable independence in planning his daily activities and determining which established alternatives to use in completing assignments.  If controversial situations or sensitive policy matters arise, the appellant’s supervisor and other senior staff members (e.g., public affairs officer or district technical expert) would provide direction and assistance.  The appellant’s supervisor reviews the work at completion for appropriateness and accomplishment of objectives. 

The appellant’s position does not meet the GS-9 level.  Unlike this level, the appellant’s operational assignments only require that he adapt procedures to fit work situations.  Also, unlike this level, the appellant is not routinely faced with unusual conditions or work situations that might engender significant controversy.  When such situations surface, they are handled by the appellant’s supervisor.  For example, in the case of a nature trail development project with possible large scale environmental impact that could create permitting requirements, the appellant’s supervisor assessed the situation onsite and determined if permits would be required before the project could begin.  Also, the appellant’s recommendations are for specific operational work assignments or problems rather than for overall program objectives as envisioned at the GS-9 level.  While the appellant observes and recognizes trends in park use and operations and may submit recommendations based on information gathered, he does not plan, implement, or approve changes in L&D programs and operations.  For example, as discussed previously, the appellant notifies interested stakeholders of conditions such as a blue/green algae bloom.  However, it is the stakeholders who plan and implement changes to their programs and operations based on new research possibilities that may result from the algae bloom.  Also unlike this level where the work is reviewed overall for adequacy, consistency, and correlation with related activities, programs, and objectives, the appellant’s completed work is reviewed for appropriateness of program standards and proper application of guidelines.  For instance, the supervisor will ensure the appellant is coordinating and implementing his projects within established agency policies and guidelines through constant communication with the appellant. 

This factor is evaluated at the GS-7 level.


The nature of the appellant’s assignments and his level of responsibility are both evaluated at the GS-7 grade level.


The appellant’s position is properly classified as Park Ranger, GS-025-7.



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