Members of the National Park Service Advisory Board Resign in Protest –
By Glynn Wilson –
Due to a lack of leadership from President Donald Trump and the compromised members of his cabinet, the government of the United States is in a full-scale national crisis.
If a compromise is not reached by Friday, which seems unlikely, the federal government will be shut down again, leaving the country unprotected in many ways and sending more than two million federal employees home, including virtually all of the National Park Service rangers who manage all the country’s national parks and monuments.
In response to the incompetence and lack of respect for the federal government and its employees on the part of this administration, a majority of the National Parks System Advisory Board resigned this week in protest. In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, board members say the administration has ignored science, squelched efforts to address climate change and undermined environmental protections.
“From all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside,” wrote Tony Knowles, the head of the advisory board and former governor of Alaska, in a resignation letter dated Monday that was co-signed by eight other members of the 12-member panel and first published in the Washington Post.
“We resigned because we were deeply disappointed with the department and we were concerned,” Mr. Knowles said in an interview with the New York Times. Mr. Zinke, he said, “appears to have no interest in continuing the agenda of science, the effect of climate change, pursuing the protection of the ecosystem.”
Zinke has refused to meet with the board, he said. It was established in 1935 to advise the secretary of the interior, who is charged with overseeing all national parks and monuments.
Zinke has been criticized since taking office last year by environmental advocates for promoting President Trump’s anti-government, anti-environment agenda by opening up public lands and waters to oil and gas drilling, fracking and even uranium mining and for reducing the protection of public monuments in direct contradiction to his charge and the mission of the agency he is supposed to be leading.
On Trump’s command, Zinke announced a plan this month to opening the nation’s coastlines to offshore oil and gas drilling, although Florida was taken off the table after the Republican governor there strenuously objected.
The administration reduced the size of two national monuments in December by two million acres, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, “the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history,” according to the New York Times.
“This discourteous and disrespectful treatment of the Board is inexcusable and, unfortunately, consistent with a decidedly anti-park pattern demonstrated by Secretary Zinke’s department,” said Phil Francis, chairman of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, in reaction to the news.
While Zinke has sought to portray himself as a champion of national parks and has compared himself to Theodore Roosevelt, the founder of the national parks system, he has even been criticized from the political right for not fulfilling the charge of his office.
The resignations from the National Parks System Advisory Board come in a climate of growing concern by scientists across the country and the world that their voices are being suppressed by the Trump administration.
The Environmental Protection Agency dismissed several members of its Board of Scientific Counselors last May, for example, in a move that Trump administration officials said was designed to give greater voice to industry interests in the agency.
While the National Forest Service under the Department of the Agriculture has always been more about “multi-purpose use” and open to logging, oil and gas drilling and other industry purposes, the national parks under the Department of the Interior have always been considered more pristine and off limits to commercial exploitation.
Clearly no one in this administration and very few of the news reporters who are covering this issue seem to grasp this distinction. We spent the better part of 2016 exploring the joint issues of the commercializaztion and privatization of our national parks.
This story sums up our coverage.
Full Text of the Letter
To: Secretary Ryan Zinke
Department of Interior
January 15, 2018
From: Tony Knowles
Chair of the NPSAB 2010-2017
Governor of Alaska 1994-2002
I am submitting my resignation as Chair and member of the National Park System Advisory Board. It has been an honor and privilege to serve on this Board for the last seven years with remarkable individuals who have committed their time and talent to ensure the stewardship our National Parks and prepare them for the enjoyment of future generations. We worked closely and productively through 2016 with dedicated National Park Service employees, an inspiring Director and a fully supportive Department. We engaged over a hundred volunteer national experts in education, science, history and anthropology, and park management and planning to help design the right path to meet the challenges and changes for the second century of our National Parks. We emphasized scientific research and mitigation of climate change; engaging young generations; evolving a more diverse culture of park visitors, advocates and employees; bringing our schools to our parks and our parks to our schools; stressing park urbanization; protecting the natural diversity of wildlife; and so much more.
These are the matters on which the Board wanted to brief you and your staff. We also wanted to present evidence of the overwhelming support and participation all across America for the National Park System and this agenda during the 2016 NPS centennial celebration.
For the last year we have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership between the NPSAB and the DOI as prescribed by law. We understand the complexity of transition but our requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new Department team are clearly not part of its agenda. I wish the National Park System and Service well and will always be dedicated to their success. However, from all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside. I hope that future actions of the Department of Interior demonstrate that this is not the case.
The following National Park System Advisory Board member share the thoughts stated above and join me in tendering their resignations.
Gretchen Long, Paul Bardacke, Carolyn Finney, Judy Burke, Stephen Pitti, Milton Chen, Belinda Faustinos, Margaret Wheatley
© 2018, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.