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Majority Of National Park Service Advisory Board, Tired Of Being Ignored, Resigns

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A majority of the members of the National Park Service Advisory Board, frustrated that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has not met with them or scheduled a meeting, has resigned. 

“After playing such an active and instrumental role in the planning of the highly successful National Park Service Centennial in 2016, we can understand the members’ deep frustration at the prolonged deactivation of the Board and the complete lack of response from the Department of the Interior to numerous requests in 2017 to meet with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke," said Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, on Tuesday evening.

“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,” he added. “We keep waiting for a pro-park agenda to emerge, but we are now convinced we are waiting in vain.”

The board, which has existed for more than eight decades, typically provides non-partisan input and independent perspectives on current challenges and issues. The resignations of nine of the 12 board members was reported earlier Tuesday by The Washington Post.

It's not unusual for new adminstrations to appoint new members to the board, and the nine who resigned were to have their current terms end in May. Still, the lack of any relationship with the Trump administration surprised those on the board.

According to the Coalition, the board helps the Park Service develop collaborative relationships. "The current board enlisted the support of over 160 outside subject matter experts," a release from the park advocacy group said. "These private citizens, all volunteers, include representatives of professional organizations, conservationists, scientists, educators, business people, and leaders with governmental experience."

According to the Post, Tony Knowles, a former Alaska governor, "wrote that he and eight other members 'have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership . . . as prescribed by law.' All of the signatories had terms set to expire in May.

“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,” Knowles added. “I wish the National Park System and Service well and will always be dedicated to their success.”

The Trump administration has exhibited lukewarm interest in the National Park Service and public lands in general. The president has yet to nominate a permanent director for the agency, and has moved to lop 1 million acres off of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.

Mr. Zinke's Interior Department also has reversed the Park Service's ban on the sale of disposable plastic water bottles in parks; ordered the National Park Service to reconsider wildlife regulations that are at odds with hunting and trapping regulations enforced by the state of Alaska; called for a review, and possibly removal, of regulations pertaining to oil and gas drilling in units of the National Park System; and reversed the Obama administration's position on a more than 7-mile-long line of transmission towers running near Historic Jamestowne and Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia by approving the project.

Too, the president has proposed a 13 percent cut in the Park Service's budget, along with a 1,200 reduction in employees. Mr. Zinke has further raised eyebrows by claiming that roughly one-third of his vast workforce is not loyal to him or President Trump, and that while park staff is good at cleaning restrooms, it's not good at managing campgrounds.

Now Mr. Zinke is hoping to push through a surge-pricing scheme at 17 of the country's most popular national parks with the stated hope the increase in fees will help eat away at the Park Service's $11.3 billion maintenance backlog.

According to the Post article, the advisory board was surprised that it was not asked to weigh in on either the reversal of the water bottle ban or the move to raise entrance fees.

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Comments

They will not be missed


No, they probably won't be missed -- not by Zinke or the drumpf administration.  But they should be missed by the rest of us who value our parks, and for that matter, just plain honesty in our government. 

Remember this when the next two elections roll around. 


"....and the nine who resigned were to have their current terms end in May"

If it weren't for empty gestures nobody would have known they even existed!  Maybe Interior should spend the time and resources it has time managing what's already on its plate.


What did these nine "advise" that the 20,000 existing employees and 340,000 volunteers couldn't?


They were mandated by law to meet twice a year.


"The current board enlisted the support of over 160 outside subject matter experts," a release from the park advocacy group said. "These private citizens, all volunteers, include representatives of professional organizations, conservationists, scientists, educators, business people, and leaders with governmental experience."

Anyone here get one of these "enlistments" back when the centennial was being planned? Kurt? Lee? EC? Anonymous? Harry? I must have been out of town when mine arrived. . . Darn! I so wanted to help the board's pro-park agenda remain courteous, respectful, non-partisan, and independent. Now where should we "volunteer" those qualities? The National Parks Traveler, perhaps?


I wasn't even aware this board existed so thank you Kurt for bringing its existence to light.
What is missing from the article is that those who resigned were also all Obama appointees. It would seem to me that given today's toxic political environment having the president appoint members to the board doesn't exactly scream nonpartisan. Assuming this board adds some value it would make sense to me to come up with a better system for appointing board members. I would certainly support a new system starting today so that Trump doesn't get to handpick people who will tell him what he wants to hear, just like I would have supported a change so that Obama couldn't have done the same and more importantly to prevent future administrations from doing so.


Another great example of draining the swamp. This advisory board has a history of wasting money on unnecessary travel. Glad that the Trump administration will get to appoint new members. 


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