Interior Secretary Zinke said last year that 30 percent of the park service's employees were "disloyal to the flag." Employees, as well as the national parks and monuments themselves, have become political pawns. The advisory board members who resigned were tired of serving as cover for an Interior Secretary who wouldn't mind chopping down the forest.
After a year when record attendance at many U.S. National Parks and a growing maintenance backlog led to a National Park Service decision to raise entrance fees, the agency got off to a rough start in 2018.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that 10 of the 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board resigned due to frustration and differences with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees the park system and refused to meet with the board or hold a single meeting with them during his first year in office.
The board is set up to advise the director of the National Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior on park service-related matters. It’s tough to advise Zinke, though, when he isn’t interested in listening.
The episode should be an embarrassment to Zinke and the Trump Administration, although Zinke’s tenure at the Department of Interior is a classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse.
In May, Zinke suspended nearly 200 park service committees and boards pending an internal review, and a month later proposed eliminating more than 4,000 park service jobs, about 8 percent of the workforce. He also reassigned about 50 park service top managers, dispatching some to parts of the agency where they had no experience.
Last year, the Trump administration decided to shrink the size of two monuments in national parks in Utah, and more than two dozen others are also under review.
“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, chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, in a statement. “We keep waiting for a pro-park agenda to emerge, but we are now convinced we are waiting in vain.”
This is a breaking news story. More updates to come.
Photo credit: Tourists gather at Zion National Park in Utah. National Park Service advisory board members have quit out of frustration with the Interior Department's policies. Associated Press