2018 Issues Committee Report: A Year of Action

As reported a year ago, in 2017 the Coalition took action on almost 60 issues, a then-record year of productivity for the Issues Committee and the many Coalition members who contributed to this important work. Not surprisingly, 2018 has proven to be an even more demanding issues workload with nearly 90 actions taken. Our 2018 efforts have focused mainly on responding to the Administration’s many bad management proposals and proposed rule changes that would open up public lands including to increased commercial exploitation of resources and dramatically weaken essential environmental protections that help protect national park resources and values. We have also advocated for adequate funding for the National Park Service and pushed for reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This high level of productivity in defense of our national parks has truly been a team effort, with not only Issues Committee members stepping up to handle the increased workload, but also numerous Coalition members contributing to the collective effort. Here is a listing of 2018 Coalition actions by category:

LETTERS ABOUT AGENCY ACTIONS

  • The Coalition commented to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service regarding a court ruling that raised legal questions about the delisting of Yellowstone grizzly bears; submitted 2018/01/04; https://goo.gl/qZMJDg(info)
  • The Coalition commented on the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) proposed weakening of the 2016 offshore Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems Rule; submitted 2018/01/29; https://goo.gl/LSuGwp(info)
  • The Coalition commented to the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the proposed Ambler Road Project in Gates of the Arctic National Park; submitted 2018/01/29; https://goo.gl/pej646(info)
  • The Coalition commented to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding its Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for the proposed Ambler Road Project; submitted January 31, 2018; https://protectnps.org/coalition-submits-scoping-comments-to-blm-on-ambler-road-project/
  • The Coalition commented on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proposal to open 98% of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration and development; submitted 2018/02/12; https://goo.gl/pkqfbe(info)
  • The Coalition’s requested an extension of an abbreviated (15-day) public comment period on BLM’s proposed oil and gas leasing near Grand Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve; published on website 2018/04/03; https://goo.gl/oFc2Sa(info)
  • The Coalition commented on BLM’s proposed oil and gas lease sale near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; submitted 2018/04/05; https://goo.gl/MSnAMW(info)
  • The Coalition and NPCA jointly submitted scoping comments on BLM’s proposed monument management plan for the drastically downsized Bears Ears National Monument in Utah; submitted 2018/04/11; https://goo.gl/f5zZrd(info)
  • The Coalition commented to the NPS on it proposed rule for off-highway vehicle (OHV) use at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area; submitted 2018/04/12; https://goo.gl/fkcGZ9(info)
  • The Coalition and NPCA jointly submitted scoping comments on BLM’s proposed monument management plan for the significantly downsized Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah; submitted 2018/04/13; https://goo.gl/8pcSN4(info)
  • The Coalition commented on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s proposal to institute a sport hunting season on recently delisted Yellowstone grizzly bears; submitted 2018/04/24; https://goo.gl/YLoqqi(info)
  • Over 200 members of the Coalition signed a letter to NPS Intermountain Regional Director Sue Masica urging her to reconsider portions of a proposed rule for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area that would open over 200 miles of park roads to non-street legal OHV use; submitted 2018/04/26; https://goo.gl/sY2Rpx(info)
  • 165 Coalition members signed a letter to Wyoming Governor Matt Mead opposing the State’s planned Yellowstone grizzly bear hunt; submitted 2018/04/26; https://goo.gl/sjQtSa(info)
  • The Coalition partnered with NPCA and the Appalachian Mountain Club to comment on the EPA’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) rule; submitted 2018/04/26; https://goo.gl/nr795D(info)
  • The Coalition commented on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s proposed revisions to its gray wolf hunting regulations near Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; submitted 2018/05/09; https://goo.gl/6UuN8k(info)
  • The Coalition commented on BSEE’s proposal to weaken the 2016 Blowout Preventer and Well Control Rule; submitted 2018/06/22; https://goo.gl/Ko1CsT(info)
  • The Coalition commented on the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) proposed changes to its National Environmental Policy Act implementing regulations; submitted 2018/07/30; https://goo.gl/1Nrxgq(info)
  • The Coalition commented on BLM ’s proposed oil and gas lease sale near Carlsbad Caverns National Park; submitted 2018/07/30; https://goo.gl/1fMKog(info)
  • The Coalition joined over 50 groups in submitting a joint letter to the BSEE opposing changes that would weaken the existing Well Control Rule; submitted 2018/08/08; https://goo.gl/o61KQs(info)
  • The Coalition wrote Interior Secretary Zinke voicing our concerns about the proposed reorganization of the Department of the Interior; submitted 2018/08/17; https://goo.gl/KNx3ca(info)
  • The Coalition wrote the NPS Alaska Regional Director regarding the agency’s failure to release in a timely manner an environmental assessment (EA) for a controversial proposed repeal of certain hunting and trapping regulations in Alaska national preserves; submitted 2018/09/05; https://goo.gl/TQpVjJ(info)
  • The Coalition commented on NPS’s proposed rule that would open Alaska’s national preserves to controversial hunting practices that target predator species; submitted 2018/09/24; https://goo.gl/wkGCna(info)
  • The Coalition joined 56 other conservation groups in a joint comment letter to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s and National Marines Fisheries Service’s opposing their proposed revisions to the Endangered Species Act implementing regulations; submitted 2018/09/24; https://protectnps.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/2018.09.24-ESA-Rollback-Comments-and-Appx-FINAL.pdf
  • The Coalition joined 79 other groups in a joint letter opposing the EPA’s proposed repeal of the 2015 Clean Power Plan rule, which provided robust air emission standards for existing coal-fired power plants; submitted 2018/11/05; https://goo.gl/hvKff8(info)
  • The Coalition commented on a flawed NPS environmental assessment of potential impacts for the proposed rule that would open Alaska’s national preserves to controversial hunting practices that target predator species; submitted 2018/11/06; https://goo.gl/pNWzAX(info)
  • The Coalition joined NPCA and the Appalachian Mountain Club in commenting on the EPA’s proposed Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which would allow increased greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants; submitted 2018/11//12; https://protectnps.org/epas-proposed-affordable-clean-energy-rule-would-be-bad-for-parks/(info)
  • The Coalition wrote NPS Acting Director Dan Smith voicing our concern about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a permit granted by NPS to allow the natural gas pipeline to be constructed across the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway; submitted 2018/11/12; https://goo.gl/9d3HGE(info)
  • The Coalition and NPCA commented on BLM’s proposed “multiple use” management plan for the drastically downsized Bears Ears National Monument; submitted 2018/11/16; https://goo.gl/LqYT5j(info)
  • The Coalition wrote NPS Acting Director Dan Smith encouraging NPS to improve its training and ethics guidance for superintendents and other agency officials who interact with partner/fundraising organizations and donors; submitted 2018/11/28; https://goo.gl/RZPRFy(info)
  • The Coalition and NPCA commented on BLM’s proposed “multiple use” management plan for the downsized Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument; submitted 2018/11/30; https://protectnps.org/blms-proposed-plan-fails-to-protect-downsized-grand-staircase-escalante/
  • The Coalition commented to NPS on proposed the proposed gathering of sochan (a native plant) at Great Smokey Mountains National Park; submitted 2018/12/13;https://protectnps.org/coalition-comments-on-sochan-gathering-in-grsm/

LETTERS ABOUT CONGRESSIONAL ACTIONS

  • The Coalition joined 40 other organizations in writing the Wisconsin congressional delegation advocating for storm damage funding for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore; submitted 2018/03/01; https://goo.gl/co2ooi(info)
  • The Coalition wrote to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to thank them for passage of 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act; submitted 2018/04/06; https://goo.gl/koFcqz(info)
  • Coalition member Richard Ring testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during a hearing to examine deferred maintenance and operational needs of the NPS; 2018/04/17; https://goo.gl/psJeLn(info)
  • 345 Coalition members signed a joint letter urging Interior Secretary Zinke to support legislation to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF); submitted 2018/05/09; https://goo.gl/3fRw29(info)
  • The Coalition joined NPCA, New Mexico Wild, and The Wilderness Society in writing to New Mexico’s U.S. Senators asking them to support a 30-day public comment period on BLM’s proposed oil and gas leasing near Carlsbad Caverns National Park; submitted 2018/05/04; https://goo.gl/NTPeDv(info)
  • The Coalition joined 150 other organizations in writing Congressional leaders to oppose S. 2877 and H.R. 1349, bills that would amend the Wilderness Act to allow the use of mountain bikes in designated Wilderness; submitted 2018/06/06; https://goo.gl/tKbGcs(info)
  • The Coalition sent a letter to Senator Lisa Murkowski, Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, urging for passage of S. 3172, the Restore Our Parks Act, to establish a fund to address the NPS deferred maintenance backlog; submitted 2018/07/16; https://goo.gl/mdPxhs(info)
  • The Coalition wrote Congressional leaders urging them to fully fund and permanently reauthorize the LWCF without further delay; submitted 2018/10/01; https://goo.gl/rmk8c8(info)
  • The Coalition joined other members of the National Parks Second Century Action Coalition in writing to Members of Congress in support of S. 3172/H.R. 6510, the Restore Our Parks Act/Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act; submitted 2018/11/13; https://protectnps.org/coalition-among-groups-urging-for-passage-of-s-3172-h-r-6510/
  • The Coalition joined 45 other organizations in writing U.S. Senator Kamala Harris to oppose the Cadiz Groundwater Mining Project, which would drain 16 billion gallons of California desert groundwater annually, adversely impacting Mojave Trails National Monument and adjacent Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve; submitted 2018/11/14; https://protectnps.org/cadiz-project-is-most-immediate-threat-facing-californias-desert-parks/
  • The Coalition wrote Senators Murkowski and Cantwell to urge suspension of further action on H.R. 6687, a bill that would circumvent existing planning processes and mandate that the NPS issue long-term leases to continue commercial cattle ranching operations in Point Reyes National Seashore; submitted 2018/11/20; https://goo.gl/uNjpMC(info)
  • The Coalition joined the National Association of Forest Service Retirees, the Public Lands Foundation (BLM retiree group), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Retirees Association in writing Congressional leaders to urge them to reauthorize and fund the LWCF; 2018/11/26; https://goo.gl/8GH45m(info)
  • The Coalition issued a statement opposing pending legislation in Congress that would specifically authorize the NPS to permit construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway; published 2018/12/06; https://protectnps.org/coalition-strongly-opposes-potential-change-in-law-to-allow-pipeline-construction-in-national-park/

LITIGATION/ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS

  • In a case involving the rehabilitation of a historic backcountry cabin at Olympic National Park, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision in favor of NPS that it is not contrary to the Wilderness Act to repair historic structures in wilderness areas. The Court cited the Coalition’s amicus brief and granted our motion to file it; 2018/08/18; https://goo.gl/iMtBUH(info)
  • The Coalition joined NPCA, the Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club in submitting an administrative appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals challenging BLM’s decision to grant a right-of-way for an electrical transmission line near Joshua Tree National Park; published 2018/09/03; https://goo.gl/H95QtK(info)
  • The Coalition, NPCA, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club jointly filed a Reply Brief with the Interior Department Board of Land Appeals as part of their challenge to BLM’s decision to grant a right-of-way for the Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project near Joshua Tree National Park; filed 2018/11/28; https://protectnps.org/groups-file-reply-brief-in-appeal-of-blms-eagle-crest-decision/
  • The Coalition and NPCA filed a joint amici curiae brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of a lawsuit challenging an NPS decision to issue a permit to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline across the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway; filed 2018/12/14; https://protectnps.org/coalition-and-npca-file-amici-brief-in-atlantic-coast-pipeline-case/

PUBLIC AFFAIRS/NEWS MEDIA

Publications/Articles Featuring Coalition Members

  • Salon: In “Trump’s Interior Secretary wages war on deep state: his own staff,“ Coalition Chair Phil Francis voices concerns about Secretary Zinke’s plan to “restructure” the Interior Department; published 2018/01/16; https://goo.gl/peZrPw(info)
  • Washington Post: In “Nearly all members of National Park Service advisory panel resign in frustration,” Coalition Chair Phil Francis speaks out in support of the National Park System Advisory Board; published 2018/01/17; https://goo.gl/Fb7GwY(info)
  • Backpacker: In “What new offshore drilling means for national parks,” Coalition member Mike Murray discusses the Interior Department’s proposal to open vast portions of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration and development; published 2018/01/26; https://goo.gl/izoJ7N(info)
  • Knox News: In “Coalition concerned about possible cuts to national parks budget,” Coalition Chair Phil Francis discusses NPS funding issues with reporter Georgina Vines; Published 2018/02/09; https://goo.gl/MdLCrk(info)
  • National Parks Magazine: “Reporting for Duty” features Coalition member Bill Halainen and editor of the Coalition’s Weekly National Park System Report; published 2018/03/20; https://goo.gl/7eE4vC(info)
  • Skift: Coalition Chair Phil Francis is interviewed in an article titled “National Park Officials Rethink Steep Fees While Seeking Alternatives’; published 2018/04/09; https://goo.gl/f63MwK(info)
  • Washington Post: Coalition Char Phil Francis is quoted in “Proposed shake-up at National Park Service could make senior leaders hit the road”; published 2018/04/28; https://goo.gl/KYPsPz(info)
  • Washington Post: In “A perk for friends of the Zinkes: Guided tours through National Park Service sites,” Coalition member Don Hellman expresses concerns about the Secretary’s apparent focus on perks of the job while important Departmental business fails to get done; published 2018/05/21; https://goo.gl/LpYBMU(info)
  • Washington Post: In “New national park advisory board includes three big GOP donors,” Coalition Chair Phil Francis voices concerns about the makeup of the new National Park System Advisory Board; published 2018/12/07; https://protectnps.org/coalition-chair-comments-on-new-park-advisory-board/
  • National Parks Traveler: In “President Trump Says Interior Secretary Zinke Will Leave By Year’s End,” Coalition Chair Phil Francis says “…it is time for change”; published 2018/12/15; https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2018/12/president-trump-says-interior-secretary-zinke-will-leave-years-end

Opinion Pieces by Coalition Members

  • com Op-ed: In “Grand Canyon is a national treasure, not a place for uranium mining,” Coalition members Steve Martin & Rob Arnberger voice their opposition to a proposed uranium mine near the popular national park; published 2018/01/10; https://goo.gl/SYBTU3(info)
  • Casper Star Tribune Op-ed: In “Wyoming Should Halt Its Plans for a Grizzly Bear Hunt,” Coalition member Joan Anselmo discusses the State’s proposed hunt near Yellowstone National Park; published 2018/02/12; https://goo.gl/yFnGsu(info)
  • Portland (ME) Press Herald Op-ed: In “Trump’s proposed budget cuts threaten national parks,” Coalition member Sheridan Steele advocates for adequate funding for the National Park System; published 2018/02/27; https://goo.gl/wudMs8(info)
  • The Hill Op-ed: In “Secretary Zinke, stand up once again for land, water conservation fund,” Coalition member Tom Ross urges Zinke to support reauthorization of The Land and Water Conservation Fund; published 2018/04/11; https://goo.gl/enuSdy(info)
  • NPCA Blog Post: In “What We Stand to Lose at Glacier National Park,” Coalition member Jack Potter describes the ongoing effects of climate change at the park where he had worked for 41 years; published 2018/04/23; https://goo.gl/kXpAMc(info)
  • Sun-Sentinel (FL) Letter to the Editor: In “Protecting Florida’s national parks means, first, facing climate threats,” Coalition member Richard Ring expresses concern that Everglades National Park and the 10 other units of the National Park System in Florida are in grave jeopardy due to the ongoing impacts of climate change; published 2018/04/25; https://goo.gl/axHmZA(info)
  • Bozeman Chronicle Op-ed: Coalition Chair Phil Francis and NPCA President Theresa Pierno published a guest column in the Bozeman (MT) newspaper opposing Wyoming’s plans to hold a recreational hunt of Yellowstone grizzly bears; published 2018/04/28; https://goo.gl/Hi3g6n(info)
  • Miami Herald Letter to the Editor: Coalition member Maureen Finnerty writes of the need to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund before it expires on September 30; published 2018/06/26; https://goo.gl/WELXUj(info)
  • Salt Lake Tribune Op-ed: In “Oil and gas leases threaten national parks,” Coalition member Walt Dabney writes that the Interior Department’s dismantling of policies that protect park resources from nearby energy development is damaging our national parks; published 2018/08/27; https://goo.gl/ebc44x(info)
  • Desert Sun (CA) Op-ed: In ”Don’t let an obsolete energy project hurt Joshua Tree National Park,” Coalition member Mark Butler makes a compelling argument against the proposed Eagle Crest energy development project; published 2018/08/31; https://goo.gl/GTSjW5(info)
  • The Hill Op-ed: In “Visit a national park to see the real impacts of climate change,” Coalition member Mike Murray asserts that the EPA’s move to rescind the Clean Power Plan rule will exacerbate the adverse effects of harmful air emissions from U.S. power plants; published 2018/09/03; https://goo.gl/qfGwSU(info)
  • Sun Sentinel (FL) Op-ed: In “Florida legislators, step up and save the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Coalition member Richard Ring urges Florida’s Congressional delegation to support reauthorization of the fund before it expires on September 30, 2018; published 2018/09/19; https://goo.gl/o2aSXP(info)
  • Bakersfield Californian Op-ed: In “Protect vital Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Coalition member Dick Martin advocates for reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund; published 2018/09/19; https://goo.gl/dzHdyf(info)
  • The Hill Op-ed: In “Time is running out for America’s most important parks program, Coalition Chair Phil Francis discusses the urgency of LWCF reauthorization before it expires on September 30, 2018; published 2018/09/19; https://goo.gl/8aX1ck(info)
  • National Parks Traveler Op-ed: In “Coalition …Urges Improved Training on Ethics Standards,” we call for the NPS to reform the system it uses to educate its employees on how to work with fundraising partner organizations; published 2018/12/19; https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2018/12/op-ed-coalition-protect-americas-national-parks-urges-improved-training-ethics-standards

Press Releases/Statements

SUCCESS STORIES

  • BLM defers oil and gas lease sale near Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico; published 2018/03/05; https://goo.gl/Y7HhRN(info)
  • Interior Department drops outrageous entrance fee proposal; published 2018/04/04; https://goo.gl/KyL3FH(info)
  • NPS announces plan for modest entrance fee increases; published 2018/04/13; https://goo.gl/5CsVCT(info)
  • Following significant public outcry, Secretary Zinke changes his mind and extends NPS “Every Kid in a Park” Program; published 2018/06/13; https://goo.gl/4No17i(info)
  • In good news for Yellowstone grizzly bears, a U.S District Court in Montana issued a temporary restraining order to stop grizzly bear hunts in Wyoming and Idaho that were set to begin on September 1, 2018; published 2018/08/31; https://goo.gl/wRRNeY(info)
  • In a ruling widely applauded by Native American tribes and conservation groups, a U.S. District Court judge in Montana restored federal protections to about 700 grizzly bears living in and around Yellowstone National Park; published 2018/09/25; https://goo.gl/yfSeVR(info)

OTHER ACTIVITIES/ACTIONS

  • Coalition staff developed an Advocacy Toolkit to help Coalition members reach out to policymakers and join in the fight to protect our national parks; published 2018/11/29; https://goo.gl/TCahi6(info)