January 17, 2018
Administration’s Anti-Park Agenda Results in
Secretary’s Advisory Board Resignations
The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks is deeply disheartened at the resignation of 9 of the 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board (Board). “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.
The National Park System Advisory Board was established by Congress in 1935. For over 80 years, the Board has provided valuable non-partisan advice to the National Park Service (NPS) and the Secretary of the Interior on a variety of important issues. Members, appointed by the secretary for terms up to four years, are selected for their mission-relevant expertise and represent various geographic regions. A primary function of the Board is to provide independent perspectives on current challenges and issues. In doing this, the Board facilitates access to networks of individuals and institutions that share common goals and it helps the NPS develop collaborative relationships. The current Board enlisted the support of over 160 outside subject matter experts. These private citizens, all volunteers, include representatives of professional organizations, conservationists, scientists, educators, business people, and leaders with governmental experience.
In preparation for the 2016 National Park Service Centennial, the Board was particularly active in preparing detailed reports and recommendations on new park partnership models, opportunities for large landscape conservation, and expanded urban engagement. The Board facilitated discussions about the NPS culture, its leadership, workforce and organizational development, and supported actions to advance collaboration and innovation. The Board encouraged a privately funded and managed economic valuation of the national parks and NPS programs, which considered carbon sequestration, watershed protection, education programming, and intellectual property, and through an opinion survey, identified a public estimate of this mission’s worth to Americans of $92 billion per year. The Board also recommended changes in current donation and fundraising policies, improved capacities for philanthropic partnerships, and opportunities for greater private support through philanthropy.
“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 Francis He noted that the department does not have a positive agenda for the management of this nation’s special resources. It has rescinded numerous policies and directives intended to protect our nation’s parks, and has shown a complete disdain for decisions based on sound science. It is trying to pretend that climate change is not real, and has weakened policies and regulations that protect clean air, clean water, and endangered species. The department has promoted extraction of resources and development over resource protection. It has recommended significant cuts in the size of national monuments, so that extractive and commercial uses can be accommodated. And, while professing concern for the $11 billion maintenance backlog, the department put forward a budget that cuts NPS funding by 13%. Instead of utilizing the professionalism of his employees, the secretary accused 30% of them as being “disloyal.” And now he has apparently decided that he does not need the input of highly respected members of the public who have spent their lives caring for these special places.
“We keep waiting for a pro-park agenda to emerge,” said Francis, “but we are now convinced we are waiting in vain.”
For more background on the NPSAB, please review the National Park Service Advisory Board Report.