Secretary Zinke’s resignation is an opportunity for the Administration to reconsider our country’s priorities for use of our public lands. The Secretary should be a champion of our country’s special places and his or her priorities should reflect a strong commitment to the protection of our national parks and the conservation of our natural and cultural resources for future generations.
Coalition Chair Phil Francis says, “I’m hopeful that Secretary Zinke’s departure marks a new chapter in the story of America’s parks and public lands. During his time as Secretary, our national parks faced unprecedented threats and suffered from a clear lack of support. Now, the current administration must seize this opportunity to appoint a leader who will listen to the needs of those on the ground, work in partnership with the stewards of our public lands, and passionately advocate for the protection of our national parks.”
Ideas such as reorganization of the Interior Department should be reversed, as should efforts to exploit resources contained within, or next to, our national parks. The same is true regarding changes in hunting and fishing regulations that shift responsibility away from the Department of Interior. Proposed changes to important environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, should be reconsidered. The new Secretary should reverse recent efforts to thwart transparency in the decision-making process, and public input should be broadened and encouraged rather than ignored.
We expect the new leader of the Department of Interior to place a greater emphasis on critical issues that will help support leaders of the National Park Service and those of our partner agencies in their efforts to protect our public lands. The next Secretary must address outstanding issues such as the reauthorization and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the growing maintenance backlog in our parks, and support increased funding for land management agencies so that park resources are protected and used in ways that are consistent with the law. We should not allow inappropriate uses or commercialization. We must ensure that park resources are left unimpaired for future generations.