February 4, 2019

Statement of Phil Francis, Chair of The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, on the Nomination of David Bernhardt as Secretary of the Interior:

“The Coalition is extremely concerned about the nomination of David Bernhardt as the new Secretary of the Interior. Secretary-designate Bernhardt was a lobbyist for oil and gas interests before assuming his position as Deputy Secretary of Interior under Ryan Zinke. As Zinke’s deputy, Bernhardt worked against environmental protection laws and demonstrated a clear bias toward the extractive industries, many of whom happened to be his former clients. We fear that Zinke’s agenda will continue not only to be pursued but expanded under Bernhardt’s reign, inflicting further harm on our national parks and National Park Service (NPS) employees.

There are so many serious issues facing our parks that must be addressed; a large maintenance backlog, threats to our resources from energy development, and declining employee morale due to a hostile work environment and the message gleaned from the recent government shutdown, that NPS employees are merely pawns in a larger political arena.

We need a Secretary of the Interior who is committed to securing the necessary funding to protect our public lands. We need a secretary dedicated to protecting our parks and fulfilling the mission of the NPS as described in the National Park Service Organic Act, rather than endangering them by allowing energy development on park borders and wasting the Department of Interior’s limited resources. We need an advocate for our national parks; someone who will work tirelessly to ensure that the parks are left ‘unimpaired for future generations,’ not a political insider whose loyalties and focus lie with his former clients rather than our public lands.

Above all, we need a Secretary of the Interior who will lead the Department away from the culture established by the ethically challenged Ryan Zinke. While Bernhardt professes to be concerned about employee ethics, he does not appear to have any problem with his former boss’s ethical lapses or his own questionable track record. We do not believe that a Washington Insider, who has spent much of his career lobbying on behalf of industries that exploit and irreparably harm public lands, is the Secretary of the Interior that we need.

###

The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks is a reliable, respected, and effective advocate for achievement of the mission and goals of the National Park Service. Recognized as the Voices of Experience, CPANP studies, educates, speaks, and acts for the preservation and protection of the National Park System, and mission-related programs of the National Park Service. CPANP represents over 1,600 current, former, and retired employees and volunteers of the National Park Service, with over 35,000 collective years of stewardship of America’s most precious natural and cultural resources. More information can be found at https://protectnps.org