Zinke Pushes Two-Thirds Of Nationwide Park Service Advisory Panel To Resign

Zinke Pushes Two-Thirds Of Nationwide Park Service Advisory Panel To Resign

Nine members of the National Park System Advisory Board quit Tuesday, including one from Utah, citing concerns over the Trump administration's priorities regarding the national parks, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

Since then, as explained in the letter, the board had repeatedly tried and failed to secure a meeting with the new interior secretary. Since taking office past year, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has come under criticism from environmental advocates for promoting President Donald Trump's agenda of opening up the nation's public lands and waters to fossil-fuel exploration, and for reducing the protection of public monuments.

"I wish the National Park System and Service well and will always be dedicated to their success".

The advisory board guides designations as well as programs in national parks like Yosemite.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat who is the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement of support for the resigning board members. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency dismissed several members of its Board of Scientific Counselors in a move that Trump administration officials said was created to give greater voice to industry interests in the agency.

In their resignation letter on Monday, Knowles and the eight other members who resigned said they worked closely and productively through 2016 with National Park Service employees, emphasizing scientific research and mitigation of climate change, engaging young generations, protecting the natural diversity of wildlife, and encouraging a more diverse culture of park visitors.

"From all the events of this past year I have profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside", the letter, written by departing board Chair Tony Knowles and signed by eight others, published by the Washington Post, reads.

As NPR points out, Alaska Public Radio quoted Knowles as saying the Department of the Interior "showed no interest in learning about or continuing to use the forward-thinking agenda of science, the effect of climate change, protections of the ecosystems, education".

Previous administrations met with the board immediately, Knowles noted, having served on the board for seven years.

Since taking office, President Trump has sought to roll back protections of national parks and public lands under the auspices of the Department of the Interior.

The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, which is made up of current, former and retired Park Service staff, sharply criticized the secretary's treatment of the long-standing board.