Nine out of the 12 National Park System Advisory Board members resigned Monday, Jan. 15. They quit because they were frustrated with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke after he failed to meet with them once over the last year.
The board is required to meet two times a year, but have not since President Trump took office a year ago. The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, which consists of the Park Service staff and staff alumni, strongly criticized Zinke’s actions, saying it is discourteous and disrespectful.
Because a majority of the National Park System Advisory board left without notice, there are currently no government officials to designate national or historical landmarks. Tony Knowles, the chairman of the board, wrote the secretary saying that the nine members that are resigning “have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership … as prescribed by law.” All of the board members terms were to expire in May.
Knowles went on to write, “We understand the complexity of transition but our requests to engage have been ignored and the matter on which we wanted to brief the new department team are clearly not part of its agenda. I wish the National Park System and Service well and will always be dedicated to their success.”
Many advisory boards have been operating as normal. Others have been at a stand still because the department has not approved their new charters, which is legally required because of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Two of the Bureau of Land Managements (BLM) 38 local advisory councils for the Rocky Mountains had meetings scheduled Thursday, Jan. 18, but they were postponed because their charters were not up to date. Scott Braden, a member of the Rocky Mountain RAC, said not being able to meet for a year is concerning to him.
“Secretary Zinke has said that local input is important for BLM to consider, and yet these councils, which provide just such input, have been slide-lined,” Braden said.
Zinke has disbanded the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council and the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science. The former was replaced by the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council. This council will emphasize the promotion of hunting and fishing access on public lands.
Zinke says that repairing the national park system is one of his top priorities. He has not nominated a new National Park Service director.