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U.S. National Park Service advisory panel disintegrates

Arches National Park. Courtesy of National Parks Service.

Arches National Park. Courtesy of National Parks Service.

  • On Monday, 9 of 12 members of the advisory council resigned in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, citing more than a year of waiting for meetings that are required by law.
  • The board is responsible for National Parks stewardship, and they often interface with the public and scientific experts.
  • Advisory councils generally for agencies and their board members are chosen or re-approved by the administration of the newly-elected leader.

The US National Park Service is America’s latest federal environmental agency to lose most of its advisory board. A January 15 letter signed by nine members of the board detailed why they were stepping down from service. Three remained for various professional reasons, such as finishing current projects.

The nine resigning board members said they were beset by delay upon delay in trying to accomplish the goals of their positions.

“For the last year we have stood by waiting for the chance to meet,” wrote board chair Tony Knowles in a letter published by the Washington Post. “I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside.”

Such meetings and the related updates are required by law and are part of the board’s mission.

The other eight resigning board members included Gretchen Long, Paul Bardacke, Carolyn Finney, Judy Burke, Stephen Pitti, Milton Chen, Belinda Faustinos, and Margaret Wheatley.

The Bureau of Land Management also has 38 advisory councils, some of which have experienced delays due to the pace of the review process currently underway.

Advisory councils generally exist for state and federal agencies and board members are chosen or re-approved by the administration of the newly-elected governor or president.

The Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has already disbanded the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council and the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science.

On Wednesday, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks issued a statement on the National Park Service board resignations, saying they are “deeply disheartened.”

“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.

Banner image: Arches National Park. Courtesy of National Parks Service.

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