Trump Presidency Spurs Mass Resignations at National Park Service
January 23, 2018
Ashley Curtin / NationofChange & Darryl Fears / The Washington Post
Nine out of 12 members of the National Park Service's advisory board abruptly resigned on January 15. The resignations come after the Department of the Interior announced its plan to open the nation's coastline to offshore drilling. Three days before, the Trump administration announced it would strike the Canada lynx from the endangered-species list -- despite a 2016 assessment that warned the species would die out in its northern range by the end of the century without federal protection.
Members Abruptly Resign from the US National
Park Service's Advisory Board Citing Deep 'Concern'
Ashley Curtin / NationofChange
"We resigned because we were deeply disappointed
with the department and we were concerned."
WASHINGTON, DC (January 21, 2018) -- Nine out of 12 members of the US National Park Service's advisory board abruptly resigned leaving just three members on the bipartisan panel as of Jan. 15. The resignations come after the Department of the Interior announced its plan to open the nation's coastline to offshore drilling.
The letter of resignation, which was signed by the 9 members, stated "disapproval in the weakening policies that protect the US public lands."
"From all the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of out national parks has been set aside," Tony Knowles, former Alaska governor and leader of the board, wrote in the letter of resignation.
The board, which falls under the management of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, requested several meetings with the secretary and other members of the Department, but their requests have yet to be answered.
"For the last year, we have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership between the [advisory board] and the Department of the Interior as prescribed by law," Knowles wrote in the letter of resignation. He continued that the department "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."
The terms of the nine board members who resigned were set to expire in May.
The board was established in 1935 and has included social and natural science academics and many former elected officials from both political parties, according to ThinkProgress. By law, the board is required to meet twice a year and is responsible for advising both the interior secretary and the director of National Park Service on matters concerning the National Park system and the National Park Service, according to EcoWatch.
But Knowles, who has served on the board for the last seven years, was recently told that things were "suspended." Trump's new budget plan would cut funding to the National Park Service in which 1,242 full-time staff would lose their jobs, according to ThinkProgress.
While the board has worked closely with National Park Service employees with specific scientific research, protection of wildlife and engaging a more diverse park culture, the Trump administration has already rolled back a few key measures the board passed, such as lower park fees and a ban on plastic water bottles in national parks.
"We resigned because we were deeply disappointed with the department and we were concerned," Knowles said to the New York Times.
Trump Administration Is Taking Steps to Remove
Threatened Lynx From the Endangered-Species List
Darryl Fears / The Washington Post
WASHINGTON, DC (January 12, 2018) -- The Trump administration announced Thursday that it's moving to strike the Canada lynx from the endangered-species list, despite a 2016 assessment concluding the species will die out in its northern range by the end of the century without federal protection.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service had initially said it was "very unlikely" that resident lynx populations would survive until 2100 "in all of the geographic units that currently support them." The assessment in the waning weeks of the Obama administration had warned that "resiliency will be substantially diminished because of reduced population sizes and distributions."
In October, the Trump administration came to a somewhat different conclusion. It expressed confidence the animals would survive through 2050 -- though officials said they could not be certain of the lynx's fate in its sprawling range across Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Colorado, Idaho and Washington.
"Resident lynx populations," the administration said, "are very likely to persist in [the territories] that currently support them in the near-term," which the 2017 document identified as seven years away.
"Given the outcome of this analysis," a statement Thursday said, "the service will not at this time be completing a recovery plan for the Canada lynx."
While it said the delisting recommendation "does not remove or negate the Endangered Species Act protections currently in place for the Canada lynx," the decision does trigger a process to end them. The first step would be for Fish and Wildlife Service to publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register, then take public comments and finally draft a final decision.
Canada lynx, cousins of the bobcat, were listed as threatened in 2000 as logging, motorized vehicles and development invaded their habitat at a time when there were no federal regulations protecting them. In addition, the animals were being trapped for their furs. In the 17 years since, federal and state officials have worked to increase populations through land management.
Maine has the largest population of Canada lynx, and it's "growing and expanding," Chandler Woodcock, the state's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner, said in a statement provided Thursday by the Denver office of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Not only are lynx found in more places, but signs of lynx are found more frequently during our surveys."
Numerous environmental groups that observe Canada lynx disagree, noting the abrupt change in the two federal assessments in less than a year.
"This is a political decision -- pure and simple," said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. "This administration is throwing science out the window. The best science tells us that lynx are worse off than they were when originally listed in 2000."
In contrast with the Fish and Wildlife Service report, Bishop said that "we're seeing lower numbers." Nongovernment conservationists say climate change looms as a future threat that will fragment the lynx's habitat and scatter the snowshoe hare they rely on for food.
"The service's abrupt about-face is an obvious attempt to abandon the good work toward recovering this climate-impacted species because saving lynx from extinction is not aligned with the Trump administration's climate denial and emphasis on maximizing resource extraction on our public lands," said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians.
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