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How Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke prompted a mass resignation from his National Park Service Advisory Board


“The conservation community in general has not been invited in…”

Ryan ‘Dinky’ Zinke – “My Ego Really is THIS BIG!”

Few groups have been closer and more involved in Interior Department policy and management than the National Park System Advisory Board, an appointed and nonpartisan group established 83 years ago to consult on department operations and practices.

So it came as a shock this week when nine of the board’s 12 members abruptly resigned in protest, complaining that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had disregarded their requests to meet at least once, a circumstance no other Park System Advisory Board had encountered.

“We were deeply disappointed with the department’s actions in dealing with us,” said former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat who served as the board’s chairman. “Advisory board advice can be accepted or ignored. The fact they suspended the board and there were no meetings on issues of climate and science, no meetings on finding ways to help underrepresented groups visit the parks. Those were the programs we’d spent years working on with previous secretaries. Those were the programs we wanted to discuss with the new secretary and keep the momentum going.”

“We started talking last summer,” said Gretchen Long, an advisory board member from Wyoming who was appointed in 2010. “Is there any point to continuing to serve? We wanted to make a statement to the American public about the direction the department is taking and the stewardship of our parks and public land. These treasures are in trouble because of the actions the department has taken.”

She added that the board “encountered a lack of understanding that is appalling.”

The Interior Department did not respond to requests for comments from the secretary or a senior department leader.

In March, when he rode on a horse to his first day as secretary, Zinke sought to distinguish himself as a Cabinet member prepared, like the president, to be visible and disruptive. It was not clear at the time that he would manage the $13 billion-a-year department and its more than 60,000 employees with a tight executive circle far from public view.

Theresa Pierno, the chief executive of the National Parks Conservation Assn., a separate, nonprofit advocacy organization, said she and her colleagues had experienced the same difficulties in attracting the Interior secretary’s attention. In an interview on Wednesday, she said Zinke is the first Interior secretary to refuse to meet with her organization’s executives to discuss the operation and condition of national parks since the NPCA was founded in 1919 by Stephen Mather, the first National Park Service director.

“We haven’t been able to even have a conversation with them,” Pierno said. “The conservation community in general has not been invited in. Why wouldn’t you want to hear from an organization that has the history, the expertise like the NPCA? We’re nonpartisan. We have Republicans and Democrats on our board. There’s really no rational answer.”

Aside from marquee public events to announce changes in energy policy and public lands management, along with shrinking the boundaries of two national monuments in Utah, Zinke has kept a low public profile. But armed with presidential executive orders, departmental reports and conservative principles and values, he’s undertaken a major shift in his department’s operating program.

He eliminated climate science from programs to better manage the department’s 500-million-acre domain. He overturned a ban on coal mining on public lands and limited the reach of environmental safeguards for oil and gas leasing and development.

This month he opened nearly all of the outer continental shelf to oil exploration, although five days later he excused Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf shorelines from the offshore drilling plan.

At the National Park Service, the department’s largest division, Zinke proposed to more than double the entrance fees to popular parks, a move that could hinder the agency’s long-running efforts to encourage more minorities to visit some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes.

Zinke’s supporters in and outside the administration credit the 56-year-old former Republican congressman from Montana with eliminating what they viewed as aggravating restrictions and restoring the department’s traditional role in managing public land for multiple uses.

“The president promised the American people that their voices would be heard and that we would prioritize American interests,” Zinke said in a year-end statement that cataloged the most important accomplishments he’d supervised. “This year the Department of the Interior has made good on those promises. We are striking the right balance to protect our greatest treasures and also generate the revenue and energy our country needs.”

Across the country, the department’s policies are viewed differently by conservation groups, many mayors and governors, and innumerable residents. They assert that Zinke has installed management and oversight practices that needlessly put national parks, wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and monuments in harm’s way.

The approach has also been different from what President Trump said he was intent on pursuing. In early December, while announcing his decision to shrink the boundaries of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, Trump told an audience in Salt Lake City that his administration was open to extensive citizen involvement in public lands decisions. “Under my administration, we will advance that protection through a truly representative process, one that listens to the local communities that knows the land the best and that cherishes the land the most.”

Under Zinke, though, the Interior Department has been dismantling public lands initiatives recommended by citizen groups representing local governments, land users, recreational industry representatives, Native Americans, and environmental organizations. In 2010, for instance, the Obama administration established what it called a “master leasing program,” a collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management and local governments, businesses, and citizen groups.

The idea was to help the BLM incorporate better environmental safeguards in its oil and gas leasing auctions in western states. In 2017, Zinke ordered an end to the program.

Another indication of Zinke’s different approach from previous Interior secretaries is how many executive level Interior Department positions are not filled. The National Park Service, for instance, does not have a director and the administration has not nominated a candidate. The National Parks Conservation Association says it is the first time that has occurred since the National Park Service was established in 1916.

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5 replies »

  1. Apparently this secretary hasn’t wasted enough public money on himself to get removed – that seems to be the only possible action that actually gets justice! I hope enough publicity is brought to bear soon regarding what damage & destruction he is causing! But then hes only one of a large group of people who are bent on “getting theirs”!


  2. For the record:

    Secretary Zinke Creates New Council for Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation
    Calls for Nominations

    Date: January 9, 2018

    WASHINGTON – Continuing his unyielding support for hunting, fishing, and the American conservation ethic, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today announced the creation of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council. The Council is intended to provide the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture with advice regarding the establishment and implementation of existing and proposed policies and authorities with regard to wildlife and habitat conservation. The Council will examine ways to benefit wildlife resources; encourage partnership among the public, the sporting conservation organizations, state, tribal, territorial, and federal government; and benefit recreational hunting and recreational shooting sports.

    “Hunters and anglers are the backbone of wildlife and habitat conservation in America. Through the purchase of duck stamps, bows, ammo, firearms, and more, sportsmen and women contribute billions of dollars to conservation. From my perspective, the more sportsmen we have in the woods and waters, the better our wildlife and habitat will be,” Secretary Zinke said. “The Council will be made up of experts that share their knowledge, experience, and recommendations on a number of policy proposals put before them, as well as helping the Departments come up with innovative ideas to improve the health of wildlife and their habitat and increase sportsmen access on public and private lands.”

    The Council is strictly advisory and the duties will consist of providing recommendations for implementation of Executive Order No. 13443 (E.O.): Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation, Secretarial Order No. 3347: Conservation Stewardship and Outdoor Recreation, and Secretarial Order No. 3356 (S.O.): Hunting, Fishing, Recreational Shooting, and Wildlife Conservation Opportunities and Coordination with States, Tribes, and Territories.

    Recommendations from the Council to the Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Agriculture shall include, but not be limited to:

    Assessing and quantifying implementation of the Executive Order and Secretarial Orders across relevant departments, agencies, offices, and recommendations to enhance and expand their implementation as identified;

    Policies and programs that:

    Conserve and restore wetlands, agricultural lands, grasslands, forests, and range land habitats;
    Promote opportunities and expand access to hunting and shooting sports on public and private lands;
    Encourages hunting and shooting safety by developing ranges on public lands;
    Recruit and retain new shooters and hunters;
    Increase public awareness of the importance of wildlife conservation and the social and economic benefits of hunting and shooting;
    Encourage coordination among the public, hunting and shooting sports community, wildlife conservation groups, state, tribal, territorial, and federal government.

    ​Since his first day in office, Secretary Zinke:

    Reversed an order that would have banned lead ammo and tackle on National Wildlife Refuge lands.
    Expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 10 national wildlife refuges
    Signed a wide-ranging order to expand sportsmen access on public and private land, improve collaboration between the federal, state and Tribal wildlife management authorities, and create a “one-stop” website for all hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands
    Directed bureaus to open hunting and fishing on all national monument lands where legally allowed
    Finalized a land acquisition to make the Sabinoso Wilderness Area accessible to hunters for the first time ever

    Individuals may submit comments and/or nominations by any of the following methods:

    Mail or hand-carry nominations to Joshua Winchell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge System, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803; or
    Email nominations to:

    The Council will meet approximately twice a year, and at such other times as designated by the Designated Federal Officer. The Council will terminate 2 years from the date the charter is filed, unless, prior to that date, it is renewed in accordance with the provisions of Section 14 of the FACA. The Council will not meet or take any action without a valid current Charter.

    The Council is established to further the provisions of the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a), the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701), the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd), other Acts applicable to specific bureaus, and Executive Order 13443, “Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation.” The Council is regulated by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), as amended, 5 U.S.C. Appendix 2.


  3. These people are the ultimate hypocrites—they have been building up a head of steam for years in pursuit of their chance to make money and power plays. Now, they have got it. It can’t last forever—-they are creating such antipathy among the citizens that the backlash is bound to be severe.
    The equally invigorated electorate is building up their own momentum, if the early signs of progressive sign-ups to run for government positions is any guide. The mid-terms can’t come soon enough….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. From PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)


    OMB Claimed “100,000+” Submissions But Won’t Say What They Recommend
    Posted on Jan 09, 2018

    This spring, the Trump White House loudly called for public input on how to fix the federal government but is unwilling to divulge the feedback it received, according to a lawsuit filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The White House has bragged about the volume and scope of responses it generated, but all signs of the effort have since vanished from the web.
    On March 13, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order telling the Director of his Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop a plan recommending ways to reorganize the executive branch and eliminate any unnecessary programs within government agencies. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney unveiled a web portal and posted a video of himself soliciting suggestions from the public.
    After the end of the comment period, the OMB website declared that the public “submitted more than 100,000+ suggestions and ideas to eliminate burdensome regulations, remove red tape and get government out of the way of government.” Thereafter, all reference to the effort was deleted from the OMB site.
    “Was the White House call for public involvement just a stunt?” asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “After the suggestions were counted did anyone bother reading them?”
    In this hyper-business friendly administration, PEER is probing whether OMB used public comments as a cover for adopting advice directly from commercial interests who would thereby profit. PEER points, for example, to the Environmental Protection Agency this spring convening a more than 100-member Task Force to extensively revise its Superfund program. Within weeks, that Task Force produced a detailed set of recommendations favorable to developers and polluting industries without any prior drafts, minutes, presentations, or any other paper trail whatsoever.
    The mystery at OMB is deepened in that after asking for comments the agency has disclosed no schedule or process for next steps. At the same time, OMB’s website has been stripped of information about this public outreach effort and its entire website has been reduced to little more than a page.

    “Taco Bell’s website displays much more information than the Office of Management and Budget’s site now contains,” added Ruch. “In the Trump administration, the people’s business is conducted as if by a privately-held corporation.”’s-reform-suggestions-to-omb-remain-cloaked.html

    Liked by 1 person

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